By Barb Arland-Fye
Crimson, orange and yellow leaves adorn our autumn trees, a splendid scene that seems to last just for a moment. I can’t help but think of the fleeting nature of all God’s creation, most especially at this time of year.
On Nov. 1 we celebrate All Saints Day, a holy day of obligation. Our parish will celebrate Mass on the feast day. The following evening we will remember our loved ones who have died, the people we commemorate on All Souls Day, which is not a holy day of obligation.
The Catholic Church teaches that after death, a person’s soul “goes to meet the judgment of God and awaits its reunion with the body when it will rise transformed at the time of the return to the Lord.” (Compendium: Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 204).
We offer prayers for all souls so that upon their purification they may attain the beatific vision of God. Our faith teaches us to believe they will be reunited with God; our prayers remind us of that belief.
All Souls Day provides me with a “living” sense of faith. At least some of the souls we pray for are people who lived during my lifetime and made an impact on me.
I’m thinking of Uncle Bill, who died the same day I gave birth to my younger son, Patrick on Nov. 12. Bill’s face bore a warm smile that matched his demeanor. Years before his death he suffered a stroke when his four kids were still young. My brother, Tim, Bill’s godson, received a card on his first Communion that Bill painstakingly signed as he strived to overcome paralysis.
This past August, during a family reunion, a man entered the room wearing the same warm smile as Uncle Bill. I hadn’t seen my cousin Mike since childhood, but I recognized him in an instant because of his resemblance to his dad. His personality matched, too.
Other loved ones, friends and acquaintances come to mind. My husband Steve’s parents died the same year they celebrated their 80th birthdays — four years apart. They dealt with serious obstacles in life but the good within them manifests itself in their children, including the man I married.
Thoughts of grandparents resurface. Grandma Irene set an example of grace, faith and love that I pray to cultivate. Her husband, Ray, died when my dad, also named Ray, was a small boy. I spent years wondering about “Grandpa Ray,” who didn’t live to experience grandparenthood as my father has.
The list of souls grows long … relatives, friends, colleagues, priests, women religious, and someone I never met: Spencer. His death in an accident led me to interview his widow, Marcia, who became a close friend and remains so to this day.
The first reading for All Souls Day, from the Book of Wisdom, includes this verse: “Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones” (Wisdom 3:9). The Gospel reading from John includes this verse: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day” (John 6:40).
I pray daily for the souls of all who have died and for their loved ones who remain here on earth. I hope the readings for All Souls Day provide solace along with warm memories of the smiling faces of dearly missed loved ones during these fleeting days of autumn.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)