Why does Saint Paul say that the dead are “fallen asleep?” Are we to think of the dead as unaware and unconscious until the general resurrection? No. We believe that all the saints in heaven are actively alive in Christ.
As the dying St. Dominic said to his religious brothers, “Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.” And as St. Therese of Lisieux said in her last conversations, “I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.”
The saints continue to cooperate in Christ’s messianic work. The Spirit of the Lord is with the saints, He has anointed them, to bring gifts to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and to make times and seasons acceptable to the Lord.
Though death is not unconsciousness, going to sleep is a fitting image for it. The deceased Christian arrives home from a long-road’s journey. After blisters, sunburns, and dehydration are attended to, not to mention a needed bath (I speak of the business of purgatory), dying begins the Christian traveler’s transition to a lasting, comfortable rest.
Those who have arrived at this home before of us are not cut off from those of us who are still journeying there. As Lumen Gentium and the Catechism says, “the union of the wayfarers with the brethren who sleep in the peace of Christ is in no way interrupted, but on the contrary, according to the constant faith of the Church, this union is reinforced by an exchange of spiritual goods.”
So today, why not ask your favorite saints to provide you with something special for this day’s journey? I suspect that they’re here, waiting, eagerly listening, for us simply to ask for something good.