On Wednesday last week the College Chapel at St. Dominic in Glenorchy Tasmania was open all day. Teachers and students were encouraged to pay a visit, to light a candle in honour of a loved one who has died and pray in silence and thanksgiving for them.
The Catholic Church stands apart from some other Christian traditions with its belief in two sources of revelation, the scriptures and a sacred tradition. Anything contrary to the scriptures could not become part of the living tradition, but our Catholic heritage includes doctrine and practice not found explicitly in the sacred word. Praying for the holy souls is a case in point. The Assumption of Mary, body and soul in heaven would be another.
The month of November is often assigned as a special time to pray for our deceased loved ones. On 2 November each year the great monasteries in France and Italy in the Middle Ages would set aside this day to pray for monks who had died. Earlier, St Monica on her deathbed instructed her son Augustine to bury her where he will, but to remember her at the altar.
The Vatican Council (1962-65) expressed the old truths in a new way. The Council taught that ‘some of the disciples are pilgrims on earth, while others have died and are being purified… and still others are glorified… we all in various ways share in the love of God and neighbour, and we all sing the same hymn to the glory of God.’ Others have died and are being purified. We believe our prayers, Masses, works of mercy and fasting done on behalf of the deceased person assists that one on being able to see God face to face. What a noble thing to do then to offer prayers, Masses and sacrifices for our loved ones.
It was great to see so many in our Dominic Community take the opportunity to pop into the Chapel during the day. An ancient prayer of the Church invoked on behalf of the dead goes:
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.
Fr Peter Rankin SDB, Rector