Baseball, All Saints’ Day, and the connection between the living & the dead

November first is All Saints’ Day—and Day 6 of the World Series. Is it possible that fans both living and dead are cheering together?

Game 3 of the 2016 World Series between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago. LG Patterson | MLB Photos | Getty Images

Here in Chicagoland, we have all become baseball fans. The Cubs logo has materialized on cereal boxes, wine bottles, salt and pepper shakers, and in a thousand other unlikely places. In this collective rooting for the team, we experience community.

Conversations pop up among strangers standing in line at the grocery store or post office.

“Hope they do better than last night!”

“This is happening!”

“If only my grandfather could have lived to see this …”

Our mood is up, perhaps in part because we’ve been able to ignore—mostly—the presidential campaign as we focus our expectant gaze on the home team. But, more importantly, there is a feeling in the air that a curse has been broken and that, at very long last, the Cubs will win the prize.

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Again and again, I hear stories about the Cubs fans who went before us—mothers and fathers and grandparents and great-grandparents who, decade after decade, kept the faith, filled the seats at Wrigley Field, and wore their Cubs blue with pride—despite the team’s record drought of National League and World Series wins. Some of these die-hard fans are still with us; some passed away before this magical season. But somehow, the Cubs’ success this year connects all Cubs fans, past and present. It’s easy to picture those who came before us cheering the Cubs on from the other side.

The mysterious connection between the living and the dead

The idea that those who are deceased remain, mysteriously, connected with the living is affirmed, again and again, in the Scriptures. Jesus said that there is joy in heaven when someone on earth repents (Luke 15:10). St. Paul writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders …” (Hebrews 12:1). Reading St. Paul’s words, I can’t help thinking of the crowd in Wrigley Field, holding up hand-lettered signs, rising to their feet, and shouting “Go Cubs Go.”

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All Saints’ Day falls on November first, the day after Halloween. According to Catholic Online, the Holy Day was established by Pope Boniface IV in 609 AD. But far from being an ancient, dusty relic, this Holy Day is one to which many Christian believers feel a profound connection. In addition to attending Mass and praying for deceased loved ones on All Saints’ Day, many of us gather with others to acknowledge the way our lives have been shaped by the examples of our foremothers and forefathers. And, many Christians believe that the saints continue to engage with the living, even after they have died.

I love thinking that my dead mother and I are still praying for each other, still tending each other.

Jessica Mesman Griffith is co-founder and curator of the blog Sick Pilgrim. Her memoir, Love and Salt: A Spiritual Friendship in Letters, co-authored with Amy Andrews, won the Christopher Award for “literature that affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” Griffith says All Saints’ Day is her favorite Holy Day.

“I think sometimes that the communion of saints is the reason I’m still Catholic,” she told me. “I am convinced that there is a real connection between the living and the dead. I love thinking that my dead mother and I are still praying for each other, still tending each other.”

Griffith said she and her family observe All Saints’ Day by going to Mass, and then having a feast with “lots of food and good wine, with a toast to all those who have gone before us.”

The Reverend Dr. Jay Johnson, an Episcopal priest and professor at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, also feels a “very strong connection” to All Saints’ Day. He told me that this Holy Day, and the one that follows it—All Souls’ Day—“mark a profound conviction in the vast ‘cloud of witnesses’ that have come before us and are alive in God.”

The cloud of witnesses that cheers us on

“For me, this is not a celebration of people who were ‘saintly,’ as in different or more virtuous or more sanctified,” Johnson said. “All of us are saints in the Body of Christ, as St. Paul wrote. So, for me, it’s a reminder of my resurrection faith.”

Mary Kravchuk, mother of two teenagers and the coordinator of religious education at St. Irene Parish in Warrenville, Illinois, said All Saints’ Day is a “special remembrance for our loved ones and all those who have died.”

“I remember them, pray for (and with) them,” Kravchuk said. “I feel unified with them in a mystical way during the celebration of the Mass.”

The day after Halloween, a holiday when we celebrate superstition and wear costumes reflecting our grimmest nightmares, comes a Holy Day when we are reminded that death is not the final word and that the ones whom we’ve loved and lost are still with us. We remember that a cloud of witnesses cheers us on—despite our setbacks and repeated errors—like stalwart fans of a team that seems poised, finally, for a win.

Jennifer Grant
Jennifer Grant
Jennifer Grant is a writer and speaker in the Chicago area, the grateful mother of four, wife to bicycle-obsessed David, and the author of five books: Love You More, MOMumental, Disquiet Time, Wholehearted Living, and When Did Everybody Else Get So Old? Find her online at jennifergrant.com and on Twitter @jennifercgrant.

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