When the Great Beyond Isn’t So Great
Shedding Light on All Souls Day
This year, to shed some light on All Souls Day (November 2), I had planned to write a beautiful, lovingly heartfelt tribute to my deceased uncle who was a Franciscan priest. If anyone deserves the full Busted Halo treatment, it is he. My tribute was going to be extremely uplifting, very Catholic, quite educational and inspirational. Then I had a dream, and my plan went south.
I dreamt of my dead grandmother on my mom’s side. In my dream, I went to hug her and tell her I loved her, and when I pulled back, she bit my nose. Hard. I’ll spare you the details of the dream, but let’s just say that when I woke up, I was less than thrilled at this R.E.M.-sleep raid on my face. Needless to say, I plan to take this up with Grandma when next we meet.
Until then, let me use her and my uncle to illustrate the Days of All Souls and All Saints . Just be warned, all definitions, images, and feeble attempts below to describe the hereafter are strictly my own and believe it or not, don’t necessarily coincide with official Church teaching. (But rest assured, I checked it out, and in some cases, I may not be too far off.)
First of all, let me clarify my feast days, lest you think I don’t know the difference between the two (they can be confusing). These two great commemorative days of the Church calendar coincide with the U.S. tradition of Halloween, and el D�a de Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) in the Hispanic tradition.
When it comes to my uncle, I may do better to remember him on All Saints Day, where the Church encourages us to call to mind those recognized saints (and others like them) whose backstage pass to Heaven is all but guaranteed. These people have their own Elvis Jungle Room ready and waiting for them before they ever breathe their last.
All Souls Day, according to tradition, is for those poor unfortunate souls in Purgatory . While the whereabouts or existence of this place or state of being has never really been proven (that’s why it’s called faith, people), Church teaching has it that those in Purgatory may be up there somewhere, but the full glory of Heaven has yet to be revealed to them.
In other words, they may still be waiting tables in Heaven, or doing dishes. Worse yet, and probably more accurate, they are waiting in the lobby of the restaurant without a reservation and no idea how long it will be before they get a place at the table.
To Soul Traffic Control: let them in
And that’s where All Souls Day comes in, or rather, where we’re supposed to. Traditionally, All Souls was when we remember those in Purgatory, pray for their souls, their whole souls, and nothing but their souls, and hope they are allowed to abandon their holding pattern and finally come in for a landing (to use yet another metaphor).
I’m not sure where Grandma is, or Fr. Marcos, for that matter, but I’m hoping they’re both up there having a beer, a glass of wine, and a laugh. If they’re amused at my possibly inaccurate, yet sincere attempts to speculate on their whereabouts, that’s okay. At least they know I was thinking of them.