All through the month of November we remember and pray for our dead, but on November 6th each year we sort of repeat All Souls’ Day Mass again specifically for our deceased Camaldolese monks and nuns, and especially for those who lived and died here at new Camaldoli. The readings that day (Phil 3:3-8a; Lk 15:1-10) were not chosen for our commemoration, but I decided to go with them anyway, because there is a theme that abides from Jesus’ earthly ministry through to his heavenly ministry, if you can call it that, that is carried especially in the gospel that day, about the shepherd who leaves the 99 and goes after the one lost, and about the woman who rejoices when she found her lost coin. Thus there shall be greater rejoicing in heaven over a repentant sinner than over the righteous!
There are three points I’d like to address regarding the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, as it is officially called; All Souls’ Day, as it is popularly known. The first is this: the aim of this commemoration is to pray for those who have died, especially for those in purgatory, those who have not yet completed the journey. This whole notion of purgatory is one of those things that separate us from other Christian traditions. Some suggest that it was invented by the Benedictine monks of Cluny (specifically Abbot St. Odilo) in the 10th century as a “fund raising project,” and then it was later expanded on by St. Thomas Aquinas and Dante. As Saint Paul says though, what we are dealing with here is a great mystery[i]; in a sense it’s the telos–the ultimate end of life as Christianity explains it and that universal question, “What happens to our essential self after this body dies?”