03 November 2015

Passing it on

The kids and I made it to Mass yesterday for All Souls Day. Getting out of the house was a circus, as usual, and I probably said "Stop doing X we're going to be late!!!" five million times. And it was snowing, not as heavily as it had been earlier that morning, but enough for me to keep the radio off and sternly warn Little Bear that the roads are slippery so do not fuss and distract Mama. We live a good 20 minutes from the church on clear roads, and by the time we were halfway there yesterday, I was definitely wondering whether it was actually important to be doing this... But we made it, a little bit early even.

And then, there was the homily. Father really didn't pull punches! We have a responsibility to pray for the dead, he stressed. To offer Masses for them. To pray for the repose of our ancestors. To visit cemeteries and pray for those buried there, especially those who have been forgotten. He talked about how Catholics in other countries gather in the cemeteries on All Souls' Day to tend grave sites and pray for all those buried there. The souls in purgatory need our prayers, and we have an obligation to pray for them.

Parents have a responsibility to pass on these traditions and the whole of Catholic culture to their children, he reiterated. If we don't teach them to pray for the souls in purgatory, if they don't see us praying for those who have died, then when we die they aren't going to pray for us. If we don't make the Faith the center of our lives, the rhythm we live by, why would they do so? 

Visit a cemetery today, he instructed us. Bring your children. Say a rosary, or a decade of a rosary, or whatever prayers you can. Pray for the repose of those souls, even if you don't know any of them. Pray for all of the souls in purgatory.

Oh. Okay, going to Mass yesterday really was that important.

We'd already talked a couple of times over the course of the morning about All Saints and All Souls, how the saints are in heaven with God, and the souls in purgatory are people whom God is helping to become perfect so they can be saints in heaven too, so we pray for them that they will quickly become saints. I think that made sense to Little Bear; he explained it back to Matt after work yesterday evening. We stopped by a cemetery on our way home for supper, and Kit slept just long enough for us to get in a decade before she was very sure she needed to be done in her car seat, so we had to go home.

We've lost such a huge amount of tradition and Catholic day-to-day culture from just a few generations back, and it makes me so sad and frustrated. No one had ever told me before yesterday that we're supposed to visit cemeteries on All Souls Day! Why didn't they? Why didn't anyone I asked from my parents' generation know about it either? There's this huge body of cultural knowledge that I want to have, to form my kids in and build our family life around, and it seems like it should be all around us, but if I don't know what I'm looking for or even that I should be looking for something, it can be so hard to find.  Sometimes it seems impossible, passing on a Catholic culture to our children, when we're still learning it ourselves. Thank heaven for the priests and laypeople who do have a solid knowledge of our traditions, and share them with the rest of us!

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