This morning I read names at the Mass of Remembrance. Our parish celebrates the lives of those that have died each year on the first Saturday in November. I’ve done this a few times and it’s a beautiful ceremony and I believe it’s especially healing for those that have recently lost loved ones. Of course the physical challenge is pronouncing the names correctly – particularly the Polish, Italian and Chinese names. I always ask the Holy Spirit to help with that and I suppose even if I butcher a name or two it won’t be the first time that these families have had to endure some clod that can’t pronounce ‘Um Sung Huan’ (somehow that makes me feel better – my apologies to the Sung Huan family, oh and to the Szcgielski family, too).
But my ability (or inability) to pronounce names doesn’t diminish the significance of this day. As Catholic Christians we believe in life after death. Further we believe in some type of purgation of our souls. We believe some folks go straight to heaven; others may exist in a state of being somewhere between life on earth and eternal life with Christ. It’s a sticking point with my Protestant friends but it is Scripturally founded.
If he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been foolish to pray for the dead. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in Godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin. 2 Maccabees 12:44-46
I’m not trying to convert anyone here; just trying to explain my own faith tradition. But my traditions are beside the point. What I experienced this morning was joy through sorrow. Which is exactly what Jesus offers us each day. And it’s only in our darkness that we can truly find the light. This morning as I read each name I felt honored to speak the name of a loved one; someone who was being lifted up in prayer or more likely being asked to pray for the loved ones remaining here on Earth. Afterall, my personal saints are in all heaven (Aunt Noel, Aunt Minnie, Mimi, Grandpa Tony, Aunt Sha, Uncle Ted, and countless others). Who better to ask prayers of than those who are experiencing the eternal light of God.
Not long ago my granddaughter Charlise told me, “Pawpaw someday you’re going to die.” I have to admit that I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that truth. I think I told her that I would like to be very old when that happens but I assured her that I would be in heaven ALWAYS smiling down on her.
Today I was reminded (again) that I may need her help getting there.