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Spiritual Life

November: A month of prayer for our beloved dead

As the year draws to a close, the Church begins to reflect upon the end times and the second coming of Jesus Christ. We recall that our life on earth is transitional, that the old world is passing away as a new creation is being fashioned for us in eternity. The month of November, then, is especially dedicated to remembering and praying for our beloved dead.

November begins with the celebration of the Solemnity of All Saints. This particular feast reminds us that God desires all people to be with him forever in heaven. On All Saints Day, Nov. 1, we celebrate the redemption of the countless men and women who have died and have already entered into eternal glory, and we hope for our own participation in their joy one day.

On the following day, Nov. 2, the Church commemorates all the faithful departed who are undergoing their final purification, and we offer our prayers and good works for their salvation. In essence, the whole Church – in heaven, in purgatory, and on earth – is united in prayer and anticipates the final victory over sin and death in the second coming of Jesus Christ. Fittingly, then, the month of November nears its conclusion with the celebration of the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Nov. 20, as we acknowledge him as the source and fulfillment of all creation.

Throughout this month, all the faithful should be particularly aware of the need for personal conversion and also prayers for the dead. We ought to ask ourselves: Am I ready to stand before my maker and judge on the last day? Likewise, we ought to spend time this month offering prayers, penances and good works for those who have died and are awaiting entry into heaven. By uniting ourselves to Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we are able to participate in the very salvation of souls – perhaps the greatest thing we could ever hope to accomplish!

As members of the Body of Christ, each new day is yet another opportunity to unite ourselves to the Paschal Mystery and to participate with Christ in our own salvation and the salvation of all. To be clear, our prayers, Mass offerings and good works alone are not responsible for opening the gates of heaven to those who have died. Rather, it is the death and resurrection of Jesus that saves each soul.  He and he alone is the Savior. However, because we have been united with Christ in Holy Baptism, we are members of his body. As the Body of Christ, then, we enjoy the ability to participate with him in his once-for-all act of salvation. The Church’s prayers today – and every day – are our way of joining in Jesus’ work of saving our loved ones from eternal death.

Because of our incorporation into the Body of Christ, no one dies alone. We are one body, and we walk with each other, not only through this life but also over the waters of death into eternity. Whether someone we know died recently or many years ago, through our prayers and penances today, we can participate in the very moment that he or she is welcomed into the halls of heaven!

Father Jeffery Loseke is pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Gretna.