Anglicans generally seem a bit iffy about the Feast of All Souls except for those towards the catholic end of things. The day is a day of prayer for the dead - often, though not confined to, one's relatives. Those at the seriously protestant end of the scale think it both forbidden and needless to pray for the dead. I reckon it can't do any harm, and like most prayer the true efficacy is in the impact upon those doing the praying. The day is also known as The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed. That has a cosier ring to it, but what of the unfaithful departed? They need remembering too.
Today I remembered before God a short list of family and friends now gone. I always include Uncle Hugh, after whom I am named. He died when less than half my age, shot down over the coast of Holland whilst serving as a Flying Officer in WW2. He left a young widow and a 15 month old daughter. I remembered also two influential women in my early life: Flossie, my maternal grandmother and Edith, my godmother. How I'd love to be able to speak with them now, to tell them how their impact on me (for the good, nothing but the good) remains alive. And of course my parents, Eileen and George, who introduced me to this heady adventure. God love them all.
Many other faces of 'the departed' come into my mind - faithful and 'un' faithful, believers and not. Amongst them Aelred, a monk of the Anglican Community of the Resurrection who became a mentor and friend to me and who encouraged my vocation. He was a mix of the sometimes haughty and the always human and showed me great care. And I also recall many of those I have attended in their last hours and minutes.
All Souls' has also been known as Defuncts' Day. Would you believe it? It brings to mind the Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch. 'Defunct': "no longer existing, living or working correctly". Not working correctly: that surely includes many of us. We'd better pray for the defunct living too.
Eternal God, our maker and redeemer,
grant us, with all the faithful departed,
the sure benefits of your Son’s saving passion and glorious resurrection
that, in the last day,
when you gather up all things in Christ,
we may with them enjoy the fullness of your promises;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
All Souls: lives remembered
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