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The Catholic New World
Lenten remembrance
Byzantine Catholics pray for the dead on All Souls Saturdays

By Michelle Martin

When faithful of the Byzantine Catholic Rite observe Lent, their practices include an increase in fasting, prayer and almsgiving, just as in Roman Catholic communities.

But Byzantine Catholics-who are in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church-add another layer: prayer specifically for the souls of their loved ones who have died.

Instead of praying for the departed on Nov. 2, All Souls Day in the Roman Catholic Church, Byzantine Catholics pray for them after the Divine Liturgy on all the Saturdays of Lent, explained Father Thomas Loya, pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen.

The practice reflects the idea that the essential nature of Christ's death and resurrection is love, said Loya.

"Lent brings us to the ultimate Christian mystery, the mystery of death and resurrection, and also the mystery that God is the God of the living and the dead. . We pray for the deceased because the goodness of the world has been tainted by sin and death," said Loya. "That divides us. Charity-love-is based in being united with one another, and how better can we express our unity than by praying for the good of their souls? It is part of the proof of how the church remembers them; we never forget anybody, and we are always with them. We pray for them as an act of charity."

The practice also has a celebratory element, with the dead remembered at a funeral service that follows the Saturday Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy is similar to the Mass, in that it is the Byzantine eucharistic banquet, Loya said, and it is not celebrated on weekdays during Lent.

"Saturdays are still a part of Lent, but they are like a stopover on our Lenten journey," Loya said. "They are still the Sabbath, the seventh day when God rested, so we rest in our Lenten journey."

Divine Liturgy also is celebrated on Sundays during Lent because Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, Loya said. Weekdays include "presanctified liturgies," which include the distribution of the Eucharist, but not its consecration.

In the Byzantine Catholic rite, the faithful observe Lent for 40 straight days, from the Monday before the Roman Catholic Ash Wednesday to the Saturday before Passion Sunday, Loya said, with Holy Week not being counted as part of Lent.

The faithful abstain from meat starting two weeks before Lent to Easter, and from dairy foods from a week before Lent to Easter.

"We enter into it in stages," Loya said. "It's a pulling back from the fatty, rich foods that are used in festive times."


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