By Josh Mansfield

“The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if to others, indeed, they seem punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself”. - Wisdom 3:1-5

Every year on November 2nd, the Catholic Church celebrates the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, commonly known as All Souls Day. We pray for and acknowledge our beloved dead who, as the Roman Canon prays, have “gone before us marked with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace” and all poor souls in Purgatory who have no one to pray for them. As Catholics, we are always called to “Memento Mori”, remember that we will die. Many, if not all of us, have known someone who has died this year. This year I lost an uncle, an aunt, a dear priest friend, and my Bishop all within a time span of April to June. I remember getting those calls and messages and hardly believing what I was hearing or seeing. Waking up on June 5th, with the very first thing that I see being news of the death of Bishop Murry (just 14 hours after learning of my aunt’s passing), was devastating. It was a rough day and a rough week. Death is inevitable for all of us, and no year, more than this, has been such a reminder of our own mortality than during the coronavirus pandemic. But, it is our faith in the risen Christ that spurs us on towards someday reaching our eternal reward in the Kingdom of Heaven. In his homily for the Extraordinary Urbi et Orbi from Rome on March 27, speaking on the passage from St. Mark’s Gospel of the Apostles with Jesus in the boat amidst the storm at sea, Pope Francis said: 

Faith begins when we realize we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves, we flounder: we need the Lord like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies. 

Saint Ignatius of Antioch wrote, “I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire”. This must be our aim, our goal every day as it was for all the Saints, whose Solemnity we just celebrated yesterday. On that day, we rejoice and ask the prayers of the Church Triumphant in Heaven. Today, we mourn and we ourselves pray for the Church Suffering in Purgatory. These past 3 days always serve as a reminder of the unity of the whole Church, Triumphant, Suffering and Militant, that we are united in the one faith of the one Church through which comes salvation through the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ It is in this faith that we have hope for both ourselves and our beloved dead. This year has been tough, but by the grace of God, we have persevered. Let us continue to renew ourselves in the faith of our Church, proclaim more boldly her teachings, and profess with our hearts that Jesus is Lord of all that was, is, and ever shall be. 

We here at the Perpetual Novena for the Vacant U.S. Dioceses remember in a special way all Bishops who have died since All Souls Day of 2019. In all, 11 U.S. Bishops have passed from this world to eternity since November 2, 2019. Of these 11, 2 were active Diocesan Bishops, 3 were retired Archbishops, 3 retired Diocesan Bishops, and 3 retired Auxiliary Bishops. Their names are listed here. Let us pray for their eternal repose:

  • Bishop Paul D. Sirba, Bishop of the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, 59, died Dec. 1 2019
  • Bishop Charles J. McDonnell, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey 91, died Feb. 13, 2020
  • Bishop Gilbert E. Chavez, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of San Diego, California, 87, died March 15
  • Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio, 85, died March 22
  • Bishop Emilio Allue, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts, 85, died April 26
  • Bishop James A. Murray, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, Michigan, 87, died June 5
  • Bishop George V. Murry, S.J. Bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, 71, died June 5
  • Bishop Edward E. Kmiec, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Buffalo, New York, 84, died July 11
  • Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb, Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama, 88, died July 15
  • Archbishop John J. Myers, Archbishop Emeritus of Newark, New Jersey, 79, died September 24
  • Bishop Odore J. Gendron, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, 99, died Oct. 16

Let us pray:

Listen kindly to our prayers, O Lord, and, as our faith in your Son, raised from the dead, is deepened, so may our hope of resurrection for your departed servants also find new strength. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect for All Souls Day)

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Memento mori!