One of the endearing qualities of Catholics is that we have great reverence and affection for our loved ones who have died. This is true throughout the year but especially in November, the month devoted to the faithful departed.
Our reverence for the deceased has theological roots. We believe in the Communion of Saints; that the Church exists in the faithful here on earth, in the poor souls in purgatory, and in the saints triumphant in heaven. We can pray for the souls in purgatory, that they will be released from their suffering. And the saints in heaven can pray for us on earth, that we will live happy and holy lives. You see, even death cannot break the spiritual bonds that unite all the members of the Church.
But our reverence for the deceased has more personal significance too. How we long to remember the members of our family, and our dear friends, who have passed before us! How we strive to keep their memories and their spirits alive!
There are many ways of remembering and honoring the deceased. Since I live in a cemetery I regularly see folks coming to visit the graves of their loved ones, to pray or to leave flowers or other mementos. Some visitors come regularly; some, every single day. Not everyone is inclined to, or is able to, visit the cemetery all the time. But there are other ways too by which we can honor the departed.
First, is to have the Holy Mass offered for them. The Church has many beautiful liturgical prayers for the deceased, and to offer prayers for the souls in purgatory at Mass is to apply to them the infinite graces of the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.
Other ways of remembering and honoring the departed? Personal prayers can be offered, especially the Holy Rosary. Or how about gathering the family at home to reminisce and to pray for a deceased loved one, perhaps on the anniversary of their death? Giving a monetary gift to a worthy charity in memory of a loved one is a beautiful gesture. Or personal participation in some charitable program in their honor – for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the elderly, the ill – makes your remembrance of the deceased very tangible.
In whatever way we choose to honor our beloved dead, it is always comforting to remember this: “The souls of the just are in the hand of God; they are in peace.” (Wis 3:1,3)
Something to think about: Is there someone special who died recently whom you are thinking of right now?