Thursday, 16 February 2012

Augustine on the commemoration of the faithful departed

Of necessity we must be sorrowful when those whom we love leave us in death. Although we know that they have not left us behind forever but only gone ahead of us, still when death seizes our loved one, our loving hearts are saddened by death itself. Thus the apostle Paul does not tell us not to grieve but “not to give like those who are without hope.”

Let us grieve, therefore, over the necessity of losing our loved ones in death but with the hope of being reunited with them.  If we are afflicted we still find consolation. Our weakness weights us down, but faith bears us up.  We sorrow over the human condition, but find our healing in the divine promise ...

There is no doubt that the dead are helped by the prayers of holy Church, by the saving sacrifice, and by alms dispensed for their souls; these things are done that they may be more mercifully dealt with by the Lord than their sins deserve.

The whole Church observes the custom handed down by our fathers: that those who died within the fellowship of Christ’s body and blood should be prayed for when they are commemorated in their own place at the holy sacrifice, and that we should be reminded that this sacrifice is offered for them as well.

From St Augustine, Sermon 172.


Robert F said...

Does Augustine have a comforting word to say to those of us whose loved ones did not die in the faith?

BC said...

Robert, my understanding of Augustine is that while he recognised that prayer for those departed who did not profess the Church's faith may be of benefit to the bereaved, he did not accord it any efficacy regarding the departed themselves (see, for example, his Enchiridion). However, in such situations I think it is enough to rest with the addition of the phrase "and those whose faith is known to you alone" in our prayers for the faithful departed.