November is the month of the dead. We begin this month with All Saints Day, rejoicing in their holy death, which is their birth into eternal life. Indeed, Mother Church celebrates a saint’s feast day on the day of their death to this world, that is, the day of their birth into heaven. On November 2, we “celebrated” All Souls Day, the so-called Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Mother Church celebrates the decease even of those who were not saints at their death, but who entrusted themselves to God with their last breath. Their earthly death also saw them into eternal life, albeit by way of an arduous journey through Purgatory, but they are with God. November is the month of the dead, as days grow shorter and winds grow colder, as leaves fall dead from the trees and nights grow longer and blacker. Nature herself reminds us that we will die one day, but Mother Church instructs us not to fear the enfeeblement and death of the body. Fear only sin, the sins of our frail and wounded humanity.
The Collect for today’s Mass, and the readings, amply articulate this. “Deus, qui nos in tantis perículis constitútos, pro humána scis fragilitáte non posse subsístere: da nobis salutem mentis et córporis…” O God, you know that we live in such peril from our human frailty that we cannot sustain it: grant us health of mind and body that we may someday gain the victory….
And again, in the “secret prayer”: “Concede, quǽsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut hujus sacrifícii munus oblátum, fragilitatem nostram ab omni malo purget semper, et múniat.” Grant us almighty God, we beg you, that this sacrifice might forever purge and protect our human frailty from all evil. We cannot save ourselves, but we can call upon Almighty God to save us from sin and death.
The Boat Incident
The disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat, and a violent storm comes up. Jesus is asleep in the stern, and they cry out to him: we are perishing! He arises, rebukes the wind, and says to his disciples: “why are you terrified?” We think of another time when Jesus said to the parents of the little girl: “why are you weeping? The girl is not dead, but asleep,” and he lifts her up by the hand saying Talitha, cum, “little girl, arise.” The disciples were terrified of the screaming wind, and the girl’s parents wept in the face of death, but Jesus commands us to fix our hope on his providential strength. We are weak, but he is strong; we will die, but he will raise us up. In the words of Blessed John Paul II: “Non abbiate paura”—do not be afraid to fling wide the doors of your hearts to Christ, our only hope.
The Holy Souls
November is the month of the dead, and our acts of charity this month must be to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Yesterday we offered Mass at Santa Paula cemetery, with the graves of those we love around us. To the left was Ron McArthur and Marcus Berquist, just in front of us was Rosie Grimm and John Blewett, to the right was the beautiful stone cross marking Tom Dillon’s grave. God gave us the joy of loving these people on earth; now God gives us the joy of praying for their souls in eternity. In the back of the chapel is a book on a table: the Book of the Dead. It is, we hope, the book of the living: dead to this world, but alive in Christ Jesus. Someday, perhaps soon, we hope someone will write our name in that book, and offer Masses and prayers for our soul. Inscribe the names of your faithful departed in that book, if you wish, but be certain that you pray for those who have died. Eternal Rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. May their souls, and the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.