A commemoration of hope: Weekly Message for 11-02-2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

The solemnity of All Saints and the commemoration of All Souls at the start of November are an unusual kind of duo on the liturgical calendar.

The first recalls all those who have reached heaven. Some of them are household names: Peter and Paul, Francis of Assisi, Thérèse of Lisieux, John Paul II.

Canonized saints ran the gamut from preteens who endured a bloody martyr’s death, to heady theologians who died peacefully in their beds. The vast majority of those in heaven – all the departed in paradise are considered saints — are simply unknown to us.

The second part of the liturgical duo, All Souls, recalls all the rest of those who have died and who we hope will make it to heaven.

And that’s what the day marks: a commemoration of hope since we simply don’t know the fate of most of the departed. For good reason, the celebrant in Eucharistic Prayer IV prays for “all the dead, whose faith you alone have known.”

All Souls’ Day prompts us to look into a kind of abyss. We can’t be sure who is in purgatory and who still needs our prayers. 

So, we pray for everyone — in part to recognize the value of each soul, in part to do a spiritual work of mercy, and (perhaps) in part because we hope that people will pray for us once we’re gone.

All Souls’ Day is sobering. It reminds us that much of this passing world is smoke and mirrors, and what counts at the end of life is what we’ve done for God and for others.

To help focus on that truth, you might turn to our retreat guide: Fire and Mercy: A Retreat Guide on All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day.

Let’s pray for the departed … and for the grace of a holy death.

In Christ,

Father Edward McIlmail, LC
Ask a Priest contributor

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