All Saints/All Souls
One of the elders then spoke and and asked me, “Who are these people, dressed in white robes, and where have they come from?” I answered him, “You can tell me, sir.” Then he said, “These are the people who have been through the great trial; they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb (NJB, Revelations of St. John 7:13-14)
I have a love-hate relationship with the feasts of All Saints and All Souls. On the one hand, I love All Saints. Who wouldn’t? We all need our superheroes, especially when we have the chance to become one, too. All Saints is all golden, after the green expanse of Ordinary Time, and while it’s not quite Advent, it’s not quite the same as the Ordinary Time that came before it, now pregnant with liminality.
All Souls I would rather live without, although I know it’s intimately connected with All Saints. The past year I’ve had too many people close to me die, and while I feel somewhat happy that if anyone I know is a saint, they probably are, I also still feel the pain of their passing. Although both people had a message, one that was part of their vocations, while they were here.
The first person was the chaplain where I did my undergraduate degree. “Swanie,” as he was called, is also the reason why I’m a practicing Catholic, and why I got interested in Benedictine monasticism. (We were in the process of becoming oblates together…another long story for another time.) From him I learned how to breathe and to be. “Am I here?” “Am I now?” We’d take long walks, sometimes never saying anything to each other. We didn’t have to. “What one heart says to another in silence,” as he wrote once.
While Swanie taught me how to be in a metaphorical desert, Lucky taught me how to leap in, like the tarot’s Fool, with abandon, joy, and above all, love. Lucky was my first “real” composition teacher, and I can only imagine what his job was like my first semester of my Master’s with a student who was distrustful, distant, scarred and scared. While Swanie’s contemplative echoed the Mary who pondered all things in her heart, Lucky’s was the one who says, “yes.” The same joy in his Magnificat I find reflected in the Mourner’s Kaddish, “May His great name be blessed forever and ever. Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, Blessed is He, beyond any blessing and song.”
The further I feel that I am from their lessons, the more I miss both of them. Yet I know in their absence, they’re all the closer to me. As I pray for them, they pray for me. And even though their death hurts worse than anything, I can’t help crying for joy that I knew both of them.