Inspired and Blessed by Bob Acebedo
Inspired & Blessed

Remembering and praying for the dead on All Souls Day

Nov 2, 2022, 12:36 AM
Bob Acebedo

Bob Acebedo


Today, November 2, is All souls Day and once more our attention is riveted, with unflinching queasiness, to such creepy stories of ghosts or souls of the dead manifesting their presence around.

When I was in Grades 4 and 5, around age 10-11, I used to spend summer months in a private hospital run by Benedictine Sisters (mostly Germans) to casually work as dishwasher, gardener boy, and Mass altar server. As my father was head of the carpentry maintenance department, my sleeping accommodation was at his shop cum quarters, which was just beside the hospital morgue. Oh boy, there were nights when I am roused from sleep because the morgue’s lights are put on and I knew that a dead body has been delivered on a stretcher. Sometimes, after the hospital personnel who delivered the body have left, I would peep into the morgue’s front jalousie-wood window and I would see the dead person’s feet at times being left uncovered with blanket.

As a young boy, wasn’t I afraid then?

Truth to tell – with my father, my elder sister as nurse aide, my elder brother as an Operating Room “scrub,” and another elder brother as ambulance attendant, who were all working in the hospital – after getting used to all of the hospital’s unpleasant or “scary” zones (including peering through the Operating Room’s viewing deck during surgical operations), I didn’t feel any bit of fear. For me, reckoning then, everything was just plain normal – ‘twas our family’s workplace.

Then also, there was this somewhat ghoulish incident I can’t fail recalling. On one evening twilight, I and three other kids (children of other hospital employees) were playing hide-and-seek or “tagu-taguan” at the hospital’s lawn park where there were lots of guava trees; thus, it was called “Lawiswis Bayabas.”

I then sought for a hiding place beneath a shrub. After a while, sensing that I was out of trace by my playmate, I stood up and, lo and behold, some 8-10 meters away from me I saw – hazily though as it was already dusk – two German-looking (I was quite familiar with Germans as there were several German priests assigned at the nearby college as well as the German sisters who were running the hospital) men walking towards me as if they were floating through the grass lawn. I readily thought that the first one who was walking ahead was Fr. Stoll (a German priest), whom I would regularly serve at Mass, and so I intended to approach him “para magmano.” But I was surprised that they suddenly disappeared from my sight. Howdy, were they souls of I-dunno who?

Fast forward to the present.

With All Souls Day celebration at hand, ‘tis timely and fitting to remember our beloved dead ones. And, for us Catholics, the optimum way of remembering our departed loved ones is praying for them.

The Catholic tradition and theological tenet as well of “praying for the dead” is closely attached to the doctrine on “purgatory.” The Creed of St Pius V asserts that “what must be believed of faith by Catholics is that there is a purgatory, and that souls detained in it are helped by the prayers of the faithful.”

However, Christian fundamentalists are quick to excoriate that, among others, “purgatory” is not mentioned in Scripture. However, I’d like to butt in, neither is the word “Trinity” found, nor “Sunday observance,” nor is “Bible,” “books of the Gospels,” or “book of the New Testament.”

But, from my Catholic perspective, we can find numerous texts in the Bible that the Church has always read as applying to the mysterious reality called PURGATORY: 2 Maccabees 12:46 (prayer for the dead); 2 Timothy 1:18 (prayer for Onesiphorus); Matthew 12:32 (sin too malicious to be forgiven either in this world or after death); Luke 12:59 (person won’t be freed until the last ‘mite’ due to God’s justice has been paid); and many others.

The decrees of both the First and Second Vatican Councils stress the efficacy of prayers for the dead.

Moreover, sacred apostolic tradition and the Fathers of the Church (long before the advent of Biblical Fundamentalism) have collectively affirmed the belief in purgatory and prayers for the dead.

St. Augustine (354-430 AD) discusses the opinion of Aerius (De Haer.) and points out that the custom of praying for the dead, and especially of having Masses offered for them, was universally held throughout the Christian world. Epiphanius (315-403 AD) traces the belief in such prayers to the times of the Apostles.

St. John Chrysostom (345-407 AD) comments: “It is not without good reason ordained by the apostles, that mention should be made of the dead in the Tremendous Mysteries (Mass) because they know well that these will receive great benefit from it.” (Hom. 3, In Ep. Ad Philip).

Cyprian of Carthage (200-258 AD), in his fifty second Epistle, wrote: “It is one thing to be waiting for pardon, another to attain glory; one thing to be sent to prison and not to go from there until the last farthing has been paid, and another to receive immediately the reward of faith and virtue; one thing to suffer lengthy torments for sin and to be chastised and purified for a long time in that fire, another to have cleansed away all sins by suffering.” The ‘suffering’ Cyprian is referring to is that of martyrdom.

St. Augustine (Sermon 172), declares that “Through the prayers and sacrifices of the Church and alms-deeds, God deals more mercifully with the departed than their sins deserve.” And in his Confessions (Book 9), Augustine records his mother Monica’s request that he offer the Sacrifice of the Mass for her to “obtain the pardon of her sins.”

Verily, in the last analysis, with our celebration of All Souls Day, it is indeed a comforting realization that, resonant to our Christian faith, while our departed loved ones are already in the bosom of God’s heavenly kingdom with the help of our prayers, they are still in communion with us – helping and interceding for us too – and one day we will be reunited with them in God’s glory.

Requiem aeternam donaa eis, Domine! Et lux perpetua luceat eis: Requiescant in pace. Amen. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord! And let perpetual light shine upon them: May they rest in peace. Amen.

Blessed All Souls Day!

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