Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
This week we will celebrate the mystery of life and death in a particularly Catholic way: we observe the Holy Day of Obligation, All Saints’ Day on Friday, and the commemoration of all the deceased on All Souls’ Day on Saturday.
You see, all the saints in heaven and all the souls in purgatory have all gone before us, but we would never say they are actually ceased to be, they are just not here. Wherever they are, we still maintain our friendships, because love is stronger than death. And we have the opportunity to form new friendships whose fullness will be experienced on the last day when we will all come together at the fulfillment of God’s creation. But in the meantime, we must pray for one another.
We rely on the saints to pray for us, as much or even more than we rely on one another on this earth for prayer. The saints are the pros, after all, and behold God face to face. The souls in purgatory rely on the saints, as well, and us to help them in the helpless condition where they are now. It is through our prayers and good will and charity that they have hope. Without us, they are lost.
The greatest thing you can do for someone who has passed from this world is offer the Mass. This is why we have funerals. And this is also why not having a funeral is the most tragic decision you can make for a person of faith. The sacrifice of the Mass is the most effective remedy for the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of our souls, our hope of salvation, our foretaste of the kingdom to come. So many people today don’t have a funeral, even when they know that is what their parent or grandparent or loved one would have wanted, because they are uncomfortable. Maybe they haven’t been to Mass in a while, or have even left the Church themselves. Please – allow us to provide the comfort and ease the uneasiness. We will help. It is too important a gift which we are easily able to provide, to pass it up.
So, it is the custom of the Church to celebrate Masses for the intention of all our dead. In this practice, the Catholic Church is the only one which has maintained this ancient Spiritual Work of Mercy. We speak in general terms, because we must pray for all those we know, as well as for those we don’t. We must include our friends and our enemies in this plan. And especially we must not forget those who are forgotten or have no one to pray for them.
Did you know that Halloween began as a special eve (vigil) of all the saints (all the “hallowed”)? It was a holy feastday vigil, far from what it has become today. It is the night before All Saints’ Day and the custom was to dress up as a saint. Popular customs for “the day of the dead” which you might hear about on the news are also cultural adaptations of what used to be a day of prayer and offering to God for the benefit of the poor souls who rely on our help. Many of these customs to pray for the dead were lost in the Reformation after 1517.
Here at St. Mary we will have a special holy day schedule of Masses for All Saints’ Day, with a vigil Mass on Thursday at 6pm and our usual Holy Day of Obligation schedule on Friday. On Saturday, All Souls’ Day we will have our usual Mass at 9am, and a special additional Mass at Noon. At this Mass we will remember in a special way all those who have died in the past year, and pray for them. We have invited the families and friends of all our departed brothers and sisters to come to this Mass.
We will also have a special rosary after the Noon Mass, led by our Magdalenes. Since we know not everyone is able to come to Mass at noon, we ask and hope that everyone in the parish will pray the rosary at the 1 o’clock hour for those who have died. Imagine the power of these prayers of an entire parish to help those souls who are relying on us for the resurrection on the last day.
God bless you.