These two feasts give us a reason to hope, to believe, to struggle and to live. The feast of All Souls and the month of November is a source of consolation for each of us. The consoling doctrine of the Communion of Saints allows us to feel ever close to those who have died and gives us much hope in moments of despair and sadness. The holy souls in purgatory see ever more clearly what we intuit from afar. They are already within reach of eternal life, the loving arms of Jesus; but they are not yet closely within his embrace. The sting of death has been removed, but they are still sensing the pain of love which only complete union with Jesus can heal. The healing process is accomplished by the same love which makes the separation momentarily very painful. Our prayers for the faithful departed increase faith and love within us; they draw us to look upon the Son with ever greater longing.
In a very moving, personal reflection on his imminent death in 1996, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago wrote the book “The Gift of Peace” several weeks before going to God. At the end of his personal testament he wrote:
"One young man asked me if I looked forward to being united with God and all those who have gone before me. I said yes, and in my mind made a connection. The first time I traveled with my mother and sister to my parents’ homeland of Tonadico di Primiero, in northern Italy, I felt as if I had been there before. After years of looking through my mother’s photo albums, I knew the mountains, the land, the houses, the people. As soon as we entered into the valley, I said, “My God, I know this place. I am home.” Somehow I think crossing from this life into eternal life will be similar. I will be home."
These two feasts help us to fill our minds with thoughts of Heaven, and to set our hearts more steadfast unto the reality of eternity.
I am reminded of Blessed Cardinal Henry Newman, who wrote a prayer reflecting on our eternal destiny:
O Lord, support us all the day long,
Until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes,
And the busy world is hushed,
and the fever of life is over,
and our work is done. Then in your mercy,
grant us a safe lodging
and a holy rest, and peace at last. Amen.
During this month of November we will be having several bulletin articles on this topic of saints and the holy souls in Purgatory. One last thought, this time from Archbishop Sheen as we keep our eyes fixed on heaven and remember how important it is to pray for the holy souls and to pass on these sacred traditions to the next generation: “As we enter Heaven, we will see them, so many of them, coming toward us and thanking us. We will ask who they are and they will say: A poor soul you prayed for in purgatory”
May this month of November, the Holy Souls, help us to keep our eyes fixed on heaven, so that because of the way that we have lived, heaven will seem familiar to us, like home.
God bless, Fr. Dennis