Chennai – While we program a busy schedule each month, the month of November does not exempt us from visiting the cemetery to pay homage and express our love towards our beloved ones who have gone before us to heaven from our family. We also need to know that there are plenary indulgences given by the Church in visiting the graveyard on particular days to pray for the departed souls. On November 2nd, All Souls’ Day, all the brothers of the DGMS Community went to attend Holy Mass held at the local parish cemetery, it was a great chance to visit and to pray for the departed souls of their families. Also at the request of a nearby parish, the brothers went for a day to bless and pray for the dead. It was all a blissful moment to gather as one family and pray for our loved ones in heaven.
“Holiness is one of the most beautiful gifts a human heart can offer to God.” – Mother Teresa. We know well that life is a precious gift of God to all of us and what we make out of our lives is our gift to God in return. I was told that in the culture of the United States as also of India, when you go to visit a family, never go with an empty hand. I wonder what gift we need to carry when we go to our eternal home (heaven) to our Father. We know well that we cannot carry anything but our pure soul and the good things we did here on earth. We fatigue a lot to earn so many things just to leave them to others as the proverb says “When he dies he will carry nothing away” (49;17). Each one must now reflect what gift we will be carrying to our Father once we are done with our pilgrimage here on earth. What good do we possess or cultivate? Humility? Forgiveness? Patience? Love? Charity? Kindness? Sharing with the needy? Endurance in suffering? What is the gift that I will present to God?
We begin this month remembering and honoring our ancestors who lived before us and returned to the Father. November 1st, we honor All Saints and November 2nd, we commemorate All the Faithful Departed. St. Bernard says the lives of the saints assure us that holiness is possible, they teach us by their lives and their writing how to serve God, and they can intercede for us when we need God’s help. Honoring the saints and millions of others who have tried to live a good and holy life, including those who have fallen along the way, but who have gotten up and kept on going. Saints are people who lived their lives according to the design of God and helped others also live their lives well. When we live our life fully and help others as to live well, then we become holy ones in the eyes of God.
Live: Whether we know it or not, we all have a vision for our lives. We all have a philosophy that sets out how we want to live and what we want to accomplish. It’s this vision that guides many of our decisions and actions. At the heart of our vision is the desire to do what makes us happy. As we mature, our vision gets refined and sharpened. It also becomes increasingly selfless. Our life is not just made of what this world has to offer us. Remember that we are the children of God and that heaven is our true home. We need to tell ourselves that we are more than our job, our skills, our wealth or education. We are precious to God and He delights in us. This is the call to live our life fully, meaningfully and joyfully.
Let Live: As we journey on earth God is asking us to love our neighbor as a commandment. God asks us to take the risk for the sake of His people. Our Founder, St. Louis Guanella, and Mother Theresa didn’t try to solve all of the world’s problems: they simply lived their life in radical service and love of their neighbor. Hindus, Muslims, and Christians alike saw in them a role model. They invite us to let others live with a simple program of life, “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier. At the end of life, we are going to be judged on the basis of our love for one another.” Fr. Guanella invites his followers to attain holiness with this simple program of life, “in doing our daily duties with love, we embrace holiness.” I would like to quote a passage from The Imitation of Christ. “How many people will remember you and pray for you once you are dead? So do all you can now, for you do not know when you will die or what you will face after death. Gain merit for eternity now while there is time and concern yourself only with your eternal salvation.” (Ch. 23; 8).
Legazpi – “From purgatory, which is painful and sorrowful, the crying voices of the souls resound in great sorrow, with the belief that mother Mary will have pity on those who cry for help.”
The holy souls not only wait for Mother Mary, they also wait for the prayers of their own family, their beloved ones. Unfortunately, many are forgotten by their own families, forgotten by this world. They can no longer do anything for themselves in order to get back to God, Who is the greatest desire of all souls. They suffer the great fire which burns in their hearts day after day. The only hope that they have is the Church Militant who journey together in this world to pray for them and to do acts of charity for them. We must always remember the holy souls, what they had done for us while they were in this world. After their passing from this life, they must not be forgotten but must be remembered everyday of our lives. In November especially, the novices went to many different cemeteries to visit the holy souls and to pray for them according to the teachings of the church.
In our lifetime we try or like to play different roles and we think that we are going to live forever in this world! I asked the Lord, “If I am not playing these roles, then WHO AM I?” All I could see and feel with closed eyes was ‘infinite waves of ocean’! In that sacred moment I knew my real ‘SELF’ and tasted the immorality of this self. The words of scripture resounded in me, “Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?”
It was a profound experience, being an inseparable part of the cosmic energy… the energy that runs this body, this mind, and so on. In spiritual language we name it: being, consciousness, light, spirit, power, soul… Any word would do. What is important is the realization that I am the ‘being’, using this body and playing so many roles and responsibilities.
Navigators are trained to find the ‘eye of the storm’ where they can stop for safety in the midst of a storm. And in the storms of life, for us to find our safe refuge and stability is to be rooted in the immortality of our very being.
