Our traditions for those who have died

23 November 2022
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, celebrates Mass at the St Francis Chapel inside St Patrick's Cemetery, Parramatta, on All Souls Day in 2020. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.


On 2 November, we commemorated All Souls Day, a day where we pray for people who have died. This year, the Diocese of Parramatta also invites you to its first official Mass for our deceased clergy to be held on 25 November at St Bernadette’s Parish, Castle Hill, followed by prayers at the gravesides of clergy buried in Castle Hill Cemetery.

We look at some of the Catholic traditions around death and new life.

Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical (letter) on hope, Spe Salvi writes about our encounters with Christ on our deaths and how it is a chance to shed the trappings of our earthly existence and heal.

“Before His (Christ’s) gaze, all falsehood melts away. This encounter with Him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity of sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of His heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation.”

Pope Benedict continues, “The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death – this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today. Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon?”

“How then, do we show our love to those who have left us?” – Spe Salvi, November 2007

A funeral Mass commends the soul of those who have passed to God as well as consoling family and friends. Masses can also be offered for the repose of their souls, whether on the anniversary of their death or at other special times of the year. This is a gentle way to pray with our parish communities for our loved ones.

We can light an offertory candle at our parish church and ask the intercession of Jesus, Mary, and the Saints. Visiting our loved one’s grave and offering special prayers is beautiful, and we can keep photographs of them in our homes or place of work to prompt us to say a prayer for them.

Praying the Rosary is particularly powerful. Each Hail Mary concludes with a petition for grace in death: “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”

Our God is an incredibly merciful and loving God. He longs to be with each of us. He welcomes our prayers for the living and the dead, and He will certainly reward them.

Baking for All Souls

Following All Saints Day on 1 November, we commemorate All Souls Day on the 2nd, when we pray for those who have died. It is a centuries-old tradition, originally accompanied, in England and Ireland, by the baking and distribution of ‘soul cakes’ for the poor. Try one of the recipes and talk with your families about the tradition of All Souls Day, and loved ones who have died.

Check out this recipe on the Cath Family website at bit.ly/allsoulscake

You are invited

The Mass and prayers for the deceased clergy in the Diocese of Parramatta commence at 10.30am on 25 November 2022 at St Bernadette’s Parish, Castle Hill. You are invited to attend and give your gift of prayer to those whose lives were dedicated to bringing us all closer to Christ.

This article was originally published in the 2022 Season of Creation | Spring 2022 edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here.


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