Well, not quite. The parish priest is recovering from his spinal operation and Fr Scott and Fr Charles are steering the parish ship!
Meanwhile, a word anyway. During this coming week we begin the month of November and on Thursday we will commemorate “All Souls Day”.
The Church prays for the departed in every Mass throughout the year, following one of the earliest Christian traditions. Even in the early Christian catacombs we find prayers for the dead; this was itself an inheritance from Judaism (cf. 2 Maccabees 12: 41-42). The early Christians loved to go the catacombs and pray for their departed relatives and friends and especially to be close to the remains of the first martyrs.
All sorts of traditions grew up surrounding this annual commemoration; some older parishioners may recall that on this day (November 2nd) the priest was permitted to celebrate Mass three times (as on Christmas Day). In many countries there are elaborate ceremonies in the cemeteries.
An important element in the background to All Souls Day is the belief in some kind of immediate preparation for the fullness of eternal life. In our tradition we have called this preparation “purgatory”. The presumption is that many of us live and die with “unfinished business”; sometimes people are catapulted into the next life not quite ready -if we could ever be- to face the all-holy God. Some purification process makes sense. The Church is not concerned -nor should we be- about how or when or where purgatory is other than that it is a possible stage of our journey into God.
Our prayer on All Souls Day is that those for whom we pray may enjoy the fullness of life in God: “Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, may they rest in peace”.
While our focus is rightly on our dear departed, the good news about All Souls Day is that already we ourselves are preparing for our journey into God. St Alphonsus was greatly preoccupied with helping people prepare for death, especially those who had some reason to fear death. He devoted a lot of personal time to ministering to those sentenced to death and he wrote a comforting volume called ‘Preparation for Death’. His advice is part of the wisdom of the ages: the best preparation for a good death is living a good life. If we are in tune with Jesus despite our sins, we will be in tune with him when we are called “home”.
The Christian way is a way of dying-to-self so that when we come to the hour of death, we are well used to letting go and ready to respond to the call to die into God.
Fr Sean, CSsR