Catholic Review Column: Remembering the Faithful Departed

As my friend and mentor, Cardinal Hickey, former Archbishop of Washington, advanced in years, he instructed me on what was not to happen at his funeral. “Don’t let them canonize me!” he said, “Tell them to pray for me!”

Cardinal Hickey was a man of devout prayer, virtue, who served the Church effectively and devotedly, and who loved the poor. My point here is not to canonize him but to illustrate a truth about the spiritual life. The closer we draw to God the more we recognize how glorious is His love and how much we need to be purified so as to share fully in that love. This is why Cardinal Hickey asked for prayers after his death. But those far from God may be inclined to presume God’s mercy, seeing him as a rich, kindly, but distant uncle, whom they never call or visit but who is expected to come through with their inheritance when the time comes. “God is rich in mercy” but because He is merciful He calls us to leave behind our sins so as to share in His pure, unbounded glory. During our lives on earth He calls us to the perfection of love and after death provides for our purification through “purgatory”, which remains a very consoling part of our faith.

C.S. Lewis put it this way: “Our souls demand purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into joy?’ Should we not reply, ‘With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.’ ‘It may hurt, you know’ – ‘Even so, sir.’”

November is a time to pray for the dead, especially at Mass with the hope of eternal salvation and seeking for ourselves and for all the faithful departed the perfection of love.

Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori was installed as the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore May 16, 2012.

Prior to his appointment to Baltimore, Archbishop Lori served as Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., from 2001 to 2012 and as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington from 1995 to 2001.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Lori holds a bachelor's degree from the Seminary of St. Pius X in Erlanger, Ky., a master's degree from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg and a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1977.

In addition to his responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori serves as Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and is the former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.