A Cloud of Witnesses and the Milkweed

"Cloud of witnesses" by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: Pixabay.com (2015), CC0 Public Domain

In our Catholic Church, the month of November is dedicated to the precious souls in Purgatory. Those souls like so many before have become the Cloud of Witnesses in heaven.

Several years ago a friend had asked me, in a couple of hundred words or less, to tell of the cloud of witnesses, “by the testimony of their lives and the sharing of their understanding” that have brought us to our faith today.

Seriously!? In 200 words or less?

Imagine if you will the seed pod of a milkweed. The pod contains hundreds of ripened seeds of faith that float on the Breath of God into our lives. The delicate seeds don’t land all at once, they don’t germinate at the same time, and some travel great distances before they reach the soil of our souls. Once rooted, that seed of faith grows — and spreads exponentially, if you’ve ever seen a field of milkweeds!

So how do I thank the hundreds of witnesses in my life? How do I choose a favorite flower? Which seed set the greater root? Was the first seeding more fruitful than the fiftieth?

I would need a decade to write thank-you notes to every soul that touched mine; from the impaired woman at church who tried to wipe my nose when I was 3 years old to the 86-year-old mother of a friend who the other day offered prayers on my behalf. They each in some way gave a gratuitous gift and I am grateful to all who have brought me closer to God.

We’ve spent a good part of the month on who and what of death. I am reminded of this, from Bishop Charles Henry Brent.

What is dying?

A ship sails and I stand watching
till she fades on the horizon,
and someone at my side
says, “She is gone”.
Gone where? Gone from my sight,
that is all; she is just as
large as when I saw her…
the diminished size and total
loss of sight is in me, not in her,
and just at the moment
when someone at my side
says “she is gone”, there are others
who are watching her coming,
and other voices take up the glad shout,
“there she comes!” …and that is dying.


Ponder: Who were the cloud of witnesses that brought you to your Christian faith? Are they still living? Why not send them a short note of thanks, as Thanksgiving is just around the corner.

Copyright 2018 Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB


About Author

Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB lives an eremitic life and is the author of Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent, A Garden of Visible Prayer: Creating a Personal Sacred Space One Step at a Time, 2nd Edition, and A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac. A freelance writer with a Benedictine spirituality, Margaret has a master’s degree in communications and is a Certified Greenhouse Grower, Advanced Master Gardener, liturgical garden consultant, and workshop/retreat leader.

1 Comment

  1. Anne Marie Hennigan on

    Thank you for this post. That reflection was read at my late mother’s funeral Mass. That chapel is built overlooking the sea and behind tbe altar are great glass windows. Throughout that Mass I watched a ship from the nearby port of Drogheda sail out over the horizon. That was in 2002.
    Recently, my three year old twin grandchildren were chatting about how they were once babies “in Mammy’s tummy” .They went on to talk about how their Daddy was my baby and then got a bit confused about where Grandad fitted into this picture. At that moment, I got a profound sense that one day I would introduce them to the woman whose baby I was…
    I pray daily for the happy repose of the souls of family members by name, ending with ‘and my grandparents, my husband’s grandparents and their parents and grandparents, and all their decendants, and back through the mists of time’….
    We are indeed surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses….

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