All Souls Day
All Souls Day
November 2, 2019
Before I was ordained a priest, I served my internship as a deacon at St. Bernard Parish in Madison; Bishop George Wirz was the pastor of the parish at that time. Every afternoon about 4:00 or so you’d find him in the church, pacing the aisles up and down, back of the church to the front, over and over, praying the rosary. He told me once that he was praying for a “happy death.” I was 25 then; I had no idea what he was talking about. I do now. To die a happy death is to die within the cradle of God’s grace, within the loving arms of family and friends and fully at peace with God and with everyone else.
But not all deaths are happy. Most leave behind a deep and lasting grief with their family and friends. Some lives end with unspoken reconciliations, broken relationships that never found a way to heal. Some deaths never offer the opportunity to say what needs to be said; tragedy and accidents and suicides take that opportunity away. Some deaths end with love that was assumed but never spoken, or at least not often enough. “If only there was another chance!”
One of our wonderful, although often under-appreciated teachings of our Christian faith, is that when our earthly body is no longer alive, we still are. Those who have died still live, now in a glorified body as they await the fullness of the resurrection. To believe that is to believe that we can still tend to our unfinished business with them; more than that, it means that they can tend to their unfinished business with us, as well. Simply put, we can still talk to those who have died and we can, even now, say the words of love, forgiveness, gratitude and regret that we would have wanted to tell them before they died. In a real way, we still hold their hands and they hold ours.
In this great Feast in our Church, All Souls’ Day, we call off the names of those of our parishes who have died in this past year - and we remember in our hearts so many other family and friends who have died. But we more than simply remembering them, we tell them, again or for the first time, that we love them. We pray for them so that now, or as eternity unfolds for them, they share the fullest of life with all the saints. We pray that one day we will join them in Kingdom where all that remains is love. That would be a happy death.