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SAINT PHILOMENA MESSENGER September, 2011 A.D.
ISSUE NUMBER 55
WE MUST PRAY FOR THE DEAD!
Dear Friends of Saint Philomena,
One of the seven Spiritual Acts of Mercy is : “To pray for the living and the dead”. We are bound by charity to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory to speed them on their way to Heaven, for they cannot help themselves.
PROBLEMS WITH PRAYER FOR THE DEAD IN THE MODERN CHURCH
Very sadly in the Modern Church today the Holy Souls receive very little assistance. There are several reasons for this:
- The main one is the widespread heresy of Universal Salvation, which teaches that because God is “nice” He sends no one to Hell or Purgatory. Everyone goes to Heaven after death. Therefore, prayer for the dead is obsolete.
- This leads to the replacement of the Requiem Mass with the “Resurrection Mass”, in white vestments, with joyous songs, celebrating Aunt Maud’s entrance into Heaven.
- The decline in individual Masses. Most priests in the Modern Church no longer say Mass every day, thus reducing the number of Masses for the dead.
FUNNY, BUT SADLY TRUE
A true illustration of the above problem is an experience I had some 15 years ago.
An elderly gentleman died to whom I had been taking Holy Communion. His desire was for a traditional Latin Requiem Mass, but the family objected, all being “Novus Ordo”. However, they asked me to do the burial. I said the Mass for him without family participation. On arriving at the church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables (A strikingly beautiful building, almost untouched by the “changes”) I sat at the back and waited for the modern Mass to begin after which the burial was to follow. A jolly red-faced Irish priest came out of the sacristy and with great kindness asked me if I would like to “concelebrate”. I politely declined, astonished at his warmth towards me sitting there in my cassock.
The “Mass” began. Father O’…… came out dressed in white and began a service that I found unrecognizable. The sermon could be summed up as follows: We thank God that our brother X is now with the Saints in Heaven. Death is a tragedy. It is better not to think about it. Let us pray for each other for the strength to get over our loss.
Some family members later expressed to me their confusion at his words and the lack of prayer for the deceased.
The story does not end there. I was informed that our friend was to buried at Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery. I assumed this was an half of an hour’s drive to the one in Miami. In fact it entailed a four hour round trip drive to a cemetery far north of the one I thought we were going to. No wonder Fr. O’…. was so nice to me, he probably enjoyed a great afternoon on the golf course!
NOVEMBER: MONTH OF THE HOLY SOULS
These are ways we may go out of our way in charity to help the Holy Souls this month:
- Priests are allowed to say three Masses on All Souls’ Day. All good priests will ensure to do this. The laity might attend one or more of these Masses.
- A Plenary Indulgence applicable to the Souls in Purgatory may be gained by the faithful who visit a church on All Souls’ Day. One must say one Our Father and the Creed.
- A Plenary Indulgence applicable to the Holy Souls may be gained by visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed. One may gain the indulgence once a day from the 1st. to the 8th. of November.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO THE MONTH OF THE HOLY SOULS
We must rember that the Jews of old prayed for the dead.
The Second Century B.C. Second Book of Maccabees has the following to say:
(Referring to Judas Maccabeus) “For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he were looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin” (2Macc. 12: 44-45)
It is unquestionable that Our Lord Jesus Christ, during His time on earth prayed daily for the dead as do devout Jews today.
From the earliest times of Christianity it was missionary practice to Christianise whatever was good in Paganism. The peoples of old saw what appeared to be the world around them dying in autumn, so their thoughts naturally ran to human death. They made prayer and sacrifice for their departed loved ones at this time of the year. Thus the autumnal month of November became the time of the year par-excellence when the Church prayed for the dead.
On All Souls’ Day the Roman Martryology begins with these beautiful words: “Today we keep the commemoration of all the departed faithful. Today Holy Church, their common Mother, after having with due praise celebrated all those her children who now rejoice in heaven, at once zealously sets about helping by her powerful intercession with Christ, her Lord and Spouse, all those who are suffering in Purgatory, that with all speed they may be able to reach the company of the citizens of heaven.”
It was Abbot Odilo of Cluny (+ 1048) who in 988 introduced a day of special liturgical prayer for those who died in a state of grace. Eventually the custom was adopted by the whole Latin Church.
We hear these re-assuring and beautiful words in the Preface of the Requiem Mass (It is called “Requiem Mass” from the first word of the introit which means “rest”):
“In (Christ) the hope of a blessed resurrection has shone forth unto us; so that those who are saddened by the certainty of dying, may be consoled by the promise of a future deathless life. For to Your faithful people life is changed, not taken away: and when the home of this earthly sojourn is dissolved, an eternal dwelling place is being prepared in the heavens.”
Let us be sure to go out of our way in charity to pray for the Holy Souls this month of November!
THE MONTH OF THE HOLY SOULS AT SAINT PHILOMENA
A Novena of Masses for the Dead will be celebrated from the 1st. to the 9th. of November. To participate in these Masses, please use the envelope provided in this Newsletter and return it before the commencement of the Novena. Envelopes will remain on the altar for the rest of the month.
Wishing you every blessing through the powerful intercession of Saint Philomena!
The Reverend Father Timothy A. Hopkins, Administrator of the Shrine.