Drawing Faith from Those Who Have Gone Before
November 2012 — Vol. 2, Issue 4
Fr. Jim Gallagher, C.S.C.
November is the month that our Church remembers and prays in a particular way for our faithful departed. Now, most people may not automatically link this practice with the discernment of vocations, but there is a connection.
We in the Congregation of Holy Cross gather each November as a community for an “All Souls Celebration”, beginning with Mass and then a procession to our community cemetery where we walk among the graves of “the great band of men” who have gone before us in Holy Cross. We ask for their prayers and intercession. We seek to be emboldened by the path they blazed. We hope one day to join them in heaven.
I know I am not alone in Holy Cross in looking forward to this celebration. It is a favorite moment for many of us.
Indeed, All Souls Day is not the only time that you will find Holy Cross priests, brothers, and seminarians walking among those identical stone crosses. For many of us, our community cemetery is one of our favorite places to pray.
Like other priests on campus, I take the freshmen from my residence hall there during orientation weekend every year. I encourage them to return there often during the year, as I do. It also has become a long-standing, yet unwritten tradition that our seminarians go there in prayer before their Final Vows and Ordinations.
Why, you might ask? I think Fr. Ken Molinaro, C.S.C., captured it well: “All that marks the graves of the men in Holy Cross who have laid down their lives in service of the Lord are silent rows of crosses. If these simple crosses could speak, we would hear an interesting and colorful accounting of saints and sinners, of master builders and humble servants. Yet beyond personal talents, abilities, or occupations, these crosses would speak of men whose ultimate goal was to know, love, and serve God and, in turn, to make God known, loved, and served. In seeking to conform their lives to Christ, these men were of one heart and one mind."
Simply put, we go to the cemetery to draw faith from the faith of those who have gone before. That is why in many ways it is so providential that so soon after we inaugurated the Year of Faith declared by the Holy Father we are celebrating and remembering our dead. It is the Lord’s faithfulness to them not just in their lives, but even in their deaths that gives us the strength and the courage to believe in the Lord’s faithfulness to us in our day. That is especially true when it comes to giving our lives away as they did in following the Lord’s call wherever it may lead.
Yes, they probably found, as we will find, that we “still had it within ourselves to hold back. We wish to be wholehearted yet we are hesitant. Still, like the first disciples” – and like the other faithfully departed who have gone before us – “we know that He will draw us along and reinforce our loyalties if we yield to Him” (Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross, 1:8).
And that is why our Constitutions end with these words: “The footsteps of those men who called us to walk in their company left deep prints, as of men carrying heavy burdens. But they did not trudge; they strode. For they had the hope. It is the Lord Jesus calling us. ‘Come. Follow me’” (8:122-3).
When considering your vocation, it is important to recognize that you are not the first to ask Christ what it is that He is calling you to. You are not the first to struggle with doubts and fears. Many faithful men and women have walked this way before you. Here in the month of November, as we remember those who have gone before us, turn to them often with your prayers and ask their intercession that you may, as they did, hear the Lord’s call and faithfully follow Him.
Prayer from the Tradition
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