In the Catholic Church, November is especially set aside to emphasize the Communion of Saints, the Church spread throughout all generations, past, present and the future. Thus, the month began with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day and continues to be a time of prayer with those who have gone before us. And praying with the Saints in heaven. The idea is that we can pray and intercede for the dead, and the faithful departed pray for us and join with us in the liturgies and the efforts of the Church. And we will likewise be joined together with future generations in our prayers and efforts for all ages on this earth.
These teachings about the Communion of Saints are important for our lives, and also for the presentation of the faith to others. In our own lives, we know that we can still show our gratitude for our deceased friends and family members. The church especially encourages dedicating good acts, sacrifices, prayers, and especially the Mass for those who have died. In the other direction, the Church teaches that the faithful departed pray for us and with us, especially in the liturgy; and they rejoice at our advancement towards the greater kingdom.
Thus, the Letter to the Hebrews declares that “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witness,” who encourage us to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us with our eyes of Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” Heb. 12:1-2. As then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, said in his 1977 book Eschatology, which means the study of the last things, the faithful departed would not, even if they could, enter into their full glory until the full complement of people are there with them to enjoy it. And so, as Jesus says in the parable of the lost sheep, there is such great joy in heaven over every repentant sinner. See Luke 15:7.
The Communion of Saints is also a very helpful point to make when presenting the faith to others. For there is a natural desire for union with those who have died. And there is a natural desire that, when time comes, we will not be separated from our friends, family, countrymen or the Church on earth. It is true that this desire for union with the dead has sometimes been expressed in human history in bizarre and superstitious ways. However, the desire that love, as the Song of Songs says,” is stronger than death,” is a rightful one. And Jesus Christ, through His Church, describes how this holy desire is rightfully exercised in anticipation of the joining of all nations in everlasting glory.