The other day I heard the song “I Will Remember You,” which reminded me of some special people who touched my heart, danced through my life, and then silently passed from this world into the next.
It’s a fact that most of us have lost a loved one through death at one time or another. Our loss could have been a spouse, a child, a mother, a father, another relative or a friend.
Each year our Catholic faith tradition remembers and honors those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith on All Saints Day, which is today, and All Souls Day, which is tomorrow.
All Saints Day is a holy day of obligation in our faith which celebrates all of the faithful who are already in heaven.
All Souls Day is a solemn feast commemorating all of those who have died and are now in purgatory being cleansed of their venial sins and atoning for them before entering fully into heaven.
On All Souls Day we pray, give alms, and may attend Mass to ask for the release of souls from purgatory. There are actually two indulgences attached to the day. One is for visiting a church and the other is for visiting a cemetery. Although we living perform these actions, the merits of these indulgences only apply to the souls in purgatory.
It is extremely important that we pray for the souls in purgatory, as those prayers help to shorten their journey to heaven. Therefore, the celebration of a Mass in honor of a deceased loved one is especially important.
Past meets present
Last week I was the honored recipient of a Mass card sent to me by Mr. Right in honor of my late husband’s birthday. Mr. Right is helping Mr. Tess move closer to heaven. This kind gesture truly tied my past to the present.
Whenever we celebrate Mass, we recite the Apostle’s Creed, which uses the term “communion of saints.” I’ll bet you didn’t know that everyone in heaven is a saint whether canonized or uncanonized.
To be in heaven you must be holy. That is why all of the souls in purgatory are working on atonement, so that one day they will achieve sainthood in heaven. As Father Benedict J. Groeschel states in his book After This Life, “The holy souls are not left out of Christ’s Mystical Body. In fact, they are much more secure in their membership than we are.”
So here’s a thought: Why not ask God to allow the intercession of our loved ones in heaven to pray for us here on earth as we struggle with decisions in our own lives?
I found an interesting article by Father William H. Shannon, a professor emeritus at Nazareth University in Rochester, N.Y., on AmericanCatholic.org. Concerning our loved ones in heaven, he states:
They are seen as heavenly intercessors around the throne of God who manipulate heavenly strings for us. We are their clients and they are our patrons…The saints are seen as advocates pleading causes before a stern judge, as mediators, as go-betweens, as intriguers or wire-pullers at the court of heaven. In this scheme of things the saints are arranged in a hierarchy, with Mary as the arch-intercessor.
As Father Groeschel further states in his book:
Prayer to the saints makes sense only when we consider the omniscience and omnipresence of God. He is everywhere and knows all things. If we address a saint in Heaven, canonized or uncanonized, then can we not also ask our blessed Lord to make our loved ones on their journey to God aware of our request for their prayers? This is a beautiful and sensible application of the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ.
As you celebrate All Saints and All Souls Days this year, remember to pray for those in purgatory and also to ask God to allow your loved ones in heaven to intercede for you.
God’s peace and blessings to you, my friends, on these most special days.