By Fr. Erik Esparza
Pray for me! Very often in the Christian life you will hear those three simple, but very profound words uttered. A request for prayer can come in many forms. Someone may ask for himself, herself or another person.
Additionally, there are instances that you might communicate your own need for prayer to a family member, friend, or parish community. Regardless of how prayer is requested, Christians for generations have come to learn that the power of prayer is great and strong, whether it is through one’s personal relationship with God or communally, when the Church prays united together.
The beautiful reality in the Catholic Church is that our prayers for one another do not end here in this life. According to the Church’s teaching on the communion of saints, we can offer mutual prayer and support past this life into life to come. Blessed Paul VI upon speaking of the communion of saints said, “We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always attentive to our prayers.”
Every November 2nd, the liturgical calendar of the Church designates a special day to pray for our deceased brothers and sisters. The Commemoration of All The Faithful Departed or better known, All Soul’s Day, is a day to commemorate those who have died by remembering their lives, but also to pray that each of them be forgiven of their sins and enjoy the everlasting presence of God our Father in Heaven. Paragraph 1055 of the Catechism of the Church states: “By virtue of the “communion of saints,” the Church commends the dead to God’s mercy and offers her prayers, especially the holy sacrifice of the Eucharist, on their behalf.”
Since the early days of the Church, names of the deceased have been recalled so that the community would remember them in prayer. Prayer is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our loved ones who have died and there is no greater prayer on earth than the Eucharist. Blessed Paul VI once said, “The Mass is the most perfect form of prayer.” And it was also St. John Vianney who shared about the power of the Eucharist; “There is nothing so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us.”
It is never easy to say goodbye to a loved one who has died. Whether a death is expected or sudden, pain and loss will be felt. Love is such a powerful bond and it is prayer that keeps the bond alive and well. And so, let us use this month of November to remember all the souls of our loved ones by entrusting each of them to the mercy of God especially at the Eucharistic Banquet, the Mass!
Go forth and be a joyful witness of Jesus the Christ!
Fr. Erik Esparza is Associate Director of Priest Personnel in the Diocese of San Bernardino.