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Catholic Home - Remembering the dead, supporting the living

Photo: Janis Olson Photo: Janis Olson
While we pray for the dead, we can also lend support to grieving friends and family with a remembrance basket

As soon as the piles of trick-or-treat candy have been stowed in their plastic jack-o’-lanterns and the kids go to bed, I transform the decorations in our family prayer space and kitchen.

When everyone awakens in the morning, they see white cloths covering the tables, dotted with white candles and every icon or statue of saints that we own. Drawings and photos of the saints also plaster the walls and windows as we welcome November.

November is the month Catholics devote to remembering and praying for the dead. We start on Nov. 1 by celebrating All Saints’ Day, a holy day for all the saints (known and unknown) who have died and are in heaven.

On All Souls’ Day, Nov. 2, we gather in churches to celebrate a solemn Mass, or in cemeteries to light candles and pray not only for our beloved deceased, but for all who have died. At my house, the white cloths change to black and we add photos of our deceased family members to our prayer space.

Throughout the rest of the month, we are encouraged to continue praying for souls in purgatory so that they can obtain heaven more quickly. We do this because, “From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1032)

This year, my family and I are adding something new to our repertoire. We plan to visit our neighborhood cemetery as often as we can between Nov. 1 and Nov. 8. Here we will pray to obtain a plenary indulgence for a soul in purgatory for each day we visit. My grandparents and great-great-grandparents are buried here, as are other relatives. One day my parents will also be buried here. It is a place where I feel connected to my past and where I think of my own future death.

When loved ones die, we grieve at being separated, but our faith gives us hope and assurance for them and we pray for their souls. As friends and family reach out to us during this time of grief, their support makes a world of difference, whether it’s in the form of meals, prayers, a listening ear or consoling words.

Another way to support someone grieving the loss of a loved one is by creating a remembrance basket for them. Include things that provide some comfort to the heart, mind and body, as well as items honoring the person’s relationship with the deceased.

You might start with a favorite soothing tea, then tuck in a book about grieving, a photo of the loved one, a tree seedling to plant in their memory, a Mass card, and a copy of the Requiem Aeternam, the Eternal Rest prayer.

Through our Christian faith, all of us in the communion of saints — whether living or dead —have the reassurance that we belong to God. We need each other to help us become, as the late Francis Cardinal George wrote, “fit for the fullness of life with God.” May we always be mindful of this reciprocal relationship. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine!

Catholic Home Remembrance BasketA remembrance basket. Photo: Janis Olson

Remembrance Basket

Start with:

  • Basket
  • Shredded paper or kitchen towel-size cloth

Choose from these items:

  • Tree seedling or other small plant
  • Eternal rest prayer or prayer card
  • Photo
  • Inspirational book
  • Tea, coffee, and/or food item
  • Candle
  • Mass card
  • Rosary, crucifix, saint icon, or other religious item

Put it together: Line the basket with the paper or cloth and arrange selected items inside.

Eternal Rest Prayer

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Northwest Catholic - November 2017

Michelle Bruno

Michelle Bruno is a member of Kent’s Holy Spirit Parish. Contact her at [email protected].

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