Football season reminds me that the reality of the communion of saints, whether we realize it or not, affects us in tangible ways every day. As Catholic Christians we believe that love and life are eternal, that the veil of death is but a temporary illusion, and that we are always surrounded, as the writer of Revelation asserts, by a “cloud of witnesses.” I prefer to think of it as being held on the shoulders of a winning sports team.
This idea is more ancient that Christianity itself since virtually all ancient religions believed in spirit beings, buddhas, enlightened ones or ancestors whose task it was to support the living. They are there to assist us at all times, praying and interceding for us as we tackle life’s many challenges. The Church has always insisted that we have the ability to ask these holy ones for assistance and intercession and that, through their merits and prayers, God’s will can be more readily effected.
This is an amazing truth if you think about it! This means that not only the early Christian martyrs and wise women and men are willing to provide guidance and sustenance for me, but that all the women and men in my own family—the ones who loved me and cared for me in this life—are also ever-ready to demonstrate their ongoing love and commitment to me. For me personally, I pray to individuals on “the team” at different times and for different situations. When I pray for the ministry of Holy Redeemer, for example, I tend to invoke Mother Mary and St. Joseph (patron of the universal Church). As I see it, larger, community concerns seem best handled by the quarterbacks. On the other hand, when personal or family issues become my focus, I invoke my son or my grandmother, since they already know some of what I am dealing with and their wisdom is something I need applied to a specific concern.
We have a temptation to embrace the illusion that we are alone in the struggles we face, particularly if we find ourselves in situations where we cannot share openly with people we care about most in our life. We yearn to share our experiences with someone who will listen without judging, who will only love in return despite what we may reveal to them. That is where our “winning team” can provide a safe haven for us: we can actively request assistance from all those who have come before us and who are now subsumed into the Mystery of God. And when we do make that connection and feel its mighty presence in the reality of our situation, we find peace and solace knowing that more capable hands than our own are working to make everything work to our highest good.
Your own winning team will always be there to assist you whenever you need them—whether you’re asking for help or not, whether you’re conscious of their aid or not. As football season once again comes our way, and while we cannot all be Green Bay fans (this will not come to pass until we are all in heaven and the truth of their greatness is evident to all–haha!) we can take comfort and light from the knowledge that our own winning team of saints isn’t going to let us down. Whether the support they provide comes in the form of guidance or wisdom, their combined presence gives us a sense of security that can strengthen us and remind us that we are never alone.