FLATLEY — ‘A cloud of witnesses cheering us on!’


November is the month of All Souls. This special time allows Catholics to remember and pray for those who have gone before us.

Perhaps this treasured, and very Catholic tradition is one of the most precious of all.

This custom invites us to pray for the souls of the faithful departed and to also be mindful of our own death.

It is important that we maintain a relationship of love and faith with the deceased. We view death and the afterlife in the light of Divine Revelation.

Having been stripped of mortality, we believe we will be clothed in a robe of immortality.

This practice inspires us to be grateful for the life we have been given, for the people who have shared our lives, and who have loved and supported us throughout.

St. Ambrose wrote: “We loved them in life, let us not forget them in death.”

Let us remember ... our Church teaches that all Christians are called to be saints.

Saints are persons in heaven, officially canonized or not, who lived heroic, virtuous lives.

They offered their life for others, or were martyred for the faith, and they are worthy of imitation.

We honor and remember a communion of saints, this great cloud of witnesses.

Scholars teach us there is no such word or phrase as the communion of saints in the New Testament. However, the deposit of faith revealed in our Sacred Tradition reminds us that everyone in the Church makes up the community of saints.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of a whole raft of people throughout the history of Judaism, who acted by faith.

He is talking about Abel and Noah and specifically, he speaks of Abraham. He says by faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that was to be given to him as an inheritance. And he set out, not knowing where he was going.

His faith and trust in God, carried him through. So we, too, must walk by faith and not by sight.

We call to mind Sarah and Moses, and so many others, members of this chosen tribe of ancient, faithful, holy people.

We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. Paul teaches us to lay aside every weight, and the sin, which clings closely, so as to run with perseverance the race that is set before each of us.

These faithful souls, along with our own beloved dead, are our spiritual companions.

Traditional biblical scholarship invites us to imagine a stadium and a race being run.

Those who have run the race before us are up in the stands, while we currently running are on the track.

This cloud of great witnesses are cheering us on!

And we must look to Jesus to guide and lead us, and to give us the strength to persevere.

We believe we can assist our beloved dead with our prayers. After all, they may be in need of further purification.

We do not assume they have gone straight to Heaven. On the contrary, we want Masses to be offered for their souls.

We want Rosaries and Chaplets and a whole bunch of prayers and sacrifices being offered for them.

So please, if I die before you, offer Masses for my poor soul.

Our incomparable Catholic Tradition, teaches us that every soul must be purged, and purified and enlightened during this race.

All of this divine grace is washing us clean, preparing us to enter into the Eternal Banquet.

Fr. Flatley is pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Jefferson City.