Personally, I love All Souls Day (November 2). It is a constant reminder that I am mortal and that my end is approaching (possibly quicker than I imagine if I continue to eat these blasted candy corns). Some may consider this morbid but consider the Christian point of view.
For the Christian,
Death is a consequence of sin. The Church’s Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin. Even though man’s nature is mortal God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin. “Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned” is thus “the last enemy” of man left to be conquered. (CCC1008) [Emphasis mine]
That being said, it is also true that
Death is transformed by Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition. Yet, despite his anguish as he faced death, he accepted it in an act of complete and free submission to his Father’s will. The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing. (CCC1009) [Emphasis mine]
The properly disposed Christian has nothing to fear in death. Note that I said in death. The process on the other hand, well, I fear it just as much as anyone else. Frankly, our Lord asked that the suffering which led up to his death would pass by Him – if it was the Father’s will (Matthew 26:39). But it wasn’t. He was “obedient even unto death” (Philippians 2:8). The process is not natural and we naturally fear the unnatural. Our strength when considering the process? It is the promise of heavenly glory (See 2 Maccabees 7:9, Daniel 12:2, Matthew 27:52, 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 2 Corinthians 4:14 and Philippians 3:21).
One of our long standing traditions is to visit a cemetery on the Feast of All Souls to honor the Suffrage for the Dead (to intercede for those in purgatory) which
“should be seen as deriving from the bonds existing between the living and the dead and not from any form of obligation, non-fulfilment of which involves a superstitious fear…” (Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, par. 260).
While you are there this year maybe you could look for one of a number of Latin inscriptions that used to be commonplace in older cemeteries? Here are a few:
- R.I.P. or Requiescat in pace – May (he/she) rest in peace. This is a common funeral prayer and grave inscription.
- Beatae Memoriae – Of blessed memory. Very common phrase found on tombstones or memorial plaques.
- Obit – He/she died. This Latin word is followed by the date and more common in church records but may be found inscribed in cemeteries.
- Anno aetatus suae – In the year of his/her age. Much older tombstones or even in an old family Bible would read, Died anno aetatis suae (or just aetatis suae/ A.S. 52) 52.
- Hic iacet – Here lies. This of course is self-explanatory.
How many did you know? I thought I would not only remind you to make your visit to the cemetery on All Souls Day prayerful but also educational.
Sometimes I am asked why I pray for the souls in purgatory. I am sure that there is a long theological explanation but I am going to provide a more practical one.
I figure that I am going to end up in the penalty box one day (purgatory) and I would want someone to pray for me to be released into glory post-haste. Maybe the souls that I assist through my prayer will remember me when they enter into glory and will give me a helping hand too. Have a blessed Feast of All Souls!