As we come closer to the end of the year, it is fitting that we take time this month before we get caught up with Christmas activities and all that entails to dwell on two special feasts: All Saints and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed.
Pope Francis this year at the Angelus and Blessing in St Peter’s Square said that the saints are our “elder brothers and sisters, on whom we can always count.” He reminded all those gathered in the Square that the Saints, are not unreachable or distant heroes, but people like us whose starting point is the same gift we have received – baptism. Their lives are an example to us that through their day to day activities they let their love grow and to completely change their lives. Pope Francis also made it clear that there are saints living among us, what he likes to call: “saints next door,” those people who genuinely try to make a difference in our world today as part of their “normal” everyday lives.
November is also a time to remember those who have made that difference in our own personal lives – our parents, families, spouses and friends who have gone before us. The Church, since the early Middle Ages, encouraged prayer for the dead as an act of Christian charity. As St Augustine said: “If we had no care for the dead, we would not be in the habit of praying for them.” It was the Monastic communities in the 11th century who made it a tradition to override superstitions around the dead to make an annual day of prayer for their departed members. This was then adapted by the Abbot of Cluny to make this a special feast on November 2nd to follow the feast of All Saints, later adopted by the Church. Consequently, on the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed we reflect deeply on all who have lived their lives to the full and entered into eternity.
In today’s world, we call to mind in the silence of our hearts those who are called before their time – victims of violence, war, disease, the unborn, accidents and illness. Also we make our prayer for those who may not have had the chance to make peace with God during their life time, so we call on God’s love and forgiveness.
Here in this part to the world, we call to mind also those who fought for peace and justice in our two World Wars and other times of civil unrest and wars for freedom. Let this month be for us a time to reflect on our human lives and how we respond to each to each other. Taking St Augustine’s phrase to heart: if we care for our dead, let us remember them and ask our loving God to place them with all the Saints who have gone before us.
Here is an extract from one of our ancient Eucharist Prayers for the dead uniting them with the angels and saints:
“We pray you, too, for all who are asleep and whose names we call to mind. Make all these souls holy, you know them all. Sanctify all the souls that are sleeping in the Lord, include them in the number of your powers [the angels] and give them a place to live in your kingdom”
Euchologium of Serapion. (Image – Wikipedia; Poppies – Adobe Stock)