Commemoration of All Souls (November 2, 2017)
On the subject of praying for the dead, St. Francis de Sales wrote: “We believe that we may pray for the faithful departed, and that the prayers and good works of the living greatly relieve them and are profitable to them, for this reason: that all those who die in the grace of God, and consequently counted among the saints, do not go to paradise at the very first moment, but many go to Purgatory, where they suffer a temporal punishment, from which our prayers and good works can help and serve to deliver them.” (The Catholic Controversy, 3, pages 353- 354)
We pray for our departed brothers and sisters. We pray that they may be at rest. We pray that they may be experiencing the fullness of peace. We pray that they may no longer want for anything. We pray that they may take their place at the eternal banquet of love, a place prepared for them by God before the beginning of time.
On this feast of All Souls, we pray for all the dead whom we have loved and lost.
But prayer is a conversation. Prayer is an experience of mutuality. Prayer is never a one-way street. Therefore, we not only pray for the dead: we also pray to them, for they are not merely “the dead” but are now counted among the saints.
We pray to them for their assistance and support. We pray to them for guidance and strength. We pray to them for patience and forbearance. We pray to them for reconciliation and healing. Someday, we may pray to them for the ability to simply put one foot in front of the other.
Here is a simple example of this subject. Francis de Sales had occasion to write a letter of encouragement to a married woman. In it he recommended: “I should like you to consider how many saints, both men and women, have lived in the married state like you, and that they all accepted this vocation readily and gladly: Sara, Rebecca, Anne, Monica, Paula and a host of others. Let that encourage you and ask them to pray for you.” (Stopp, Selected Letters, page 61)
So, we not only pray for the dead, we pray to the dead. We ask them to pray for us. Just as death no longer has power over them, so too we pray that the effects of sin and death will not have power over us during what remains of our journey on earth. We ask them to pray that when we likewise pass from this world to the next, we shall join them at that eternal banquet of love.