When fall arrives I often think about how important it is to reflect on significance of November.
At the beginning of November we celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day and Remembrance Day follows soon thereafter. These three days remind Catholics to be united in mind and heart with both the saints in heave and souls in purgatory. We should be thankful for those who died as martyrs defending our faith and those who died preserve our freedom.
Often, when we think of the Catholic Church, our perception is limited. We often only consider the building itself, maybe the priest, and the people in the pews. But the catechism teaches that the communion of saints in the Apostles’ Creed is the union with Christ between the faithful on Earth, the blessed in heaven and the souls in purgatory. The Church is the family with members in heaven, the faithful on Earth and those in purgatory, isn’t that beautify?
Speaking on All Souls Day, Pope Benedict XVI once said it is important for Christians to face the reality of death and our relationship with the dead. But how many of us actually do that?Who considers the reality of their own death or their relationship with the dead? Who prays for deceased souls or offers up Masses and sacrifices to help deliver souls from purgatory? Who lives their life mindful of its inevitable end?
I once heard an inspirational speaker, Dr. Allan Sommersall, give a brilliant talk. It affected me profoundly. He courageously spoke of death and asked the audience what they wanted or imagined would be said about them in a eulogy that summed up their lives. He also asked the audience to consider what they wanted written on their tombstone. Jokingly he asked, “What will people say about you after you die? ‘Oh. Yes, she watched a lot of TV, she read a lot of magazines, she mumbled and complained a lot, and yes she did do a lot of shopping at the mall. She loved to socialize and she worked a lot, and her beautiful house was very clean and orderly. She didn’t like to rock the boat or challenge her children or friends.’” He encouraged us to live in a way that would bring our desired end result. First, though, we need to define our desired end result.
My father sudden death shocked me into realizing that life is fleeting and dreams can be shattered in an instant. I became determined to be fully aware of the present moment, seizing every precious second and living in out to the best of my ability. I almost became obsessed with getting closer to God, eliminating anything that might be a block to a closer relationship with Him. With all my prayerful might, I did my best to discern Him will.
Then in 1999, when I was diagnosed with the rare disease, I realize once again that life is gift and every moment is a gift. Even housework is a gift and a privilege. In those moments, I became actually aware how depend I was on the prayers and the Masses being offered up for me during my illness. I was grateful to learn that my suffering was also a gift, a gift that helped me grow in humility, compassion, understanding and love for the sick. My sickness became a gift that I could offer up for the others.
Often we only think of death or praying when ourselves are very sick. But you don’t have to wait for tragedy or illness before reflecting on death. That grace is available to all of us at any time.
We have a duty to engage our children in the beauty of November. If children are not taught to pray for the deceased, attend funerals and attend Mass offered up for the deceased, they may never develop that spiritual discipline. And if they are incapable of facing the reality of death they will never fully appreciate the beauty of live.
So, each November, remember those who have passed away. Talk to your children about loved ones who have died. Tell stories about them, describe their character, their dreams and their lives. In doing this, their spirits will go on living. Enliven your children’s imagination and they can get to know relatives they never met. Show them photographs and prayer cards of the deceased. It’s a wonderful prayer tool.
Remember to visit a cemetery, pray the rosary for the souls in purgatory and offer up the Masses for the deceased family members. We can help souls get out of purgatory with prayers, Masses and sacrifices. The holy souls in purgatory can help us in ways that we cannot help ourselves. I have received many, many gifts from the holy souls in purgatory. Pray for them and you will be rewarded.
My dearest mother has the spiritual discipline of daily prayer for the moment of her own death. I have read that we die, we are greeted by all souls who we helped deliver from purgatory.
I tell the kids at Rosary Club that purgatory is like the dry cleaners, if you were going to a big fancy wedding and you had a gorgeous dress and were notice several big stains on it, would you do something before you went to the wedding? Most kids shot out. “I would clean the dress!” The same holds true for heaven. I say, because you cannot enter into heaven with the stain of sin on your soul. God has graciously given us a dry cleaner called purgatory, a place where we are purified so we can enter into heaven with a spotless dress soul.
This is reprinted with permission from the book, Motherhood Matters, written by Dorothy Pilarski, published by Catholic Register Books ISBN 13: 978-0-9784389-5-1