A local young man died in a tragic accident this week, leaving his family, friends, and community in shock. It's a small town, so even though I never knew Daniel (and from what I've learned about him since his accident, I wish I had), his death has affected me, too. I have many friends who knew him from church, and wanting to reach out to them, to share their sorrow in some small way, I wrote, "Rest in Peace, Daniel Parker" as my Facebook status.
Daniel's church friends (my school friends) have contributed several touching comments to my status. They have expressed their sadness, prayed for his family, and told him they'd see him again soon. Their words struck me, because they seemed so...what? I can't express the exact feeling, but something was missing. And then I realized what it was. Daniel and his friends are non-denominational Protestants, and they don't believe in prayers for the dead. Ultimately, they can comfort his family, but there is nothing they can do for him. It's a very helpless position, it seems to me.
Of course, everyone feels helpless when confronted with death. It's life's one certainty, one of the few mysteries left unsolved. No one knows what it's like, why it happens when it does, or what we can do about it. As Catholics, however, there is something we can "do" about it. We cannot prevent death, but we can pray for departed souls. What an incredible, beautiful blessing! Until reading my friends' Facebook comments, I never thought about how great a gift this is. A person's earthly life is beyond the reach of our help, but his soul is not. We, the living, are still an important apart of the soul's journey, because we are linked to our loved one and every other member of the communion of saints. We are not helpless, and the soul is not without help. In the eyes of Catholics, "rest in peace" becomes more than a wish or a comfort; it becomes a prayer. And so, with that in mind, let's pray for the repose of souls. Rest in Peace, Daniel Parker.