By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
November is the month dedicated to those who have died. November 2, All Souls’ Day, is commemorated the day after All Saints’ Day.
One of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to pray for the dead and entrust them to God’s mercy. We pray, offer alms, and Masses for the release of the souls in Purgatory. We pray that all those who have died will rest in the bosom of our Lord as saints.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1681) tells us that: “The Christian meaning of death is revealed in the light of the Paschal Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ in whom resides our only hope. The Christian who dies in Christ Jesus is ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord’” (2 Cor 5:8).
My mother, Ruby Ramdeen, née Manning, taught us, her children, how to pray. That woman could pray! Even while she was on her deathbed in hospital in London and was receiving the anointing of the sick from the priest, when we thought that she had already passed, she lifted her head and made the sign of the cross and breathed her last breath.
She taught us not to fear death, but to live our faith in such a way that we will always be ready to return to our Creator. Psalm 23 was one of her favourite Psalms and mine.
So when in April I got up one morning and crumpled to the floor with a stroke after a terrible experience at Licensing Office in POS the day before, you know to whom I turned: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Many are still amazed at my speedy recovery but, as my sister told me: “God still has work for you to do.” So, I soldier on, staying close to my Lord, always ready with my lamp lit.
Read Matthew 25:8-9, the parable of the ten bridesmaids. We must all stay awake, because we “do not know either the day or the hour”.
The second Beatitude
We are living in a time when, as disciples of Christ, we must be prepared to be martyrs for our faith. Long ago I embraced St Ignatius of Antioch’s view of martyrdom: “It is better for me to die in Christ Jesus than to reign over the ends of the earth. Him it is I seek—who died for us. Him it is I desire—who rose for us” (CCC 1010).
Reflect also on the profound statement by St Augustine of Hippo, who said: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” But we won’t rest in Him unless we follow the right path.
Pope Francis said: “There is a path we need to follow, and we cannot take the wrong path. The Beatitudes, which Jesus taught us, show us the right road to take. To be pure in heart, poor in Spirit—these are the lights that help us not to take the wrong road.”
The second Beatitude states: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt 5:4). Our comfort comes from the Lord. Let’s mourn for our sins and return to Him before it’s too late.
“Mourning” here also reminds us that He places us in this world to be His instruments, to comfort others. We are supposed to be compassionate, caring and to show love for those who mourn because they have lost their loved ones.
People grieve in various ways. For some this process lasts months or years. Love of God and neighbour should inspire us to reach out to those who mourn e.g. pray with and for them— without forcing your religion on them, lend a listening ear, offer practical support, don’t be judgemental, be sensitive in how you communicate with them, give them space when they wish to be alone, be prepared to journey with them through the process.
May the souls of the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.