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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon

2nd November 2008

Fr David Shepherd

All Saints Sunday

I’d like to start by reading a short passage from St. Augustine’s Confessions – his account of the death of his mother, St. Monica.

It’s a good story for All Saints’ tide because it suggests the nature of our Christian relationship with our departed loved ones. The key concern is as to where they are. Clearly they are not here. All that remains is a shell, their bodies, buried or cremated, dust & ashes.

Like me, you’ll have noticed the sad growth in recent years of wayside shrines. Flowers are tied to lamp posts or left by the side of the road to mark the spot of a fatal accident with all its accompanying grief & horror. It is a phenomenon that many date to the death of the late Diana when the British stiff-upper lip finally began to quiver releasing an emotional flood. I suspect it is simply a revival of something more ancient, pre-Christian even. Human beings have long marked the spot where something significant happened with shrines & stories.

What is being marked now is the place of death; as well or instead of the place of burial. It suggests the complete separation of death & life in a post-Christian society. No longer can we nod to granny in her grave as we walk through the churchyard to worship, or a least not often. We certainly visit the graves of our relatives for a picnic on the Day of the Dead as in many Latin countries.

St. Monica died in the Fourth Century in a society that was still pagan. Like us her sons were concerned about where there mother should die & be buried. Monica gives a different Christian perspective to her now Christian son Augustine & his brother:-

‘Bury me anywhere, don’t worry about that. I ask you only to remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be.’

That takes us back to our starting question. ‘How are we to relate to our departed loved ones & where are they?’ the answer paradoxically is here, here at the altar of God. Here we are in touch, in communion. When we receive the body & blood of Christ we become part of the communion of saints, that vast number of Christian people, living and departed.

It is this truth that we celebrate today, All Saints’, the feast of all Christians. The places where our loved ones died and where their mortal remains lie are important. More important is that we should remember them whenever we come to the altar of God, knowing ourselves to be one with them in Christ.

St. Monica’s words, delivered to us through her son St Augustine more than a millennium & a half ago are a moving reminder of the truth of faith.


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Comments about this site or problems? Contact Webmaster (Colin Richards) at Last updated 28/11/2008 18:30 Author: David Shepherd