November, Let us Pray for Our Departed Brethren
November 1 and November 2 are two very specific days in the liturgical life of the Church. On the one hand, we prayerfully ask the saints to intercede to God for us in a special way (November 1st, All Saints’ Day), while on the other hand, we commemorate and pray for all
of our faithful departed (November 2nd All Souls’ Day). An interesting dynamic is that the latter of these two days likewise involves asking the saints in heaven to intercede to God for the dead whose souls might be in purgatory.
Beyond these two days, we can pray constantly throughout the year, although the month of November is especially set aside by our Mother Church to pray for our departed brothers and sisters.
The Church commemorates all her faithful departed children who have departed from this life, who have not yet attained the joys of heaven. St. Paul warns us that we must not be ignorant concerning the dead, nor sorrowful, like others who have no hope. For the Lord Himself shall come down from heaven and the dead who are in Christ shall rise.
The tradition of praying for the dead is found in Sacred Scripture in the 2 Book of Maccabees
12:46 “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins” (12:46).
One of the corporal works of mercy is to bury the dead. For us, that means weeping with those who weep. It means praying for those who have died that they might enjoy the gift of eternal life with Christ. When it is a family member or a friend, it is especially important for us to grieve their loss and remember them to God. God does not forget them and wills our prayers be effective in helping them complete their journey to God. The Church teaches that purgatory is a time of purification for those who “die in God’s grace and
friendship.” Accordingly to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “after death (the faithful)
undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (1030 –32). We ought to pray for those souls – because they cannot pray for themselves.
Praying for the deceased is also a reminder of our own mortality. One day, we all will die, and this life on earth is but a transition. Our lives will change, but it will not end. We will have eternal life with God if we remain committed with Him in faith.
Whether in this life or the next, however, God doesn’t wave a magic wand, bypassing our free will, to fix us. Instead, we must cooperate with His grace to undo what we have done: paying our debts, letting go of whatever binds us, straightening out whatever is crooked within us.This process has already begun in our lives on earth. Through doing penance and accepting in faith the inescapable sufferings of this life, we can be purged of sin’s effects and grow in holiness.
In this month of November let us or our departed brothers and sisters remembering the wisdom of the Maccabeans that “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” (2 Maccabees 12:46).
Seminarian Robert Bigabwarugaba. Katigondo National Seminary