The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, (All Souls)
Theological explanations of the Catholic teaching about "Purgatory" usually fall way short of the simple truth: We pray for our beloved dead. We cannot not pray for them.
On this day especially, as the liturgical year draws to a close and we consider "Last Things," we remember those who have died.
Very often when someone dies we promise we shall "never forget" them. Never is a long time; and normal grief does not last forever. After the funeral has been celebrated, after we resume our routine chores, duties and recreations, after we've engaged in some new adventures which might sound odd or unexpected to the deceased, we do begin to forget our loved ones.
We don't think of them every day. Eventually weeks and months will pass and we'll not remember to think with love upon them.
And so, each year, on the day after All Hallows Day, we pause in so-called our busy lives to remember those who have passed -- our immediate loved ones and the more remote, the known and the forgotten, the honored and the dishonored, all who belonged to Christ.
This commemoration on the day after a solemnity seems to set up a comparison between the two groups: the saints and the also-ran, or the saints and the rest of us. I'm going to hope that comparison is unintentional. This day is the fulfillment of our promise never to forget, not a judgment about their worthiness.
And we may still need atonement even after all this time. It's another opportunity to remember with love and affection, to ask their forgiveness for our sins against them and to offer ours for their sins against us.
When I think of my own father and mother I have to admit I remember some of their less attractive "thoughts, words and deeds." How could I not as one who lived in such intense intimacy with them during the earliest days of my life?
But I also know that I would not trade this man or this woman for any other parent on earth. Marty and Edith are forever dear to me. May my right hand wither if I should ever forget them.