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All Saints and All Souls Day: The Blessed Souls of the Faithful are Urging Us to Join Them by Fr. George W. Rutler



November 1, 2015
by Fr. George W. Rutler

Even in New York City nature does not go unnoticed. Though we do not get to see much of the autumnal leaves, the sharpening winds over the river and the honking of migrating geese competing with the traffic horns still send the message that the seasons are changing and with them the mood of time. Autumn mixes beauty and melancholy, which is how it must be in a transient world, and why the most beautiful sights and sounds move the spirit beyond diaphanous pleasure to twinges of a strange longing, like the Jews in the exile of Babylon unable to play their harps while longing for their homeland.

All Saints and All Souls are days that fit well into the autumnal hours, too radiant for laughter and too mysterious for solace. The Feast of All Saints this year is on Sunday, and All Souls is its Monday afterglow. Contemplating the eternal life of the blessed ones is more vital than admiring a painting in the Met or music in Carnegie Hall, for the blessed souls of the faithful are urging us to join them, not as a romance but as an utterly possible proposal.

The actress Maureen O’Hara said that she wanted to live to be 102, so that as an old lady she could annoy people by thumping her cane and making peremptory demands. She just died at 95, which is close enough, and that occasioned some autumnal thoughts of my own, for I knew her when she came to Mass and afterward would tell many stories. She favored the sonority of the older form of the Latin Mass, though she worshiped God wherever he tabernacled. After I preached a series of Lenten meditations, she reminisced about my favorite film, How Green Was My Valley. It made full use of the novel by Richard Llewellyn and was a triumph of the screen in a time when English speech had not decayed. The concluding reminiscence of his youth in a Welsh mining village is heavy with Autumn and light with Spring, and makes a descant on what saints and souls sing with perfect pitch:

I saw behind me those who had gone, and before me, those who were to come. I looked back and saw my father… Then I was not afraid, for I was in a long line that had no beginning, and no end, and the hand of his father grasped my father’s hand, and his hand was in mine, and my unborn son took my right hand, and all, up and down the line that stretched from Time That Was, to Time That Is, and Is Not Yet, raised their hands to show the link, and we found that we were one, born of Woman, Son of Man, made in the Image, fashioned in the Womb by the Will of God, the Eternal Father. All

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