I went to a talk last night about All Saints Day and All Souls Day given by Sr. M. Johanna Paruch, FSGM, Ph.D. from Franciscan University of Steubenville (photo above).
She made some great points, but the one that really stood out to me was something she said about how our culture reacts when someone dies. So many people (in order to make the mourners feel better) will say that the deceased person is "in Heaven now".
That has always made me squirm because how do we know where they are? Yes, we would like to believe that our loved ones are in eternal bliss, but we don't know for sure.
Sr. Johanna pointed out yet another reason that saying this phrase is wrong. She reminded us that is does the deceased person a great disservice to assume they are already in Heaven because then we don't pray for them.
As Catholics, we believe we all have a body and a soul, and today is the day to remember all of the Souls who need our prayers. These would be the Souls of persons who have died and are now in Purgatory awaiting their entrance into Heaven. They NEED prayers: from us here on Earth, and from the Saints in Heaven. We can offer up prayers for them in the form of words, sacrifices, and good deeds.
The worst thing we can assume is that someone is already in Heaven and doesn't need our prayers. These are the "poor souls in Purgatory" who have no one to pray for them. These souls are in desperate need of our prayers as well as the souls of people we knew and loved.
Sr. Johanna also reminded us to pray for the souls of non-Catholics whose families believe they are in Heaven and do not believe in Purgatory. And she said to pray for the souls of celebrities you hear that pass away since they might not have any family praying for them.
Anyway, it was a good talk, and a gentle reminder of what today is all about, and how we can help others get to Heaven. Then when they are there, they can pray for us to join them one day!