Posts Tagged ‘All Souls Day’

The Faithful Departed

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Father Walter Birkle used this example recently during his excellent sermon for the funeral Mass of Father Michael Peluso.

Seems as if a funeral home in California embarked upon an aggressive marketing campaign to sell caskets:  they would “custom design” caskets!  An ardent fisherman, for instance, could have a casket fashioned as a fishing boat; a golfer, one like a cart, and so on.

The best seller, however, turned out to be a casket made to look like a heavy cardboard shipping box, actually wrapped in packaging paper, and tied with cord for mailing.  Stamped boldly around the package-like casket were the words:  RETURN TO SENDER.

Not a bad anecdote to use for this blog entry anticipating November, the month the Church reverently recalls the faithful departed.

We can count upon nature to set the atmosphere:  the days are shorter; the dark comes earlier; the sun is shy; the winds more blustery and cold; the trees get stark; the flowers shrivel; and the grass subsides.

Nature is dying, winter approaches.

No wonder Holy Mother Church advises us to contemplate death.

Does that scare us?  Is that, literally, morbid?

Not for the believer:  Death is as natural as birth.

Some trepidation is understandable.  After all, preservation of life, survival, is our most potent instinct.  Thus, in a human way, we shudder at the prospect of death, and we fight it.  Of course.  God wants us to savor and hold on to life until He calls us back to Him.

Way back on the day of our birth, we fought leaving the safety, security, and comfort of the womb, didn’t we?  “It’s nice and cozy in here, and who knows what’s out there, anyway?” is the question the baby in the womb unconsciously asks.  So we fought that birth, to our mother’s great discomfort!

And we also shudder at the birth to eternal life to which we all are invited.

But the believer embraces death as a friend, “brother death,” as Saint Francis called it.

We come from God, and we are destined to return to Him for all eternity.  We are marked, from the moment of conception, RETURN TO SENDER!

Thus, as much as we savor this earthly life, we know it is passing, its abundant joys are but antipasto for the main course God has in store for us, and that its many sorrows will pass away, “where there are no tears.”

When God gives life, He intends it to last forever.  When we ruined it, He sent Jesus, who “by dying, restored our life, and by rising, restored our life.”

Spring and summer do not last . . . autumn and winter come.  The wise person always uses spring and summer to get ready for the months when nature slumbers.

November reminds us that we are branded, RETURN TO SENDER.  All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2) memo us to contemplate our eternal destiny, and gratefully and reverently to pray for those who have gone before us.

The Greatest Family of All

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

If it were not so sad, it would only evoke the response of a yawn.  I’m talking about the most recent Hollywood star who was “raised a Catholic” but now, as an “enlightened, liberated” adult, has shed his or her faith for some toney, exotic “New Age” movement.  I watched her tell the talk-show host how she had left the faith of her family because it left her so “isolated” and “out of touch” with the cosmos.  Seems her new religion is big on the “inherent harmony of the universe,” which provides a valuable sense of unity for her.  She finds it provides her a real feeling of closeness to all of those who have gone before her and are now in eternity, and a union with all her brothers and sisters throughout the world who share her belief.

This is new?  Was she home with the measles when the Catholic doctrine of the communion of saints was covered in her religion class?  We Catholics have believed in this “inherent harmony of the universe” for two millennia, and at the heart of our faith is a sense of union with God, with the faithful departed, with the saints in heaven, and with all of our brothers and sisters in the Church throughout the world.

Of course, this wonderful doctrine of the communion of saints comes to mind these pleasant days of fall.  November 1st is All Saints Day, as we praise God for all those citizens of heaven, all members of the “Church triumphant” who now reign with Christ the King in paradise.  On November 2nd we observe All Souls Day, as we remember with reverence and gratitude those who have died, whether they are now with Jesus in heaven, or await their goal of heaven as they undergo a period of purification in purgatory, members of the “Church suffering,” who deserve our prayers.  We on earth then comprise the “Church militant,” as we continue to persevere in grace, fighting the ancient enemies of sin, Satan, and selfishness.

Thus, we belong to the greatest family of all, the communion of saints, and are intimately united to all who share residence in the household of the faith.  The limits of time and space fade away in this deep unity, and never do we feel alone or isolated.  All creation is in harmony under Christ the King, whom we hail the last Sunday of this month of November.

I can only pray that our friend in Hollywood rediscovers this ancient doctrine of the Church, and that we of the “Church militant” use this upcoming month of November to honor the saints, pray for the dead, and savor the sense of communion with Christ the King and all His disciples which comes from belonging to the Church.