All Souls Day
Nov. 2, 2014
Scouts, Putnam Valley
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison
“May our hope of resurrection for your departed servants find new strength” (Collect).
Each year we have this solemn day of prayer for the people we call “the faithful departed”; our prayer a little while ago called them the Lord’s “departed servants,” and of course if they were his servants, they were faithful. If they were faithful and if they served the Lord, we might ask why we pray for them.
It’s no coincidence that this day of prayer is set in the calendar on the day after All Saints Day, our yearly celebration of all the countless, mostly anonymous men and women who have faithfully followed Christ in this life and now have attained eternal life with him in heaven.
So who are these “faithful departed” whom we both honor and pray for today? They are our brothers and sisters who have died but, because of their sins—we might say more accurately, perhaps, because of their sinful inclinations and habits and attitudes (we all identify with that, don’t we?)—aren’t yet worthy of coming into God’s presence in heaven. Nothing unclean, nothing unworthy, nothing imperfect may come into God’s presence. So these good but not perfect people are still being cleansed, scrubbed clean, so to speak. You know how after the Scouts clean the pots after supper, someone has to finish the job till they’re truly clean enuf to use for the next meal. Similarly, the “faithful departed” for whom we’re praying are still having their souls scrubbed, their of love of God and of others perfected, so that they may join the angels and saints in heaven—those who’ve already reached a perfect way of loving and have no stain of selfishness left to them. (We all know how selfishness clings to us!)
|Purgatory, by Annibale Carracci (d. 1609)|
We call this place or state of cleansing, of purification, “purgatory,” which means simply the “cleaning place” or “cleaning operation.” Naturally, since we’re still alive, we don’t know how God purifies these people who are future saints. I’m sure it’s not like going to the dry cleaners or into the dishwasher! We do know that these souls, whom we sometimes call the holy souls because they have been faithful servants of the Lord, long to have their sins and their sinfulness completely cleaned away so that their salvation will be complete. We use an analogy sometimes, that they get purified in the fire of God’s love; God’s love washes over them, perhaps painfully—because they see their own faults in his light. And seeing our faults is always a painful thing, as we know from our experiences with parents, principals, bosses. And God’s searing love cleans them, makes them perfect, makes them worthy of heaven.
So we pray for them, or as you often hear it expressed, we pray for the souls in purgatory. That’s what we do on All Souls Day and thruout the month of November, which is the “month of the poor souls,” and we’re encouraged to pray for the faithful departed always. You may notice that we do pray for them at every Mass, after the consecration of the bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood, when we make various intercessions.
Our faith tells us that all Christ’s faithful servants will be raised up with Christ to eternal life, the life of the resurrection. St. Paul says, “if we have grown into union with him thru a death like his [which means dying to sin], we shall also be united with him in the resurrection” (Rom 6:5). Our opening prayer expressed that hope, that confidence we have in God’s faithfulness to his promises, e.g., what Jesus says today: “This is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).
This is our prayer for all the faithful departed, and in particular for deceased members of our family, deceased friends, [deceased Scouts and Scouters—and we remember in special way Scoutmaster Michael Andrew Boccardi, who is memorialized in our annual trek-o-ree. Mr. Boccardi was an Eagle Scout in Troop 40 Mt. Vernon and eventually became 40’s super-dedicated Scoutmaster for 6 or 7 years, and a friend to many of the Scouters here. He was among those killed at work on 9/11. May he and all who perished on that awful day rest in peace with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and be raised up with him on the Last Day!]