Today is All Souls Day. A day to remember and pray for the dead. Dies irae, day of wrath. A Christian holiday that has yet to be hijacked by secular society. Lucky for us Catholics, regular folk have a mighty aversion to death, eternal options other than heaven, and any talk or celebration of it. I don't believe that we'll be seeing Hallmark greeting cards specifically for November 2nd anytime soon...that is, of course, unless the economy tanks again and people are in a frenzy to make money any. way. they. can. Pardon my cynicism.
I love All Souls day, not mainly for some altruistic spiritual reason, but mostly because it reminds me of my childhood and a yearly opportunity to do good for souls who did not ask for my help. I have the fondest of memories of walking from the bus stop to the parochial school I attended from third through eighth grades and stopping in the church that was in the middle of that walk to pray. To get down on my knees for all the souls in purgatory. I remember a nun telling me that every minute I spent in prayer for the repose of those souls waiting to be fully reunited with Christ would release 1000 souls. I vividly remember wondering that if one minute equaled one thousand souls and there were lots and lots of people, like me, praying for those souls, just how many souls in purgatory were there?!? Must have been a lot. For my part, I was able to intercede for the release of 15,000 souls each year and at the same time, feel completely inadequate that I couldn't have done more. I would often wonder about the people whose pain was lifted from the donation of my indulgence earned.
Of course, I am older now and maybe a little wiser. I understand that it is not clearly by my intercession that souls can enter the gates of heaven after passing through a cleansing pain after death and being purged of their imperfections. Only God's grace and mercy can do that. However, that does not mean that we should not pray for each other. Whether the person we are praying for is in the here and now or deceased, collectively we are a corporate work created by the Father through Jesus and part of the Communion of Saints. We all benefit from communication with God, and not just on special days like today. It is indeed Christ's Will for us to pray for one another.
So today, I make this prayer...
Eternal rest grant to them, O God, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May all souls, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
NB: For more information about purgatory and prayers for the dead, please see the Catholic Encyclopedia selection under the title "Prayers for the Dead" at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04653a.htm