As I write this column, I am completing a series of Masses dedicated to All Saints and All Souls. I have always appreciated All Saints Day. What a beautiful time to honor all the holy men and women who have obtained their heavenly reward. We reflect upon our favorite saints and seek to imitate their virtues. We also call upon their intercession.
In the past, All Souls Day seemed a little bit more remote to me. Perhaps that’s because I had not yet lost a close loved one. As we get older, that begins to change. As the years pass, we have more and more people whom we have laid to rest.
My mother died seven years ago in late October at age 89. I recall vividly that soon after her funeral, around All Souls Day, we felt the loving embrace of our local parish where she had been buried. They gathered together those who had lost loved ones over the past year. The prayer service was gentle and comforting.
My father lived 95 full years, and this November, he would have turned 100 years. Because of that, during this time of year, my heart and mind keep him particularly close. By unique circumstance, Bishop Dale Melczek shares the same birthday as my father. This year, Bishop Melczek would have turned 85.
I’m sure that so many of you reading this could come up with the names of loved ones who have now gone on from this world. As Catholics, we don’t just retain a sentimental feeling for them, but we believe in the communion of saints.
The communion of the saints means that we are in union with all of the saints. Of course, there are formal canonized saints recognized officially by the church. There are also so many beautiful men and women who, in our own hearts, we consider to be saints. I would include my parents in that category.
We also have those who died who are heavy on our hearts because, in their words and deeds, they seem to have rejected God. This gives us concern that perhaps they are not in heaven, but purgatory or hell. That’s a daunting, frightening thought.
For all of our departed loved ones, we should remember to lift them up in prayer. We pray that the Lord will give them their heavenly reward immediately. If they need some time in purgatory, we pray that time will be brief. It’s a good practice to also pray “for those who have no one to pray for them.”
Perhaps this column has brought to mind those who you love and who you miss dearly. My prayer for you is that the Lord give you comfort and peace. And that you would join me in praying for all of our faithful departed.
To inspire our prayer for the departed, I conclude with this section of the Catechism that quotes the prayer of commendation at the moment of death:
The Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards him and an entrance into everlasting life. When the Church for the last time speaks Christ's words of pardon and absolution over the dying Christian, seals him for the last time with a strengthening anointing, and gives him Christ in viaticum as nourishment for the journey, she speaks with gentle assurance:
Go forth, Christian soul, from this world
in the name of God the almighty Father,
who created you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God,
who suffered for you,
in the name of the Holy Spirit,
who was poured out upon you.
Go forth, faithful Christian! May you live in peace this day,
may your home be with God in Zion,
with Mary, the virgin Mother of God,
with Joseph, and all the angels and saints ... May you return to [your Creator]
who formed you from the dust of the earth.
May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints
come to meet you as you go forth from this life ... May you see your Redeemer face to face.
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, par 1020)
Most Reverend Robert J. McClory
Bishop of Gary