“God doesn’t just want us to GET to heaven; He wants us to the kind of people who BELONG in heaven!”
He wants to transform people forever with His grace.
“He wants us to be saints!” said Father Dylan Schrader. “And if we’re not there yet when we die, by the grace of God, He cleans us up. He gets us ready.”
Fr. Schrader offered a Solemn Requiem High Mass in the Extraordinary Form in Latin the evening of Nov. 2, the Commemoration of All Souls, in St. Brendan Church in Mexico.
“These ceremonies of the Mass for the Dead are very old, very ancient,” he said. “They come from a culture very different from our own.”
Fr. Schrader and those who assisted him wore black vestments.
“Today, the color black signifies our grief, our mourning and our sadness in the face of death — a reality at which our Lord Himself wept,” said Fr. Schrader.
A simple catafalque draped in black, flanked by four candles, symbolized the graves of the people who have died in God’s good grace but still must undergo a process or purification before entering the fullness of God’s presence.
This is known as purgatory.
Catholics make a point of praying for the souls in purgatory, who cannot pray for themselves, on All Souls Day and throughout the month of November.
In communion with the saints
Fr. Schrader pointed out that there are three states of the Church:
Beginning with All Souls Day and continuing through November, the Church turns its attention to the Church Suffering.
Specifically, Catholics offer prayers “to assist those who have died who are still undergoing their final purification, who are still being loosed of the last vestiges of sin and prepared for entry into the Church Triumphant,” said Fr. Schrader.
While all who follow Christ look forward with joy to the Resurrection and life in heaven, “that doesn’t take away all the pain we experience at our losses,” he said. “So we are here in a special way to pray for all the faithful departed who are close to each one of us, the people whom in this last year we have lost.”
“Our prayers and our sacrifices can really help them,” he noted. “God can use those things to assist them in their preparation for eternal life.”
Body and soul
All Souls Day is also an opportunity for the saints-still-striving to reflect on the mystery of death, judgement, heaven, hell and purgatory.
“Death consists of the separation of the soul from the body,” said Fr. Schrader.
“We human beings are really a union of body and soul,” he stated. “Death means the rupture of that union, so death is in a sense unnatural to us. And we know that. We recoil at the thought of death because it puts us into an unnatural state.”
At that point, the body also begins to return to the dust of the earth.
“But our immortal soul continues to live,” he said, “and it waits for the resurrection of our body on the Last Day.”
All who die immediately experience judgement.
“That particular judgement is a kind of illumination, where we can see who we really are in the presence of the Mystery of Christ,” said Fr. Schrader.
That judgement reveals each person’s own final destiny: eternal life with God, or eternal separation from Him in hell.
Death puts an end to the opportunity to choose for or against God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in Whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.” (#1035)
“God has made us for union with Himself,” said Fr. Schrader. “And if we reject that, if we persevere in that rejection until the end, what is left of us? Apart from union with God, we have only eternal loss left.”
But until that time, there’s always hope, which is worth celebrating.
“Saved as through fire”
Fr. Schrader noted that the essence of heaven is seeing God face-to-face — “to see the very reality of God, to behold infinite goodness, truth and beauty directly and forever.”
“That perfect union with the source of all good brings with it perfect joy and happiness,” he said.
But, as the Book of Revelation makes clear, heaven is a state of perfection, and nothing unclean can enter it.
“In other words, there is no place in heaven for even our smallest sins or our smallest attachments to sin,” said Fr. Schrader.
Although summoned to perfection, “just as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), most people do not attain that level of perfection in this life.
“So all who die in God’s grace and friendship but still imperfectly purified are assured of eternal salvation,” the priest stated. “But after death, they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”
Scripture makes frequent reference to purification by fire — not by the punishing fires of hell, but the fire of God’s love that purges away imperfection.
St. Paul uses the analogy of a temple in Chapter 3 of his First Letter to the Corinthians.
He reveals that whatever stands on the imperishable foundation of Christ will be tested by fire.
The fire will reveal whether the structure is built of precious metals and jewels, or of perishable straw and wood.
“If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a reward,” St. Paul writes. “But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.”
“In either case, we’ll find salvation,” Fr. Schrader noted. “If our temple is perfect, then we are ready for heaven. If it’s not quite flawless, if it’s got Christ as the foundation but there is still some wood, hay and straw, Paul says we will suffer loss but be saved as through fire.”
For us, the living
Fr. Schrader emphasized that death does not sever the relationship between the person who dies and love of Christ or other people.
“We remain connected to the faithful departed,” he said. “And Scripture instructs us that we are to pray for the dead.”
He pointed to the passage from the Second Book of Maccabees, in which a collection is taken up to offer sacrifice in the Temple for the soldiers who have died in battle. (12:43-46)
“It was a holy and pious thought,” the passage reads. “Therefore, he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”
Fr. Schrader said the practice of praying for the dead presupposes there are people who can benefit from those prayers.
“We can help the dead by our prayers!” the priest stated. “We can also help them by offering up the sufferings we experience and by gaining indulgences on their behalf.”
Most effective is to have Masses offered on their behalf, “because the Mass is simply the best prayer that we have for them,” he said.
Rooted in hope
At the Requiem Mass, Fr. Schrader, the cantors and schola offered many of the prayers in simple Gregorian chant, with minimal accompaniment.
Fr. Schrader, pastor of St. Brendan Parish and diocesan delegate for Mass in the Extraordinary Form, said the Requiem Mass is different from other Masses that are celebrated in Latin.
“The ceremonies are more subtle, more somber and in some cases even more ancient,” he said.
Although solemn, they are rooted in hope in the Resurrection and eternity in perfect union with God.
After the Mass, people handed out freshly baked “soul cakes,” which are small, sweet reminders to pray for loved ones and all others who have died.
An archived livestream of the Mass and be found at: