COMMEMORATION OF ALL THE FAITHFUL
DEPARTED (ALL SOULS' DAY) - YEAR A
A man died and went to the pearly gates. St Peter
met him there. ‘Before you meet with God,’ St Peter
said, ‘I thought I should tell you that we've looked at your
life, and you really didn't do anything particularly good or bad.
We're not at all sure what to do with you. Can you tell us anything
you did that can help us make a decision?’
The newly arrived soul thought for a moment and replied, ‘Yeah,
once I was driving along and came upon a woman who was being harassed
by a group of bikies. So I pulled over, got out my wheel brace,
and went up to the leader of the bikies. He was a big, muscular,
hairy guy with tattoos all over his body and a ring pierced through
his nose. Well, I tore the nose ring out of his nose, and told him
he and his gang had better stop bothering the woman or they would
have to deal with me!’ ‘I'm very impressed’, St
Peter responded, ‘When did this happen?’ ‘About
two minutes ago!’
All Souls Day has it roots in the sixth century Benedictine tradition
of praying to the dead. It was a way of recognising the human bonds
which go beyond death. By the tenth century this feast was about
praying for the dead, that they might know the merciful love of
It is appropriate today for us to think about what a soul is. In
an increasingly secular society it's interesting to note that the
word ‘soul’ persists in ordinary conversation. Many
non-religious people use this most religious of terms to describe
another person. We often hear how others are lonely, distressed,
or lost souls. It can be said that someone has a ‘beautiful
soul’ or that a piece of music, a painting or other work of
art ‘stirred my soul’. We describe mellow jazz as ‘soulful’
and still alert others to distress by an SOS, ‘save our souls’.
These uses of the word reinforce St Thomas Aquinas' teaching that
the soul makes us human, and sets us apart from other animals.
Nearly all the great religions of the world believe in a soul, or
its equivalent – something that survives the annihilation
of the body in death. I have come to the opinion that whatever else
might characterise the soul, memory is an integral part of it.
I have done several funerals of people who have suffered from Alzheimer's
disease. These are rarely very sad occasions because the family
invariably says that they ‘lost’ their loved one months
or years before. Why? Because increasingly their loved one couldn't
remember anyone or anything. We hold to caring for the body from
the womb to the tomb, because we believe that human dignity must
always be respected. There are now theories about how even the memories
of the circumstances of our conception and birth have a bearing
on the way we live our lives. It is also apparent that even when
people seem to have lost their memory, or are unconscious, that
there is some recognition of some things at a very deep level.
Soul as memory means that when I meet God face to face, I will remember
who I am and how I lived, and God will remember me. It's also a
comfort for us to think that we will be reunited with those we have
loved who have died before us, because we remember each other.
And what is best about a ‘remembering soul’ is that
it is purified. In the old catechism we used to say that heaven
was the place where we are perfectly happy with God for eternity.
If we think of purgatory as a stage rather than a place, then it's
possible to reclaim it as a moment when we see the fullness of God's
sacrificial love for us, and recall our sometimes destructive behaviour
toward ourselves, others and the world. Purgatory can be a moment
where our memory is purified so we can be eternally happy with God
So let's remember at this Eucharist all those ‘departed souls’
we have known and loved over the years, that they might pray for
us that we never forget God's saving love and live lives worthy
READINGS THIS WEEK
The Lord God will destroy death forever.
Having been justified by his blood, we will be saved from God's
anger through him.
You have hidden these things from the learned amd the clever and
revealed them to children.
the people of St Francis Xavier - St Clare parish, seek to live
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through worship, outreach, service, justice & hospitality.
our Vision Statement
Next meeting: 6 November 2014
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