All Souls’ Day is one of the most hopeful moments of the Church year.
That might sound like an odd assertion regarding a day also known as The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. Indeed, celebration of the day comes with a sombre, muted tone, as we recall those who have died and are in purgatory. All Souls’ Day often has a very personal element, as each of us remembers loved ones who are no longer with us.
But while there may be a tinge of mourning to All Souls’ Day, the very act of praying for those who have gone before us reflects many of the assertions we make when we recite either the Nicene or the Apostles’ Creed.
In praying for those in purgatory, who have not yet been fully cleansed of sin, we are demonstrating our credal assertion that there will be judgment and that, through baptism, there is hope for the forgiveness of sins.
The very act of prayer also reflects our belief in the one Church and the communion of saints, the spiritual link between all believers, living and dead, in heaven or in purgatory. We are all united in the mystical body of Christ. Following the Feast of All Saints as it does, All Souls’ Day reminds us of the universal call to sainthood. As Pope Benedict XVI asserted during an audience in 2011, “saintliness, the fullness of Christian life, does not consist in the achievement of extraordinary feats, but in uniting oneself with Christ… in making his disposition … his behavior … our own.”
Finally, of course, All Souls’ Day reminds us of the triumph of the cross, and that death is not the end. In our belief that reciting prayers and offering Mass in memory of the souls in purgatory will help their heaven-bound journey, we strongly assert our belief in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
While we pause on this day to commemorate our loved ones—and all the faithful departed—the very act of commemoration should turn our mourning to dancing. As the Psalmist asserts, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (PS 30:5)
-Catherine Mulroney, Editor of Living with Christ, Canada’s companion to praying and living the Eucharist.