LL SOULS’ DAY lies just around the corner. November 2nd is typically a day filled with Masses—the result of the Church’s longing for the salvation of the departed and her confidence in the merits of the Lord’s sacrifice to obtain that salvation.
It has been the Church’s longstanding practice to permit priests to offer Mass not once, not twice, but even three times on this day. The same permission is granted for only one other observance of the liturgical year: Christmas Day. For a discussion of this permission and whether it constitutes an encouragement, take a look at two posts from a couple of years ago (here and here).
The ethos of All Souls’ Day stands in stark contradistinction to the universalism of our age. When attending a Catholic funeral or a Mass on All Souls’ Day, one does not encounter the spirit of “life celebration.” This idea is, indeed, foreign to the funeral and All Souls’ Day liturgies.
What these liturgies do clearly convey is a spirit of profound grief and mourning, salved by the hope of resurrected life. On the fittingness of this liturgical spirit, Dietrich von Hildebrand writes:
It is a regrettable sophism to say (as it was sometimes said in sermons) that the death of a father or mother, husband or wife, or of a child, is no reason for sadness as long as they have died well, after receiving the last Sacraments, as long as we can hope that they are with God. Of course the eternal happiness of one whom we truly love is the most important thing, but separation from the beloved, even if only for a time, remains a terrible cross.
Whoever does not feel this cross, whoever just happily goes his way with the consolation that the beloved has found eternal happiness, is not directed to eternity in a special way—he is simply insensitive and does not want to be disturbed in the normal rhythm of his daily life. He is simply making a comfortable excuse when he emphasizes that the eternal salvation of the other is the most important thing. He has forgotten that even Jesus Christ, the God-Man, prayed in Gethsemane: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” He does not understand that a cross which has been imposed on us should be suffered under as a cross. Only then can we attain to the true consolation which lies in the perspective of eternity, to the true hope of eternal blessedness.” [Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Devastated Vineyard (1973), pg. 130]
Again this year, many parishes will offer special commemorations of the faithful departed on or near November 2nd. I would like to draw your attention to just two.
First, the National Shrine of St. John Paul II here in Washington, DC has announced that they will host a Missa Cantata at 7 PM on November 2nd in their main church (3900 Harewood Road NE, Washington, DC). Faure’s Requiem in D minor (Op. 48) will be sung, adhering closely to the original instrumentation for strings, choir, and soloists. Of this Mass, the composer once wrote: “Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem, which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.”
Second, the Catholic Artists Society will host their 15th annual solemn Requiem Mass on November 13th at 7 PM in the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer (869 Lexington Avenue, NYC). The music for this Mass will be Mozart’s Requiem in D minor (K. 626). This society is the same group that sponsors the Art of the Beautiful lecture series, featured before on these pages.
Requiescant in pace!