On November 2nd the Universal Catholic Church commemorates the souls of the faithful departed. Even though a particular day is fixed to remember the departed souls, the Church recommends that we remember our loved ones, visit their cemeteries and pray for them particularly during the entire month of November. We also have November Lists where we record our deceased loved ones and Mass is offered every day throughout the month of November for them. Why does the Church want us to pray for the departed souls?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, (n. 1030-1031) asserts, “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven … From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends alms-giving, indulgences and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.”
Reflection on Christian death is very consoling, because it is founded on the power of the Risen Lord, who declared to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and he who lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:26). Indeed, Jesus is the resurrection and the life for all who, like Martha, believe that he is “the Christ, the Son of God” (John 11:27). Recognising the truth that whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s, we remember our dear departed souls with joy celebrating the victory which is theirs through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Physical death is common to the entire humankind but faith in the Risen Lord, who wields power over death, will enable the believer to share in eternal light and in the joys and blessings of the life to come. In the light of the saving event centered on Christ, we see physical death as a supreme participation in Christ’s paschal mystery that leads to eternal life and glory. The death of a Christian is filled with hope in Christ’s resurrection and in our own resurrection.
St. Paul affirmed with faith, “With God on our side, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Thanks to Jesus Christ death is not an eternal darkness for a true believer; but it is a spiritual journey of return to our Creator God, the source of life and light. Death is a homecoming, an experience of deep communion with God, through Christ, the resurrection and the life, in the power of the life-giving Spirit.
Hence together with the Church triumphant in heaven and the Church still in pilgrimage on this earth, we are asked to offer our prayers, acts of charity and sacrifices for our beloved dead particularly during the month of November. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.