I heard it suggested on the News earlier in the week that now we have arrived at the Centenary of the end of the First World War (that is today – 11th November), we ought to call it a day and dispense with Remembrance Sunday altogether! Remembrance Sunday was, I believe, originally instituted to remember the dead of the Second World War (1939-45). But it now embraces all battles up to the present day so as we remember the dead of all these wars. From our Catholic point of view, we don’t merely remember them, but we pray for their souls, that those being purified in Purgatory arrive soon in Heaven. We remember especially those who died suddenly on the battlefield and with severe injuries and with little or no preparation to meet their Maker. It is for all of them we particularly offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass today and pray for them in earnest, that God grant them eternal rest and peace. We can never dispense with remembering them in our prayers. But the secularists, of course, will have no concept of praying for the faithful departed. We as Catholics do and therefore we perform our Christian duty and pray they reach their homeland soon.
Praying for the Souls in Purgatory, as well as being of benefit to them is also of great benefit to us. It encourages us to better our lives, knowing that even venial or less serious sins will have to be atoned for (nothing impure can enter Heaven, Apoc 21:27) but also because the souls in Purgatory are holy and are already in the ante chamber of Heaven, and the only thing that keeps them from it are the imperfections of which they must be purified. If we can help them by our prayers to reach Heaven a little quicker, they will certainly intercede for us and especially at the moment of our death.
“Whatever we do for the departed souls redounds to our own benefit; after death it will be restored to us with interest” says St Ambrose. Our Lord Himself said that He regards as done to Himself anything we do for the poor and needy and that He will repay them generously. The Holy Souls are poor and needy, and therefore whatever we do to help them will be to our advantage too.
Many of the Fallen would have already reached Heaven. Most we will know little or nothing about. There are the famous canonised saints and martyrs like St Maximilian Kolbe and St Edith Stein, but the stories of the lesser known soldiers and civilians also humble and inspire us. But in a sense we are all soldiers of Christ and we are called to show a soldier’s heroism for Christ in whatever our walk of life may be. Let us always then strive to do what God asks of us, so that we too may reach the Promised Land Our Lord has promised us.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC