Ní imithe uainn atá siad, ach imithe romhainn.
They are not gone from us, but gone before us.
Belief in the resurrection of the dead is an essential part of Christian revelation. It implies a particular understanding of the ineluctable mystery of death. Death is the end of our earthly life, but ‘not of our existence’ (St Ambrose) since the soul is immortal. ‘Our lives are measured by time, in the course of which we change, grow old and, as with all living beings on earth, death seems like the normal end of life’ (CCC, 1007). Seen from the perspective of the faith, ‘death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny’ (CCC, 1013).
Death is the passage to the fullness of true life. Death is the prolongation, in a new way, of life as the liturgy says: ‘For your faithful, O Lord, life has changed not ended; while our earthly dwelling is destroyed, a new and eternal dwelling is prepared for us in Heaven’ (Missal, Preface). The death of a Christian is an event of grace, having as it does, a positive value and significance in Christ and through Christ. According to the faith of the Church, ‘to die in Christ’ begins at baptism. In Baptism, the Lord’s disciples sacramentally die in Christ so as to live a new life.
From the earliest days of the Christian religion the Church has honoured with great respect the memory of the dead. The whole month of November is an interesting time of prayer in the Church as it is filled with many important feast days and it includes the days on which we commemorate all the saints and all the faithful departed.
1 November – All Saints Day
All Saints’ Day, also known as the Feast or Solemnity of All Saints, is celebrated every year on 1 November. On this day, which is a Holy Day of Obligation, we honour all of the Saints and ask them to pray for us.
2 November – All Souls’ Day
All Souls’ Day or more formally ‘the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed’ is a solemn celebration commemorating all of those who have died and is observed on 2 November.
‘Indeed, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honoured 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” (2 Mac 12, 46) she offers her suffrages for them. These consist, primarily, in the celebration of the holy sacrifice of the Eucharist, mercy, and the application of indulgences to the souls of the faithful departed’ (Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 251).
Parishes and the month of November
November is a time for remembering and praying for our loved ones who have gone before us and whose loss we feel. It is a time when we are particularly conscious of those in our parishes who are grieving and all those families who have lost loved ones in the past year.
We mark this time of year in our parishes with events like the blessing of the graves, the celebration of remembrance services as well as commemorating All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day.
Many parishes will create a sacred space within the church. This is usually a suitable place in the sanctuary area which will be left in place for the whole month of November.
Some ideas for the sacred space might include:
- A Remembrance Tree
- A Book of Remembrance
- A Remembrance Candle
The use of Autumn leaves in the sacred space can be effective as they reflect the sense of dying and letting go.
Leave some reflections at the back of the church where people can read them in the church or take them home for their own use during the month of November.
Prayers for the month of November
Prayers of Intercession
On this feast of All Saints,
we pray that the Church may be blessed
by the example of goodness and holiness in its members,
from the most hidden to the most prominent.
Lord, hear us
The saints celebrate the victory of Christ
over everything that oppresses God’s children.
May our communities be places where believers work confidently
for that victory.
Lord, hear us
We pray for those who are in mourning.
May they find real hope in the conviction
that God is the God of the living,
and that to him all people are alive.
Lord, hear us
May our faithful department
find a merciful judge and cleansing of their sins.
Lord, hear us
We pray for all young people in the parish who have died. We remember especially those who have died suddenly, those who have died in tragedy. May the Lord bring them to a place of light, peace and healing.
Lord, hear us.
We pray for places in our world where people face death on a daily basis because of violence, hunger, war, or disease. We pray for an end to violence and injustice in our world and that God may turn our hearts in compassion towards those in need.
Lord, hear us.
For all the faithful departed,
especially those who suffered during their life
on account of their faith and their integrity.
May their courage be rewarded
and may they intercede for us from heaven.
Lord, hear us
For those who have died.
May they hear the Lord inviting them
to enter into the joy of their Master.
Lord, hear us
Prayers & Reflections for November
whose days are without end and whose mercies beyond counting,
keep us mindful that life is short and the hour of death unknown.
Let your Spirit guide our days on earth in the ways of holiness and justice,
that we may serve you in union with the whole Church,
sure in faith, strong in hope, perfect in love.
And when our earthly journey is ended,
lead us rejoicing into your kingdom,
where you live forever and ever.
(Order of Christian Funerals, 332)
A Prayer of Remembrance
God, thank you for the special people in our lives whom we are remembering in a special way during the month of November. We thank you for being a compassionate God who walks with us
in the our dark moments of grief and loneliness. We are thankful for all who continue to love and
support us through our grief. Lord, continue to be a light for us, giving us hope, direction and
courage. May we now live our lives treasuring the memories of those special people we have known
and loved and help us to bring light and hope to others. We make this prayer through Christ our
Prayer for the Dead
Into your hands, O Lord,
We humbly entrust our brothers and sisters.
In this life you embraced them with your tender love;
deliver them now from every evil
and bid them enter eternal rest.
The old order has passed away:
welcome them into paradise,
where there will be no sorrow,
no weeping nor pain,
but fullness of peace and joy
with your Son and the Holy Spirit
forever and ever.
Prayer for a Father who has died
I thank you God for my father. He was
my inspiration, my strength, my teacher
and I loved him dearly.
Grant him peace and happiness
in your kingdom.
Prayer for a Mother who has died
I commit my mother to your care, O Lord.
She was my inspiration, my carer, a dear friend,
and a constant source of live and affection.
Grant to her Lord, eternal rest.
A Blessing Prayer for Graves
Let us pray:
God of Abraham and God of Moses, Lord of the living, who visited Jesus within his grave And filled him with the fullness of eternal life, Hear our prayers this day as we come to this cemetery, this holy place of burial. With reverence, we visit here where the sacred bodies of our loved ones have been placed in the womb of the earth to await the final day of glory. We pause in silence to be united with our loved one.
Lord, we have come on this pilgrimage of prayer in order to keep the flame of love alive in our hearts. As we bless these graves with our prayers and with holy water and incense, we give thanks that the names of these loved ones buried here have been written for all ages in the palm of your hand. May the breath of creation that surrounds these holy graves – the trees, the grass, the birds, the wind, and the sun – join us today in prayer. May this pilgrimage remind us of what our faith teaches us – that our souls do not die, but rather are transformed into new life through Christ. Holy are these resting places. Holy is this earth that has held in gentle embrace the bodies of all who are buried in this cemetery.
Lord, with reverence, we leave our prayers and our love at these graves, and we remember in faith the reality of that earthen Easter morning when all the holy dead shall rise in the splendour of your glory. Until that day, eternal rest be to those whose graves we visit today, and to all the holy dead. We place this prayer before you through Christ our Lord.
Pope Francis on remembrance of the dead
“The remembrance of the dead, the care for graves and prayers of repose are a witness of the confident hope, rooted in the certainty that death is not the final word on the human fate, since man is destined to a life without limits which has its roots and its fulfillment in God.”