Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed

November 2

Wis 3:1-9; Rom 6:3-9; John 14:1-6/Matt 25:31-46

The Judgment of the Nations

Somebody said that there was this tombstone in a cemetery that reads: “Take heed my friend in passing by. As you are now, so once was I. as I am now, you soon will be, prepare for death and follow me.”

Today, November 2 is the Feast of the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed in purgatory. Historically, Abbot Odilon of Cluny instituted it in the monasteries of his Benedictine congregation in 998. Other religious orders took up the observance and it was adopted by various dioceses, gradually by the whole Church and has been continued unceasingly to our day. The Office of the Dead must be recited by the clergy on this day and Pope Benedict XV granted to all priests the privilege of saying three Masses of requiem: one for the souls in purgatory, one for the intention of the Holy Father and one for the priest’s intention too. If the feast should fall on Sunday it is kept on November 3.

The Church teaches us that the souls of the just who have left this world with traces of venial sin remain for a time in a place of expiation called purgatory, where they suffer whatever punishment may be due to their offenses. Even if pardon has been obtained for the sins, satisfaction must be made to God, our Creator, in this world or in the next; for His sanctity has been insulted by the self-will of human beings. It is a dogma of our faith that the suffering souls are relieved by the intercession of the Saints in heaven and by the prayers of the faithful upon this earth. To pray for the dead is therefore an act of charity and of piety, certainly obligatory for a Christian who professes to have charity in his heart. We read in Holy Scripture: “It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins,” (2Macc 12:46).

Today’s commemoration of All the Faithful Departed is a celebration and at the same time a supplication. It is a celebration because we are happy that those who have died have been purged in Purgatory for their indefinite and permanent union with the Trinitarian God in the Kingdom of Heaven. In fact, their salvation is already sure. But it is also a supplication because we feel compassion for their suffering. And we are also asking God through our offering of Masses, prayers, almsgiving, indulgences, fasting, sacrifices and so on and so forth, to shorten their purgation and be forgiven of their sins they had committed. We pray that their struggle will be shortened and that their repose will be peaceful.

But unfortunately when this commemoration comes every year in remembrance of the poor souls in purgatory, this commemoration is converted into a picnic and reunion at the cemetery like: drinking session, gambling and others instead of offering prayers, especially offering the Holy Mass for the souls. These poor souls need our prayers and sacrifices to finally help catapult them to heaven and to find their respective “rooms in the Father’s home,” (John 14:2).

Even the Roman Catholic Church’s Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines through its spokesperson Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, reminds the faithful that All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day are not meant to be occasions for gambling, karaoke-singing and ghost-hunting. We should not stray away from the main point of the celebrations: reverence for the dead who should be treated with respect. Msgr. Quitorio said: “This is not the time to get drunk; this is not the time for gambling, sing-along and ghost hunting. Let us maintain the reverence of the occasion.” The Church encourages people to pray for their loved ones who have passed away. People may also offers prayers for their dearly departed during the celebration of the Holy Mass, since the Mass is the highest form of prayer (published in Phil. Daily Inquirer Nov 1, 2007).

And so, as we remember our departed loved ones today, we will remember too our own death. The paramount question is: Are we prepared for that inevitable moment and make an accounting of our lives before God? Fr. Bel San Luis, SVD said that preparing for death can mean doing good works while we still have the time in this world. Our Lord clearly says: “But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal,” (Matt 6:20).

Fr. San Luis continued to say that our good works are our “passport to heaven. This is confirmed in the Parable of Last Judgment where Christ as King will come to pass judgment on us. He will say: “When I was hungry, you fed me; thirsty, you gave me drink…Enter the Kingdom of heaven,” (Matt 25:31ff).

At the end, purgatory is a Good News for us that even though we may not in this life be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48) we can still hold fast to the hope that there are mansions for us in the kingdom of heaven.

See Today’s Readings: The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed  (All Souls)

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