All Souls, Month of Remembrance are occasions to think, pray about the last things


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Nothing, not even death, can sever the sacred bond God created among all members of His Church.

It is incumbent on all believers to pray for the people who have died and are on their grace-fueled journey to eternal perfection with God in heaven.

Catholics pay special attention to this reality on All Souls Day and through the waning days of the Church year.

“If you take All Souls with All Saints, it’s kind of a celebration of the whole Church — the Church Militant here on earth, the Church Suffering in purgatory, and the Church Triumphant in heaven,” Father Colin Franklin, pastor of St. George Parish in Linn and Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Frankenstein said at Mass on the Commemoration of All Souls, Nov. 2.

It comes the day after the Feast of All Saints, Nov. 1.

“First, we celebrate the saints and are reminded to seek the intercession of the saints in times of need,” Fr. Franklin stated in his homily. “Then, we call to mind the opportunity we are given to pay that favor forward and pray for those in purgatory.”

Catholics understand that they must not only remember their loved ones and all who have gone before them, but also take up the work of praying for them in the face of death.

“In this way, we see the whole circle of cooperation in the beautiful work of salvation,” Fr. Franklin said.

Father Jeremy Secrist, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Jefferson City, offered Mass at an outdoor altar in the city’s oldest Catholic cemetery, recently restored, on an inconspicuous bluff overlooking the Missouri River.

The altar dates from the 1940s, during the pastorate of Monsignor Joseph A. Vogelweid, PA.

Fr. Secrist noted in his homily that the Eucharist and every other salvific effort of the Church is rooted in the life, passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

“And because of the connection we have as the Lord’s people, as His Church, that then extends to each and every one of us, the members of His Body,” Fr. Secrist noted. “Just as Jesus Christ, Himself, was triumphant over sin and death, so, too, through our connection to Christ, we believe that death is not the end for us, nor does it destroy the bonds that have been forged in our lives.”

“Yesterday, on All Saints, we celebrated with great joy the Church Triumphant, those who have won the great battle of life on this earth and through their response to God’s grace are now sharing in the fullness of life in heaven,” he said.

“But today, we commemorate the Church Suffering, the Church in purgatory. Those who have passed from this world but are still waiting to enter into the joys of heaven. So, it’s contingent upon us, the Church here on earth, to continue to pray for them.”

It is a gift that all people, regardless of how full of life they may be today, will one day rely on as they take up the inevitable journey from this life to the next.

“Let us be aware that both in life and in death, the Lord Jesus is near to us,” said Fr. Secrist. “Marked by prayer, marked by our remembrance of our loved ones and of those who have gone before us, because one day, there will come that time in which we will sleep in the dust of the earth, awaiting the resurrection. And all of these, the faithful of God, are awaiting the resurrection of the Savior right now.”

“A cleansing”

A tray of candles shimmered before the altar of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Columbia the night of All Souls Day.

Parishioners had taken turns speaking the names of loved ones and lit candles in their honor during the General Intercessions at Mass.

“We remember and give thanks and pray for our loved ones who have passed before us and for all who have departed this life,” said Father Christopher Cordes, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.

He pointed out that Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church fill believers with hope for all that comes after death.

Referring back to the first reading (2 Maccabees 12:43-46), he reiterated that there is goodness, purpose and value in praying for those who have died, in order to assist them on the way to fullness of union with God.

Many who have died have already completed that journey; others are still on their way.

“And it’s not a question as to whether or not the souls in that process are going to get there,” said Fr. Cordes. “It’s a cleansing, it’s a purification, it’s a preparation process on the way to fullness of union with God.”

He noted that praying for loved ones after they die is also a good way to stay connected with them in a very real and meaningful way.

“It’s good for us tonight to think about them, to give thanks to God for the gift they were and are in our lives and to lift them up in prayer, trusting that they will enter into the fullness of union with God — that place of light, happiness and peace — where there are no more tears, no more suffering, no more sense of loss, but only eternal life in the presence of God,” he said.

“While we can”

There are moments that change everything — sudden occurrences that bring everything that’s really important into focus.

“Today, on All Souls Day, our Church creates a liturgical space where such moments are transformed into worship, where the unshakable reality of death, the terror of judgment, can be turned to a good spiritual purpose,” Father Dylan Schrader, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Westphalia and St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Folk, stated in his homily during Mass that evening.

He addressed the uncomfortable reality upheld by the Church that heaven is neither an automatic nor foregone conclusion.

“God, for His part, wills that all be saved, and further makes salvation really possible for each and every person in their real circumstances,” Fr. Schrader noted. “But salvation is salvation — namely, being rescued from something, being snatched out of the clutches of something — in this case, eternal perdition.”

Absent God’s intervention, all would be lost.

So, what is the crucial, deciding factor?

