Father of all, we pray to you for those we love, but see no longer: Grant them your peace; let light perpetual shine upon them; and, in your loving wisdom and almighty power, work in them the good purpose of your perfect will; through JesusYesterday was marked on the Church calendar as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed -- or "All Souls Day." The day is set aside to remember those people dear to us who have died; people who are perhaps not famous, or considered "saints" by the Church, but who are saints in their own way to us.
Christ our Lord. Amen.
All Souls Day has not been observed liturgically in a long time at St. Paul's. This year, I thought we ought to observe it, if for no other reason than we've had 26 funerals in the parish since last November 2, compared with nine in the previous 12 month period. That is a lot of loss in a short period of time. I felt we needed to draw all of our prayers together from the last year, and be together as a community to remember those who have left us. We needed to pray their names as a community, and pray for ourselves in our grief. We also needed to remember all those we love who we see no longer.
So we gathered at 12:15 pm and again at 7 pm. There weren't many of us, but there were enough. Each time, we read the prayers, or "collects" for the day. And then instead of a sermon, the clergy of St. Paul's took turns reading aloud the names of those who have died. We began with the list of those for whom we held funerals in the last 12 months, beginning with Joe Howe last November, and ending with Charles Perry and Guy Hollifield, who we held funerals for in the last two days.
Then we moved to a book that members of the parish filled with names of people they love who are now departed. Some had died years ago, others recently. The book contained many, many pages of names. We read all of the names aloud as people knelt or sat in prayer. Then we had our Eucharist, and departed in peace.
It was a very moving day. Somber, yes, but also cathartic. There were a few tears, and a few smiles of recognition. Those who had died seemed so close to us. It was a good and holy day, and a good and holy act coming together to remember and to pray.
Let me also remind you of another tradition, from Latin America, that we are observing at St. Paul's: the ofrenda. We've set up a table in the church for you to display small photos of people close to you who have died. We will keep the table up until the First Sunday of Advent.
Here is the Collect for the All the Faithful Departed:
O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers: Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of your Son; that on the day of his appearing they may be manifested as your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.