I recently read a story that I’d like to share with you as we offer this Mass for the souls of all the confreres, relatives and benefactors:
An Illinois man left the snow-filled streets of Chicago for a vacation in Florida. His wife was on a business trip and was planning to meet him there the next day. When he reached his hotel, he decided to send his wife a quick e-mail.
Unable to find the scrap of paper on which he had written her e-mail address, he did his best to type it in from memory. Unfortunately, he missed one letter and his note was directed instead to an elderly preacher's wife whose husband had passed away only the day before.
When the grieving widow checked her e-mail, she took one look at the monitor, let out a piercing scream, and fell to the floor in a dead faint. At the sound, her family rushed into the room and saw this note on the screen:
DEAREST WIFE: JUST GOT CHECKED IN. EVERYTHING PREPARED FOR YOUR ARRIVAL TOMORROW.
P.S. SURE IS HOT DOWN HERE
Our beloved deceased are awaiting us too.
“One thing I ask, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord.”
These are the dying words of Saint Monica to her two sons, one of whom was the future Saint Augustine. She told her children not to worry about where they buried her; she cared only that they prayed at Mass for her soul.
What wise counsel St. Monica gave! Not just to remember the dead but to pray for the dead. Prayer for the dead is one of the hallmarks of our faith. From its beginning, the Church has offered prayers for the dead, above all the Mass.
Prayer for the dead is motivated by two key Catholic teachings: first, the resurrection of the dead. If we do not believe that the dead will rise, if we do not have hope in the eternal reward, such prayer has no purpose. Our sorrow would be without consolation for loved ones who are dying, if the Lord had not given us hope of eternal life. Our life would be pointless if it ended with death. What benefit would there then be from virtue and good deed? Then they would be correct who say: "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!" But man was created for immortality, and by His resurrection Christ opened the gates of the Heavenly Kingdom, of eternal blessedness for those who have believed in Him and have lived righteously. Our earthly life is a preparation for the future life, and this preparation ends with our death.
Secondly, we pray for the dead because though many die in God's friendship, they are not yet ready to enter the joy of heaven. There is a process that cleanses those who are already saved, but who haven't quite the holiness needed to meet God.
It's not a bad thing to wake up in Purgatory! Father Benedict Groeschel use to say that he looked forward to it! He explains why by quoting from C.S. Lewis, who puts it this way: Imagine arriving at an important party in shabby clothes, without having brushed your teeth for days. If someone at the door gave you the chance to take some time to clean up and change, would you say “oh, no thanks, I'll go straight in and meet the host.”
We are that doorman, joined in solidarity with one another, we can help one another during this time of purification. We can pray for the souls in purgatory, and they can pray for us.
More importantly, we pray for those who are especially close to us; our family, confreres, and benefactors; that is why our Order asks every canonry to offer Requiem Masses for the confreres, sisters, relatives and benefactors of the community and for all communities of canons regular. We were united here on earth and through the bond of our common profession and we shall be united once again in heaven. It is a duty we have in charity to all, and in justice to those who have done us good.
The seven Machabean brothers who died sooner than violate the Mosaic law, believed in the resurrection. They were united in faith and love with one another, and with their heroic mother—who, exhorted them to martyrdom.
When faith unites men their fraternal bond is further strengthened especially when it’s put to the test.
The bond of our religious profession too has united us. May our prayer for our deceased confreres, family, and benefactors bring them closer to heaven and also strengthen our fraternal bond with them and among ourselves so that we will persevere in our religious profession.