All Souls Day
by Fr. Benedict Solomon, O.Praem.
“…We await a Savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like His glorious body…”
My Grandfather, whom I never met, told his children not to visit his grave. He said that he wasn’t there, and it would be a waste of time for them to visit. And so, it wasn’t until last year when I buried my grandmother that I found out his grave had been just a few minutes away from our house,
and I had never visited it. His wish not to be visited should not have been honored – because it was wrong.
The Church gives a plenary indulgence for those who visit a cemetery the first eight days of November, pray for the dead, and complete the normal conditions to be applied only to the faithful departed. The Church knows that the grave only holds the remains of the dead. But she also knows that the remains of the dead will be made like Christ’s glorified body on the last day.
On all Saints Day we are reminded of the Communion of Saints, and how we need the help of the Church triumphant in heaven. Then on All Souls day, we are reminded that the Church suffering in purgatory needs our prayers to be freed from its purification. The Church wants us to visit cemeteries and pray for the dead to remind us that we will die some day, and unless we are saints, we will have to suffer in purgatory. She wants us to renew our faith in the resurrection of the dead, to give us a chance to perform acts of charity for the poor souls, and to help them get to heaven as soon as possible.
But the Church also wants to correct certain errors. People have said that it is enough to mention the departed in a general way, and that we shouldn’t have Masses multiplied just for the departed.
Or they say that the quantity of Masses or prayers doesn’t matter; the only thing that matters is the quality. One Our Father a day is all we need. But the Church has priests say, not one or two Masses, but three on All Souls Day. Because three is better than one. She gives us eight days to visit a cemetery and allows us to get a plenary indulgence on each of those days for the departed.
She wants us to pray specifically for the souls in purgatory, especially for members of our family who have died. She recommends this every day for an entire month, so that throughout the rest of the year, we will remember to continue praying for the departed every day.
And the Souls in Purgatory will aid us here on earth, so that our names will be written in the book of life, and we will have cause to rejoice on that day when our bodies will be made whole again after the likeness of Christ’s.
“This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to His disciples after being raised from the dead”— words of the holy evangelist, St. John, from his Gospel.
Regardless of how long ago or how recently, every child has heard at least one more time than he wanted that slightly shrill and somewhat frantic exclamation, Look at what you’ve done!
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