By Tony DeGol
Perhaps no one celebrates symbolism like the Catholic Church.
The symbols were, indeed, powerful during a prayer service to remember deceased loved ones from Sacred Heart and Saint Mary parishes in Altoona on November 1 at Sacred Heart – one of many such gatherings at parishes throughout the diocese in observance of the commemoration of All Souls.
An array of tea light candles was the most visible symbol. Each candle represented a parishioner who passed in the past year. As the name of each deceased individual was called, a family member or other representative lit a tea light and placed it in front of the altar.
Near the candles was incense – signifying the prayers rising to God.
“But I think the greatest symbol is that all of you gathered here in the Church this afternoon to pray together,” said the Very Reverend Lubomir Strecok, VF, Pastor of Sacred Heart, Administrator of Saint Mary, and Dean of the Altoona Deanery.
On November 1, the Catholic Church celebrates all who have entered eternal glory. On November 2, the Church prays for the souls that await their reward.
In fact, the entire month of November is dedicated to remembering and praying for our dearly departed, and the observance takes on added significance this year.
In a pastoral message to the faithful earlier this month, Bishop Mark announced additional ways this year to assist our beloved deceased so that they may receive the gift of the full remission of the punishment due to sin.
According to the Bishop, those who are physically able may obtain a Plenary Indulgence by visiting a cemetery and praying there for the deceased person on any day this month. Also, the Plenary Indulgence may be obtained by visiting a church and praying the Our Father and the Creed any day this month.
For those who are elderly, sick, homebound, or unable to visit a church or cemetery because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Plenary Indulgence may be obtained by praying at home before an image of Jesus or the Blessed Virgin Mary while praying for the intentions of the Holy Father, with the intention of receiving the sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist as soon as possible.
“I am constantly reminded that our world and everyone who lives on this planet Earth are in need of prayer,” noted Bishop Mark. “Maybe we could go a little farther than just one day in November. Please consider doing one of the suggested spiritual acts every day for the whole month. Pray for the faithful departed. But also pray for anyone who is held captive by the effects of sin. Encourage others to pray at this time. It might catch on and lead to peace, reconciliation, and healing in our world.”
For those gathered at Sacred Heart, it was a bittersweet moment as individuals, couples, and families came forward to light a candle in memory of their loved one.
“Maybe it will bring peace into your heart,” told the congregation. “Maybe there will be a tear coming from your eye. The candles are giving us hope that we are not separated forever.”
Editor’s Note: More coverage from the prayer service remembering deceased members of the Sacred Heart/Saint Mary parish families on Proclaim! TV on November 15 at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23.
[Photo: Candles are lit in front of the altar in memory of recently deceased parishioners of Sacred Heart/Saint Mary parishes in Altoona.]