From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace: All Souls Day: healing for families

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the Oct. 24, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

As a child, Halloween eclipsed the Feasts of All Souls and All Saints. Moving through middle age, I wish I could still go trick-or-treating, and I love seeing my kidsí creative costumes.

But Iíve come to hunger for something more meaningful. And Iíve discovered the richness of the All Souls/All Saints Holy Days can be a gift for the whole family. Itís a good time to sit down, drag out the photo album and tell stories about family history. Children gain a sense of belonging knowing where they come from and how family members are connected.

The Church sets aside All Souls day as the liturgical way of remembering and praying for our loved ones whoíve died. Attending Eucharist that day or taking time for ritual and prayer with family or friends can be healing, and reinforce our faith in the Resurrection.

The Holy Day will be difficult at our house this year. Two of our relatives died last spring in the space of one month. My husbandís father died after a long illness. And my cousin Alex, who was 34 years old, with a wife and two small daughters, died in a tragic accident.

It may seem too painful to spend time thinking about those whoíve died, but itís part of the healing process. Ritual and storytelling are good ways to work through grief. Organizing some quiet time for the family to celebrate and pray together can be simple and rewarding.

Nature provides a model of death and resurrection for us. Falling leaves can be used in a comforting and beautiful ritual. Some families may enjoy raking the yard together while sharing memories. Others may want to bring colorful leaves inside and create a collage with photos. Thereís no right way to grieve. Explore until you find something that fits your family.

Often itís helpful to connect some way with a larger community. In our parish at the beginning of November, people bring photographs of their loved ones whoíve died. We display the pictures in front of the altar, and remember those people in prayer throughout the month. At Mass we sing the Litany of the Saints and include the names of those in the parish whoíve gone before us.

When I first joined the parish five years ago, the names meant little to me. Now I recognize many of them. Lloyd Clem was the husband of Nava, to whom I bring Eucharist at Alderwood nursing home. Mary Dain was the sister of Milli, the lady who sits faithfully in the front pew every Sunday. Jerry Eyraud was grandpa to six of the children in our small parish. And Virginia Goldman, whom I grew to love in the short time I knew her before she died last year, was active in city politics.

The mobility of modern families often prevents us from maintaining deep roots in a faith community. But those connections to past generations can be a source of strength and comfort. This was evident last month when St. Ann Parish observed its 100th anniversary. Though Iím relatively new to the community, the celebration profoundly touched me.

I met people who had been baptized and grew up at St. Ann more than 50 years ago. I heard stories about the families who helped build the church when Spokane was a frontier town. I felt my faith strengthened as I heard about a community holding together through a century of both good times and hard times. When the cantor sang the litany of names at Mass that evening, the Communion of Saints seemed tangible, something solid I could depend upon.

As autumn wanes and the darkness lengthens we sometimes need a bright spot on which to fasten our hopes. A ritual that remembers loved ones and reminds us that, through Christ, death gives way to life can help encourage and sustain our families.

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane freelance writer and children's author.)

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