By Jourdan Reynolds
As we celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day this year, I would like to reflect upon what these days mean to me. I pray that these celebrations bring encouragement to your life and replace sorrow with joy.
When I was a child in parochial school, saints were more or less historical figures that we chose to dress up as and to do a report on. A few years later, when I began playing sports, saints were just the name of the school that we competed against. However, my perspective on saints changed during my junior year in high school. That year I prepared for my confirmation in the spring. Besides attending class, doing volunteer work and going to a retreat, all of us needed to write a report on the saint we would be choosing for our confirmation name. Our teachers told us to pick a saint that inspired us and gave us hope.
I chose St. Augustine of Hippo for many reasons. But the reason that stands out most was his radical conversion to the faith. For the first half of his life, he was more or less non-religious and didn’t think much of Catholicism. One day, though, God spoke to him through a child, and from that point Augustine began his faith journey to become one of the greatest doctors of the Catholic Church. His life reminded me of my re-conversion moment the previous year while at a Catholic men’s conference. I attended the conference as a teenager unsure about my Catholic faith and my life direction, but I left the event renewed and on fire for Christ. St. Augustine has helped me much when I have called upon him in prayer. Thank you, St. Augustine, for your guidance.
This year, All Soul’s Day feels different to me. I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m a year older or because I’m a husband and father now, but my heart is a bit more solemn than previous years. At 25 years of age, I know of five childhood classmates who have passed away, some of them older and some of them younger. What gets me, though, is how young they were when they left this earth. I ponder whether it was truly their time to go or whether they had more to offer in their lives. Only God knows the answer.
I’m sad to see all of them go, but my heart aches a bit more for a few of these individuals. I remember worrying about them as we were growing up. I saw that they struggled interiorly and I desired for them to find internal peace. I would do my best to be a good friend to them, but I still worried about their happiness.
And so, as a way to honor them, I made a promise to live each day to the fullest and to do my best for my family and those around me. Through thick and thin, life is always a blessing, and if a little pain is required for a life fulfilled, then I’m OK with that. Or as my wife says, “vale la pena siempre,” which means “the struggle is always worth it.”
(Jourdan Reynolds is the secretary and bookkeeper at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa.)