All Souls Day – a trip to the cemetery

On my homepage, I have a picture of an event I put on every year, a trip to our local cemetery for young people. It’s a rather simple affair, we go to the chapel and pray the Office for the Dead together. Then I have students bring forward pictures of those whom have passed away that they know, and write their names in a book so we can remember them. After our liturgy, we go out and pray a rosary together around the graves of our priests for all the souls in Purgatory. It’s a nice, quiet ceremony with no great hubbub, but I have been told time and time again that the teens look forward to it every year.

I have often wondered, why of all the services and prayers that I put on does this one seem to grab them the most? What is it about this simple day that speaks to their hearts more than trips to monasteries and youth events?

I think it is because it is real. I remember after one of these trips I asked the students what they thought, and one of them said, “I thought that one day I’d be buried here.” It’s a pretty profound thought. Death is profound indeed, and it’s not something we think much on in our modern culture.

In one way, we are fascinated by death. Our culture seems love murder shows about rage killings and serial killers. When I have a funeral, all the interest seems to be on HOW the person died, rather than what the person is going through now that they HAVE died. It’s like we hide from the truth of the matter by looking at the incidentals. Death is coming for us all, and our preparation for that death should be the prime focus of our life while we have it.

When you look at pictures of the Saints, very often they include, somewhere in the picture, a skull. It is as if we are being reminded that we too will meet this end, calling us to remember death. The Saints, all of them to the last, meditated on death. They thought about it a lot, and if we are wise, we will do the same.

Today, as this is published, I will be on my way to do this yet again. Youth will be remembering their loved ones as we remember that we will join them. Today, and indeed this whole month of November, we pray for those who chose God in the end, but maybe did not remember death quite enough in their life, those souls in Purgatory.

So I have two points to share on this holy day.

First: Pray for the Church Suffering, those souls who still have some temporal punishment they must expiate. While no soul in Purgatory would want for a moment to return to mortal life, because they know their end is God Himself, the sufferings they undergo are acute, and prayers are very helpful in expediting their time there. They need our prayers, and we should give it. Remember too, that those souls whom you help to Heaven will help plead your case as well when you stand before the throne of God. Take this charge seriously. At least for this month of November, if not as a daily practice forever, pray a rosary every day for these good souls.

Second: Remember your own death. Think about it, meditate on it. On my own rosary, I had them put little skull beads as the Our Father beads. I’m not trying to be macabre, and I don’t particularly like dark aesthetics, I just want to remember that this might be the last rosary I ever get to pray, that my life is short, and that this prayer matters. Remembering death helps us to remember life! It helps us to live this life as we ought, to take seriously our Lord’s words, and to work out our salvation this day with fear and trembling. Life is serious, because death is serious.

It’s All Souls Day. Pray for them.

And live your life so as not to join them.

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