All Souls Day: Honoring Our Loved Ones Who Have Gone Before Us

'Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them — but also of making their intercession for us effective'

The virtue of Christian hope reminds us that it does not all end here.

That mysterious journey into the next phase of our existence, along with the painful separation and radical detachment from those we love the most, make up the most dramatic aspects of our lives here on Earth.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins’ she offers her suffrages for them. Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them but also of making their intercession for us effective.”

Related: ‘Do You Believe in Ghosts?’ A Catholic Priest Responds

The feast of All Soul’s Day, November 2, is a day to remember and pray for our loved ones who have left this world.

From November 1-8, a plenary indulgence is available for Catholics in a state of grace who visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the dead. This indulgence can only be applied to the souls in Purgatory. On other days, the indulgence is partial.

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In addition to praying in the cemetery, the conditions for a plenary indulgence are: (a) to receive Communion once for each intended indulgence; (b) go to Confession — a single Confession will suffice for all; and (c) pray at least one Our Father and one Hail Mary for the pope’s intentions.

What a beautiful gift to offer to souls in Purgatory, which in turn will make their “intercession for us more effective.”

As my 92-year-old mother was dying last April, my 25-year-old niece called me on my cellphone. She said, “I just want to let you know that I was praying for your mom in her room as she was sleeping, and I saw an image of your deceased dad in the room. He looked older, but I am sure it was your dad. He walked over to your mom’s bed and told her, ‘Germaine, our kids have taken really good care of you — now I have come to take good care of you. Let me know when you are ready to go.'”

So simple, so powerful — and knowing my dad, this fits perfectly.

Our family has a 30-year tradition of going to Oscoda, Michigan, for summer vacation. My mom loved this place and she considered it heaven on earth — with the beautiful sunrises, the pristine beach, the wonderful weather in mid-August.

My mom would often walk the beach by herself or with my brother and me these past few years. So last summer, as I looked out to Lake Huron from our beach, the memory of my mom hit hard and it was a tough moment.

The goal is to all be reunited in heaven, forever, with God.

Then, a quiet message popped into my heart and I heard my mom say, “I know this is really hard for you and the family. But trust me, it is much better that I am up here now. I can do so much more for you and the family from up here than I can down there. Trust me, Michael!”

We are all pilgrims and our eternal home is heaven. Let’s pray for those whom God has placed in our lives and who have gone before us — and let’s not forget that they are waiting, rooting and praying for us as well.

The goal is to all be reunited in heaven, forever, with God.

Fr. Michael Sliney is a Catholic priest based in the New York City area and an adviser to the Lumen Institute, a professional business group.

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