This section features select texts by Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI on various celebrations throughout the liturgical year. We started with a Pentcost homily given by Ratzinger, posted along with the launch of this website. Additional texts will be posted following the Church's liturgical calendar.
The following spiritual reflection for All Souls’ Day is taken from the encyclical Spe salvi (No. 48). Benedict XVI’s encyclical Spe salvi facti sumus (“In hope we are saved”) was promulgated on 30 November 2007. The section presented below deals with the Christian hope that the living and the dead remain connected to one another beyond the limits of death.
A further point must be mentioned here, because it is important for the practice of Christian hope. Early Jewish thought includes the idea that one can help the deceased in their intermediate state through prayer (see for example 2 Macc 12:38-45; first century BC). The equivalent practice was readily adopted by Christians and is common to the Eastern and Western Church.
The East does not recognize the purifying and expiatory suffering of souls in the afterlife, but it does acknowledge various levels of beatitude and of suffering in the intermediate state. The souls of the departed can, however, receive “solace and refreshment” through the Eucharist, prayer and almsgiving.
picture alliance / dpa | Osservatore Romano Handout
Pope Benedict XVI goes to pray for the dead in the crypt below St. Peter’s on All Souls’ Day 2011.
Gesture of gratitude or request for pardon
The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death—this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today.
Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon?
Now a further question arises: if “Purgatory” is simply purification through fire in the encounter with the Lord, Judge and Saviour, how can a third person intervene, even if he or she is particularly close to the other?
When we ask such a question, we should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone.
The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death.
picture alliance / NurPhoto | Artur Widak
We remain connected to one another beyond death, Benedict XVI affirms in his encyclical Spe salvi. Christian hope does not end at the grave; it reaches far beyond it.
In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God's time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain.
In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too. As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.
Copyright 2007- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Headings, subheadings, and quotations are editorial insertions.