Catholic faithfuls in Abuja led by the Purgatorial society gathered at the Gudu Cemetery (first of it kind) on Wednesday 2nd November to commemorate the feast of all souls, a day set aside to remember and pray for those who have died.
Since the eleventh century, the Feast of All Souls has been celebrated on the 2nd of November every year for deceased Christians that they might “rest in peace” according to the Catholic belief.
On this day, believers remember and pray for the souls of people who are in Purgatory the place in which those who have died atone for their sins before being granted the vision of God.
One of the officiating priests Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Odiong explained why it is necessary for Christians to pray for the souls of those who have departed this world.
“In the Catholic Church we believe that there is a state that those who are not completely purified have to go there and undergo that process of purification because the bible says that nothing unclean will see God, the beatitude say blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God so they have to go through that purification, those who have been stained with venial sins. On a day like this we remember them because they can no longer pray for themselves but we the church militants we still have those grace to intercede for suffering church because it’s through our prayers that their souls will be liberated.” He said.
According to him, praying for the dead can be traced to the book of second Maccabees where the army commander Judas Maccabeus who offered prayers for his dead soldiers. “The book of 2 Maccabees Chapter 12 from 42-46 recorded that Judas Maccabeus who was the leader of the army in Israel prayed for his slain soldiers who were found with amulet from pagan Gods. He prayed and interceded for them so that god will have mercy on their souls even though they were already dead. So if there was nothing like cleansing, there wouldn’t have been need for him to intercede for them,” he added.
Speaking on what informed the decision to celebrate the mass at the cemetery, Mr. Boniface Eboka, Patron and former President of the Purgatorial Society Abuja Arch Diocese, said the society was concerned with praying for the souls in purgatory.
“As members of the society, If we are passing through a cemetery, there are special prayers we offer, so a day like this gives us the opportunity to come into the main cemetery and offer prayers”.
“Here in this cemetery, there are Muslim, there are christian, there are Anglicans, there are Catholics, there are pagans but most importantly we know that if per chance they found themselves in purgatory, with our prayers and the mass said here today, they are on the verge of being release from purgatory, and even if they are not release from purgatory for now, they will have a kind of relief from this prayers today. So it is either for the relief or release of souls from purgatory” he said.
For Mr Linus a lay faithful who also took part in the celebration, praying for the dead is an obligation “I’m here to join the purgatorial society to pray for the dead as we are all expected to be prayed for after we gone. Its, not that I feel I will not make heaven, I want to go to heaven and I’m hopeful but it’s not an easy tax. Though a lot of people don’t believe in praying for the dead but we believe in praying for the dead Catholics and personally I believe when somebody dies we should remember the person and pray for the person because we don’t know beyond what see and what we don’t see is beyond us so we offer it in prayers because all our lives are dedicated to God. So I hope that people would come to realize that and pray for those who die” he said.
Rev. Fr. Emmanuella Aderinola in his sermon during the mass, encouraged everyone to love one another. He said love and death are the only two things that can make us see God.
“As we remind ourselves of the reality of death today, I want to encourage you in this faith you have taken up, we are all standing here bringing ourselves to the reality of the sufferings of these people in that state called purgatory, that is why we are called to the life of holiness.
“Know ye well that the love and death are two necessary wings with which we can climb to heaven, love your neighbor, love your God while you are still here on earth. The other wings which death must come to everybody, and death when it eventually comes, love is the only thing that can make you see God” he concluded.