Monday, November 4, 2013
All Souls' Day
Yesterday I was discussing with my sister about how we have no fear of graveyards. The stereotypical ones with the blackened, wrought iron railings, cracked tombstones with gargoyle faces on them, hostile owls peering down from dead trees, and long grass are never the ones you see, anyway. Ours is a very well-kept place (albeit the ground is rather squishy due to a mole problem) and it is not creepy at all.
In our parish, every Sunday closest to the Feast of All Souls we process to the cemetery and pray the Stations of the Cross out there for our departed brethren. It's very calming, actually. The words of the Stations are familiar, the rhythm of the Stabat Mater a cappella is familiar, the rustle of the wind in the trees is familiar, the sight of the graves is familiar. Nothing is in the least bit frightening or hostile. Why should it be? We go merely to greet those who have gone on before us, to assure them of our continued love and devotion. We pray for them and we ask them to pray for us.
Why is it that so many people fear or ignore the dead? One of the saddest Protestant mindsets I have ever encountered is their persistent belief that the dead are cut off from us, that we cannot help them (or should not!) and that they cannot help or hear us. They ask their living family and relatives to pray for them, but they will not ask their family and friends who have passed on before them to look down upon them from Heaven and put in a good word for them with our Heavenly Father.
It just makes no sense to me. The Communion of Saints is one of the most beautiful and consoling of all Catholic doctrines, in my opinion. What could be more comforting that the knowledge that those who have died before you are still truly with you? It turns what pagans thought of as an irreparable loss into merely an absence. Our departed brethren have not passed into the Void and can hear us no longer. They are still very much alive, and, God willing, we shall see them again one day.
The belief in the Communion of Saints, in addition to the familiarity of the All Souls' Day service, must really be what makes a graveyard such a calming place for me. It's a family reunion that transcends time and space. While waiting on the priest and the servers to arrive, we find the graves of our great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents and wait there until Stations begin. We do not have some superstitious fear about walking over graves, since we mean no disrespect. We are there to greet them and pray for them, and I think any soul whose body is buried in our cemetery is glad to see us gathered there.
Catholics have no fear of death. It is only a passing thing. We know that those who have gone through it are alive in Christ, on the other side, and we know that our day, too, is coming. What they have endured, we shall endure also. It is an heartening thought. We do not walk this life alone. We have the wisdom and prayers of all the saints before us to lead us on our way.
And now, because I found this gif and want to use it:
In Pace Christi,