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November: Praying for Those Who Have Died

The seasons change; the leaves fall; the days get shorter; the readings at Mass speak of the end of time. It is natural for us in these November days to feel the somber mystery of death, and perhaps to findourselves remembering those who have gone before us.

The Church responds to this human tendency with words of consoling faith: “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” Although this statement is at the end of the Profession of Faith, it is by no means an afterthought or of lesser importance. It is the goal of the entire journey of our faith here. We seek to live with Christ, day by day; one day, to die with Christ; but always so that we might rise with Him and live forever in the communion of all the blessed.

As we celebrate all the saints this week, and pray for all the souls who still await the vision of God on November 2, we spend the month of November in thoughtful remembrance of all who have died. For some, this loss is recent and painful. For others, time has brought some measure of healing and recalling loved ones brings back cherished memories. For all of us, it is good to take some time in prayer to thank God for their lives among us, and to commend them to eternal life. Take the opportunity to think of those who have perhaps faded from memory a bit: grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbors and friends. Remember what they have taught you, witnessing to their faith in God and their love for family and friends.

But more than personal remembrances, as important as they are, our prayers as disciples of Jesus go farther: to pray for “all those whose faith You [God] alone have known.” On All Souls in particular, I think of the many thousands of people who die in our world each day, some even before birth; each is a person made in God’s image and called to eternal joy; even those unknown and forgotten are never unknown or forgotten by the Lord and Giver of Life, Who is Love.

We also thank those who minister so faithfully to those who are sick, to those near death, to those who suffer the loss of their loved ones. Pastoral associates, deacons, and priests do so as part of their role on our parish staffs; but there are many others who visit and take Communion to those confined to their homes and in the hospital, nursing homes, and elsewhere. Our servers and sacristans, music ministers, funeral choirs, funeral dinner leaders and crews, office staff, and custodial staff also play important roles as we celebrate the Church’s funeral rites and provide hospitality. And beyond our parish structures, we are grateful for chaplains, health care professionals, hospice personnel, funeral directors, cemetery personnel, and others whose service supports those in difficult times of life. Thanks to all of you for your part in this work of mercy.

Perhaps most inspiring, it is friends and neighbors and coworkers who reach out spontaneously with those gestures of help and words of kindness. I am always inspired by those who make meals, do chores, and will stand in line at visitations for long minutes to be able to offer a personal word of remembrance and sympathy to those experiencing loss. Those are among the moments that display our humanity at its best.

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Fr. Tom

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