For years, I retained an ordinary linen handkerchief as though it were a sacred relic.
Unlike the crass, mercenary online postings that offered Britney Spears’ used pumice stone or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chewed cough drop, this cloth possessed no biological history except tears of elation and no value other than sentimental.
The handkerchief belonged to the bishop who ordained me in my home church.
In a tender moment at the ordination Mass, he spontaneously retrieved it from his pocket and offered it to me when I was overcome with emotion.
My unsuppressed blubbering began during that ancient part of the rite of holy orders when the candidate lies prostrate before the altar.
While a litany of the saints was sung, my head faced the spot where I celebrated first communion and confirmation. Family members had exchanged vows in matrimony there.
I also became keenly aware of a few close relatives who had lain on that spot—in caskets.
And while I was about to be clothed in a chasuble and stole, symbols of ordained ministry, they had been clothed in a white funeral pall, a symbol of their baptism.
The cantors called on the company of the saints: “All you holy men and women, pray for us.”
Then, as the choir intoned “Veni Sanctus Spiritus,” the rite continued with the bishop placing his hands on my head, invoking the Holy Spirit in prayer; the other priests did likewise.
These invocations sparked feelings of humility, unworthiness, and awe in me, but the overwhelming sensation was one of empowerment.
Sentimentally speaking, I recall an eccentric Redemptorist brother who brought his mother’s favorite ice cream to her on a weekly basis. Such an act of kindness would have remained unquestioned if not for the facts that his mother was long buried in a cemetery and the good brother was diabetic!
Nevertheless, a son at his mother’s grave frequently enjoying ice cream as a gesture of solidarity with her creates a poignant image for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, the holy days we celebrate at the start of November. Those days remind us that we’re in solidarity with those who have died.
The overwhelming sensation on November 1 and 2 is the feeling of empowerment when we invoke that “powerhouse of prayer,” better known as the company of the faithful departed.
When the Lord comes, may we go out to meet him with all the saints in heaven. “For God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live together with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:9–10). Contemplate, then, lying in front of God’s altar in heaven, forever singing his praises!
Savor the image of being reunited with loved ones, enjoying a scoop of heavenly hash together!
On the day of our baptism, we put on Christ.
On the day of Christ’s coming, may we be clothed with glory.
Such a cloth possesses no value other than our very salvation!