Pray for those who have gone before us

By Pat Wettstein | October 30, 2014

All Saints Day and All Souls Day! We acknowledge the saints who have paved the way for our own saintly journey. We look to them as models for our own lives with its joys, sorrows and deep darkness.

This weekend also gives us pause for those souls who may be awaiting glorious entrance into eternity.

Parishes across the diocese will host special services this weekend. What at your church brings this home for you? A banner that names all of the deceased? A display of pictures or lit candles? A book of the dead? We are reminded of the special place these people had in our hearts. Hispanic parishes may have a side altar during “Dia de los Muertos” (the Day of the Dead), adorned with chrysanthemums, photos, skull candy and maybe even a special bread shaped like bones.

As Catholics, we believe in eternal salvation that awaits us at our death. While grief and sorrow over the physical absence of someone can at times overshadow this belief, we still hold onto hope of salvation with tenacity as we pray for the dead. No matter the state of our souls, it is our imperfect human nature that we present at death and therefore, we pray.

All Souls Day also alerts us to the obligation to pray for all of the dead during November. One of the spiritual works of mercy is to pray for the dead. There are two plenary indulgences attached to All Souls Day, one for visiting a church and another for visiting a cemetery. When we exercise this practice, the merits of our prayers are applied to the souls in purgatory — even as they pray for us. Someday, we too will approach the gates of heaven and seek to be lifted up on the wings of the prayers of those left behind and those who have preceded us.

So let us remember those who have gone before us with photos, cemetery visits, and prayers of thankfulness and petition.
Following is a poem on a card we received 25 years ago upon the death of our six-year-old daughter Kathryn Louise; we called her Katie. I had my sister scribe it in a picture she painted and it has hung on my living room wall ever since:

Not Gone — but only gone before, to where love lives on evermore.
Not Lost — but only lost from sight, as one who walks ahead at night.
Not Parted — only just apart, in memory, kept close in my heart.
Not of the Past — but now to be, a part of all eternity.

Wettstein is a volunteer choir director and former director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton.

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