The Communion of Saints
November is the month of the Communion of Saints. We celebrate today the Feast of All Saints when we honour all those in Heaven (not only canonised saints) and ask them to pray for us here on earth. Tomorrow (Monday) is All Souls Day, when we commemorate all the faithful departed and when we are reminded that we should assist the souls of the faithful departed in Purgatory by our prayers, sufferings and good works that they may be released from their pains. This teaching as well as being in Scripture is also part of our natural instinct. If you move far away from your family, you believe they will still pray for you. Similarly, when a family member departs this life and arrives in Heaven why should they not continue to pray for us? They still love us and death only destroys the body while the soul lives on. To quote Cardinal James Gibbons (1834-1921), “The dross of sin and selfishness and hatred are burned in salutary fires of contrition, and nothing remains but the pure gold of charity. O far be from us the dreary thought that death cuts off our friends entirely from us!”
Nowadays the doctrine of Purgatory is often undermined, particularly at funerals, when the deceased is sometimes canonised, meaning that absolute certainty is expressed that they are already in Heaven. While the intentions may be good this actually does a disservice to the deceased, because people will be discouraged from praying for them. Nothing impure can enter Heaven (Apocalypse 21:27). Most people die in a state of imperfection and so they desperately need Masses, the prayers and sacrifices of us here on earth to speed up the process of their purification. To pray for the dead is a great act of mercy.
So we should always honour the saints and celebrate their feast days invoking their aid. Then as well as offering our sufferings and prayers for the souls detained in Purgatory we should also try to gain Indulgences for them. (See page 3 for what you can do this month). By doing so you could release a soul from Purgatory. They in turn will be so grateful that they will intercede in Heaven on your behalf. How wonderful and consoling to know we have people praying for us in Heaven who won’t rest until we arrive there ourselves. And we should, of course, also pray for each other here on earth. This is the Communion of Saints. Let us thank God that we are Catholic and that we know about this Divinely revealed truth and can take advantage of it.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC