I saw my grandmother today – in the mirror! I was shocked at how I looked so much like her. She had very long hair and always wore it up in a bun with a comb on either side to make sure it stayed in place. A Saturday morning of cleaning out the basement necessitated putting up my hair so it didn’t get in the way of sorting many things accumulated and needed to be discarded.
Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror temporarily jarred me out of my mission. It has been several decades since my grandmother died and I haven’t thought much about her. While my hands got back to working, my mind became busy with memories of her and many loved ones who have died. Lord, have mercy on their souls.
4 Last Things
November is the month of praying for the the souls in purgatory. The month of November is at the end of the liturgical calendar of the Church in which the Church directs our attention to the 4 last things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell. The Feast of All Saints and All Soul’s Day at the beginning of November give us opportunities to remember holy men and women and to pray for the souls of our “faithful departed.”
The Church has clear teachings on the saints and also of souls in purgatory and it is worthwhile to educate ourselves on these teachings so that we may participate in the prayers of the Church on earth (the Church Militant), asking the intercession of the saints in Heaven (the Church Triumphant) and interceding for the souls in purgatory (the Church Suffering). Together with them, we are brothers and sisters in the one family of God.
Because my mother was widowed at a young age, praying for my father and relatives who have died was always included in our family prayers. I learned about relatives I never met as she included a litany of family members in the intercession. When we asked her about them, we not only had a picture of them as persons but we learned of their struggles and trials and choices. As children, we could appreciate that their lives and choices had real impact on our own lives. Our lives now is drinking from the same river of life that they drank from. We pray for them out of love and gratitude.
Teach our Children
As we make it a point to include praying for the souls of our departed loved ones, we also teach our children to do this as part of their prayer life because our children are members of the Church who prays for our brothers and sisters in purgatory. These may be ways to pray for the souls of our loved ones:
1. Include this traditional prayer after meals: “We give You thanks, Almighty God, for all Your benefits, and for the poor souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, may they rest in peace. Amen.”
2. Let driving by a cemetery be a reminder to pray for loved ones who have died and also for all those buried in that cemetery. Ask children to join in this prayer.
3. Remember to pray for loved ones on their death anniversaries. Offering a Mass for them is a tradition that we should continue and teach our children.
4. Offer and teach children to offer little sufferings and sacrifices for the souls in purgatory.
5. Learn about and understand indulgences and teach older children about them.
My grandmother had golden hoop earrings that she wore permanently and I remember them because she always had her hair up. I just bought myself a pair of golden hoop earrings. I do not wear them permanently but they remind me of persons who lived before me, generations of them, who cooperated with God and participated in relationships that transmitted life to me and have transmitted to our children. Some of them probably lived as saints, most as sinners like me, so I pray for them and teach our children to pray for them. It is an act of love and gratitude as well as a spiritual work of mercy.