Hello everyone! This week we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints – “All Saints Day” – and All Souls Day. Reflecting events of the past couple days – most particularly All Saints Day and All Souls Day – I have come upon a very sad conclusion relating to an issue very dear to my heart. I am speaking about how poorly we treat the Holy Souls – the Faithful Departed.
The 7th. Corporal Work of Mercy directs us to bury the dead. The 7th. Spiritual Work of Mercy instructs that we pray for the living and the dead. I am deeply grateful to my parents for instilling a deep sense of respect for and devotion to the Faithful Departed. From as early as I can remember my parents (most especially my mother) have taken me to the cemetery to pray for those who have died. From my youngest days, my mother reminded us to pray every time we passed by a cemetery. She has also led our family in an annual (ongoing) novena for the Holy Souls.
My maternal grandfather – “Grandpa George” – died shortly after my 5th birthday. Though I was quite young, I was nonetheless devastated by the loss. Grandpa George was so close to me in this life, yet even after death I knew he was still close to me for I knew that death was not the ultimate end. As a family, we would (and still) often visit his grave and plant flowers and pray for his soul. We did likewise when “Grandma Lorraine ”- my maternal grandmother – and “Poppy” – my paternal grandfather died. Thus, from a very early age I have nurtured an abiding respect for the Doctrine of the Communion of Saints. While I pray for the repose of my deceased grandparents, I also know that they pray for and intercede for me.
Particularly at this time of year, I find it unfortunate that the popular culture, with it’s undue emphasis on the macabre steals legitimate attention from the faithful departed. Rather than praying for “those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith,” the culture encourages us to visit haunted houses. When children pass by cemeteries, they exchange ghost stories instead of prayers for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. How sad, how wrong. The reality of this situation is two-fold. First, the Poor Souls become regarded as nothing more than a spooky myth and the prayers that could be offered for their benefit are left unspoken. Second, the assistance they could offer us is curtailed.
Over the past three years, I have had the honor of serving the funeral Masses for close to 40 souls. Rarely has the concept of purgatory been mentioned. At many of them, the deceased is practically canonized. While this may have the temporary effect of alleviating the pain of the grieving family, ultimately the deceased loses the benefit of the Masses and prayers that may have been offered on their behalf. After all, where is the need to pray for someone “we know is in Heaven?”
As Catholics, we believe that we – the Church Militant – are an integral part of the Communion of Saints. We have a sacred obligation and duty to pray for the Poor Souls, the Faithful Departed. The Church, in her wisdom, sets aside these first eight days of November for this purpose – and offers a Plenary Indulgence (under the usual conditions) applicable to the Poor Souls. Indeed, the entire month of November is dedicated to the Poor Souls.
Our family has participated annually in a special novena. For each of the first eight days of November, we: attend Holy Mass, receive Holy Communion, visit a cemetery to pray for the dead and pray for the Holy Father’s intentions (for more information, see The Handbook of Indulgences, Norms and Grants p. 47). Thank you for joining me in praying for the Poor Souls.
As I thank you for your prayers, I have a favor to ask – a special intention for which to pray. As I am only peripherally involved, I am not at liberty to give details. However, suffice it to say, the Salvation of souls are at stake. Please pray for those in need. I thank you in advance.