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All Saints Day

November 2, 2012

October has gone by in a whirl of Roman sunshine and a few rainy days. Now, the first of October, we students at Nicolo Quinto are able to
take a few days off from school to celebrate the memory of the Church’s favorite men and women (or at least, most famous) and to remember the
souls of the dead on November second. It’s thought-provoking to see how so many Italians take time off from work to visit the little towns and villas of their
birth, in order to place flowers on the graves of family members now at rest. Father Antonio tells me it is a very common practice. Our Maltese
brothers say the same about their homeland. Perhaps in North America the practice is not as common — or maybe not as visible.

I remember visiting cemetaries with my family. My father will go every year to his hometown of Chester, Connecticut, to linger awhile by the
tombs of his parents — several times he took some of us kids, and one fall afternoon stands out particularly in mind: the small grassy cemetery,
the tombstone under the shade of an oak tree, the little church sitting unobtrusively in the background as a silent testimony to hope.

My father had a piece of white paper and a black charcoal stick.

“We’re going to make a rubbing,” he said. We had no idea what a rubbing was, but we soon found out. My dad knelt by the grave of his mother and,
placing the paper over the carved inscription, rubbed the charcoal over it until an exact copy of the stone was outlined on the paper — white lettering
on black charcoal. We took turns scraping the stick over the paper to complete the rubbing. Then Dad rolled it up and put it reverently in the van. We piled inside, hushed by the presence of something inexplicable but present nonetheless.

That rubbing is somewhere in our house. I am sure that whenever someone comes across it, in a drawer or a bin full of other papers, there will be a similar hushed moment when the memory of the dead puts new perspective on the present moment for the living.

In remembrance of all who have gone before us — for all the good we have seen and felt in them — and for the silent testimony of a life well-
lived which is, perhaps, the best testimony we will ever have. Didn’t someone say once, “Saints are not the best proof of God — they are the only proof”? May we come to know God’s goodness in these living testaments — living, even if, for a time, they are unseen.

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