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Event and Street Photographer who leads by the Spirit of God and loves to capture the moment in life either in door or on the street.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pray for the Soul of the Dead

Let us continue my journey from my earlier blog entitled Going Home for Christmas 2010.

I did mention in my earlier blog that I am going for a prayer for the soul of the dead on December 22rd but we decided to change it to early December 21st. 

Today is the day and we will be going to the cemetery to offer incense and prayer to Agnes’ beloved one who had gone to her rest. The morning is wet and it’s drizzling since the rain started at around 1.00 AM. 

Today I will miss my morning mass at St. Anthony Catholic Church as we plan to out early. We are ready to go at 7.00AM but the rain has not stopped completely.

My father-in law handed me his favorite coat and his hat and Agnes smile at me.  He said this will protect me from the cold weather. I wonder how about his own daughter, is she alright to get wet?  Then he gives Agnes a few small pin which he believes these pin will protect his daughter from the bad spirit at the cemetery later. Agnes looks at me and I shake my head to indicate to her that I do not need the pin.

At 7.20AM, Agnes brother, Tony comes to fetch us and we have our breakfast at a nearby coffee shop then we head for his home cum factory. There we take the other apparatus for offering and bought a bouquet of flower to be placed at his mother’s tomb. We change the car from his Black Perudua MyVy to his new Toyota Hilux as we have to go through rough terrain.

At 8.10AM, we head for the Sarikei Christian Cemetery which takes around 30m minutes drive. Along the way, I see a few new building without windows and one is about six stories high. Tony explained to us that these building are the house for birds to build their nest. [Rose, maybe you know the name of this bird, ‘manok kepisan’ or silver swift]. Beside Sarawak Pineapple and green Orange, Bird nest is one of Sarikei main product. In my mind I thought, “These people really mean business.” It’s good that they build these building outside the town and residential area as the birds can be very noisy when they came home to sleep. And they throw their drops everywhere.

When we arrive at the cemetery, the rain has stopped and a few people were already at the cemetery. Tony parked his Toyota Hilux at the roadside not far far from the main path.

We take two umbrellas in case of raining again. Tony carries a big box which contains paper money, incense and candle. His wife carries a big container of water, cloths, a bit of newspapers and a broom. I carry a bouquet of flower. I look around and I see that all the tombs were marked with a cross .  Then we walk on the slippery path with care until we reach the tomb of Agnes’ mother.

Tony put the big box which he carried on his broad shoulder at one side of the tomb and start to clean the tomb with paper while his wife opens a container of water and ask him to pour the water on the tomb instead. Thus he pours the water on the tomb and warp with a dry cloth. His son and I pull out a few weeds around the tomb.

Once the tomb cleaned, Tony light up two candles and put on a coke tin as the floor is still wet and light up three incenses which Agnes explained to me of what Tony is doing,  as an offering to ask for permission to open the door of prayer to the dead. I cover his candles and incense with my umbrella as the few drops of rain fall.

Then Tony arranges the bouquet of flower in a vase on the tomb and start to light the incense of offering. He gives each one of us three stick of incenses each and I am the last to do the offering.
I offer up my prayer to God for her soul asking for mercy, forgiveness of sin and everlasting rest, one Hail Mary and three incenses stick. 

I keep praying to God, hoping to get some sign of presence. But I receive nothing, not even a stirring in my heart.  It’s just peace.That is good enough for me.

Then comes the time for burn offering of paper money with their believe that the soul of the dead will not be poor with this offering. As for me, I am burning these papers as part of the ritual and pray to God that the sin of the soul be forgiven and have eternal rest.

Most of Agnes’ cousins wonder why I am doing prayer for the soul of the dead. Most of Agnes’ cousins are Methodist and they do not offer incense and prayer for the soul of the dead. Their argument is that this practice is not in the Holy Bible. Therefore it is not Christian practice. 

True it’s not in the Protestant Bible but before 1517, it’s in the Holy Bible. This tradition had been taken out of their version of the Bible as this tradition was found in the 2nd book Maccabees. The Book of Maccabees is one of the four books taken out of the Protestant Bible.

This practice can be found in 2nd Maccabees 12 verse 39 to verse 45 on the Prayers for those killed in Battle.

42 and they turned to supplication, praying that the sin that had been committed be wholly blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of sin of those who had fallen.
43 He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this, he acted very well and honorably taking account of the resurrection.
44 For if he was not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.
45 But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fallen asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin.
2Maccabees 12:42-45 (NRSV)

This is the reading which Catholic Church reads on the All Souls Day which falls on November 2nd every year.

My mind recalled my experience of praying for the dead.
Years back, I read of a Book called Soul in Purgatory and the  Saints’ experience of praying for the soul in purgatory. And I said to myself, “if Saints can do it, I also can with God will.” 

So when Agnes having her 3rd miscarriage, I start to pray for the soul of the three miscarriages, my grandparents, my uncles, my aunties, my friends  even those I read in the newspapers. Days turn into weeks and weeks into months and nothing happen. I said, “Cannot be!”

On the eight month at my normal time of morning pray that is at 3.00AM, I heard many voices as I walk down the stairs in my house. It’s as if our house is full of people but I could not see. They are very joyful and they are waiting for someone.

Then someone shout, “He is coming already! He is coming already!”

They are waiting for me!!!

The hair at the back of my neck rise and ghost bum covered my body.  I am afraid of the thing I cannot see.  I am scared to my bone. 

In my fright, I pray, “Jesus, help me!” 

And I rush back to my room and grab my Bible and hold it tight to my chest. Pull my blanket and wait for the morning to come. 

I told my wife about this experience and she said, “Don’t play, you know. It’s dangerous.”

Since that day, I never pray for the soul of the dead until recently when I met Father Ignatius Huan during my retreat at Maranatha, Janda Baik, Pahang last October. During my personal meeting with him, I shared this experience with him and  he told me that I am growing in my spiritual life. 

And I learn very important lesson, the soul of the dead is longing for our prayer and the Saints’ experiences were REAL. 

With this I would like to urge, those who read this sharing, PLEASE PRAY for the soul of the dead especially your love ones. They are longing for your prayer and your prayers will bring comfort and joy for their soul.

You prayer can be as simple as, “God, Have mercy on XX. Grant her a good rest or give her comfort.” Or “ O Jesus, have mercy on YY, Forgive his sin.”

Believe me this is a good deed because my heart is stirring as I write this blog.

Mercy to All and Peace to the world.

Merry Christmas and may the peace of Christ be always within us.

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