As October comes to an end and November begins, we are slowly moving from autumn and into winter with the clock having just gone back and the hours of darkness increasing. For many it is a difficult month and maybe even more so this year with the colder nights and worries over the cost of heating and feeding their families. We, also this year look back over the struggles and losses of the past two years or more during the Covid pandemic.
At this stage many of the trees have cast their leaves leaving them bare and grey yet within them out of our sight the preparations for next year’s spring renewal have already begun. November is the month when we remember and pray for our faithful departed. At many of our funeral Masses we hear these words from John’s Gospel, “In all truth I tell you, unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest.” (John 12:24)
As feelings of grief and loss well up within us as Catholic Christians those words of Jesus should give us comfort and hope. While all seems lost and yes, life will never be the same again when our loved ones die, like the trees that are now bare, like the grain of wheat that falls in the ground and dies, there is planted within each of us the seeds of life eternal from the moment of our baptism. This does not deny the reality of death but is a reminder that our time here on earth is but preparation for what God promises his faithful followers, the rich harvest of eternal life.
During this month of November as we pray for our faithful departed, we should do so with hope and praying too for all those for whom this time is a difficult one. Grief is experienced differently by everyone and healing after loss is something we all need without exception. That is why our gatherings as parish communities this year praying for our faithful departed are so important. It may be the first time since 2019 that we have been able to do this in the ways we have done in the past. This year spare a thought and prayer and maybe light a candle for those who did not get to grieve and have the usual presence and support of community and even in many cases family members at the time of the death of their loved ones.
As you attend this year’s Mass for the Feast of All Souls, or any special Parish Remembrance Mass, be aware of all those around you and know that we journey together on pilgrimage as one great communion of saints of the living and deceased praying for each other along the way. In the words of St Paul, “With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another.” (Thessalonians 4:18).
Fr Eddie Gallagher is Parish Priest of Moville, in the Diocese of Derry.
Image: Prayer Garden, Saint Eugene’s Cathedral, Derry, remembering all those who died in the Diocese of Derry during the COVID Pandemic.