Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Tuesday we will celebrate All Saints Day and on Wednesday All Souls’. Besides the fact that the former is a day of obligation and the latter we don’t know much about, these are two very important events for our lives and for our days.
Lately, I began to read one of the best books I have ever read, “The Treatise On Prayer” by St. Alphonsus Liguori. In the first part of the book, the saint explains the need for prayer. In one section he devotes to explain the importance of asking the saints for their intercession to help us. It is very common that people may come to Fr. Kevin or myself asking us to pray for them. The same happens in a circle of friends. When someone is sick, they always circulate the message to pray for the health of that individual. St. Alphonsus says that if we commend ourselves to the living, how much better it would be to commend ourselves to the saints, who in heaven, are closer to God? It is not a matter of bypassing Jesus or avoiding the dialogue with the Father, but rather, it’s about multiplying our prayers. Very recently we heard in the Gospels the need of persistence while praying. Our heavenly friends, the saints, would help us with our prayers. While quoting St. Thomas Aquinas, he explains that “there are times that while the graces asked in a prayer of a single individual is not obtained, the prayers of many are heard”. Here we see the importance to ask the saints for help. They are also a great source of inspiration to know how in their simple and difficult lives were able to remain faithful to the Lord. At times we can think that we will never reach their level of “holiness”, but if we don’t ask for those graces, we indeed will never be like them. St. Anthony says that “the desire for holiness is already the first step”. I invite you to read the lives/biography of the saints, at least a short bio of the saint of the day and commend your struggles to them.
As the saints help us on earth, we are also called to help those in need of our prayers. Those would be the souls in purgatory. This is a beautiful tradition that slowly is being lost in our culture. The souls in purgatory are those people who before entering heaven have to be purified from their sins. The purification though is excruciating, as St. Alphonsus describes that the greatest torment in our lives would be a great delight for them. He continues to say that the pain is not so much that of the fire, but rather the longing to be united to God. By offering prayers, plenary indulgences, and mass intentions for the faithful departed we assist them through the sacrifices of Jesus to pardon their offenses and speed their entrance into heaven. The saint goes on saying that once the souls helped by us enter in heaven (and therefore become saints) they intercede for us out of gratefulness. Therefore, it becomes a win-win situation for us. Once again, as the saints intercede for us, we are also called to intercede for others, either living or dead. Here in the US it is not a popular tradition to visit the cemeteries on All Souls Day, somehow that practice is done on Memorial Day. We Christians are called to visit a cemetery on this day (or within the week) to pray for the dead. Indeed a plenary indulgence is granted to a person (to be offered for a person already deceased) if we pray at the cemetery on that week and fulfill the other requirements (confession, communion, and pray for the intentions of the Pope). During the month of November, we shall also have the book of the dead on the altar of St. Joseph (the Patron Saint of Good death) to pray for all the faithful departed of our parish and our families remembering them at all masses. So please do write the names of your loved ones who might be in need of our prayers.
Brothers and Sisters, as we go through the struggles of life, let’s remember that we as a Church do not fight alone, but our living and heavenly brothers are with us! It is worth mentioning again, as I have said at mass, to pray for one another. Whether it is a person who sits next to you, or someone who might look sad or appears to be struggling. This is what we profess in our Creed, that we believe in the communion of the saints!!!
Father Steven Clemence