"Bury my body wherever you will; let not care of it cause you any concern. One thing only I ask you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be."
-words of St. Monica from the Confessions of St. Augustine
Since I've just recently discussed St. Augustine, I think it's fitting to say something about his mother, St. Monica. The day before Augustine's feast is her own. The Church has seen fit to pair them liturgically.
I alluded in my previous post to the many twists and turns that Augustine's life took before his conversion. Well, through all those many paths that Augustine lived, Monica was praying for him to turn to the Lord. If we attribute greatness to Augustine as a saint, bishop, and doctor of the Church, then we must also give great credit to Moncia whose prayers for Augustine were certainly efficacious.
However, the conversion of Augustine--and Monica's place in it--though a beautiful story, is not what I want to discuss. The reason I bring up St. Monica at all is the quote above. Monica prayed for Augustine all through his life, and then, at the end of her life, she requested the same of him. She prayed for his conversion, then asked him to pray for her after death. (By the way, if anyone needs proof that the 5th century Church professed a belief in purgatory, here it is in this passage.)
This strikes me as relevant to an issue that comes up surrounding the loss of loved ones. When someone we love dies, we want to say that he or she is in a better place. We knew him very well, and we know he's in heaven. Yet, had we asked that person before he died if he wanted our prayers, would he not have answered "yes, please do"? Even the holiest among us, like St. Monica, would request that we pray for their souls after their death.
Now, let me make something clear - I don't think that we should pray for the dead out of fear for the dead of hell or purgatory. Fear is a very twisted motivator. Instead, we should pray for the dead out of hope in the mercy and love of God.
Is it right for us to hope that our beloved dead are in heaven--you bet. However, should we, because of that hope, fail in our Christian duty to pray for the deceased--absolutely not! Yet many of us tend to believe that those we love were so good, so virtuous in life, that we don't need to pray for them. Whom is this desire to immediately canonize our beloved dead intended to benefit?
I think it's just a way for us to preserve our memory of the deceased as unblemished, that is, it's something that makes us feel better about what's going on. But what good is that to the deceased? And besides, I think it is a far healthier way of grieving to turn our efforts and energy to loving the deceased through praying for them rather than endlessly eulogizing on how wonderful they were. Don't get me wrong--they were in fact wonderful, but the wonders that await them when they are reunited with Our Lord are far more worth celebrating, hoping for, and praying for than simply honoring their memory. The deceased have a future. If in our grieving we only recall the past, perhaps we have in fact forgotten our beloved dead.
|hard at work|