I have always had a connection to All Saints’ Day, 1 November. I think it is because my elder brother was born on that day, and also because my parish church was the church of All Saints, Roodebloem. The day brings back many good memories, of people and events
The day with All Souls day and Remembrance day forms part of a season of remembrance for loved ones gone before us and those who died in the wars. I have always invited people to come forward to light candles, to place ribbons on a tree, to place petals, to burn incense in an act of remembrance on the day.
What follows is a reflection on All Saints Day that I gave to a girls school community in Cape Town on All Saint’s day.
What is a saint? People are saints according to St Paul and the
Sermon on the Mount. The latter extols people who express the simple qualities which add a great goodness to life and their communities.
People with simple qualities that ignite a good energy in the world that goes on multiplying.
At the end of your life what will people remember of you?
Your ability to care, to be compassionate, to feel for others.
“To be able to care and not to care,” says the poet T S Eliot.
The ability to live life to the full – what Jesus calls, the abundant life.
This service today is all about communion
What is communion?
It is a deep sense of belonging, of being connected,
like one huge Outeniqua tree stretching out into the heavens
A person is a person through other people.
It is experienced between a mother and child
Between a daughter and her father.
a sense of family
a sense of being part of the environment,
of belonging to the plants, the flowers,
the hills, the mountains, the animals
of belonging to a school community
of being part of a country –
a deep sense of belonging – to the roots
to ancestors –the roots from which we come
to all the saints who have gone before us
All in a moment
past, present and future fuse as One
on a day such as this
St John says: See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
I can point to the great Saints today, like Francis and Clare, two crazy Italian young people who turned their materialistic world upside down to follow Jesus. They gave up everything, they came from wealthy families
to be a sign of God’s love in the world.
But I rather want to tell you about two young people very close to you.
Jenna Lowe, one time a member of this school
She was diagnosed with a rare, life threatening illness at the age of seventeen.
She was blessed with a wonderful intellect and interest in the world
and at the age of eight she wrote and published her own children’s story called The Magic Bissie Tree. It is a story of a young forest girl who steps on a magic thorn and falls gravely ill.
She was predicting and writing her own story.
I came to be very much aware of her in 2011 Grade 10, when she was about 15/16. It was at around this time that Jenna started to become noticeably breathless. She breathed heavily, tired easily, needed more and more sleep and found exercise increasingly difficult.
A trip up the mountains – climbing a hill up the mountains in Genadendal – we were told then she wasn’t well, but had come on this grade 10 adventure…She should do what she felt capable of.
On this expedition in the mountain we seemed to be climbing one hill after the other. Some of the girls were crying. One girl was heard to say: I didn’t come to this school to climb mountains.
Jenna got them all up the hill. She came up with a plan. Walk 10 paces, breath for 5 counts, then walk another 10 paces, and so on…
I remember the Divinity classes in Jenna’s year – her class was like sitting in Parliament – I would start a discussion and sit down – the girls would stand up and give their opinion and people like Jenna would talk for 4 minutes, a truly debating class.
Most of you know Jenna’s story
She was suffering with pulmonary hypertension – a very serious illness that would take her life – she would need special care and drugs, which were not obtainable in this country – she would ultimately need a lung transplant
The story is long with many avenues of creativity, exploration, generosity, love, and passion, with her mum, and family and Jenna taking the lead.
She started a nationwide campaign, called Get me to 21 passionately raising awareness to increase the number of organ donors in South Africa.
It became a campaign with Jenna the campaigner, not for herself but to wake all South Africans up to the prevalence of this illness,
Despite continuous hope that she would recover, Jenna died on 8 June, 2015. She was still in ICU.
Her dying wish was to encourage more people to become organ donors in SA. She also wanted to help other PH patients find treatment earlier and to start a lung transplant unit for state patients.
The Jenna Lowe Trust exist for this purpose today.
I was the chaplain at Bishop’s for a year last year 2018, While I was there i met a young man, named Christian Rohrer (1999- 2018)
Some of you may know him. A very talented Bishop’s young man who became Headboy of Bishops in 2018. He was a people’s person, academic and sporting, a gifted hockey player and ball player, who had grown to love nature, the outdoors, the beach and mountains. It is said that he had an Awakening to the environment on one of the College’s Epic trips to the Cedarberg mountains.
In his final year at College it was discovered that he had a vicious cancer that had to be removed. The cancer returned at the beginning of the next year. He died in the November of that year. I came to share those final weeks with Chris and his family.
But it was the quality of life that he lived in those final months, surrounded by a large community of family and friends – the quality of every day.
It was the way he took the lead, made his own decisions and led us, his family and friends through the valley of his dying. He seemed to unleash an amazing goodness into our lives. I wrote a poem called The Moon is another Light in his honour, and quote from it:
the Adonis of his friends and first among his peers
In the third quarter of the moon
before our eyes, the waning crescent of his body
we gathered around him loaded with our fears
wanting a miracle that would not come
but he took us by the hand and led us to the heart of the moon
and his brother invited someone to sing the words of Saturn, by Sleeping at Last:
You taught me the courage of stars before
How light carries on endlessly, even
With shortness of breath, you explained
How beautiful it is even to exist
I couldn’t help but ask
For you to say it all again
I tried to write it down
But I could never find a pen
I’d give anything to hear
You say it one more time
That the universe was made
Just to be seen by my eyes
Both these young people lived short lives
They left a great legacy of goodness
Working in the lives of people and friends
It is given to most of us to life much longer lives
All Saints day tells us that:
We belong, we are in communion
We are part of the great tree of life
Let us take courage and confidence
since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses
let us throw off everything that hinders …
let us rise and run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith
The root of a tree of great goodness
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