November is a time when we remember the souls of our loved ones who have gone before us. As we remember those who have died and pray for them, we do so with great hope in our hearts.

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Carlow Nationalist.
This column appeared on 29th October 2008

The Celtic festival of Samhain marked a significant moment in the year. Samhain was the beginning of winter. Herders led the cattle and sheep down from their summer hillside pastures to the shelter of stable and byre.

The harvest of Lunasa, now gathered would nourish and sustain its people, providing sustenance and energy for this more difficult and vulnerable time of the year. As the darkness of winter began to cover the land, the Celtic people believed that the Gods of the next world were now close at hand. So too were the souls of all their loved ones who had gone before them. Folklore and customs such as fires, costume wearing etc… All come from this very rich tradition that we have inherited and adapted very much in our own Christian story.

Similarly as Christians, November is the time of the year when we too remember the souls of all our loved ones who have gone before us. The leaves have fallen and trees stand bare. The land now harvested rests and lies fallow, winter points us to mortality and death, one day with great certainty we too all of us will die.

Death is difficult and indeed painful. Death strips us of the familiar and leaves us often both naked and vulnerable, with our bereavement and painful losses, we all have experienced when a loved one dies. The Death of a loved one often leaves us asking many questions struggling in finding answers as we wrestle in the coping and continuing of our day to day without a husband or wife, Sibling or friend. The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis describing his experience of loss simply said, “The tears and loss that I now feel is the love we once shared,”

Perhaps the two most powerful lines in the entire Gospel describe the human emotion felt by Jesus when his friend Lazarus died, “Jesus wept”. Jesus knew the pain and hurt that comes to visit when someone we love dies. In fact in order for God to fully embrace the human condition, he also through his Son had to embrace death itself. The humiliating and brutal manner of Christ’s death united God with all experiences of suffering and persecution. The final words that came from our dying God was a prayer of welcome and wonderful invitation

“Today you will be with me in paradise”.

We know from our experience of the seasons that the leaves will blossom again, that spring will come. Christ’s death was an ultimate demonstration of love by his father. As he was awoken to new life and resurrection, so too are all of us, who believe in him. As we remember our loved ones who have died and pray for them, we do so with great hope in our hearts. St. Paul tells us that

“Our true home is in heaven,”

May all our loved ones enjoy the eternal promise of life and peace in the happiness and joy of Gods presence. Jesus tells us

“I am going ahead of you to prepare a place for you. So that where I am, you too shall be.”