Rest in peace
November is the month of the dead. We remembered the Holy Souls the day after we celebrated the Feast of All Saints. Then on Remembrance Sunday next week we remember all those who have died in two world wars and in the many sad wars waged and waging since then, with so much suffering, so many deaths, so many refugees forced to leave their country and their home.
We may be far removed now from those two “Great Wars”, though we are still continuing to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, so we can pray for all who have died on whatever side. Throughout November we have a special opportunity to remember our own dead in our families and among our friends. We pray for those who have been close to us. We pray also as members of the family of the Church. There is a traditional Catholic piety of praying for those who have no one to pray for them. May they all rest in peace.
Here is a comforting thought as we pray. I found it in St. Augustine as I was re-reading his Confessions recently. Augustine’s friend Nebridius was converted at the same time as Augustine and died shortly after. This is what Augustine says about him; he is speaking directly to God, as he often does in his writings:
“with the lips of his spirit he drinks in wisdom at your fountain. He drinks till his thirst is slaked, and his happiness is never-ending. And I cannot believe that the draught intoxicates him so that he forgets me, for it is you, O Lord, whom he drinks in and you are mindful of your servants.”
Put more simply (for the style is ancient Roman rhetoric, of which Augustine was a master and teacher) he is saying this: Nebridius is not so full of divine joy that he forgets Augustine here on earth, because his joy is in God and God is always mindful of us.
As so often, Augustine’s thought is both deep and personal. His experience can surely speak to us as we remember this November so many who have died, knowing that they too remember us in Christ, whether they are enjoying the glory of heaven, or are being made ready for that glory. That is the meaning of the Communion of Saints we celebrated at the beginning of the month.
Light an online candle in memory of your loved one
Tony Nye SJ