Communion of Saints

I made a mistake. In my last column, I mentioned that my grandkids were the fourth generation enrolled in Catholic schools. My mother, myself, my kids and my grandkids. St. Joseph, Christ the King, St. John the Baptist and St. Lawrence schools, going back just about a century.

The first two schools were in Yonkers, New York. The next in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the last outside Detroit. The Church universal.

My oldest brother is doing some family history work, tracing both my father and mother’s side. It’s not just charts, but a good narrative, with photos when they exist. He’s doing it for the children and grandchildren, he says, though whenever he references it to any of them, the response is a yawn. Kids.

I got the latest issue of the OSV Newsweekly just after the first of the year. In it, I found out that my grandmother had attended the same Catholic grammar school in Yonkers, St. Joseph, as my mother.

So, my grandkids are the fifth generation in Catholic schools, beginning with their great-great-grandmother.

Like every family, when you peel back the generations, you run into stories. It’s these links that fascinate me, that help me to make a little better sense out of how we got where we are. And the faith we have shared.

They are the links that connect us all. It is a Catholic understanding that extends those links far beyond family alone. But it’s the same sense of intimacy in so many ways.

We use Catholic vocabulary to explain it: the Church Militant, the Church Triumphant and the Church Suffering. The Church Militant are us, struggling daily against the sins of the world and the temptations of the devil. The Church Triumphant are the saints — both known and unknown — in heaven. And the Church Suffering are those in purgatory.

Linked in life and linked in prayer, together — the living and the dead — are the Communion of Saints.

Fides News Agency, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, issued its annual report on church workers murdered in the past year. According to an article from Catholic News Service, the Fides report also “highlighted the sacrifice of pastoral workers who died of Ebola contracted while caring for others.”

Four members of the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God, a religious sister and 13 lay workers died at Catholic hospitals in Liberia and Sierra Leone after contracting Ebola.

A total of 26 pastoral workers were killed in 2014 according to Fides: 17 priests, one brother, six religious women, a seminarian and a layman.

An earlier Catholic News Service story reported that on Christmas Day, a Catholic priest — Father Gregorio Lopez Gorostieta — was found dead along a highway in the Mexican state of Guerrero. He had been kidnapped at gunpoint from a seminary four days earlier after a day of celebrating Mass at the cathedral. He had been shot in the head.

Guerrero is a state in southern Mexico where 43 college students were kidnapped and presumably killed in September after taking part in protests against the local government’s collusion with organized crime.

Bishop Maximino Martínez Miranda, of the murdered priest’s diocese, had led a protest through the streets of the cathedral city on Christmas Eve demanding an end to these attacks on clergy and the population as a whole.

“Bishops, priests and the community of God, we protest to demand justice and peace. ... ‘Enough now,’ is the shout of all Mexico’s bishops and this diocese.”

There are days when the Communion of Saints, the link that ties us all together, seems so close we can touch it.

Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.