Jesus said to the crowds,“Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”(John 6:37-40)
As we set our clocks back to standard time, we enter the season of All Saints and All Souls. These twin celebrations remind us of the connective power of our faith. On All Saints Day, we ask for divine intercession from those who have arrived at their eternal reward and yet are not officially recognized as canonized saints. These “hidden” saints whom we encounter in our life can be a powerful source of inspiration and encouragement. For example, my deceased grandfather was particularly handy when it came to household tasks. Lacking this skill myself, I often ask for his inspiration when faced with a similar situation, “Grandpa, is it ‘righty tighty, lefty loosey’?” Christ’s Gospel promise that he should not lose anything of what his Father gives him ensures us that the familial and fraternal relationships that we forge in life continue beyond the grave.
This brings us to consider why we pray for our deceased. Flowing from their Jewish traditions, the early Christians gathered to worship in catacombs and places of burial as a visible sign of the connection they shared with those who had died. On All Souls day, the worldwide Church is encouraged to specifically pray for those who continue their journey towards their eternal reward. The Catechism says, “Our prayers for [our beloved departed] are capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.” (CCC 958) This means that we can both pray for and pray to those who have gone before us. For them, life is changed not ended and so death does not sever our relationship with them. We can still make a difference in their lives, and when we do, they can make a difference in ours.
Here at St. Dominic’s we have many ways to remember our beloved departed all year round, e.g., through offering a Mass or lighting candles. One of the unique features of our church is that we have a Columbarium, a prayerful resting place for deceased parishioners. Every day the earliest Mass is offered for the repose of their souls. During this month of November, there are particular ways to connect with those who have gone before us. In a special way, you are invited to fill out envelopes for your loved ones which will be placed on our altar and be remembered at all of our Masses this month. Also, I encourage you to visit the Holy Souls Altar and to inscribe the names of deceased loved ones in our Book of the Dead.
During this month of November, let’s resolve to pray for all the dead, and not just our family members and friends. If you are not sure what or how to pray for them, I suggest the traditional prayer:
“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let the perpetual light shine upon them.
And may the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”
~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.