Oxford’s Carmelite Friars offer prayers for departed loved ones during month of the Holy Souls

Death is not only the one certainty in life, it’s also a word that can invoke fear, uncertainty and desperation. As Catholics we know that our passing is not an end, but the beginning of our path towards heaven, and Christ’s promise to us of eternal peace and happiness.

Whilst we find it hard to contemplate our own physical end, it’s the separation that death brings from those around us whom we love – and who love us – that saddens and frightens us the most.

We are particularly exposed to this sadness in the modern world, where life and its struggles are so often focussed on the material and the immediate, rather than the far greater journey that every human soul is travelling on.

One of the world’s best loved saints, the Carmelite St Thérèse of Lisieux, was often heard to comment that “the world’s thy ship and not thy home”. Struggling with her own uncertainties and aware of her increasingly frail health, Thérèse knew to trust in God. When life at times seemed bleak and all too brief, she knew it was but nothing compared to the eternity of being united with God in heaven.

With the great capacity we have as humans to love each other, and to be loved in turn, the very thought of permanent separation can be simply much to bear. That is why we commemorate and remember especially those who have gone before in this month of November.

Whilst we tend to associate the commemoration of the Holy Souls with the earthly concept of death, as if it were some kind of ending, it’s important to remember that the loved ones we pray for this month are not truly ‘dead’, but are merely walking ahead of us on a long road to sainthood. Soon we will see them again but – no longer troubled and worn down by the cares and worries of this world – they will come again to meet us, illuminated by the full Glory of God. It is this communion of awaited love that lies at the heart of this month of November, that we call the month of the Holy Souls.

“The Church dedicates the month of November to the contemplation of the mystery of the Communion of Saints,” says Fr Fr. Alexander Ezechukwu, Prior of Chilswell Priory at Boars Hill, Oxford.

“This communion of love includes the faithful who have already reached heaven, the faithful departed who are still being purified and made ready for full union with God and the pilgrim faithful here on earth.”

Throughout November the Carmelite Friars at Chilswell will be praying daily for all loved ones who have departed this life, and are inviting anyone who wishes to remember a loved one to have their name inscribed in the priory’s Golden Book of the Holy Souls.

“As the celebration of Mass is the highest means the Church can provide for charity for the dead, we invite you to submit the names of your deceased parents, relations, friends and all for whom you wish to pray,” says Fr Alex.

“These names will be inscribed in the Priory Golden Book of the Holy Souls. Throughout the month of November, this book is left at the foot of the altar and your intentions are prayed for at every Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass in the Carmelite Priory at Boars Hill.”

If you would the Carmelite Friars to add someone to their prayers this month, please use this link to place your intention:


“Death is not, as pictures tell us, a phantom, a horrid spectre. The Catechism says that it is the separation of soul and body—no more! Well, I do not fear a separation which will unite me for ever to God.”

The Story of a Soul (L’Histoire d’une Âme): The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.