This time of year the church asks us to remember those who have gone before us. These days of remembrance begin on Oct. 31, with All Hallows Eve, a vigil for the feast of All Saints on Nov. 1. The feast of All Saints remembers those whom we believe have already received their heavenly reward. It is followed by the feast of All Souls on Nov. 2, which is a day of remembrance for all who have gone before us.
All Souls is an emotionally moving date because we remember the souls of our loved ones who have passed as well as the souls of the faithful departed who have no one to pray for them. All the Masses throughout the world are offered for these “poor souls.”
As we continue to navigate this time of pandemic, taking time to remember and pray for the deceased is especially important. More than 1.1 million people have died worldwide as a result of COVID-19, with more than 225,000 in the United States. Here in Wisconsin, as of the time I am writing this, 1,681 people have died as a result of COVID, with 321 in the Diocese of Green Bay. Each of these people was created and loved by God, and their deaths are a profound tragedy. Many of them, due to the infectious nature of COVID, died separated from their families. So we pray especially for them this year, for their eternal rest and for the families they have left behind. We give thanks for the gift of their lives and their redemptive struggles, and we long for the day when we will all be reunited in the fullness of the kingdom of God.
One of the great treasures of our faith from the last century was the revelation of the Divine Mercy messages to St. Faustina Kowalska. St. Faustina was a young, poor and uneducated nun in Poland in the 1930s. During her time in the convent, she received a series of revelations from Jesus, which she recorded in a diary at the suggestion of her spiritual director. These revelations focused on the love God has for each of us and the truth that God’s mercy is much greater than our sins.
As people read the diary of St. Faustina, a devotion to Divine Mercy developed and continues to this day through the image of Divine Mercy, the chaplet of Divine Mercy and Divine Mercy Sunday. You can read more about St. Faustina, the message of Divine Mercy and the devotions at thedivinemercy.org.
So this All Souls Day, we commend those who have died during the pandemic and all of our loved ones to the heart of Jesus, which is filled with merciful love. To St. Faustina, Jesus described his merciful love as superabundant, like oceans of merciful love. I would encourage you to ask God to pour out his merciful love on all who have died. You might pray the Divine Mercy chaplet for the dead on All Souls’ Day at 3 p.m., which is considered the hour of Divine Mercy.
As we pray for those who have gone before us and plead for our loved ones to be welcomed fully into heaven, we remember that each of us is also a terminal case. Rather than letting this cause us fear, though, let this serve as a reminder that we are children of a loving God who is eager to pour out his merciful love on each one of us. Please, if you do not feel you know Jesus, ask for him to reveal himself to you. Ask forgiveness for the times you may have offended or hurt him and he will respond bountifully.
God loves you, the church loves you and so do I!
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.