Tag Archives: All Souls Day

Where, O Death, Is Thy Sting?

When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’  1 Cor. 15:54-55.

Today, the Church marks the Feast of All Souls Day, which is the final day of the triduum (a three-day celebration) consisting of All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.  On All Souls Day, the Church recalls all the faithful departed.  We appropriately recall those we love who have crossed beyond that frightening door, and we know that for them it holds no fear anymore.  The Book of Wisdom teaches:

In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace. Wisdom 3: 2-3.

Thus, All Souls Day offers one of the great messages of the Church.  Those who have gone before us are not forgotten; actually, they’re not really “gone.” All Souls Day reminds us that our real home lies in that place where “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more…”  Rev. 21:  4.

There’s an old Polish custom of leaving their doors and windows ajar on the night of All Souls Day, as a sign of welcome.  I’m very fond of that notion, as a reminder to us that we invite those who have passed away back into our lives.  In my part of the world, November 2nd is the last day of the celebration of the Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.  It’s not uncommon for families to go to the graves of the dead with ofrendas (offerings), to have a picnic at the gravesite, or to build a shrine within the home.  These customs, and many others, serve to remind us of two vital lessons:  the dead remain with us, and death isn’t the end of the story.

There is nothing morbid, maudlin, or tragic about these traditions.  On the contrary, they serve as occasions of great joy and happiness.  They provide us with a foretaste of the reunion that our faith teaches, and toward which our hope directs us.

Now that’s “good news.”

Paz de Cristo,

James R. Dennis, O.P.

© 2011 James R. Dennis

Don’t You Think It’s Time?

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  John 2: 1-5.

I absolutely love the story of the Wedding at Cana in the Gospel of St. John.  Among other things, I love the apparent reluctance of Jesus to begin his public ministry with this first miracle.  It’s as though Christ hesitated to begin the process of revealing his true nature to the world.  He tells Mary, “My hour has not yet come.”  And within the subtext of the story, we can almost see the Holy Mother nudging Jesus and whispering in his ear, “Don’t you think it’s time?”

I love this story, in part, because I had a mother like that.  Anne Dell Dennis died seven years ago tomorrow, on October 31, 2004.  At her funeral service, the priest remarked  that she died on the Eve of All Saints Day, and her funeral mass was said on All Souls Day.  Anyone who thinks that was a coincidence did not understand my mother’s life very well.

My mother came from a very long line of Irish Catholic women who attended Daily Mass because . . . well, because that’s just what they did.  She and my father did not always see eye to eye (a trait I happened to share with my father).  My mother was a force of nature:  faithful,  obstinate, charitable, and immovable.

At her gravesite, my brother Sean Michael observed that she and my father were like two tectonic plates.  Their collision, while not always fun to watch, generally produced some pretty spectacular results.

One of the most important lessons my mother taught me was that our generosity with God’s children bears directly on our relationship with the Almighty. The authentic Christian life must be lived charitably.  She also taught me that  our faith, our relationship with God, is a terribly important matter.  During my fairly lengthy periods of indifference toward the Church, my mother regularly suggested, “Don’t you think it’s time?”

So, for every mother who has nudged, prodded, cajoled, and even nagged her children into taking their spiritual life a bit more seriously:   Well done, and thanks.

Shabbat Shalom,

James R. Dennis, O.P.

© 2011 James R. Dennis