All Souls Day – or the ‘Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed’ as we know it – fell just days before a four-week national lockdown in England to arrest the spread of COVID-19.
November is a month that normally offers several important opportunities to pray for the dead, but this year it brings separation and isolation for millions across England and Wales.
Despite the anxiety generated by the pandemic, we are called to be people of hope, fortified in our lives by the Risen Christ who is with us in all our suffering.
The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, used his All Souls’ homily, preached in St Chad’s Cathedral on 2 November, to stress that death is not to be feared, it is a call to share in the divine life:
“Our Christian faith in the resurrection does not permit us to feel overwhelmed by the certainty of dying or to regard death as an isolated, terminal moment that marks the extinction of life.
“Death does not bring closure to the pilgrimage of life. It is a unique moment of passage on our journey into the fullness of life. The sacraments we received in life prepare us to embrace this moment, seeing it for what it really is: the call of God to share in the divine life.”
Archbishop Longley also acknowledged the challenges that need to be faced in coping with COVID-19 but that prayer lies at the heart of our response.
“As the news unfolds day by day we shall be praying for all those who have died as a result of Covid-19 and remembering all those who mourn their loved ones in these unsettling times.”