By Father Stephen H. Paolino

Recently I was involved in a discussion about Facebook, a web site where people can connect with one another and have discussions with people they possibly haven’t seen in a while or have never met in person. You connect with others on Facebook by becoming “friends” with them. The discussion I was having was why the term “friend” is used.

It seems so odd that someone on Facebook can have thousands of “friends” yet never have met any of them. I personally have had people request to be my “friend” who I didn’t even know existed.

The question came up whether or not these “friends” on Facebook are people with whom we actually have a relationship. {{more}}

When we speak of our relationships with others, it is usually measured in how many friends we have – either real or virtual – time spent with them, and conversations we have with them.

Relationships can, however, take a different form. For example, our relationship with Christ is something so radically different from our relationships with family members, friends and colleagues we see and interact with on a regular basis.

It is a relationship that is not affected by our environment, but rather an interior one that can be experienced at any time and under any circumstance. This is the kind of relationship I have always had with my dad. On June 3, 1980, a month before I was born, my life, and the life of my family, radically changed. My dad was killed in an automobile accident.

I’m not sure exactly how I found out. I don’t remember the circumstances or the exact conversation, but I do remember being confused as a kid. How is it that I will never hear the voice of my own dad, or feel his embrace?

To this day, it is something that I find myself thinking about from time to time. However, the good news is that my relationship with him has always been strong.

In the key moments of my life, I think about him and how he is present to me. The greatest of these moments came the day of my ordination to the priesthood: May 19, 2007.

As I was praying that Saturday morning, I asked my father to “make me a good father.”

The next day, as I stood behind the altar at St. Pius X Church in Broomall, Delaware County, offering the sacrifice of the Mass, I was not standing alone; you see my dad was joining in the sacrifice, through me.

I didn’t always see this relationship, however. When I was younger, there was just great sadness and pain over his loss. It took me a long time to believe that my dad is there supporting me in ways that no one else I know on earth can. Our loved ones who “have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith” are still with us in the communion of saints.

November, the month of the Holy Souls, is a time for us to reflect on their lives and the impact they have on us – both directly and indirectly. The relationship we have with them is one that is wonderfully unique. It is not dampened by distractions from noise or time constraints; rather, the relationship is eternal.

We can join ourselves to them anytime, but the greatest of these moments we can share with them comes when we celebrate the Mass.

When we join in this eternal banquet, we share a communion with those around us in the church building as well as the Church herself. This communion is so awesome, it transcends both time and space. It is so perfect, it can overcome any obstacle we can dare to put in its way.

As we take time to pray this month for our departed loved ones and friends, let us also take time to pray for those souls we do not know, the strangers who have no one to pray for them.

For when we celebrate the Mass, we celebrate it with friends in Christ, not just acquaintances on earth.

Father Stephen H. Paolino is school minister at John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School in Philadelphia and a priest in residence at Mother of spanine Grace Parish in the Port Richmond section of the city.