The week before last, we attended the funeral for the brother of a friend of ours who had been sick for some time.
I always have a hard time talking to surviving family members at times like these, because I'm never sure what to say. It's for this reason that I was particularly touched this morning when I read Father Anthony Brankin's reflection in this week's bulletin [PDF], because it's exactly what I needed to hear.
Our local parish, St. Odilo, is the National Shrine of the Poor Souls. And, this being the month of November—the month of the Poor Souls—Fr. Brankin wrote about how and why we pray for the dead.
These thoughts in particular spoke to me:
We can actually do something for those who have died. Rather than stand by helpless and mute in the face of the death of our loved ones, Our Lord has provided a means for us to help them.
Has your father or mother died? Your spouse? Your grandparents? Your best friend? Perhaps (or probably) they are in Purgatory. Can you imagine their joy in Purgatory when Our Lord comes to them and tells them that you gained a plenary indulgence for them and they can now enter heaven. That’s how I imagine it.
And not only did we help them get to heaven by our prayers and indulgences, we help ourselves by feeling their very living presence in the very act of praying!
What a great month - November - a month that provides us so much opportunity for meditation on death, as well as an opportunity to do something beautiful about it.
These thoughts are what I needed to hear because they reminded me about what the Catholic Church is all about—namely, that there is really only one reason why the Church exists, and that is to help her children get to heaven.
And we, as her children here on earth, have it as our calling to assist her in her duty, despite any feelings of unease (or worse) we may encounter along the way.