Th e Commemoration of All Souls

 

            This Sunday is November 2nd, the Commemoration of All Souls.  I thought I'd write you this week about our Catholic belief regarding the souls of those who have gone before us.

 

            You might remember from your American History, that the original Spanish explorers of Florida were searching for the Fountain of Youth.  Some retirees are still searching, although the recent housing crisis has reduced the number of seniors moving down to our sunny state.  Many of those who have retired to Florida or are planning to do so have seen pictures of wonderfully fit retirees leaving the tennis court or golf course and something in their minds says, "If I go to Florida, I'll be just like that."  Indeed, many people do live longer and are able to do more here in Florida because the weather offers them the ability to be outside all year, or in the summer, at least in the early morning or late evening before the sun starts baking their brains.  Still, many people keep their bodies up with exercise, proper nutrition, etc.  When they go to visit their friends and relatives up North, many people have the pleasant experience that they are looking and feeling healthier than those who are forced to stay inside except for necessities.

 

            However, no matter how well we try to keep ourselves up, no matter how many times a week we play tennis, go to health clubs, walk, run, etc., our bodies are eventually going to give out on us.  We are all going to die.

 

            Death is certainly not a popular subject, particularly in America where we make believe that people will live forever.  However, the Early Christians knew that death was part of life, a reality that people knew was always there for them.  They lived preparing for the end of the world or the ends of their own worlds.  Their lives were motivated by such a deep faith in God that they even looked forward to death as being an opportunity for total union with Him.

 

            That is the proper Christian attitude.  We believe that there is far more to reality than physical reality.  We believe in God and in his promise of eternal life.  When we were baptized, we were baptized into the death of Christ so we might all share in his resurrection.  The actual baptismal ceremony symbolizes this.  The water poured over us, in which we are immersed, is a sign of dying to a world without Christ.  Coming out of the water is a sign of being alive to a world with Christ.

 

            We believe that as long as we remain dead to sin in our lives, the end of our lives will be a transition to God's life.  We also believe that if there is anything lacking in our response to God's individual call to each of us, we can rely on the prayers of the Church to intercede with God to bring us to a more complete union with him.  That is what we do when we pray for the souls of the faithful departed. We pray for God to bring all the faithful departed into a total union with him. 

 

            It is important that we realize that the doctrine of purgatory is about the efficacy of prayers for the dead. The prayers of the Church, particularly those of Christ on the cross, cleanses or purges the faithful departed.  Purgation refers to being cleansed of the affects of sin. Why, then, would those who have had their sins forgiven, need prayers of purgation?  This is because all sin occasions a negative result.  For example, a man may commit adultery over a long period of time.  Eventually this adultery leads to the break up of his marriage, the disruption of his children, and grievous pain for all involved.  In the latter part of the man's life, he might return to morality, stop his adulterous lifestyle and receive forgiveness in the sacrament penance.  The sins may be forgiven, but the negative impact of the sins, the effect the breakup has had on the wife and now adult children, is still there. 

 

            All our actions have an effect on the Body of Christ.  When we are virtuous, the Body of Christ is nurtured.  When we sin, the Body of Christ suffers the effects of our sins.  When we pray for the souls of the faithful departed we pray that these souls may be freed from the negative impact of their sins.  In simpler terms, we pray that they may be delivered from purgatory.

 

            Many members of our parish have lost loved ones.  These loved ones may have died with a relationship to God (State of Grace) but may still need our prayers to be freed from the effects of their sins. The Month of All Souls is a great time for all of us to pray that our loved ones and all the faithful departed might receive the fullness of God's love.