‘We’re not alone in the communion of saints’
LIKAS: “I believe in the communion of saints.”
The St Simon Church Likas parish rector Fr Cosmas Lee began his sermon by reciting part of the Apostle’s Creed on All Saints Day to emphasize on the significance of the saints.
“To be baptized, to be a member of Christ’s church is never to be alone,” he told the parishioners who attended the Solemnity on Nov 1.
Citing the first reading in the Book of the Apocalypse, he said “there are countless number of people from every nation, race, tribe and language – those before us, those who are contemporary to us, and those who are to come in the future”.
“The Church is a communion of saints, a united group of mutually helping members as we move towards God. We’re never alone.”
To make his point, he shared his experience during his recent pilgrimage in Spain called the Camino de Santiago or The Way of St James:
“One of the great joys of walking the Camino, the pilgrimage walk to Santiago, was this: To be able to enter into many of the churches along the way. And when you enter a typically Catholic Church, you’re never lonely.
“There isn’t just the altar and a cross without a figure. There isn’t just the tabernacle. There will always be images of saints from Mary the Mother of God, often St Joseph and to so many other saints.
“These are heroes, who shared the same faith. They went through the same struggles, living the Beatitudes that we have just heard in the Gospel today.
These heroes succeeded perfectly and they’re always there interceding, supporting us. So when you get out of the Church, you carry with you a whole throng of Christians before, now and future. Never alone.
“To be in the Church is to be with the communion of saints. We’re never alone,” he said.
Fr Cosmas talked about two particular saints, besides St James the Apostle, whom he “met” along his journey, the saints that kept pilgrims like himself going on through rain or shine. They were saints Denis and Roch from France.
“Along the Camino, there were always a few saints that are very popular. And they are all linked with the pilgrimage walk. There is always St James the Apostle, whose remains are in Santiago, that’s where everybody is walking towards.
“St Denis is also very popular. Denis is short for Dionysius. He was a Bishop of Paris of the 4th century. The story goes, he was eventually martyred, beheaded. The legend says, when his head was cut off, he took his own head and carried it happily for 4km and did many miracles along the way as he walked.
“That is how he’s linked to the pilgrimage, that as we walk, always persecution, always martyrdom – ‘blessed are you when men persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you’.
“That’s why St Denis is always there to inspire the pilgrims. And there’s always St Roch everywhere around the churches along the walk. And St Roch is always seen standing there lifting his garment on his right thigh showing a wound with a dog next to him.
“The story goes that in the 14th century during the Black Death, the plague in Europe, a huge percentage of the population (was affected) that St Roch helped. He himself was healed by the licking of the dog. And through his help, many miraculous healings happened.
“So he also became a very popular saint along the way,” Fr Cosmas said. “The healing that we need as we walk towards the homeland. So we have many heroes, we’re not alone. We’re going there together. It’s important we are in the right crowd.”
To help the parishioners visualize on what it means to be in communion with one another and the saints, Fr Cosmas shared another of his experience while watching “expensive” football matches in Europe in the past.
“I’m not a great sports fan,” he said. “I hardly watch even football on the TV. But when I was in Europe I went to three football matches, two in the UK and one in Holland.
“So when I was there, when you’re with (tens of thousands) of people and you’re cheering for a particular team, it’s really an experience. Watching a big football match on TV is entertainment but being at the stadium actually ‘taking part’ in the match is an experience.
“The sense of being together – the mystery of solidarity and unity – that gives us such wonderful boost.”
He then recalled another trip he took that he would remember a lifetime – then Pope St John Paul II’s visit to Manila in 1995 – which he described as a “supreme encouragement for the soul”.
Despite the risks (ie. stampede), he said millions of struggling Christians, were there to follow and be inspired by the Holy Father.
“What a supreme encouragement to our soul. As a Christian, you know you’re not alone. There are many along this journey of life and in this valley of tears.
“Today we have to rejoice in God because He has given us the saints. Those who have gone before us, those who are still with us, saints that we don’t recognize but are saints because they’re struggling,” Fr Cosmas said, concluding his sermon.