Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I have vivid memories of November 2nd, when I was a seminarian, studying and praying in preparation for the priesthood. This was a big day, especially for seminarians who were curious about the monastic life as we lived next to a monastery and were taking in their traditions.
Benedictine monks wear a habit with a long black robe, a black leather belt and a black hood that most days seems kind of worthless really, except on All Soul's Day. On that day, after evening prayer, the monks pull up their hoods, pick up a lighted votive candle and process in pairs behind a processional cross to the monastic cemetery in the crisp, fall evening twilight.
Once they arrive at the cemetery where all their brother monks are buried, there is a closing recitation from evening prayer, followed by the traditional prayer often recited on All Soul's Day, Eternal Rest Grant unto them O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.
The monks would then quietly disperse throughout the cemetery, leaving those glowing votive candles on the head stones of the monks that had gone before them. I always noticed that a few of the monks would linger at a particular grave, recalling the example of a friend or spiritual giants that had gone before them. And then, one by one, they would slip off and head back to the monastery.
Starting on November 2nd and throughout the month of November, my thoughts turn to those who have gone before me laid to rest in cemeteries far and wide—my paternal grandparents and relatives at Holy Cross Cemetery in Akron, Ohio, my maternal grandparents, relatives and so many of my brother priests in St. Francis Cemetery in Phoenix, my sister-in-law at Holy Cross Cemetery in Phoenix and our own Fr. Pete at the Veterans Cemetery. I also have connections to Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Phoenix where so many parishioners have been laid to rest—men and women that I have been privileged to preside over their funerals. May they all rest in peace.
Perhaps as I age, I remember the dead with fondness and appreciation. I pray that same traditional prayer for the dead that the monks pray on November 2nd, (Eternal rest grant unto them…) in my prayer after meals.
The Church consistently encourages the offering of prayers and Masses for the souls of the faithful departed in Purgatory, the Church Suffering as we say. At the time of their deaths, some souls are not perfectly cleansed of sin or have not atoned for past transgressions, and thereby are deprived of the Beatific Vision. We, the faithful on earth can assist these souls in purgatory through our prayers, good works and the offering of Holy Mass.
Let us remember those men and women, though imperfect, who molded us in the faith. May we look forward and realize that one day, our mortal remains will be laid to rest. If that scares you, then realize that you might have some work to do so that you can join the Church Triumphant at your life's end—the Saints that we recall and ask for their prayers on All Saint's Day. Pray. Love God. Seek His mercy. God will take care of the rest.BACK TO LIST