Although we mark the feast of All Souls and All Saints on two separate days, Dr Dermot Roantree, editor with Irish Jesuit Communications, says they are really two sides of the one coin. In this interview with Miriam Gormally of Soulwaves Radio, he explores the ultimate human mystery – death. He says that there are mysteries like death which don’t yield easy answers, and indeed it may be better that we don’t expect answers, but only ask questions.
Drawing on lyrics from the Leonard Cohen song ‘Who by Fire?’, he remarks that mystery always surrounds the records of “who shall live and who shall die” in the Book of Life. We don’t have answers to these questions that make gratifying sense, even if they fit into a scheme of understanding,” Roantree says. There is nothing that we can think or say or do that will dispel this greatest of mysteries.
He speaks about the deaths of family members, and says we must interrogate the sometimes off-the-cuff remarks such as ‘the dead are with us in our hearts’. He suggests that we really pay attention to the importance of what we are claiming as believers when we speak about the ‘communion of saints’. And he makes the nuanced observation that when those close to us die, it is more “a going than a leaving.”
Miriam Gormally began her interview with Dermot Roantree by asking him what All Souls and All Saints day means to him.