On the Feast of All Souls, we are reminded to pray for the faithful who have gone to their rest with a belief in the resurrection and the hope of eternal life. Just as yesterday’s feast of All Saints instructs us of the hope we have in the powerful intercession of the Saints on our behalf, today, we practice our belief in the power our prayers carry on behalf of the faithful departed.
It is good for us in this life to ponder the various realities of the Kingdom of Heaven. It helps us clearly keep in mind our ultimate end, so as to keep our priorities straight in this life. It helps us also be generous in praying not only for our own needs, but for those who may still need our assistance in this life as well as those who are now beyond the grave and totally dependent on our prayers.
I am mindful of a common thought of St. Catherine of Siena to “hunger for the salvation of souls.” Here is one such line from one of her letters: Realize my sons, that it is impossible for us either to learn about or to have the good life, or to be hungry for God’s honor and the salvation of souls, unless we go to the school of the Word, the lamb slain and abandoned on the cross, because it is there that the true teaching is found. This is what He said: “I am way and truth and life.” (The Letters of Catherine of Siena, Volume II, edited by Noffke, p. 5)
We do not tend to use much these days this language of “souls”, or “salvation of souls”, but it still accurately speaks to one of the primary purposes of the Church, and its members.
The other thought today always raises for me is why some “souls” after dying are still in need of our prayers. It has to do with free will. Free will is only for this life. Here we “choose” to believe in God or not. Here we “choose” to love, or not. God forces neither of these realities upon us. However, once we draw our last breath, and come face to face with God, there will no longer be such “freedom”, because the reality of the Truth of God and God’s love will be overwhelming and complete, and the only reality then is “Yes”.
For those who now need our prayers to enter into the fullness of God, the Church provides a beautiful celebration such as today. The complimentary reality is that it reminds us, the living, to continue to use our free will wisely in preparation for the moment we are brought face to face with the Living God!