We celebrate the feast of All Saints on November 1st which reminds us that October 31 truly is All Hallows Eve. It is the beginning of the last month in the Church’s Year so we call on all the saints of all time to intercede for us before the Lord. We have many saints in the Church calendar. The Church devotes the month of November to prayer for our loved ones beginning with All Souls Day on November 2nd. Often overshadowed by the two days preceding it, Halloween (Oct. 31st) & All Saints Day (Nov 1st), All Souls Day is a solemn celebration commemorating all of those who have gone before us! Indeed, the Church encourages us during the month of November to take time to pause, remember and pray for all our loved ones.
But the month is not limited to the many saints whose names are in the calendar and are celebrated at an appropriate date with a feast day and memory. It includes all the faithful departed who have gone before us and are now in the presence of the Lord. The vast majority of these are not canonised but are known to those with whom they lived and loved. We all know many good people whose lives were exemplary and a testament to all those around them. During the month of November, we have all of these in mind as we remember with confidence our saints.
Many people pay a visit to a cemetery with a flower or a night light. ‘It is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be freed to eternal life’. In prayer we are in God’s presence and we believe we are in some way in communion with our loved ones.
We may wish of course to avoid talking about death, we don’t like being reminded of our mortality. Woody Allen famously quipped, “I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” It strikes a chord because that is how many of us deal with death. We joke about it while keeping our real thoughts and fears to ourselves.
Some of our deceased relatives we got to say goodbye to, while others left us before any goodbyes could be exchanged. By remembering our deceased in prayer or by visiting their resting place is an attempt at saying we haven’t forgotten them and that they will always be a special part of our lives.
It’s a custom too in Ireland to abstain from alcohol and or cigarettes during the month of November. Fasting and sacrifice help us to focus our mind on prayer. ‘I’ve given up alcohol. And, yes, it’s tough!’ As we spend the month recalling the example of people of faith who went before us, spare a thought for your future too. Would life as a religious help you to be the saint that you are called to be?
May all our loved ones who have died, rest in peace!