A Cloud of Witness
by Mary McEntee McGill
This month we prepare to celebrate All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). Each year these holy days remind us of the gifts we have received from those whoby their example of faithhave touched our lives.
Theme and Preparation
This month we prepare to celebrate All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2). Each year these holy days remind us of the gifts we have received from those who—by their example of faith—have touched our lives. The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that “faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things that cannot be seen” and “since we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses let us rid ourselves of every burden …and persevere running the race that lies before us” (11:1; 12:1). We see in the communion of saints, this “cloud of witnesses,” the reality of God’s presence in us.
We, too, are a part of the communion of saints (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 962). We stand in communion with all who seek the Lord through their actions, commitment, and dedication to the teachings of Jesus.
Gather around your centering point and light your candle. Invite everyone to be comfortable but to remain alert to the witness you are about to share. Pause for a few moments of complete quiet and then share the following:
Leader: I thought that for our gathering prayer this month we could ponder those members of the communion of saints who have provided us with powerful witnesses of faith. Let us also bring to mind those times when, in our labors as catechists, we have assisted a child or an adult in finding God’s loving presence in the joys or struggles of their daily lives. (Pause.) It is good for us to take time to recall moments when we, ourselves, have been active members of the communion of saints. (Pause.) I’ll share an example.
Some years back Peggy Anderson taught the sophomore religion class. Her students had behavior difficulties, complicated family situations at home, and academic needs, and they suffered a great deal of social stress. It didn’t take Peggy long to realize that this was a unique group of young people.
Peggy spent a good amount of time in each class simply sharing with her students. She worked hard to give examples in personal life that would help her students make the association between faith and their life experiences of conflict and stress as well as joy and satisfaction.
One weekend while shopping, Peggy discovered a science store that offered books, games, and interesting items. Against one wall were boxes of stones—every size, color, and texture. Peggy was delighted with the stones and selected a special one for each of the students in her sophomore religion class.
At the next class, Peggy talked with her students about St. Peter—the rock: “So I will call you Peter, which means ‘a rock.’ On this rock I will build my church, and death itself will not have any power over it” (Matthew 16:18). Despite his many human shortcomings, Peter was the person Jesus appointed leader of the early church.
Peggy then gave each student a stone. “This one is for you, Joey,” she said, “because you are smooth and cool—like this stone. And this one is for you, Beth, because in its shape it seems to have a little smile, and you always have a beautiful smile to share.” Peggy pulled out another stone—a geode, open and sparkly—and handed it to a sullen girl looking at her feet. “This one is for you, Kristen, because it is rough on the outside but full of beauty inside.” At that class, each of the students got a stone and a symbolic explanation of why it was a stone especially for them. Peggy hoped her students liked the lesson.
Because of declining enrollment, the parish school closed its doors for the last time that June. Students moved on to another school, and Peggy, with her family, moved to another state.
While on vacation some years later, Peggy and her husband stopped at that parish for Sunday Mass. As they lingered on the front steps of the church greeting old friends after Mass, a woman with a baby in her arms stepped forward.
“Mrs. Anderson!” she said. “It’s me, Kristen, and this is my daughter, Emily. You taught me religion when I was a sophomore. Look!” he declared as she reached into her pocket. “I still have my stone.”
It is safe to say that Peggy’s students liked the lesson—and grew in faith that day.
Recall a time when you touched the life of someone with love. That was God working through you to share his presence and grace. That is what it means to be a member of the communion of saints. (Pause.) In our hearts, let us thank God for this joy, and let us continue to work to reveal the Kingdom of God.
Mary is the Pastoral Associate for Religious Education and Liturgical Education for Holy Trinity parish in Dallas, TX. She is the author of Stories to Invite Faith Sharing (Resource Publications).
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