This week is dominated by two consecutive feast days, All Saints and All Souls, which give a deeper meaning to what the secular culture calls “Halloween!” Ghosts and Goblins are no doubt fun for our children and fireworks bring excitement to adolescents (young and old!), but Christians take this time very seriously indeed. It is a time of joy and sadness. In celebrating All Saints, we are meant to experience a joyful hope that Jesus has gone ahead of us, the first fruits of all who have fallen asleep, to prepare a place for our deceased loved ones and for each one of us eventually.
All Souls is a related feast, with a focus on the controversial doctrine of purgatory, which reminds us not to be presumptuous about our final destiny. God is indeed merciful, but his justice surely requires some amends for our sins, even if they are “only” ones of omission. The details of our purification are rightly mysterious, and we need to be careful not to allow our imagination run riot, with too easy talk of “years of suffering.”
I seem to recall Pope Benedict suggesting the possibility that purgatory could be over in an instant when we come face to face with a loving God and are pierced to the heart by the realisation of our ingratitude and infidelity.
One person who possessed that joyful hope and confidence in God’s mercy was our brother, Fr Joe MacMahon, whose funeral I attended on Monday morning in Ennis friary. The preacher of the homily, a former Provincial, Fr Hugh, who knew him well, spoke of Joe’s looking forward to what Franciscans call “Sister Death” in the final weeks of his illness.
His passing over into the arms of a loving God was a serene and peaceful one, a fitting end to a life well lived, a life that touched the lives of many people on different continents, where Joe ministered in varied apostolates. Joe MacMahon will probably never be canonised, but he was definitely a saint, with a small “s” and I celebrate the triumph of God’s grace in his life today.
This week sees the return of the Open Space discussion group after a brief hiatus. It meets in the friary at 8:00pm on Thursday and is open to all. It’s a pity we can’t get it on webcam for a wider audience! This time, the speaker will be Gerard Bennett, who is an organiser of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate pilgrimage to Lourdes. He will be speaking of insight he has had from his experience of the first pilgrimage since the end of the Covid outbreak. It should be interesting!
Remember, that we are all saints in training, because of the love God has lavished on us in Baptism. We are temples of the Spirit, brothers, and sisters of Jesus.
With connections like that, what need is there to fear anything? Certainly not spooks and goblins!