Today, on this day after the Feast of the Holy Saints, in which we celebrate the triumph of the Holy Saints, we are called to remember the Holy Souls … those souls who lived good lives. Those souls who loved the Lord, albeit with an imperfect love and are now suffering in the purifying fires of God’s justice. These are the souls of those who are destined to go to heaven, but are still in need of spiritual cleansing. They are in purgatory, the place where God’s love reaches them like fire… burning away their impurities… separating them from any stain of sin that might still be attached to their souls. As we pray, we need to remember that the souls in purgatory have already been redeemed by God and will one day, join Him in heaven, but first they must pass through purgatory as their final cleansing… their final purification before entering heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in 1031: “The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire.”
Everyone who dies in God’s good grace Must pass through the fires of purgatory… even the saints must at least pass through purgatory’s fiery bath. To think otherwise would put us at risk of neglecting our Christian duty of praying for the dead. The Church in Her eternal wisdom, knows this and gives us this month of November to remember our dead with sacrifices and offerings on their behalf. We need to realize that our loved ones need our prayers… Remember, we cannot just wish our loved ones into heaven… but we can offer them our prayers! Our loved ones need us to remember them!
As a members of the Holy Church here on earth, we are members of the Church Militant, and we are called to be active. We are called to remember the holy souls. As Christians, we are obligated, especially on this day, and all days of November, to pray for the release of our brothers and our sisters, to the eternal reward of heaven. The Holy Church teaches that our prayers can aid them in being released from the fires of purgatory. The Catechism goes on to state in 1032:
“This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:
- “Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.”
If we attend mass or visit a cemetery on this day, we can gain a plenary indulgence which can be applied to a holy soul in purgatory, aiding them in their release. The plenary indulgence removes the temporal punishment for sin, freeing them from the bonds of purgatory. As Christians we need to fulfill our obligations to the dead. Unfortunately, in our modern age, this practice has fallen by the wayside. Most people have been misguided into thinking that their loved ones have made it straight away to heaven. Because of this, many who would have benefited from our prayers and actions, are left instead, to suffer the fires of purgatory. Remember, if the Holy Mother Church has not publicly declared your loved one a Saint in the Holy Church… they need you to pray for them. It is that simple.
Just as we have to be careful about presuming our loved ones are already in heaven, we need to remember that our prayers can only be applied to those souls in purgatory… We can not pray a soul out of hell. That is why it is important that we actively work on their conversion while they are still alive…because once a person dies in a state of mortal sin they are removed from God’s good graces and no amount of prayer can save them from the eternal fires of hell. Then it is up to the Mercy of God. We can only help those who have died in God’s grace. But the Lord is wonderful and He allows that our prayers and our petitions can help remove any remaining venial sin attached to the soul, and any temporal punishments for the mortal sins that they had already confessed in life.
During this month of November, do not let a day go by without offering your prayers and your sacrifices for the release of the holy souls from purgatory, because once a soul is released to heaven they will remember you and pray for your intentions. It has been said that the soul of a person that has been released from purgatory by our prayers, are some of the most grateful and will never forget you or your intentions until the end of time! Just thinking about that aspect should be enough to make us want to remember and pray for the holy souls in purgatory, not just today, but all year long.