All Souls connects the living and the dead with promise of eternity
For far too many, the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day) is a non-event. Not a holy day of obligation, too few give the day the serious attention it deserves because it is most beautiful observance in our Church.
Even going back as far as pagan times, the modern day practice of praying for the dead can be traced back to the Old Testament.
“In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.” (2 Mc 12:43-46)
In the mid-11th century, Abbot St. Odilo of Cluny anchored the practice of praying for the dead by decreeing all monasteries of his congregation annually keep November 2 as a remembrance of departed souls. The practice was soon adopted by other orders and the day of remembrance began to spread throughout Europe.
In the 14th century, All Souls was officially placed in the books of the Western Church by Rome.
But what a beautiful reminder of what we believe as Christians and our connectedness!
It’s no accident that the memorial directly follows the feast of All Saints. As followers, we recognize both the saints in heaven as well as the souls in purgatory, a true expression of the Comm of Saints. In this belief we, ourselves find hope.
In a homily at Vernano Cemetery in Rome in 2013, Pope Francis said: “The feasts of All Saints and All Souls are days of hope. The virtue of hope is like a bit of leaven that enlarges your soul. There are difficult moments in life, but with hope you go forward and keep your eyes on what awaits us. Today is a day of hope; our brothers and sisters are in the presence of God, and we, too, will be there in the Lord’s arms if we follow the path of Jesus.”
Praying for all the deceased not only assists them in the purification process we call purgatory, it is also a way of remaining connected with those who have gone before, a way of continuing to reach out and touch those who left this legacy of faith.
How painful is it to lose someone we love but how agonizing it must be for those who have no belief in life eternal!
We believe that God, who is pure love and the source of all life, will one day bring us back to God’s own self. We know that incredible love exists because we see it clearly through the gift of Jesus. Christ’s resurrection brings us the hope of our own resurrection, the resurrection of all of humanity throughout the ages. Jesus makes it fairly clear in John 6:37-40: “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.”
The souls of the departed call out for our help, our prayers, just as one day we will cry out. Praying for all the faithful departed, we stare into the face of eternity. We not only pray for mercy on their souls but we also affirm our belief in God’s steadfast love and promise of immortality.
Eternal rest grant onto them, oh Lord…