This past week I had the blessing of celebrating the 60th anniversary of the parish of St. Anthony Claret in Anaheim, along with the parish feast day. The great day of celebration was led off by families, young and old, joining hands, praying and singing in procession around the parish Church, along Anna Street that is a neighborhood plagued by violence. We were accompanied by music, the rosary, singing and “Bailie Folclorico” before Mass began. The crowd was overflowing with some of the original families of the post war years, and the many new families of Hispanic, Filipino and Asian culture. Together, families joined hands and voices to give thanks to God not only for the parish community, but the strength of the parish community , which in Faith is the main force in the neighborhood to meet fear and violence with the presence of Love and a Faith community. The hands of all of the families in procession reached out to the hands of those in the neighborhood, as a bridge to Faith and peace, to show that violence never has the last word.
Just a week later I was present at another gathering of families at the celebrations of Masses for All Saints Day, and All Souls Day. Before Mass on Saturday at Holy Sepulchre cemetery many of the children were dressed as Saints, and during this Mass (with over 2000+ present) families – from mothers and fathers, to grandparents and lots of children – prayed together at the cemetery, joined hands, and then led me to all of the altars for the “Dia de Los Muertos” altars blessings. This was an experience of families in this world and the next, drawn together in these holy days of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, remind us that somehow the boundary between this world and the next, between heaven and earth and in between is somehow more fluid than we could ever imagine!
While the document from the Synod on the family is yet to be studied thoroughly in its actual word and context, the experience of the families of St. Anthony Claret and All Saints/All Souls Days was truly a lived experience of whole families witnessing their faith, and in that faith, making a difference in this world by a living testimony of joy and presence. This is more than any word on paper can do! These families truly reflect the “Joy of the Gospel” as Pope Francis has spoken about so often, both in Rome and here! These families were for me, living witnesses of the reality of All Saints Day. They reflect the words of Pope Benedict XVI who said regarding Saints that “being a saint—means living close to God, to live in his family (November 1, 2006).”
Thanks to all in Saint Anthony Claret parish and all at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery and our Diocesan staff who helped prepare these days, to lead us in to the Month of November – a month dedicated to all of the faithful departed, and to thanksgiving.
+Kevin W. Vann