The annual Mass for the deceased clergy of Auckland diocese was celebrated at St Patrick’s church in Panmure on November 3, after not taking place last year because of Covid-19 restrictions.
At the 2022 Mass, the principal celebrant was Auckland vicar-general Msgr Bernard Kiely, and the names of 14 priests who had died in the last 24 months were read out.
The homily was preached by Auckland Emeritus Bishop Patrick Dunn. He mentioned hearing in a recent homily himself that the feasts of All Saints and All Souls fall exactly half-way between the northern autumn equinox and the winter solstice.
This is at a time in the northern hemisphere when days are shortening, the weather is getting colder, and “the whole countryside looks as if it is dying”.
But another preacher referenced by Bishop Dunn stated that, in this season, “these two feasts hover like a shining cloud of hope over the world for a month, the month of November”.
“The great feasts are feasts of hope . . . We are reminded that there is life beyond death, and we celebrate the lives of the saints and we pray for the holy souls,” Bishop Dunn said.
So we remember the dead in a spirit of hope, Bishop Dunn said.
The bishop recalled a talk given by former Prime Minister Sir William English to an assembly of young people, at which the then-politician said that, among the things he does at Mass, are two activities that are not common in everyday life. The first is praying for the dead, and the second is listening to ancient wisdom.
Bishop Dunn referred to the words of Jesus – “Do not be troubled and distressed”, and “I am the way, the truth and the life”.
“These are ancient words,” Bishop Dunn said, “that speak to ancient longings deep within our hearts, that nourish our spirits.”
The bishop also noted that “the Book of Maccabees reminds us that it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for those who have died, that they may be released from their sins”.
“So during the month of November, we are encouraged to pray for those who have gone before us, especially those who still need to be cleansed of aspects of sin or selfishness that still deprives them of the full sight of the One whom their soul yearns to see, like the deer for running water.”
“Those we have known and loved and walked with and worked with in life, we must not forget in death. That is the message of the Church. We know that at every Mass the Church remembers. We pray for those who have died in the peace of Christ, but we pray also for those whose faith is known only to God.
“We pray for everyone, we pray for all the dead.”
Bishop Dunn also referred to an observation by Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical Spe Salvi (On Christian Hope), that “when the Gospel was first proclaimed, one of the things that amazed the ancient world . . . that amazed those who heard the message, was the realisation that these Christians actually believe that they have a future, a personal future”.
That lies at the heart of the Gospel, Bishop Dunn said. “Do not be afraid – there are many rooms in my Father’s house.”