Friday, November 02, 2007

The commemoration of All Souls

Today is the commemoration of All Souls, one of only two days in the year on which every priest has the privilege of celebrating three Masses. The faithful are encouraged to remember the Church suffering in this month of November, and to assist the holy souls by praying and having Masses said for their relief.

An indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed. The indulgence is plenary each day from 1st to 8th of November; on other days of the year it is partial.

A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who on the day dedicated to the commemoration of all the faithful departed [November 2, as well as on the Sunday preceding or following, and on All Saints’ Day] piously visit a church. In visiting the church it is required that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.

To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary also to fulfill the following three conditions: sacramental confession, eucharistic communion, and prayer for the intention of the Holy Father. The three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the visit; it is, however, fitting that communion be received and the prayer for the intention of the Holy Father be said on the same day as the visit.

The condition of praying for the intention of the Holy Father is fully satisfied by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary. A plenary indulgence can be acquired only once in the course of the day.

Melancholicus also wishes to take this opportunity to plug the Friends of the Suffering Souls, of which he is a member, and to recommend membership of this worthy and pious association to his readers.

We will not quote here the Introit and Collect of the Mass of today’s commemoration, since there are three of them, and they can be read in any missal. Instead, Melancholicus will pick up the story from where he left it yesterday.

Having attended the Mass of All Saints in the university chapel on November 1st some years ago, Melancholicus returned to the same place the following day for the Mass of All Souls. The same young chaplain celebrated the Mass; so ill at ease was he with the Catholic doctrine of the Four Last Things that, upon being reminded by a member of the congregation before Mass began that an indulgence was offered for the benefit of the holy souls, and having been invited to inform the congregation of that fact, he stammered out the words almost apologetically, as though he were recounting some ancient superstition in which he had no belief and would prefer never to have mentioned. He seemed rather to prefer a doctrine of two last things, namely death and heaven. Judgement never entered the equation, and of course purgatory was never mentioned, never mind hell.

The previous day this same priest had defined the feast of All Saints as that of “all the saints in the general calendar”. Now he defined the ‘feast’ of All Souls as “the feast of all our relatives in heaven, and those saints who are not named in the general calendar.”

This was a clear perversion of the meaning of All Souls day, and Melancholicus was shocked. All Souls day is not a feast as such. Mass is offered on that day not to commemorate some saint or plurality of saints, named or otherwise, but to give relief to the suffering souls — IN PURGATORY. Now the suffering souls are indeed saints, or at least they will be — when they reach heaven, which they will in time. But they are not there yet, and it does them much more good to be prayed for than to be prayed to, despite the best efforts of Father chaplain to fudge the significance of today’s liturgy. Furthermore, it may be that not all of our departed relatives are in heaven, and it is presumptious of Father to tell us that they are. Melancholicus has observed the same phenomenon at work in contemporary funeral liturgies, in which the newly-deceased is assumed by all and sundry — clergy and laity alike — to be gloriously reigning in celestial beatitude. That explains the exasperating frequency of white vestments and alleluias appearing — ever so incongruously — at funeral Masses. But the deceased may not be in heaven, and to believe as a matter of course that he is may deprive the soul of much sustenance and comfort. This blatantly non-Catholic theology of death and salvation which has mushroomed throughout the Church since the days of the council ensures that many souls will remain forgotten in purgatory, with no one to pray for them, since it sows in the minds of modern Catholics the horrendously mistaken idea that salvation is a foregone conclusion — that is, if they even believe in an afterlife at all.

This episode was the beginning of Melancholicus’ disenchantment with not only the new liturgy, but every doctrinal, theological and pastoral novelty that had been foisted upon the Church since the overthrow of her Tradition forty years ago.

No comments: