I was at the airport last weekend and saw the huge mass of people moving out from Manila into their respective home provinces. Looking at their faces one can say, that despite the tough situation everyone’s going through — EDSA traffic, crowds, flight delays — including the personal problems that each one is possibly battling on at that moment — we can still see people happy and grateful. This happen despite the troubles and anxieties that people are undergoing. We still find the time to visit the graveyards and still persist in doing these rituals because this is a norm, a practice that we have been doing ever since. Even if sometimes we go beyond our comfort zones and far from the confines of home. Given this, it shows that the spirit of the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls are felt deeply and strongly. The connection with our departed loved ones remains strong.
It must take perseverance to do this thing of travelling to visit our departed loved ones year in and year out. I say this after enduring three hours of flight delay on my flight to Dumaguete, and then having my return flight to Manila cancelled for no clear reason. To ensure I get back to Manila on the same day of the cancellation, I agreed to be booked in another flight in another island, took the ro-ro vessel in a van provided by the airline, endured travel for five hours (after getting caught in traffic for two hours added to the normal three hours travel) to catch an alternative flight via Mactan, Cebu. Yet, for all the difficulties, others will say that this is a just a simple time delay, unlike other incidents that others have to endure. Still this speaks of perseverance and patience, especially when you do routines every year, in spite of the unpredictable situations that you have to go through each time.
In comforting our families and loved ones we remember the fact that this is the perfect time to talk about the end of our lives. These are times that we discuss about the end. We talk about our departed loved ones in reverence and honor. The day before, Fr. Armand talked about being steadfast, that attribute which speaks about unwavering commitment, firmness, courage in adversity, or truth in charity.
Steadfastness is the ability to stay the course. This is also called fortitude, the courage in pain, or adversity. In our spiritual journey, trials and difficulties are part of the package. However, to strengthen us, it is also proper that we pray for the Holy Spirit to endow us with the Gift of Fortitude. Among the great examples of God’s chosen children endowed with this gift is St. Agnes of Rome.
According to the Catholic Online: “St. Agnes was a Roman girl who was only thirteen years old when she suffered martyrdom for her Faith. Agnes had made a promise, a promise to God never to stain her purity. Her love for the Lord was very great and she hated sin even more than death! Since she was very beautiful, many young men wished to marry Agnes, but she would always say, “Jesus Christ is my only Spouse.”
Procop, the Governor’s son, became very angry when she refused him. He had tried to win her for his wife with rich gifts and promises, but the beautiful young girl kept saying, “I am already promised to the Lord of the Universe. He is more splendid than the sun and the stars, and He has said He will never leave me!” In great anger, Procop accused her of being a Christian and brought her to his father, the Governor. The Governor promised Agnes wealth if she would only deny God, but Agnes refused. He tried to change her mind by putting her in chains, but her lovely face shone with joy. Next he sent her to a place of sin, but an Angel protected her. At last, she was condemned to death. Even the pagans cried to see such a young and beautiful girl going to death. Yet, Agnes was as happy as a bride on her wedding day. She did not pay attention to those who begged her to save herself. “I would offend my Spouse,” she said, “if I were to try to please you. He chose me first and He shall have me!” Then she prayed and bowed her head for the death-stroke of the sword.”
She is one of seven women, who along with the Blessed Virgin, are commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.
To be able to stay the course, we must make a conscious decision to follow Him. Our ability to withstand pains and challenges tells of our level of spiritual maturity and commitment to Him.
In this year’s commemoration of the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls, we are reminded of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. It exists in Purgatory, and is called the Church suffering. The Church triumphant is the Church in Heaven, where the Saints are in the majestic presence of God. The Church on this earth is called the Church militant, because its members (we, the living) struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil.The unity and cooperation of the members of the Church on earth, in Purgatory, and in Heaven is also called the Communion of Saints. To be successful in this pilgrimage, or to succinctly say, to avoid hell, we must therefore equip ourselves with the weapons to fight the forces of evil. We need the courage to staythe course.We need the Gift of Fortitude to succeed in persevering our faith journey. We need not worry about this, as God is gracious and merciful. For as long, as we pray, and for as long as we deserve it, He’ll equip us with the armor we need to be successful. After all, the good fight, is always worth the fight.