What I Have Seen and Heard
Published: November 6, 2008
A secular festival and two religious celebrations crowd the close of each October and the first two days of November. Halloween is just another commercialized holiday completely devoid of its religious roots and with little social value beyond the store sales that it might generate.
The other two celebrations, however, continue to have something for every Catholic to consider—both All Saints and All Souls’ Day are there to remind us all of the end of our lives—the final purpose of our existence and the spiritual security that we find within the family of the Church.
The Second Vatican Council gave rise to the phrase, “The Universal Call to Holiness.” That is what the feast of All Saints is about: honoring those who have finalized their response to that call to holiness. All Saints’ Day is a reminder that sanctity is not the concern of a few specialists but the destiny of ordinary folks like you and me.
All Saints’ Day is the Church’s solemn reminder that God’s grace is operative right next door, with the people who live down the block, with the day laborers who lay bricks on the many building projects that crowd the streets of Atlanta.
All Saints’ Day is a reminder that we all have come into close contact with those who are now in the joy of God’s kingdom. All Saints is the Church’s encouragement that we are destined to be with all those who were once where we are today—challenges and all.
All Souls’ Day is another expression of the enduring bond of baptism as we are joined in prayer for the forgiveness of those who are still awaiting their spiritual perfection and purification in anticipation of being in the presence of God Himself. The bonds of the Church are not broken with death; we are called to pray for those who are still completing their journey into the fullness of life with God. These holy souls belong to the Church, and they depend upon the prayers of those of us who can assist them with our affection and concern as we ourselves may one day depend on those who will remain after our passing.
We belong to one another within the Church, and those who are already in perfect happiness with God intercede for us in our struggles. We, in turn, remember those who wait in the antechamber of glory—each community assisting the others in love.
All Saints and All Souls’ Day this year hold a special poignant encounter for the Archdiocese of Atlanta because our hearts are heavy with the recent loss of Msgr. Thomas Kenny, the long-serving pastor of Christ the King Cathedral. Without a doubt, he was one of the kindest priests that I have ever had the privilege to know. His generous and effervescent devotion to the people of the Cathedral was apparent from the very first time that I met him. He managed to keep our largest parish humming along with pastoral activity and spiritual energy. He was the pastor to everyone at Christ the King—the young, the old, the newcomer, the veteran parishioner, the traditionally minded and the progressive spirits. He managed to make everyone feel welcome and at home.
Tom responded to the universal call to holiness with that Irish joy and humor that made him a beloved figure for thousands of folks in this local Church. In 1965 he arrived in Atlanta as a newly ordained priest fresh from Ireland, and he began his first assignment at Christ the King where he concluded his ministry sometime during the night between October 29 and 30.
We will all pray for Tom and ask the Lord to forgive whatever sins he may have committed—but somehow most of us probably believe that of the two Church feast days that dominate this time of year, the one that best fits Tom Kenny is probably All Saints’ Day!