My closest friend and colleague for more than twenty years, Fr. Bob Beloin, the Catholic Chaplain at Yale University, died a few weeks ago of glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Grief, the price we pay for love, is all-consuming. But mercifully, so is faith.
At his Mass of Christian Burial, the homilist began by recalling the words of legendary seminary professor, Fr. Geno Walsh. “Jesus Christ promised those who followed him two things: Your life is going to have meaning and you are going to live forever. If you get a better offer, take it.”
On this day and tomorrow, we remember and celebrate those we have loved in this life who have been born into eternal life. And we are reminded that the invitation to sanctity is not for the unattainably pious or impossibly virtuous, but for all of us. All Saints Day is a joyful feast day and a reminder that we who are living are called to be in communion with those who have died.
The death of those we love can provide an aperture into the afterlife. What our faith teaches us about life and death would suggest that there is nothing generic about the afterlife, and our ongoing relationship with those who have died is not static. Examining and emulating their lives as well as the lives of those formally declared to be saints can make us more conscious of the community to which God calls us. It is striking to ponder the concrete realities of the lives of saints. They are uniquely themselves, like us with deeply human idiosyncrasies, flawed, often struggling, searching for meaning, wanting goodness, yearning for a deeper faith and for God. One thing for certain, the saints we encounter on earth never think they are saints. I suspect this is because their orientation is outward, other-centered, not inward and solipsistic.
The very friend for whom I mourn was an exquisite homilist, who relied on and promoted Catholic Women Preach as an invaluable resource for his brother priests, for deacons and for all lay members who have the gift and therefore the responsibility of breaking open Scripture, to inspire and to instruct as an important aspect of their spiritual leadership. Today’s Gospel text was among his most cherished. How appropriate to pray with the Beatitudes on All Saints Day. Fr Bob referred to the Beatitudes as “attitudes for being.” You are part of the community of saints even and especially when you are poor in spirit, when you hunger and thirst for righteousness sake, when you are merciful, when you are a peacemaker, when you are persecuted. In fact, as incongruously as it might seem when in such a distressing state, Jesus tells us you are blessed.
Before my friend died, he caught me silently crying and asked in all innocence the reason for my tears. I told him I was worried that once he died I would no longer have the inspiration and access to joy his friendship offered me; that no longer would he provide the life-giving motivation to carry on my work on behalf of the Church. I told him, “You and our friendship will be gone and I fear the lasting impact so great a loss will have on me.” His answer surprised me. He said, “None of that will change. After I die, use the present tense, not past. This is our faith. This is what we hold true. The promise of eternal life is not a fiction. We will be bound up in the communion of saints - a belief we profess every time we recite the Creed. We will see each other again. Love doesn’t end with death.”
“We will see each other again. Love doesn't end with death.” Those words – that belief, central to our Christian faith - have consoled me in the aftermath of his death while coping with grief.
Today pray for the grace to believe in the communion of saints to which you are called and to which you belong. Pray for the grace to cultivate with more intention those attributes of the saints that are common to many, or particular to some. Be grateful. Choose to be more loving. Lean in to mercy. Persevere. Have the courage of heroic virtue. Be forgiving.
Only two weeks ago, on October 14th, Archbishop Oscar Romero and Pope Paul VI were canonized along with five others. Saint Oscar Romero said, “Let us not tire of preaching love. It is the force that will overcome the world.” And Saint Paul VI said, “If you want peace, work for justice.”
Rejoice and be grateful for the saints with whom we can be in relationship and from whom we can continue to learn.
And as you hold closely in your mind and heart those you love who have been born into eternal life, remember that Jesus promises:
“Blessed are you who mourn, for you will be comforted.”
Kerry Robinson is the founding executive director and global ambassador of Leadership Roundtable, dedicated to promoting excellence and best practices in the management, finances and human resource development of the Catholic Church by harnessing the managerial expertise and financial acumen of senior level lay executives.
Kerry is a member of the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities and FADICA (Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities). She has been an advisor to and trustee of numerous grantmaking foundations, family philanthropies and charitable nonprofits since 1990 including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development, America Media, Jesuit Volunteers Corps, and the National Pastoral Life Center.
Kerry served as the director of development for Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale University and led a $75 million fundraising drive to expand and endow the Chapel's intellectual and spiritual ministry and to construct a Catholic student center on Yale’s campus.
She is the prize-winning author of Imagining Abundance: Fundraising, Philanthropy and a Spiritual Call to Service and the founding editor of The Catholic Funding Guide: A Directory of Resources for Catholic Activities.
She and her husband, Dr. Michael Cappello, have two children, Christopher and Sophie.