The Longing of Saints

I wanted to write something about today being All Saints Day but was stymied. Drawing a blank last night and this morning during a break at work it wasn’t until I went to noon Mass at St. Mary’s to be present at the Communion of Saints that an outline came into focus.

During the Mass readings I hear the responsorial psalm from Psalm 24. We repeat the response four times: Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Soon after I hear today’s Gospel reading. It is from Matthew, the famous teaching by Jesus known at The Beatitudes in which he teaches:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

Later, I walk forward, hands folded at my chest. Fr. Dietrich holds the host before me saying “The body of Christ.”

“Amen,” I respond and tilt back my head to receive the source and summit of my faith on my tongue. Making the sign of the cross I walk back to my pew to kneel while the host dissolves on my tongue. I pray the Amina Christi, a prayer from the 14th century:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Permit me not to be separated from you.
From the wicked foe, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me
and bid me come to you
That with your saints I may praise you
For ever and ever. Amen.

I repeat a line: That with your saints I may praise you. I thought of how we are all called to be saints. Each and every one of us, called to live the best lives we can. Called to be merciful. To be clean of heart. To be peacemakers. To be persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Called to rejoice when faced with such persecution for a great reward in Heaven. One of mine will surely be a reunion with my unborn son who is waiting for me.

Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Adam Udai

These thoughts stayed with me as I enjoyed a warm, sunny walk back to my office under a clear, blue sky. While settling back to my desk with my lunch I read a headline about remembering a terrorist attack on an ancient church in Baghdad  a year ago. This is a church founded by St. Thomas (the doubting apostle) prior to his journeying into India. Once thriving and responsible for so much missionary good in the region and the world, it is yet another community of Christians facing extinction in their ancient homeland, much like the Copts in Egypt.

On October 31, 2010 Al-Qaeda terrorists attacked Our Lady of Deliverance Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad during a Sunday evening church service. The terrorists shot at parishioners and set fire to their explosives, ultimately killing 58 parishioners, including two priests. The youngest victim was Adam Udai, aged 3, who pleaded with one of the terrorists to “please stop” and cried out “Enough!” before the terrorists put a gun to his head and murdered him.

Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

This morning in the Office of Readings for today, I had read Saint Bernard’s words: “The saints want us to be with them, and we are indifferent. The souls of the just await us, and we ignore them . . . we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. . .  We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness.”

These words come back to me while I read the accounts of little Adam’s pleas and the ordeal that I’m ashamed to admit I’d forgotten about. I do grow indifferent. I do ignore the examples set by those who came before me or who are among us still. I can wallow too much in the trials and tribulations of today and forget to keep my eyes on what lies beyond this world. I profusely mourned the loss of our son Nathan when it happened almost a decade ago, going through the classic grieving process. Especially anger. I was angry for my loss as much if not more than for his. His pain was over while mine continued. I read the stories of children like Adam and become angry. But we are not called to be angry. For it we are, where does it end? When you have examples of those who gave up their lives for their faith (History is full of them. There were more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than the previous nineteen combined.) you learn to draw strength from their example. I strive to possess their happiness. They are members of the Church Triumphant. I am still a member of the Church Militant. The Ecclesia Militans. My, and our, struggle continues. We bear witness like the brave Christians of Iraq do in the video I’ve attached at the end.

While writing this piece I peek ahead and see that during Vespers tonight will be read this prayer and intercession: “You gave the martyrs the strength to bear witness even if it meant shedding their blood: make Christians faithful witnesses to your Son. – Lord, bring us salvation through the intercession of the saints.”

Lord, we are the people that longs to see your face.

And you Christians of Iraq, when sadness fills your soul and you do not see a future, look upwards, to the God of Heaven and Earth, and remember well who you are and let the world know!

We witness with our lives, so that the world can see what is happening to us, so that those who have plugged their ears and those who have shut their mouths will speak about who we are. We are the Christians of Iraq!

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