“Our Church teaches that it is to die in a state of sanctifying grace,” the priest answered. “It all boils down to that.”

Particular judgement for each person comes at the moment of death.

“Those who die in a state of mortal sin — that is, without the repentance that would restore them to a state of grace — are eternally cut off from the vision of God,” Fr. Schrader explained. “They suffer the torments of the eternal loss that we call hell.

“In sharp contrast,” he noted, “those who die in a state of grace are assured of eternal union with God — the direct, face-to-face vision of God in end of this present world, the resurrection of the body, glorified, sharing in the radiance of the soul, transfigured by eternal life.”

When a person dies in a state of sanctifying grace but is still not spiritually perfect, they are assured of eternal salvation and entry into heaven, “but those imperfections have to be dealt with,” said Fr. Schrader.

“Not even the smallest sin is allowed in heaven, nor is the smallest desire to sin or attachment to sin,” he said. “All of that has to be purged, it all has to be addressed. And that’s the work of God’s mercy.”

In a supreme act of compassion, God takes away all remaining obstacles to being fully united to Him.

“In that process of purification, that process of becoming perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect, is not finished in this life, it can be finished out after death,” said Fr. Schrader. “So those who die in a state of grace but are still imperfect are purged, purified in a process we call purgatory — where the merciful fire of divine love refines the souls of the just, like silver and gold.”

Since the Church’s earliest days, Catholics have understood that they can and should assist in this process with their prayers.

“The commandment to love and to pray for our neighbor extends also to the souls of the faithful departed, who are undergoing final purification and who can really be helped by our prayers,” aid Fr. Schrader.

At the same time, it behooves the faithful to “remember that your judge is also your Savior.”

“Reconcile with Him before the end,” Fr. Schrader advised. “Do His works while it is still day, because night is coming.”

He added that the fleeting pleasures of this world “never look so good in the light of eternity.”

“Not that the good things of this world are bad,” the priest stated. “We don’t have to live in misery and drudgery. We simply have to remember what St. Paul says: This world is passing away. We are not home here, so let’s not get too comfortable.

“The time we’re given in this life is our time of pilgrimage, a time to develop our relationship with God, in which to live in a state of grace that flowers into glory in the next life,” he said. “Let us do the works of God while we can, and turn to Christ, our Savior — calling upon Him and asking for His mercy while we have a chance.”

“Light into darkness”

Father Robert Fields, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Kahoka and Shrine of St. Patrick Parish in St. Patrick, offered Mass in the Shrine of St. Patrick.

“We pray for all who are in process of being purged,” he stated.

He pointed out that some of that is taking place in this life.

“For someone who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, we may ask, ‘Why are they still hanging on?’” he said. “Maybe, that’s their purgatory on earth.”

In Marshall, members of St. Peter Parish brought a photo or memento of a loved one who has passed on, and placed it on a Table of Remembrance in St. Peter Church.

Father Francis Doyle, pastor of St. Peter Parish and of St. Joseph Parish in Slater offered a bilingual Mass in St. Peter Church, assisted by Deacon Pedro Almazan.

Following the homily, the names of each parishioner who passed away in the past year were read and a representative of the family was given a lit candle to take and keep.

“The act of lighting a candle in honor of those who have passed away is a tradition that allows us to honor the deceased’s life and memory,” stated Ron Sayer, president of the St. Peter Parish Pastoral Council.

“It also reminds us that Christ came to bring light into darkness and that light triumphs over the darkness of death,” he said.

“Countless chances”

In Mary’s Home, more than 1,500 electric tea lights illuminated Our Lady of the Snows Cemetery in Mary’s Home the night of Oct. 31, the Vigil of All Saints.

In keeping with an old German tradition, students of Our Lady of the Snows School placed lights at the burial places of loved ones and ancestors, along the paths and at the resting place of Father Patrick Shortt, former pastor.

In Hermann, Father Philip Niekamp urged the students of St. George School to pray for those in purgatory so that their time of accommodation will be short and they will soon be with God in Heaven.

“This is a day when we celebrate the truth that no one is so sinful that they are outside of the scope of God’s love,” Fr. Niekamp, pastor of St. George Parish in Hermann and Church of the Risen Savior Parish in Rhineland, said in his All Souls Day homily.

“Everyone has the chance to experience that love — countless chances, in fact. Anyone who turns to the Lord at any point in their lives can receive it,” he said. “For anyone who has not closed himself off completely from God’s love, this promise extends even beyond death. This is the heart of the Church’s teaching on purgatory.

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation,” he said. “After death, they undergo purification in purgatory, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”

This report includes information from Ron Sayer, president of the St. Peter Parish Pastoral Council in Marshall, and from the St. George Catholic School-Hermann, MO Facebook page.