The feast of All Souls (Nov. 2) is an invitation to reflect on mortality — our own, that of our loved ones who are preparing for death, and of those who have gone before us. The feast day is also an opportunity to meditate on grief — the experience of which is unique to every soul yet escaped by no one.
All Souls 2021 is especially poignant, given the heartbreak many families have felt during the last two years of COVID-19. And it is fitting that St. Joseph, patron of a happy death, was called upon by Pope Francis to shepherd the world through the aftermath wrought by the pandemic. As the Year of St. Joseph nears its close (Dec. 8), the climbing death toll from the pandemic (whether directly from the virus, or through indirect, residual consequences of various restrictions) continues to force us to confront loss more regularly than many of us have been accustomed to.
In short, within this year dedicated to St. Joseph, immersed within a global pandemic, we are confronted with the question: For the Christian, what does authentic, healthy, efficacious grief look like?
It is well accepted within the mental-health community that grief is essential for psychological healing following the death of a loved one, but the process also holds profound relevance within the Christian spiritual life.
“For the Christian, to grieve is the fulfillment of the beatitude, ‘Blessed are those who mourn,’” said Father Paul Scalia, episcopal vicar for clergy for the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. “We must have the proper love for creation, which also means the proper sorrow about the wounds to creation.”
Indeed, the first lessons in grief come from Christ, who publicly wept in the face of death in the fallen world, well aware of the miracles of resurrection that he would soon bring about.
“Our Lord was moved at the funeral he came upon in the town of Nain,” where he would raise the son of the widow from the dead, Father Scalia told the Register. “He wept at the death of Lazarus. He wept over Jerusalem. To mourn, then, is to be in union with Christ in his grief.”
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