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Remembering the Dead -

Don't make them remind us

by Lori Hadacek

It's on Halloween, more than any other day, that children listen wide-eyed to scary tales of ghosts haunting dusty, abandoned houses. These stories, not soon forgotten by young ears, have kept frightened children (and their mothers!) awake for generations.

On one such Hallowe'en, I knelt by my little girl's bed assuring and repeating that ghosts were not "going to get her". Brushing wisps of blond curls from my five-year-old daughter's forehead, I told Ella the real reason ghost are moaning and pestering mortals - they want our prayers.

We are often so busy living our lives we forget the souls in Purgatory count on us to pray for them. They rely on us for the Masses said on their behalf. Besides the rattling chains of secular Hallowe'en and Dicken's Christmas Carol, we have an excellent reminder written right on our calendars. The feasts of All Saints and All Souls urges us to remember the dearly departed.

These two feast days (on November 1 and November 2 respectively ) remind us that the Church does not just include the living. The saints in heaven and the suffering souls in purgatory are also part of the mystical Body that is the Church with Christ as its head.

The Last Judgement

These three states (living, in purgatory and the saints) form a ladder to God called the Communion of Saints. On the first rung of the ladder is the living, the Church Militant on earth. On the second rung are the Church Suffering in purgatory. The third rung is Church Triumphant in heaven. We are all one mystical body in Christ. So it is fitting that we care for and remember one another.

There are so many saints and martyrs that it's impossible to give each of them a feast day.

The Church has set aside November 1 as a feast commemorating all the saints. On All Saints Day, we venerate all the saints in heaven, the Church Triumphant who intercede and pray for us and for the souls still in purgatory.

These saints are tangible reminders of hope. They are the pilgrims who have reached their destination - heaven. Not only are these holy men and women our examples, they are also our intercessors, doing all they can to bring us to our heavenly home.

On All Souls Day, November 2, we pay special tribute to the Church Suffering, the souls in purgatory. We should remember and pray daily for our deceased friends and relatives because we cannot be assured of the state of their souls. Even if a soul dies in a state of grace, there are often imperfections that need to be purified in order for that soul to enter heaven. The suffering souls are dependent on us, the Church Militant, who have the means to relieving their misery. We alone can offer masses, and practice almsgiving and mortifications for the saving of their souls. Prayers, too, can ease their suffering and to shorten their time spent in purgatory. No prayer or good deed is wasted if your loved one is no longer in purgatory, either. Your prayers will help another needy soul.

So what about the tales of ghost scaring little children? Throughout the history of mankind, every culture has told tales of apparitions of the dead. Even Doctors of the Church like St. Augustine believed that God in His mercy occasionally allows suffering souls to return to the corporeal world to seek our charity. And give us a startling reminder of God's judgment. Let us remember and honor the dead with prayers and Masses.

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