Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Getting to work

Earlier this year, I mentioned how frustrating it is to see people – modern, learned people – struggling to respond to death.  They gather at night on lawns and pavilions, holding candles and swaying together in large numbers; they pile up flowers and teddy bears and notes that will never reach their addressees.    They put decals on their vehicles, erect crosses by roadsides, and find any number of ways to “honor” the dear departed.
But Christ has given us a more excellent way to respond when death robs us.  More than “honor,” we pour out love, and prayer is the form of love that pierces the veil that veils all nations (cf Is. 4).  Yes, prayer is the one work of love that is not thwarted by the separation at death.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the prayer that destroys the web that is woven over all nations, that is, death. 

Nothing any of us does, and nothing any of our beloved dead did, is enough to “win” eternal life in heaven.  Only the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Holy Cross accomplishes that.  He does this not for Himself, of course, but for us, so how are we to partake?   The fruit of this “tree” in the garden of Gethsemane is the only antidote to the deadly fruit of the tree in the center of the garden of Eden, and that sweet fruit of the Holy Cross is His life-giving Body and Blood laid upon the Altar at Mass.
We who remember, and still live, are able to apply this saving work to the benefit of our beloved dead by offering our participation in the Holy Mass for the happy repose of their souls.  It is particularly beneficial and powerful for the priest celebrant, who stands before God in persona Christi, to offer his intention in their behalf, as the priest does, for example, at a funeral Mass.   These are powerful tools in our hands; powerful works of love.
The second day of November, Thursday this year, at 7:30 in the evening, we will offer a Requiem Mass for the souls our parish has commended to the mercy of God over the past twelve months.  Looking at the list of names of the ones we have lost over just this past year, I was amazed at how many of these people were prominent members of the parish, well-known and loved.  Read through it yourself – it’s printed in the bulletin – and see if you don’t know several of them, or their family members here.  Then come, join us and their families at the altar in prayer for these souls.
Come do something for the ones who no longer can choose or do anything for themselves; the ones you love, or remember, who have died, and await their liberation.  The music will be from Gabriel Fauré’s sublime setting of the Requiem Mass, “requiem” being Latin for “rest,” as in, “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.”  Jesus’ death and resurrection has left us great power in the face of death, and we should not leave that power untapped.

Click here to listen to the final movement of Fauré's Requiem, the "In paradisum"

You should also be preparing your own list of names for your All Souls intentions.  Add to your roster any of your family and friends whom you have lost this year, and maybe some others as well, such as names you pick up from the news – people you may not know personally, but whose tragic or heroic deaths moved you.  This is something you can do for them, now that they can do nothing for themselves.  You can put it in your envelope with your offering at any time from now on; it will rest on our altar with those provided by everyone else in the parish, and receive the intention of one Mass each day throughout the month.
How often do you see the inscription “Never forget” associated with the memory of people who have died?  On all Souls Day, November 2, we Catholics not only remember the dear departed, but we also do something for them. 

Monsignor Smith

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