I have a good time thinking about those I hope to meet in heaven. I hope you do, too!
I take time to revel in happy memories of those who have gone before me. I remember those who loved me and whom I loved—family, friends, fellow friars, the wise mentors, and the joyous characters. Happy meals come to mind, where there was a lot of laughter and joy. I look forward to meeting in heaven (and pray that I get there!) people I have never met, such as my grandparents who died before I was born. Or those I know only through their writing (William Shakespeare, Anne Frank, Gerard Manley Hopkins) or through history books (Abraham Lincoln).
All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day come right next to each other, November 1 and 2. We honor the saints and the holy souls, but also the everyday loving people now in heaven.
How do I know whether they are in heaven or purgatory? I don’t. Only God knows their hearts! Did they have faults, prejudices, blind spots, sins? Sure. That’s why they may have stopped in purgatory, the waiting room for heaven. With God’s help they were healed and made ready for heaven. We believe in a Father who loves us so dearly that he sent his Son to save us—a Son who died on the cross to give us life—and who told his disciples, “Where I am, I want you to be.”
Pilgrims on Earth
What is heaven like? It’s more than we can imagine—beyond our most extravagant hopes. At the heart is God who is total goodness and love. We are face-to-face with God, “abiding” in his love. Heaven gives us the joy of meeting and living with the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Paul, St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi, and St. Elizabeth Seton.
“Eternal life consists in the joyous community of all the blessed,” St. Thomas of Aquinas wrote, “a community of supreme delight, since everyone will share all that is good with all the blessed. Everyone will love everyone else as themselves, and they will rejoice in another’s good as their own.”
“A great crowd of our loved ones awaits us there,” St. Cyprian wrote in the third century, “a countless throng of parents, brothers [and sisters] and children longs for us to join them….What joy both for them and for us to see one another and embrace.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, We “pilgrims on earth” can’t forget that we are only one part of our extended family. “Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘God himself triune and one, exactly as he is’” (954). Our sisters and brothers who are being purified pray for us and we can help them with our prayers. A family helps each other. We are a communion of saints!