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Father Francis's picture
All Souls

Sooner or later, each one of us will experience the death of someone we love - a husband, a wife, a parent, a child, a friend. At first, we feel nothing but numbness and disbelief. Someone who was so much a part of our daily life has suddenly been taken away from us.

Attending the funeral makes us face the reality that we shall never see this dearly-loved person again on Earth and there will be an emptiness in our life which no-one else can ever fill. The priest stands at the grave side, says the final prayers and sprinkles holy water on the coffin. He allows each one of us to do the same as we look down at the brass plate bearing the name of our loved one, and then we walk sadly away. Only the grave digger remains to complete his task, replacing the earth which at first falls with a dull thud on the lid of the coffin. When he leaves, all that is left is a little mound marking the place of burial.

It all seems so final. For those without faith it is the end of the story but for Christians it is only the end of a chapter. In the words of the Requiem Mass, "life is changed, not ended." The flowers on a grave will wither and die while the inscription on a gravestone will, in time, be worn away and the name of the person it commemorates forgotten by the world. But the soul lives on and God will never forgot. Through His prophet Jeremiah He tells us, "I have loved you with an everlasting love" Jer. (31:3). That love of God now comes to us through His Church. Her liturgy demonstrates His everlasting love.

The month of November is dedicated to the Holy Souls, which is surely proof of the Church's unending love for our departed brothers and sisters. Our prayers for the dead are building a bridge between this life and Purgatory, carrying to them our love, and giving them comfort, relief from suffering and, finally, freedom to join the blessed in Heaven. It should make us happy to realise that there is still so much we can do for our loved ones. The Masses, our prayers, and the acts of penance and self-denial, which we offer for them, are all building blocks in the bridge of love which links us together.

We don’t know how long any soul will remain in Purgatory. Perhaps we feel that we have done all that is necessary for our loved ones, but we can never be certain, so we should never give up our efforts on their behalf. What about our unknown brothers and sisters, the countless victims of war, famine or neglect? They too are waiting helplessly to be released from Purgatory, but they are forgotten. How they long for our prayers to help them to Heaven! This is why the Church prays constantly for all the faithful departed.

During this month we remember all our dead by making a special effort to get to Mass and by joining the prayers of the Church for the Holy Souls. We also have the privilege of placing the names of our loved ones on the altar so that they are remembered at every Mass. We can try to make it a habit to say our private prayers for the dead, not just this month but every day. Each prayer we say is strengthening that bridge of love and bringing someone a little nearer to Heaven. If only we appreciated how the Holy Souls suffer as they await the sight of God we would not be spasmodic or neglectful in helping them. We would do everything in our power to intercede with the Lord to release them.

Let us remember, too, that the bridge carries traffic in both directions. We send our love and prayers to the souls in Purgatory, and when they reach Heaven they intercede for us and send innumerable blessings to all who have helped them. Jesus tells us, "I go before you to prepare a place for you" (Jn. 14:2) and we know that through death our relatives and friends have taken one step towards that place. Jesus wants us to play our part in helping them to reach Heaven by constantly saying the prayer He taught St. Gertrude. He told her that whenever this prayer is said He would release many souls from Purgatory.

Eternal Father, we offer You the Most Precious Blood of Your divine Son, Jesus, in union with all the holy Masses being offered today throughout the world for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

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