Thursday, November 1, 2012

all hallows eve

Last night I took Frank to one of my very favorite DC events - the annual All Saints Vigil at the Dominican House of Studies. The Vigil is not a Mass but comes from the Liturgy of Hours and is a remembrance of the saints, a celebration honoring holy men and women who came before us.

Every year the chapel fills up quickly - we arrived an hour and a half early to get good seats.

The friars chose beautiful readings about various saints for the service. There was an account by St. Aelfric of the life of the incredibly brave St. Edmund (Frank leaned over and asked me if we can name one of our sons Aelfric... no).

They read a selection from the papal letter Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) by Blessed John Paul II. I thought of Frank reading that letter as a college student. He attended a very small, very Protestant school at the time, and he felt torn by internal conflict between human reason and divine faith. When he began searching for answers relating to "faith and reason," a friend told him about that letter. Reading it drew him towards the Catholic Church.

There was a reflection on holiness (you can read it here). I treasured hearing this quote from Mother Teresa: "God has not called us to be successful; He has called us to be faithful." We fail at everything we attempt to do, the speaker said; we fail again and again, but what matters is not perfection but that we keep trying.

At the end of the service, after much singing in Latin and reading of gorgeous old prayers, it was time for the litany of the saints. We each took a slender candle and lit it, the flame passed hand to hand. Then we processed out to the long, dimly-lit corridor and lined its shadowy walls, holding our candles and still singing.

photo credit
I stood in the hallway next to Frank, clutching my candle and softly entoning "pra-ay for us" after the name of each saint. What an unusual way to spend Halloween, I thought. It won't be like this someday. It's no coincidence that the vigil was filled with young adults - those too old to dress up for Halloween and too young to have little ones to take trick-or-treating. This time in my life, when I have the luxury of spending an evening in gentle stillness - on Halloween, no less! - is quickly passing. 

The Halloweens I see in the years to come are full of fun-sized snickers and clever costumes and babies dressed as lions - not votive candles or Latin singing or white-robed monks (except ones in costume). I am looking forward, so much, to those days and their joys. But last night was a reminder not to get ahead of myself and to enjoy this time while it lasts. I tried to absorb a little bit of the quietness and peace that were radiating through that hallway. I tried to take it in so I can keep it and hold it and carry it with me in the days and years to come.

1 comment:

  1. What an awesome night! We had a halloween party but I wish a church around here had something like this for us to go to!