Commemoration of All Souls


By Fr. Chris Valka, CSB

As an early teenager, I took on my first real job at a cemetery near to my house. The funeral home was owned and operated by family friends who were also parishioners at the church. While I admit it was often strange going to a cemetery to visit friends, I often thought how even more strange it was for their two daughters who grew up living among the dead.

But then I began to work at the cemetery, I soon realized there was so much I noticed that most did not. There was a lot of care given to the grounds – and in time you started to become aware that it was not only a place for the dead, but also for the living.

As many of you are aware, the month of November is the month Catholics remember the dead, which begins with the celebration of All Saints on the 1st and All Souls on the 2nd. During this month, St. Basil’s places two Books of Remembrance in the church so that people may light a candle for the names listed in these books. In turn, the community prays for them in a particular way.

Just this past week, I was explain all of this to our RCIA candidates, and was quite appropriately asked, “but why do we pray for the dead?” The answer is two fold: one, because we believe that many of them are still struggling to receive the full grace of God that allows them to receive the gift of eternal life. After all, it is a tremendous gift – one many of us, I imagine, will feel unworthy of.

The second reason is that we believe they are not dead, but alive in a different state. It much like my time at the cemetery – once we begin to see the dead from a different perspective, we see how much life is there. One of the central ideas of our faith is that death is not the end, but part of a journey in which we are transformed. And so this month, we pray for the souls and saints we have known, that they may accept God’s grace, and in turn, pray for us.