The secular world is done celebrating Halloween, but for us Catholics, the days of the dead go on.
The “triduum” of feasts ends with today’s celebration of All Souls Day, a day to remember our loved ones who have gone before us.
Does anyone pray for the dead anymore? I remember when, at the age of seven, I was first introduced to the practice. My grandmother had died, and my mother told me to pray for her soul. I’ve said the prayer hundreds of times since then: “Eternal peace grant unto them O Lord. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.”
Funerals these days often focus on the good traits of the deceased (as they should) and are centered around remembering them with love (also not a bad idea.) However, the frequent repetition of the phrase “he/she is in a better place now” gets me a little worried.
Don’t get me wrong, chances are your Aunt Margaret and my Uncle Dave are in purgatory or heaven, and either one is a much better place to be than here on earth. But our attempt to comfort one another with the assurance that our loved ones are now with Jesus gives me pause. If they are, why pray for them?
I guess I’m mostly expressing the fear that rumors of my holiness will be greatly exaggerated upon my death, and that all prayers for my soul will cease. That thought really scares me.
So today I’m praying for the dead. Of course I’m praying for my ancestors, and those of my husband. I’m also praying for members of my parish family, for neighbors and friends, even (and especially) those of other faiths. But I won’t stop there. I’ll pray too for the souls of priests and religious, particularly for those who have served in the missions.
Won’t you join me? Go to mass today if you can. (This is one day out of the year when each priest can say three masses.) If not, it only takes a moment to say that prayer I learned as a little girl: “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.”