"Big Four" Highlights


Soul Searching

All Souls Day reminds us that we are not made for this world only

By Ashley Kepper

November 2 is All Souls Day, when the Church commemorates the faithful departed. It is customary for us to offer prayers and alms for the benefit of souls in Purgatory. The Church, in her wisdom, celebrates All Souls one day after All Saints Day. We can hope that our relatives whom we pray for on November 2 will one day be attending the heavenly banquet with all of the saints, if they are not there already.

In praying for the deceased, we reflect on our own mortality and our relationship with Christ. An important part of our journey towards heaven is contemplating the very notion of death, which may be uncomfortable and unpleasant. In spite of Christ’s many promises describing the pure joy and ecstasy of heaven, many of us still fear the pain of death and what lies beyond this world. Even if we have faith, we can have unsettling questions.

Our culture loves happy endings. But today too many of us expect instant gratification – doing what feels good in the moment. We reject pain and suffering and look for quick fixes. We embrace happy thoughts and positive attitudes. We are comfort lovers. We celebrate youth. We love pretty.

Yet death is not pretty. It is not pleasant. And it is not comfortable to talk about. Our culture is in denial over the reality of death and its religious overtones. How do we teach our children about heaven without mentioning death? How do we tell about Jesus and the crucifix? We must always remember that without the Passion, there would be no Resurrection. Our mortality is neither to be ignored nor obsessed over; it must be reflected upon as we work out our salvation with “fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

My daughter has a little plush prayer angel that recites a recorded children’s nighttime prayer. I was disappointed to hear the doll say a different version of this prayer than the one I learned:

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Angels watch me through the night, and wake me with the morning light. Amen.”

Gone are the familiar words: “If I shall die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

The older version does not encourage fear. Paralleling our own lives, the prayer does not end with death, but with the joy and hope in eternal life.

It is important to teach our young children about death and eternity, and encourage them to make good choices out of love for God and desire to be with him in heaven. Parents are the primary educators of their children, which means that they have been entrusted with the care of and formation of their children’s consciences.

C.S. Lewis so eloquently stated, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” As parents, we can help our children understand that they were made for more than what this world has to offer. As they grow, we should encourage them to make good choices. One way to do this is for them to develop a habit of asking themselves two questions when making decisions:

Will this choice be pleasing to God? Will this choice get me closer to heaven? We must teach them that their choices have both earthly and eternal consequences, not to instill fear in their hearts, but love.

Throughout November, I encourage you to pray for the souls in Purgatory as a family. Our deceased relatives need our prayers and sacrifices. Talk openly about the souls in Purgatory with your children. Teach them to “Be Not Afraid.” In the end, there is glory.