My thoughts (Tyler Connoley):
My Grandma Meeks had a daily ritual that never varied as long as I knew her. Every morning, she would get up and make a pot of coffee and two slices of toast. Then she would sit at the kitchen table and pray for all of her family by name. Grandma never failed to pray for each of her children and grandchildren. She prayed for me — by name — every day from the day I was born until the day she died.
Today’s Scripture tells us that the prayers of the saints in heaven rise before God like incense. Since a saint is anyone who is aligned with God, this Scripture is talking about my Grandma Meeks. According to Revelation 8:4, her prayers are rising before God like incense in heaven.
Today is All Saints Day. It’s a day when many Christians, especially Roman Catholics, remember the saints who have already died and are with God. The Catholic Church encourages its members to pray to those saints in heaven, and ask them to pray to God on their behalf. That teaching is based on two things: One is this Scripture, which clearly teaches that saints in heaven pray. The second is a belief that our essential nature doesn’t change just because we die. I have no reason to believe that Grandma Meeks stopped praying for me just because she went to be with God. If anything, I might believe she prays more, and better, now that she can see God face to face.
The same would be true for Martin Caballero. In life, we’re told, Martin was a Roman cavalry officer who was a Christian. He was a powerful and successful man. Then, one cold winter day, he saw a poor, shivering beggar on the side of the road, and something in him broke. He got off his horse, tore his cloak down the middle, and gave the beggar half of it. Soon thereafter, Martin quit the military, sold everything he had, and devoted the rest of his life to helping the poor. His entire life from that moment was a single, long prayer that God would help those who suffered from poverty. So, now, the Catholic Church teaches that St. Martin Caballero, as he’s called, is the patron saint of charity. It’s reasonable to believe that this man who had his heart broken by a shivering beggar, and spent his whole life helping the poor, would be praying for them now in heaven.
The official Saints are people who the Catholic Church believes for certain made it to heaven, but no one believes heaven is limited to those people. Every church can remember saints who loved their faith community and who, though dead, pray for their church now in heaven. Most families have their own saints — family members like my Grandma Meeks who prayed for them in life, and pray for them still. And all of us have friends or acquaintances who have died, and who we believe are with God now.
Thought for the day: Do you have a loved one who died, and is now with God? On this All Saints Day, think about her or his prayers that rise before God on your behalf.
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.