All Souls’ day is a time when I pray for the souls of my parents and other relatives now dead. I know many Protestants who ask me why I do so, as they are now with God, and He alone will judge; do I, they ask, think that somehow my prayers will influence Him.

I try to explain that this is not what I believe at all. Yes, I believe God makes the decision, and I don’t believe He will be in the slightest bit influenced by me. But it is an act of piety to my dead parents. They are no longer here in the flesh, but that does not mean I forget them, and praying for them seems to me to be a way of saying that I still love them and still care about them.

At last night’s All Saints’ service, we sang one of my favourite hymns – ‘For all the saints’. Its words move me greatly:

The golden evening brightens in the West/ soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest/ sweet is the calm of paradise the blest

That is what I wish for my parents, and for all the dead. The whole hymn is, as so many are, shot through with excellent theology, and I think, sometimes, that most of the theology I know comes from the hymns I have loved the most. This, most beloved hymn, is a reminder to me that the saints are our Christian heroes – the ones who have gone before who fight for us. It is a reminder of that often forgotten fact – that we, as Christians, are in a fight.

St. Paul reminded Timothy to ‘fight the good fight’, and the struggle we wage is against the powers of darkness. Those who have gone before us have finished that fight, but we, in turn, have to take up their struggle. There is so much to distract us from God, and from pursuing the search for Him, and for disobeying His laws, and often, the struggle is not the great and noble one which might rouse us to action, but the slow chipping away of every day: where it is easier to do something other than to pray; where it is easy to skip the reading of the Scriptures because I will read more tomorrow; where it is easier to do less than my best, because no one will notice.

It is these little temptations which are, in many ways, the worst. The big sins, well, those we know, and if we yield, then we know we have done wrong; but those little one, which can accumulate only too swiftly, well they are the ones which can creep upon us only too easily. Does it really matter if I take it easy, rather than putting my whole self into something? Yes, it does, and especially when it is easier to do less. That was one of my daddy’s great lessons to me: ‘There’s no excuse for doing less than your best, Jess’, he would say, and when I’d protest, he’d say, ‘no excuse that works Jess, no excuse that works.’ Not a day goes by I don’t miss him. He fought the fight well, and I hope never to disgrace him.