My Communion of Saints4 Nov 2015
I have just returned to Australia after spending some time with family overseas. It was a time of joy and consolation, of much laughter and story-telling, and of feeling completely at ease in the presence of those who have known me and my kin since before I was born. It was also a time of grief as family friends were farewelled and buried, and as goodbyes were said before embarking on the plane back to Australia, in the knowledge of the very real possibility we may not see each other again in this world.
In many ways it is a bit surreal to return to my life here after being away from my day-to-day routine for a while, leaving my family and people I love half-way across the world to come ‘home’ to an empty house without people criss-crossing my path as I step into the kitchen or the living room. Questions of identity and belonging arise in my mind. Where is my home? Who are my people? Questions that have been asked throughout the ages, and continue to be asked, particularly in a country like Australia where around 28 per cent of people are born overseas and have family scattered throughout the world.
Migrants often describe a sense of dislocation and of no longer knowing where they belong, of feeling like a foreigner in both their new adopted country as well as in their country of origin as they try to find new ways of being themselves in an unfamiliar place. Uncertainty and instability are part-and-parcel of being in this ‘in between’ space of navigating a new culture and language, and of struggling to find one’s own place, while a new sense of belonging begins to emerge
Yet in the midst of absence and longing, there is also hope. Hope that one day we will be reunited; hope that God’s love and comfort is ever-present; hope for courage and new possibilities. I know I am still connected with my family and those I love, despite geographical distance. Technology also helps ease the homesickness with Skype calls, emails and Facebook photos. While I miss their physical presence, I know I am held in love.
In this month of November as we remember all souls, the very real communion of saints that exists in the body of Christ reminds me that my ultimate home is in Christ, that we are all pilgrims passing through, and that we are part of a living community, joined in communion with those who have gone before us. We are all citizens together with God’s people and members of the family of God; we are no longer foreigners or strangers (Eph 2.19).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it beautifully: ‘We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers’ (942).
Christina Rocha is a Canberra writer and lawyer.