NOVEMBER – A month to remember our beloved dead
November is the month when we traditionally pray for people who have died – the faithful departed. The month begins on the feast of All Saints on the 1st November and the feast of All Souls which is celebrated on 2nd November.
In November the autumn leaves fall to the ground. Nature seems to be preaching a silent sermon about the very mystery of life. Dead leaves are falling to the ground but the seeds of new life are also falling. In Spring new life will be brought forth. Jesus spoke about the grain of wheat dying in the earth to bring forth new shoots of life. So, November is a month well suited to remember our loved ones who have gone before us.
Death is an everyday occurrence yet something within us refuses to accept it as normal. We know that everyone who is born must die. For most people death is a great mystery. Over fifty years ago the Second Vatican Council wrote in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (n18). “It is in regard to death that our condition is most shrouded in doubt. We are tormented not only by pain and the gradual breaking up of the body but also by the dread of ceasing to be. Because we bear within ourselves the seed of eternity which cannot be reduced to mere matter, we rebel against death.”
There is a helplessness associated with dying and death which can only be dealt in the context of meaning. As we visit churches and cemeteries at this time of year we are often faced with questions about what life is all about. Is there a hereafter or is death the end of our existence? Where are our loved ones? Will we ever see them again? St Therese of the Child Jesus experienced very similar thoughts. She heard a voice telling her that this talk of heaven and of a God who was to be her possession for all eternity was all a dream. Death would make nonsense of her hopes: it will only mean a night darker than ever, the night of mere non-existence. When such thoughts cross our minds, we remember that for a Christian the mystery of death must be understood in the context of Christ’s death and resurrection. Every Sunday we profess our faith in the resurrection of Jesus. In so doing we profess our belief in new life for every person. Ever since the repentant thief cried out for mercy, ‘Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom’ the prayerful remembrance of the faithful departed has been at the heart of the prayer of the church.
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