Remember in November
November 1st, 2016
By Brother John M. Samaha, SM
Annually the month of November reminds us to pray for our beloved deceased. At the time of death we hope the deceased go directly to heaven, but more likely they are not ready to be in God’s presence immediately. The church explains that they go to a place called purgatory to continue their purification and perfection. Consider it like a place where you wash before dinner.
On Nov. 2 we celebrate All Souls’ Day and we mark the month of November as a time of special prayer for the deceased.
Some people have a childish notion of prayer. They see God as a big vending machine in the sky. Put your prayer in the slot at the top and what you want drops into the tray below. Prayer is not simply a matter of asking God for the things we want and need. At the heart of every prayer is “Thy will be done.” Prayer is powerful because we join our will with God’s. Through prayer we bring God’s blessings on those for whom we pray. These prayers are a real help both in this world and in the next.
Because we Catholics are an “Easter people,” and believe in Jesus Christ who is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), we know that the persons for whom we pray are not really dead. They are alive, but on the other side. Jesus died and rose again. Through our baptism we share in that eternal life. Consequently we help each other with our prayers in this life here and now as well as in the next. Not only do these graces help the souls in purgatory, they also re-echo and bring blessings to the living.
Bountiful blessings flow from a requiem Mass and our prayers for the dead. The spiritual and psychological bonds among family members are strong. When death interrupts our love, prayers for those who have gone before us assist in bringing closure, reconciliation, and peace to those of us who remain.
Prayers for the dead seem morbid to some and recall black garments, gloomy mortuaries, somber organ music, and time spent at cemeteries. Actually they are very practical and should be part of our regular prayer life, not only in November.
In addition to offering requiem Masses on anniversaries of death, remember to pray for the deceased at every Mass. Physical signs and symbols are also important: Maintaining gravesites, placing flowers at gravesites, lighting candles for the deceased. These sacramentals focus on the simplicity and beauty of prayers for those who have preceded us in death.
Moreover, prayers for the dead are a sound reminder of our own mortality. In our fast-paced, materialistic world we tend to pretend that we are immortal.
Marianist Brother john Samaha lives in Cupertino.
From November 3, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.