Flowers are seen on a statue of an angel during the feast of All Souls at a graveyard in Mumbai, India, Nov. 2, 2021. (CNS photo/Francis Mascarenhas, Reuters)
Flowers are seen on a statue of an angel during the feast of All Souls at a graveyard in Mumbai, India, Nov. 2, 2021. (CNS photo/Francis Mascarenhas, Reuters)

Throughout the month of November, the Church encourages us to pray more fervently for those who have died, for the souls in purgatory. These souls can do nothing for themselves to hasten their entry into heaven. Their time for transformation and doing meritorious works on earth is over. This is why it is crucial that we help these souls by our prayers, fasting and almsgiving, and by offering up the sufferings in our daily lives for them. We can join in the mission of the Church on earth of helping save souls by our concerted efforts for them this month.

The month of November begins with the wonderful feast of All Saints. On this day, we commemorate the lives of all those who have lived deeply and fully the Christian life here on earth and who now enjoy the glory of heaven. There must be countless people in heaven! What a joy to think about that! Each has his or her own story. Each faced challenges and sorrows in their lives yet their faith remained strong. Each held on to the Lord and his promises to the end. Just imagine what it’s like for them now — being so close to the Lord and no longer worrying about the insecurities of this life. Our hearts should be encouraged when we think about their joy and about joining them there one day.

I like All Saints Day because it’s not only a feast of the canonized saints but also a day to celebrate the unknown or un-canonized saints, many of whom we’ve known and loved in our own lives. How many of us have had wonderfully-holy relatives, teachers, priests, friends and coworkers who are now experiencing the glory of heaven! Since I’ve been a priest, I’ve come to know scores of people who have stunned and impressed me by their goodness, their integrity and their love for Jesus and Mary. They, too, are celebrated on the feast of All Saints. They may never be officially declared saints here on earth but they now share the same joys as their more well-known companions — such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Pope John Paul II among myriads others. All saints have Nov. 1 as their common feast day!

The entire month of November is a sober reminder about what we call “the last things” — heaven, hell, purgatory and judgment. These are scary topics, I admit, but they are cold realities of life. A religion built on fear of mentioning them is a religion of cowardice or delusion. Thank God, our Catholic faith talks about them head-on throughout the year and especially in November. November reminds us that the choices we make in this life have eternal consequences, that we are in a daily struggle with forces of darkness and that, with God’s grace, we can avoid hell and find eternal joy in heaven where God has prepared a place for us. Thankfully, many, many people like us have succeeded in choosing good and winning their seat in paradise. The month of November reminds us — we still have a way to go and “to keep on keeping-on” — to continue to do good, to love the Lord and to love our neighbor. And when we do that, we have little to fear. When we do, glory waits for us.

When I was a kid in Catholic grammar school, the nuns used to let us leave class and help serve funeral Masses in our parish church. I still remember our old monsignor saying this prayer at the end of service. For some reason I’ve never forgotten this prayer and I’m glad I never did. It has been a help to keep me on the straight and narrow:

“God our Father, before Whom we are all to appear after this short life to render an account of our works, let our hearts, we pray, be deeply moved at this sight of death. And while we consign the body of our deceased to the earth, let us be mindful of our own frailty and mortality, that walking always in Thy ways and in the ways of Thy commandments, we may, after our departure from this earth, experience a merciful judgment — through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Father Morrette is pastor at The Catholic Community of Our Lady of Victory in Troy, Mission Our Lady of the Snow in Grafton, and Christ Son of Justice Parish in Troy.