All Souls Day Homily

Image by ConcordPastor: Books of Remembrance at Holy Family Parish
(Click on image for larger version)

Homily for All Souls Day, November 2, 2008
Wisdom 3:109
Romans 5:5-11
John 14:1-6

At the heart of all our worship as Catholic Christians,
we pause to remember…
We remember Christ, and all he did for us;
we remember how he suffered, died and rose for us;
and in word and sacrament,
we remember what he did at table with his friends
on the night before he died.
Every time we celebrate the Eucharist, then,
we remember someone who has died: our brother, Jesus.

And every time we celebrate the Eucharist
we remember others who have died, too.
You know the words as well as I do:
Remember our brothers and sisters
who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again;

bring them and all the departed
into the light of your presence…
We remember all our brothers and sisters in Christ
and not only them but all the departed
- everyone who has died -
and we pray that through the mercy and love of God
every one of them will enjoy the light and peace of God, forever.

Of course, when we pray for those who have died
we remember first those whom we loved the most,
those whom we miss the most.
When I pray the remembrance of the dead,
my heart seldom fails to remember my mother and father:
others, too – but always them.
I’m sure there are names that come to your heart, too.
And we pray for them…

But why do we pray for them?

What do we pray for them?

Our knowledge of human frailty and our faith in God’s mercy
teach us that when we die, God might not be quite yet finished
with fashioning us, making us ready for eternal life.

Our whole life on earth is a journey to the dwelling place
Christ has prepared and reserved for us in his Father’s house.
Sometimes we stay right on the path that leads us home
and sometimes we take short cuts or make detours
or even turn around and walk in the other direction!

We need the Lord to shepherd us from death into life...

So it might be, it might even be likely,
that at the end of our life our rough edges
might need some buffing and polishing.

The Church has long taught that after death,
those not quite ready for heaven
may need some further purification.
This has sometimes been called purgatory.
But we might have a false picture of purgatory.
It’s not some “flaming concentration camp on the outskirts of hell.”*
It’s not God’s last chance to make us suffer!

St. Catherine spoke beautifully of the fire of purgatory
as “God’s love burning the soul until it was wholly aflame
-- with the love of God.”
It’s like the fire we just heard of from the book of Wisdom:
“As gold in the furnace, God will prove us, purify us,
and take us to himself… we shall shine…
and we shall abide forever with God in love…”
If there is pain in purgatory,
it is the pain of longing to be with God,
to be worthy of the heaven Jesus won for us.

And so we pray for those who have gone before us
that God bring to completion the good work begun in their lives
while they were still with us.
We cannot know how or even if time is measured in this purification.
Perhaps one day, one hour, one minute on our clocks
of finally and fully realizing the greatness of God’s love for us
and how unloving in return we often were,
perhaps one second will be all it takes to purify us
of the sins of taking God’s love and the love of others for granted.

When we remember those who have died
some of us might recall those who hurt and harmed in this life.
Nothing is impossible for God.
We can pray for these, too, entrusting them to God
who knows how to make even the hardest of hearts
ready for his mercy.

Of course, many of those whom we remember on All Souls Day
were long ago perfected by God’s mercy
and welcomed to their places in heaven
We remember and pray for them, too.

Today, and through this month of November,
we remember them all:
- those who were buried from our parish in this past year
and whose names are on the scrolls on either side of the altar;
- those whose names you will inscribe in the Book of Remembrance;
- those whose pictures you post in the Gathering Room;
- and the ones whose memory we carry in our hearts and our prayers
as we come to the table and remember
those who have gone to their rest
in the hope of rising again;
and all the departed...

And we remember Jesus, our brother, who died for us and rose
and opened the door to his Father’s house
and prepared for each of us a dwelling place of peace.

*See comment by Leondard Foley, OFM



  1. I love the stand behind the books with candles. Wrought iron? Are the candle holders built in? Is there a candle for each parishioner who died this year from your parish?
    Where would you get something like that?

  2. I believe it's called "forged iron." The candle holders are built in and it comes with the glass inserts which hold tea lights. There are 39 candles on the screen but that's fewer than the number of funerals from our parish this past year. Will get the link for you publish here soon.

  3. Anne: I bought this screen 6 or seven years ago in a gift shop in Provincetown - unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the store.

    I've searched on line and it seems that Walmart and Amazon.com carry them but as I read it, neither has it in stock at the moment. My recollection is that it cost about $150.

  4. Thanks! Again it's beautiful and probably can be adapted for other seasons.

  5. Sometimes we stay right on the path that leads us home
    and sometimes we take short cuts or make detours or even turn around and walk in the other direction!

    Isn't that the truth!


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