A Communion of Memories
Meet Liguori Publications new President, Fr. Byron Miller, CSsR. November, 2015 marks Fr. Miller’s first “From the President” column.
I hadn’t heard from Vernon in decades—until an email last summer made a sacred trinity of time—past, present, and future—converge at midlife. As it turns out, his daughter and my sister’s son are classmates. Moreover, they are the same age now as we were on an “earth-shattering occasion” in 1975, when our eighth-grade class buried a time capsule, “to be opened in forty years,” Vernon reminded me. At the time, two score seemed so far into the future. But now the future was here, and I was being transported back four decades to Redemptorist Catholic School in Crowley, LA. Vernon matured faster than most of the boys that year. He had straight blond bangs, cut evenly, like his barber was more sober than mine. I had a wavy blond bang that swooped broadly across my forehead—Donald Trump-style. My skinny face hadn’t caught up with the growth of my Adam’s apple, and my voice began to change—embarrassingly between words in the same sentence.
Vernon’s email questioned the precise location of our buried treasure. Was it adjacent to the main school building where Mrs. Robison sent us to clap the erasers? For a brief moment, my nostrils flared with a nostalgic chalk smell, and I envisioned a familiar sheath of sunlight, dotted with white particles.
Perhaps it was closer to the playground, where we congregated for random fire-safety drills and regular flag-raising rituals. The commanding voice of our principal, Sr. Mary Jo, blared through outdoor speakers as she led us in morning prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance from an indoor control room that housed a mammoth NASA-inspired public address system.
Or, was the time capsule buried near the trees where we played kickball, alongside the road that led to the parish hall? The hall, I remembered, was the venue for our first class dance. The pastor and Sr. Mary Jo looked intently in the dark, shaken by the volume of the music, and patrolled opposite ends of the dance floor in a “divide-and-conquer” strategy.
Suddenly, a vivid image came to mind: the deep forest-green color of my first leisure suit. That night, I’d applied a liberal amount of my dad’s cologne—a manly, woodsy, alpine scent. I had the distinct look and smell of a Glade Pine Air Freshener.
Alas, the span of forty years had not only dimmed my memory of the capsule’s location but of its valuable contents. I mused on the artifacts we left behind. A patron saint medal? A couple of Mardi Gras doubloons? Some green stamps? An assortment of prayer cards? My translucent-orange Duncan Light-Up Yo-Yo? In retrospect, I think what our class wanted to bury most was a collective fear of being separated after eighth-grade graduation.
What lingered most in me, however, as this buried time capsule resurfaced in my consciousness, was the memory of our classmates now buried. I invoked each by name: Bridget, Albert, Joseph, and Mark. I acknowledged their short but impactful lives. I was jarred by the realization that our first classmate died only a few years after eighth-grade graduation.
Separation by death is inevitable, but life remains invincible. The feast of All Saints’ Day is a spiritual reminder of this reality. The feast day seems to best encapsulate a trinity of time—past, present, and future—because it honors the Church unified, purified, and glorified. In a predestined holy convergence, it joins the pilgrim church on earth with the church purified (those in a state of purgatory), and the church glorified (those in heaven). This union is in no way interrupted; on the contrary, according to the constant faith of the Church, it is reinforced by an exchange of spiritual goods.
“Holy, holy, holy!” Past, present, and future! “All the saints adore Thee”: saints who were, and are, and evermore shall be! All Saints’ Day celebrates a communion of saints in a communion of time—some suited for canonization, and I pray, even leisure-suited ones.