This November, find your communion of saints

The Christian creed is cloaked in mystery.
Catholic Voices

I believe in the communion of saints.

These words take flesh in the early morning quiet of my apartment. I sink into the worn recliner and flip open my Bible. The aroma of dark roast rises like incense across the space, still as an empty sanctuary.

Thin paper crinkles between my searching fingers. Soon their stories sit before me: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James.

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.”

Fiercely loyal, these women stood by Jesus through his suffering, death, and rising again. They lived a major transition—and found life on the other side.


I want their wisdom.

“Be with me,” I beg my sisters from scripture. “Be with me today.”

Then I climb in the car. Time for morning prayer at the monastery. Time for a hard goodbye. Time too for a graced hello.

I believe in the communion of saints.

I scoot into the choir stalls as I do most mornings. There aren’t usually many other women at this men’s monastery, so I notice when a young trio walks in, clad in jeans and Fighting Irish zip-up hoodies. They sit a few rows behind me. A small smile creeps across my tear-streaked face.


I believe in the communion of saints.

The prayer begins: “God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me.” For 30 minutes we sing. We chant a few psalms. We grow silent. We raise our hands in blessing. Finally, we process out.

It is finished.

Soon after the three women approach me. “I think we know you!” the lead one says.

I think I know them too.

I believe in the communion of saints.

“Did you present at a conference last year at Notre Dame?” she continues. I nod. We introduce ourselves. I learn these three friends from South Bend, Indiana are heading north on a hiking trip. They stopped to check out the church along the way.

“How’s your ministry going?!” another asks with excitement.


I tell them I come alive in this place. I tell them I’ve met people here who have changed my life for the better, including the monk we blessed this morning—a dear friend—who in a few hours will pack his bags and move a thousand-some miles away. My voice cracks once or twice.

The women listen gently.

I believe in the communion of saints.

“That must be hard,” the third one says. “Transitions are tough. We’re praying for you.”

“Prayers, yes. Thank you,” I stammer.

They know, the women at the tomb incarnate in the women in front of me. They read my heart. We say our goodbyes. Peace mixes with the anxiety rattling around my gut for the first time all day.

The women didn’t come to take away the grief. They came to walk with it, cry with it, anoint it, and bless it.

“Be with me,” I begged my sisters from scripture. And they showed up.

Their presence made all the difference.

I believe in the communion of saints.

What do we believe? In whom do we believe? Why do we believe at all?

The Christian creed is cloaked in mystery. God pulls back the cover all the time in ways big and small. A hint here, a taste there. Soon the divide disappears. The divine and the daily become one.

Words leap off the page and take on flesh—in this case, Fighting Irish flesh.

I believe in the communion of saints.

This article also appears in the November 2019 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 84, No. 11, page 10). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

Image: Unsplash cc via Pedro Lima

About the author

Jessie Bazan

Jessie Bazan helps Christians explore their life callings in her work with the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research. She is editor and coauthor of Dear Joan Chittister: Conversations with Women in the Church (Twenty-Third Publications).

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