Not too long ago I was having a conversation with a classmate who happens to be a brother priest. He said something that really got me thinking. He said: “Did you notice how all we hear about anymore is the mind, heart and body? No one talks about the soul anymore.”
Of course, we are told at times “not to tell a soul” about one thing or another. We give “our heart and soul.” We meet “soul brothers” and “soul sisters.” And along the way we encounter “poor souls,” “good souls” and “lost souls.” But how often do we genuinely speak about the soul?
If there is one month in the liturgical year when we focus on the soul, it is certainly November. On Nov. 2 we celebrate the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed — otherwise known as the feast of All Souls. It typically is the custom on this day to pray for all souls, especially those who have died during the past year. Many parishes light candles, mention the names of the deceased at this Mass and invite the faithful to inscribe the names of their deceased loved ones in the Book of Remembrance.
November also is an opportune time to consider and care for our own soul. It certainly is good to keep our minds strong, hearts beating and bodies healthy. But what do we do for our souls? Sometimes we can become so absorbed in serving others that we forget about ourselves and our own salvation.
I remember being on retreat in 1992. The retreat master invited us all to look deeply at our souls. It became a “soul-searching” experience that demanded silence, prayer and a certain letting go of this world. When was the last time you went soul searching?
The English novelist Daniel Defoe once said, “The soul is placed in the body like a rough diamond, and must be polished, or the luster of it will never appear.” All human beings need to give attention to the soul.
One way to become more in touch with our soul is to acknowledge our mortality by completing or revisiting a last will and testament. As priests, we all should have a will, along with advanced medical directives and a power of attorney. These documents should be reviewed and refined every five to 10 years.
At the same time, it is important to complete pertinent burial information. For example, what funeral home will conduct your funeral? What church will you choose for your funeral liturgy? Who will be the homilist? What readings will be proclaimed? What songs will be sung? At what cemetery will you be laid to rest?
Another way to identify with our soul is to declutter our lives and give proper space and attention to our soul. We can accumulate so much. Some gifts that we receive we never open, let alone use. The fact is someone could benefit from what we don’t use. As the English writer Sir Terrence Pratchett wrote, “There are no pockets in a shroud.” The same could be said of our soul.
One of our chief tasks every day as priests is to care for souls. It is our humble privilege to serve as God’s instrument in the work of saving souls. Whether through celebrating the sacraments, visiting the sick, convening a meeting, teaching the faithful or just helping someone in need, we are ordained to proclaim Christ to the world and save souls. Even though we may not say the word “soul,” hopefully our actions speak louder than our words, revealing that we care not only about our own soul but also the souls of those whom we serve and, during this month, the souls of those who have gone before us in faith.
FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 13 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. To share your thoughts on this column or any others, follow The Priest on Twitter @PriestMagazine and like us on Facebook.