Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Beloved Souls and Scoundrels

The end of October and the beginning of November is always an unsettled time for me. When I lived back East, it was the time between still being fall and winter setting in. Here in Arizona, it's still somewhere between 75-90 degrees during the day but as much as 30-40 degrees cooler at night. Most of the leaves remain firmly on the trees. They have just barely started to turn and probably won't be finished dropping until sometime around Christmas. There are years when the buds of the next crop of leaves are already starting to pop out while last year's crop is still waving in the breeze on the same limbs. 

One day in that October-November transition that sticks out with me is All Souls Day. The day before, All Saints' is celebrated with joyful hymns and recollections of holy people the church has declared saints. All Souls, though, is a day to remember personal saints, those who once lived among us and who made a positive impact on us but who have since passed through the veil. They probably haven't left miraculous healings, although some have pulled off some near-miraculous things, and they haven't really been celebrated for their extreme piety, although some of them were virtual pillars of their local churches (and some larger church groups).

All Souls commemorates ordinary people, folks who struggled along, doing their best, helping their neighbors as well as caring for their homes and families. It also commemorates those who maybe went a step beyond and helped folks they didn't know in places they had never been before. And, I'm sure, some will be remember scoundrels who so successfully hid good qualities that possibly even they didn't recognize them as being there. All were God's children, although probably a good many never recognized the relationship. Those who did probably didn't often consider serving a meal to the kids or helping a shut-in neighbor get groceries or bringing a stranded motorist a gallon of gas and a bottle of water as ministries or as particularly Jesus-like actions, but the impact they made was there.

I remember my own Souls, those who passed through my life and left their marks on my own soul. Mostly, I remember the woman who didn't give birth to me but who gave me nurturing. It is she I most remember on All Souls, and now fitting that it should be the day of her death.

I also recall the ever-lengthening list of those I commend to God's grace and mercy, not for their sakes but for mine. It is a bittersweet remembrance, but also has the promise that one day I will see them again and thank them for who they were to me. They are all souls, but they are also personal saints.

May the souls of all the faithful departed (and even those scoundrels) rest in God's peace and rise in glory. May, in the hour of our death, we too be commended to the mercy of God through the prayers, thoughts and memories of those who loved us.

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