With the clocks going back this weekend the days will noticeably shorten and with falling temperatures winter will slowly tighten its grip. The trees are shedding their leaves and the luxuriant growth of spring and summer will soon have completely disappeared and yielded to the stark barrenness of an Irish winter. It’s no coincidence that at this time of year that our thoughts turn to our remembrance of the dead, perhaps it’s the winter sleep of nature that itself gives rise to such remembrance.
There’s a lovely line in the catholic funeral liturgy which goes “We believe that all the ties of friendship and affection which knit us as one throughout our lives do not unravel with death.” and this encapsulates the reason for our remembrance of, and prayers for. our departed loved ones. Those with whom our lives have been entwined through the bonds of family and friendship though out of our sight are still bound to us as members of the great communion of saints which forms part of our Christian creed.
Catholic teaching espouses the doctrine of Purgatory as a time or state of the purification of those who have died, and it is our belief that our prayers can be of help to them. Wall inscriptions in the catacombs of Rome going back to the first three centuries of the Christian story contain prayers for those who have died. Indeed, some of the earliest Christian writings outside the New Testament, like the Acts of Paul and Thecla and the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity (both written during the second century), refer to the Christian practice of praying for the dead. Such prayers would have been offered only if Christians believed in purgatory, even if they did not use that name for it. It forms part of Christian tradition from earliest times.
On November 1st the church celebrates All Saints day with a solemn holy day; this day rejoices in all those who have attained the joy of heaven. All Souls’ Day, the next day November 2nd remembers those who may be in need of our prayers, and it offers us an opportunity to reach out to them in an act of loving remembrance by attending Mass and praying for their intentions.
“It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.”2 Maccabees 12:46
St. Mary’s Luca