BY Peter Diamond | November 2 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

All Souls Day

Rediscover the month of Holy Souls, bishop says

The Bishop of Aberdeen has said Catholics should not let the commercial build up to Christmas overshadow the month of the Holy Souls and that Scotland’s relationship with the dead has been closed down as a result of the Protestant reformation.

Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen diocese was revealing his thoughts on the month of November, which has helped shape Catholic traditions and remembrance of the dead around the world.

From the beginning of November, the Church will hold a special place for the dead by celebrating All Saints and All Souls day, and encourages Catholics to pray for all souls who are in purgatory awaiting entry to Heaven.

Bishop Gilbert said that since the Reformation there has been severed ties between the living and the dead and Catholics should hold onto that connection.

“The month of the Holy Souls can help us understand that the human community goes beyond the here and now, that there is much more depth to our lives and our Catholic communities,” he said.

“I feel quite strongly that the Reformation closed down a lot of the connections with the dead and that is a great loss.

“In Catholic countries I’ve visited over the years—Poland would be a great example—I’ve noticed how alive the cemeteries are there.

“There is a real sense of celebration between the living and the dead, with flowers, candles and decorations on the graves and I think that can help to stop us from reducing our lives to this life [alone].”

The bishop of Aberdeen also said that praying for the dead in November can help heal families.

“Holding a special place for the dead can help us to keep open our horizons of eternity and often we find great comfort in praying for loved ones who have gone before us,” he said.

“In many families there is sometimes ‘unfinished business’ between living and dying and through prayer many families find closure and that is a great healing tool of the Church.

“We should remember that we will one day be dead and hopefully someone will remember us when we are gone and therefore ‘do as you would be done by.’”

With Halloween celebrations now finished, supermarkets and society generally shifts towards preparing for Christmas, but Bishop Gilbert warned that these events are exploited.

“November is an important months in preparing the way for the Lord’s coming too. The First Sunday of Advent readings provoke a strong sense of a second coming,” Bishop Gilbert said.

“The month of the Holy Souls is far more serious than the next commercial event in the modern calendar. These events are often exploited and superficial and we should use the next four weeks as a way of bringing our spirits closer to those who have gone before us.”

Remembrance Sunday is due to take place on November 11 and Bishop Gilbert said that it was Pope Benedict XV who granted priests the powers to say three Masses for the dead.

“Of course we will be remembering our war dead too, especially those in the Great War. On the day of Holy Souls your priest is allowed to say three Masses for the dead,” said Bishop Gilbert.

“This was introduced by Pope Benedict XV who was appalled at the number of casualties which had caused such devastation in Europe.

“That’s something that we used to do in the monastery before I was bishop and we will be doing so again this year at St Mary’s Cathedral Aberdeen. It’s a beautiful thing to pray for the dead.”



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