By: Sr Timothy Marie, OCD

Caught up in the frenzied pace of 21st century living, we find ourselves walking or running, jogging or riding, and sometimes slipping and sliding along the path of our allotted lifetime. Some good days and some not-so-good days, living our lives to the fullest as best we can. But then what? What’s next? One day, the clock of life will stop ticking. This will happen to you, to me, to all of us. I suppose we are somewhat afraid to think about it too deeply. After all, it is a plunge into the unknown even to ask the question. And eternity is a mighty long time.

The Catholic Church opens the door to these questions each November. All Saints’ Day is celebrated on November 1st and All Souls’ Day follows on November 2nd. Carefully, methodically, yearly, we pause in order to remember…remember what? First of all, to remember that at our birth, the number of our heartbeats is already determined. When that last beat thumps, it’s over. Or is it? Catholics say it is hardly over. There’s much more. There is what authors like to call the “hereafter,” a rather ambiguous term it seems to me. We Catholics call it as it is. It is eternity and God is waiting for us in heaven.

It’s already November and that means it is again time to take that pause. We turn our gaze to the hereafter, remembering those who have gone before us. Catholic teaching states that those who are in God’s grace at death will spend eternity in heaven, and it also includes the notion of Purgatory, where we undergo any purification needed before gaining entrance into heaven.

During this month of thanksgiving, let’s remember and pray for all our loved ones who have gone before us, recalling with gratitude how their lives have touched us. Let us remember and pray for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, who are dependent on our prayers and sacrifices to help them gain heaven. For the kingdom of God binds us together – the Church triumphant in heaven, the Church suffering in Purgatory and the Church militant here on earth. Let us give thanks and pray, because that’s what Catholics do.