November 1, 2018

All Saint's Day & All Soul's Day--A Time for Peace & Comfort


By Larry Peterson

The annual arrival of All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day always sends me into a bit of melancholia about what was and what might have been. Then the wonder of my faith erupts and shakes off the fleeting dispiritedness morphing it into an inner peace and comfort. Faith is a beautiful thing and a most wonderful gift for sure. But, most importantly, what the great gift of Faith does is to inspire Hope within us, Hope for tomorrow…Hope for eternal salvation.

We have all experienced the death(s) of those close to us. All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day help us to understand and believe that those we loved are not "gone" but have just moved on to a better place. We comfort in the belief that one day we will once again join them in a joyous reunion.

Communion of Saints
My list of those I remember on these two days includes eight primary people. They are all immediate family and five of them, according to my Catholic faith, must be counted among the millions of unknown and unheralded saints that found their way to their eternal reward. Then there are two that have me fully embracing the Hope of their ultimate reward. (Did I mention "inner peace and comfort"?)

My first wife, Loretta, died fourteen years ago, taken by melanoma. Loretta had been ill for a long time. Before cancer struck she was in and out of hospitals with Chronic Pancreatitis, Cirrhosis, (she never drank) Lupus, Vasculitis, Angina, and Diabetes and had numerous surgeries. Through it all she always remained true to her faith, kept a smile on her face and, no matter how poorly she was feeling, always managed to make someone who had come to see her happy that they had. Loretta did receive the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick and Holy Viaticum before she died.

My mom died of leukemia when she had just turned 40. She also was a woman of great faith. She also received Last Rites (that is when it was called Extreme Unction) and Holy Viaticum in the hospital before she died. My memories of her are almost non-existent even though I was 15 years-old at the time. But, I do remember her receiving the sacraments.

Grandma, (maternal) lived with us. Tormented over her daughter's death she went into a strange place mentally, blaming our dad for killing her daughter. Her Faith had seemingly crumbled and she lost Hope.

It was a cold and rainy Saturday evening when Grandma had a massive stroke. Our parish priest, Father Philip Quirk, arrived and administered Extreme Unction to her. She was holding my hand so tightly I thought it might break. Grandma then lapsed into a coma and died shortly thereafter. Once again a faithful servant was awarded with God's loving mercy.

Dad died two years later. After mom died and Grandma began the "Big Hate" against him, he stayed away from home and spent time in the local pubs. He drank too much and had an acute attack of pancreatitis. The attack killed him in two days. The upside was that he, too, received the sacraments and the Lord's mercy before he died.

Loretta gave birth to our fourth child, Theresa Mary, when she was only six months pregnant. Bleeding profusely, she was rushed to the hospital. Theresa was born and died within moments.  I had called ahead to Holy Trinity Parish and Father Murray was there. He baptized Theresa and she is buried with my parents.

My brother Bobby passed away in 2007. He was 53 and, although seemingly in good health, had a heart attack and died. He did not receive Last Rites and was, if anything, a "lukewarm" Catholic.

My youngest brother, the 'baby of the family", died in 2015. His passing was self-inflicted. Johnny was 56. I have no explanation for his actions nor does anyone else. He was a caring, Christian man, who helped others and "loved his neighbor". He was not a practicing Catholic and had found solace in a Baptist church near his home.

Finally, my wife Martha ( I remarried four years after Loretta passed) developed cancer and then Alzheimer's disease. She passed on in  2017. A few days before she received her Anointing of the Sick and also an Apostolic Pardon

I began this essay stating that "the great gift of Faith inspires Hope within us, Hope for tomorrow, Hope for eternal salvation”. The Faith and Hope connection are inseparable yet subject to the free will of each of us. In the secular world “faith & reason” are opposites. If you cannot tangibly prove something it cannot be.

But God’s gift of Faith gives us the desire to Hope for what God has offered us. Therefore, I believe my Faith has allowed me to believe that six of my immediate family have attained their eternal reward. My Faith also allows me to consciously Hope that my other two family members will one day, if not already, also attain that reward.  Sooner or later I know I'll find out. 

I hope and pray that as we honor all the Saints and all the Soul's in Purgatory waiting to be saints, all Catholics can experience the peace and comfort about their departed loved ones the same way I do about mine. Believing without reservation that death is not the end of life but the beginning of a new one is truly a wonderful thing.    

                            ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

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