At our parish in November, the month of the poor souls, we write the names of deceased loved ones in a book. This year there is a new twist. Our pastor invited us to bring pictures of our departed relatives and place them on the window sills of the church. The pictures will surround us, reminding us that these people are with us celebrating the Eucharist. They are still present and loving us, although they are invisible. They exist in another dimension, one that we too will be slipping into one day. As holy as these people were on earth, there is no guarantee that they are in heaven (unless the Church has canonized them). Therefore, we don’t call them saints, but poor souls. My friend, a monsignor who was reader for my writing, preferred the term “holy” souls. He pointed out that the people in purgatory were not really poor because they were not in hell. They are just undergoing purification before living with God. They do not yet feel worthy to appear before their all-holy Creator who loves them.
Because everyone in the Church is united and share in one another’s good works, we can pray for the holy souls. We offer Masses for them and pray the traditional prayer, “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.” One family I know prays this whenever they are traveling and pass a cemetery. It’s also a good practice to pray for a deceased person who has no one else to pray for him or her. Just as we pray (talk) to Jesus, Mary, and the saints, we can speak to those who have left us for the next world. They can also pray for us and help us as they did in this life.
Of course, all of these practices depend on the fact that there is life after death. We take Christ’s word for it. He promised it was true and rose from the dead himself to prove it.
As you celebrate this year’s “triduum” (Hallow’s Eve, All Saints, and All Souls), you might renew your efforts to make sure that you become one of the holy souls.
What practice do you have to remember the holy souls?