On Sunday after the morning Mass I visited the four local cemeteries. A large number of parishioners and friends joined me at each cemetery to pray for those who had died.
As I blessed each grave, accompanied by the friends and/or family of the deceased person, I had a sense of the grief and loss that remains in each family even after many years.
Some of those we prayed for had lived long lives. Others had died as children, teenagers and young adults. Still others were young parents with children still at home.
A cemetery is a place of reality. Surrounded by headstones and silence it is impossible to avoid the most painful realities of life. Loss, suffering, death and grief, are inescapable realities of human existence.
In these November weeks we remember those who have died. This month of Holy Souls is embraced by feasts of great hope. On November 1 we celebrate All Saints: our real and eternal home exists beyond earthly struggles. This reality transcends human pleasures. Later in November the Church year concludes with the triumph of Christ the King. Then the month ends with the new beginning of Advent.
While the Church constantly calls us to live in reality, the Church never lets us sit in pain, without providing hope.
In the memories of loss and grief, and the pain of separations, today’s first reading of the Mass of Holy Souls gives renewed hope:
The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.