November is traditionally known as “All Souls” month in the Catholic Church. It is time when Catholics remember the dead in prayer especially at Masses offered for deceased relatives and friends.
However, many, sadly including many Catholics, have left behind this venerable and ancient practice of praying for the dead. The words of St. Ambrose urging us “to pray for them until by our prayers we have conducted them into the house of the Lord,” seem to have fallen on deaf ears in recent years as the dead are callously abandoned.
No longer do the faithful fill churches on All Souls Day as prayers for the dead are seen as unnecessary. A surprising number of Catholic parishes see Mass books empty of names as offering a Mass for the repose of a dead relative’s soul is something that seems uncalled for in a culture lacking faith.
Likewise faithful and devout Catholics who have died are denied a Funeral Mass by children or relatives who themselves have become lax in the practice of the faith or simply wish to make the burial of a relative a quick and easy dispatch. There seems to be no importance in praying for the dead or in offering the Mass for a deceased relative.
These troublesome trends in our culture point to a serious problem regarding the proper respect for the dead and for the Mass. A recent article in the Rhode Island Catholic highlighted the misunderstanding and sometimes a total disrespect for the dead who are cremated. At times family members have left cremains at funeral homes, placed them on a mantel in the family room, discarded them as they would trash and have even made them into jewelry!
The church has long taught that the dead are to be given a prayerful Mass of Christian Burial and a proper burial in a cemetery not displayed on the mantel between the bowling trophy and the dried flowers. So let us all in this All Souls’ month of November pause and offer prayers for all those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. Let us have Masses offered for our deceased relatives and friends. Let us return to a respectful burial of our beloved dead. Let us return to a proper understanding of the mystery of life, death and resurrection. Let us not neglect the dead but as St. Ambrose said: “We have loved them during life; let us not abandon them, until we have conducted them by our prayers into the house of the Lord."
May our prayers and proper respect help all the faithful departed to enter into the house of the Lord.