I have referred a book ‘On the Tombs of the Deceased’ by Fr. Louis Guanella who wrote this series of meditations on the Christian cult of the dead following the traditional setting of a novena in preparation for the feast of ALL SAINTS and the Commemoration of ALL THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED. The family of the just on earth rejoice with the family of the blessed in paradise! What a delightful spectacle, what an illustrious and numerous family! Our founder is asking a powerful assistance for the sake of ourselves and for the sake of the souls of our deceased brothers and sisters and feel compassion toward the souls in purgatory.
On October 25, 2017 Pope Francis, during his general audience, spoke about hope’s fulfillment in heaven and reminded the faithful that no one should despair because God’s grace is always present for those who put their trust in Him. “Paradise is not a fantasy land or even an enchanted garden. Paradise is an embrace with God, infinite Love, and we enter it thanks to Jesus, who died on the cross for us.”
Our fraternity, considered by the Founder “a small communion of Saints” goes beyond the mere level of human relations and also with gratitude we cherish the memory of those members whom the Father has already called to his house and let us commend divine mercy upon them.
Fr. Soosai Rathinam
The month of November celebrates All Saints and All Souls: an opportunity for us to pray for and remember our beloved who passed away and wait for us. Father Guanella wrote an unusual booklet in 1883. At that time he went through his night of darkness and suffering. It was the time that matured him into a man of prayer, meditation and total abandon to the will of God. He was waiting for his time of grace, a time when God would show him his vocation and the way to accomplish his mission.
He had time to meditate on life and on death. He was not depressed or discouraged. He was just waiting for God’s sign. Meanwhile he wrote a little but touching booklet: On the Tomb of the Deceased. He expresses some beautiful thoughts addressed more to himself than to others.
It is a powerful suggestion for us Guanellians to read this book during a retreat. It will change your perspective on death.
“Friendship is a most dear gift. He who finds a true friend,” says the Lord, “finds a real treasure.” When two friends meet, they embrace one another. Afterwards, they join together heart to heart through the discourses of their minds and the affections of their spirits. Then they joyfully sit at table together. At table they exchange their gifts. One savors with delight the foods of the other, thus in a certain way they feed themselves on the life of the other, and see to it that a friendly blood may flow from the veins of one into the other’s. Dear friendship, you are a heavenly good come down for the comfort of the human beings here on earth!
However it is difficult to find a sincere friend among the living. He who has found one, the Lord tells us again, has found an abundant treasure. Yet, if it is not easy to find a sincere friend among the living, it is easier to find a beloved friend among the deceased. The deceased are loyal friends to us. The deceased embrace us. They speak with the intimacy of souls in love; they invite us to sit at the table of their wise pondering.
What do they tell us all along? Listen to them, and you will think that you are listening to the voice of an angel that has just come down from paradise. They speak indeed as wise teachers: “Life in this world is like mist that rises from the ground right after the summer showers and quickly vanishes in the air. The life of a man on earth is like the life of a little flower which, lovely as it can be, sprouts forth luxuriant in the morning, bends down its little leaves at noon and finally droops to die in the evening. Man’s life on earth is like an hour that God in His goodness has given to him to prepare himself for eternity. You are pilgrims, and you must hasten as pilgrims do. Keep yourselves free from the burden of sins, wear clothes of virtue, choose heavenly guides, a guardian angel, and then hasten your steps.
At the evening of life there is no more suitable time to journey. At that point who cares for the glories or riches or pleasures of life? Make haste! Hurry up! What does it matter if you gained the whole world of glory, yet you had to spend one single additional hour of pain in purgatory? Believe me. Only what gives health and perfection to the soul is useful here on earth. We can carry to the world of eternity nothing but the bundle of good or evil deeds we have accomplished.”
Thus the holy souls speak to our hearts. Thus they convince us of the vanity of human things. To hinder our heart from being taken over by thoughts of sadness, they quickly come back to us to console us. Listen to what they say, because they will sound like angels of comfort.
“Come on, why fear?” those dear souls say to us. “Hope in the Lord. Lift up, lift up your hearts. One more moment and you will be saved. For one day of suffering, the compassionate God has assigned contentment for eternity. Do not be sorry for bearing with some suffering. Have you shed your blood so far? Jesus Christ bore wounds on His body, was distressed in His mind and His heart was pierced by many swords of agony. Yet He was innocent! You are sinners, yet what have you borne? Lift up your hearts. God does not deny His help to anyone.”
At this point an intimate loving connection is made. The living join the deceased and it seems that both savor being at the same table of spiritual enjoyment.
In this way the living beings feast at the table with the deceased. In this way the deceased receive comfort at the table with the living. Holy faith, how admirable you are! You are as merciful as the Heart of Jesus that has generated you. You are as powerful as the arm of the Most High that has formed you. My brothers and sisters let us never stop this loving conversation. May the living be with the deceased always! They will be with us to obtain good for the sake of these poor souls of ours.
Vatluru – All Souls Day was celebrated in the evening on November 2nd at Sacred Heart cemetery. The entire cemetery shone with lights and electrical bulbs. Thousands of people gathered to pray for the souls of their family members and loved ones. Rev. Fr. Bala, the correspondent of St. Joseph Dental College and Hospital, celebrated holy mass with the Servants of Charity priests, local priests and some other diocesan priests concelebrating. It was like a heaven on earth; the singing, the lively liturgy and the fellowship meal that followed. Fr. Joseph Peter, SdC, thanked everyone for their participation.