Names of loved ones lost to COVID-19 lifted in prayer at All Souls memorial Mass

Votive candles are lit in the sanctuary of the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Nov. 2, All Souls Day, during a special Mass. During the liturgy, the names of those who’ve died from COVID-19 were read or displayed as a way to remind the faithful to pray for all the faithful departed throughout the month of November. (Photos courtesy of the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament)

During All Souls Mass celebrated especially for those lost to COVID-19, bishop reminds faithful that praying for the dead is an act of charity

DETROIT — In a beautiful and haunting moment midway through the All Souls Day Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit, the names of loved ones who died this past year from COVID-19 scrolled across a screen in the cathedral while others were recited out loud, echoing throughout the church.

In the weeks leading up to the Mass, the faithful were invited to submit the names of victims of COVID-19. The feast day, celebrated Nov. 2, allows the faithful to pray in a special way for the souls of those in purgatory. 

While a special Mass for the feast of All Souls is not new, the suffering and death caused by the novel coronavirus brought a whole new level of solemnity to the day’s meaning. 

During his homily, Auxiliary Bishop Gerard W. Battersby said the faithful have in many ways gotten away from praying for the dead. 

Over the years, the practice of praying for the holy souls in purgatory has fallen somewhat out of practice, Bishop Battersby said. However, this is one of the most selfless acts one can do, he said. 

“This might be a sign of not only our forgetting of the mystery of Christ, but our own want of charity,” Bishop Battersby said. “We, my brothers and sisters, are called to enter into the life and mission not only of Christ, but of our neighbors as well. We must be cognizant of those souls who have gone before marked with the sign of faith; of those souls who cannot pray for themselves any longer, but need our assistance in entering into the beatific vision.”

Those souls will repay us with their gratitude, the bishop said, because even though they cannot pray for themselves, they can intercede for us. 

God’s will is for all of humanity, not just a privileged few, to be fully confirmed in Christ, the bishop said. That’s why the annual celebration of All Souls comes one day after the Church celebrates those already dwelling in Christ’s kingdom on All Saints Day, Nov. 1.

“God has given us such dignity in Christ that we ordinary people have a part in Jesus’ divine mission,” Bishop Battersby said. “That we, whether we be pope or pauper, are to be caught up in the mystery of Christ.” 

In the Gospel, the bishop noted, Jesus tells his disciples to “be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect.”

Though no one is perfect yet on earth, perfection is the ultimate goal of the Christian life, Bishop Battersby said. The souls in purgatory are working toward perfection with the help of the prayers of the faithful on earth. 

“If I have any self-knowledge at all, there is an abundance of evidence that you, that I am not there yet,” Bishop Battersby said. “We are not perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect; we have not fully allowed ourselves to be transformed in Christ. We know this is not only for us, but it’s true even for our beloved dead.”

The feast of All Souls plays an ever-important role of charity, Bishop Battersby continued, which is why Holy Mother Church reminds its faithful of the necessity to pray for souls whom, while already saved, are not yet prepared to enter into the perfection of the heavenly Father. 

“Today’s memorial is our prayer that this unity, which is our destiny, be enjoyed with all speed through the application of the merits of Jesus’ sacrifice and the sprinkling of his Precious Blood,” the bishop said. “That with the assistance of our prayers, our dearly departed — the souls who lie in consecrated ground, and the souls whose faith does not allow for this time of purification in their thinking, but nevertheless those who are saved — all need purification. For all those destined for heaven must taste the victory of Christ.”