August 4th 2003, The Communion of Saints
Every Sunday we recite the creed with the words: I believe in the communion of saints. Have you ever wondered what we really mean by that? Most of the time I think we have a vague notion that all those who have gone before us will be there waiting to welcome us when we, too, finish this stage of our journey. We may think also of the support given to us by all the named saints who likewise have gone before. Times of great suffering or sorrow are when we need to feel we are not alone. If, like me, you have recently lost a close member of your family then perhaps the following story may help you. Fr. Ronald Rolheiser in his book Against an infinite horizon recounts this story.
At the final liturgy of a conference in Los Angeles a young couple spoke to the delegates of the death of their son. He had died a year previously of cancer, after a long struggle, at the age of twelve. Nothing can prepare parents for the death of a child. In the natural course of things we expect them to outlive us.
The morning after their son's death the two parents were sitting with friends in their living room, trying to console and support each other in their grief. The phone rang. It was a neighbour who urged them to go and look out of the front door. " You will see an amazing sight. Something unique."
So urgent was his voice that they rushed to the door. A perfect rainbow in the brightness of all its colours and a complete semicircle met their gaze. They understood in faith that the rainbow is a symbol of hope, of God's promise and the resurrection…..but as they looked they became convinced beyond any doubt that it was their son who had given them this sign. The mother, in her heart, heard her son say: " Mum,this is for you! And because it is hard for you to believe it, I will do it again, the same way, for you tomorrow at the same time."
All doubts they might have had that this was a trick, or the result of imagination in their grief, fatigue and longing were erased the next day when, at exactly the same time, the identical rainbow re-appeared. For them their son ws speaking to them to show that the communion of saints is real. We can talk to them and they to us The bond of love which unites us all is not broken by death at all.
Fr. Rolheiser' book is published by Hodder & Stoughton (1995).