November: Ways of Remembering the Dead
November is The Month of Holy Souls in the Catholic Church. I’ve always loved this time of year. Living in the UK means this is the time of year that the clocks go back and the afternoons grow dark; the temperature drops as we approach the season of Advent and people start to dust-off heavy winter coats and chunky knits; and hot-chocolate seems like less of a luxury and more of an absolute necessity.
The month begins, aptly of course, with the celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day when we remember and pray for all the holy souls and faithful departed that have gone before us.
For my part, I remember my lovely Dad whom I seem to miss more and more each day. For me, November is a beautifully bitter-sweet month when I have permission to mourn him that little bit more.
5 WAYS OF REMEMBERING THE DEAD THIS MONTH:
1. Pray – the Catholic Church has many wonderful prayers to offer up for the souls of saints, strangers and loved-ones alike and it is the kindest thing you can do for a lost loved-one. I have included a selection of my favourite below, but a quick internet search will easily bring-up many more for you to try. On one of these chilly, dark afternoons, why not light a candle at home or in church and say a prayer for a departed soul?
2. Have a Mass said – contact your local parish office to request an offering for the repose of the soul of your loved-one. Be aware that, if you want a specific date, you may have to make arrangements several weeks in advance – but don’t let this put you off if you’ve left it too late. Simply making the arrangements in the month of November is a good way of remembering the dead.
3. Make a ‘shrine’ for a loved-one – I have always been fascinated by the Mexican Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) traditions which include building altares, little altars dedicated to a deceased relative to which offrendas or ‘offerings’ are made in the form of candles, flowers and personal possessions. Why not set aside a special place for a photograph of a deceased loved-one, place a candle and some flowers and take the time to light it each evening and remember that person?
4. Visit the cemetery – wrap-up and visit the graveside of a loved-one. Tidy it up and lay some flowers or a wreath; say some prayers and take-in the solemnity of the place. If you have the time, have a wander around the cemetery, reading the inscriptions on other headstones – there is unity and comfort in sharing grief. Try saying The Prayer of St Gertrude the Great before you leave (see below).
5. Cook a family meal – my father loved food and always celebrated special occasions with what he called ‘big eats’. If, like me, you miss sharing birthdays and Christmasses with your loved-one, why not cook a big meal and invite close family and friends to join you in remembering them? Begin or end the meal with prayers of remembrance.
3 POWERFUL PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD:
1. The Prayer of Eternal Rest – recited after the death of a loved one.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
And let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.
2. The Prayer of St. Gertrude the Great – for souls in purgatory. St. Gertrude the Great was a Benedictine nun and mystic who lived in the 13th century. According to tradition, our Lord promised her that 1000 souls would be released from purgatory each time it is said devoutly.
Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.
3. The Heroic Act of Charity – a particularly powerful prayer as it calls on the Blessed Virgin Mary to intercede.
Heavenly Father, in union with the merits of Jesus and Mary, I offer to You for the sake of the poor souls all the satisfactory value of my works during life, as well as all that will be done for me after death. I give You my all through the hands of the Immaculate Virgin Mary that she may set free whatever souls she pleases, according to her heavenly wisdom and mother's love for them. Receive this offering, O God, and grant me in return an increase of Your grace. Amen. �K