November is the month of the Holy Souls. It is on November 2nd, All Souls Day, that the Church commemorates those who have died marked with the sign of faith. November is the time when we remember to pray particularly for our loved ones and all those who have gone before us. We also remember that death does not have the last word, because by His most sorrowful passion and glorious Resurrection, Christ overcame the power of death – “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
The Holy Souls (or Poor Souls as they were once called) are the faithful who have died in “God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven” (CCC–1030-1031). These are the souls in purgatory and they have yet to enjoy the Beatific Vision. For those still living, it is Christian obligation to pray for the souls in purgatory and “Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that there is no greater charity to be practiced than to help the souls who cannot help themselves in purgatory.”
Indeed, it is for the very reason that they can no longer help themselves, that the Holy Souls depend on the living to aid them in their suffering. What are some of the best ways we can aid the souls in purgatory? The most efficacious means is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Catechism (1032) states: “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 second most powerful means is the Rosary. There is a scriptural Rosary available which we can pray for the Holy Souls “that includes Bible verses about purgatory, passages that reflect the penitent’s love for the dead, as well as supplications to God for His justice, love and mercy.”1
God wants us to pray, “to pray unceasingly”, as Saint Paul tells the Thessalonians (1 Thes 5:17). On this All Souls Day, and during the month of November, actually throughout the year, remember to pray for your deceased loved ones regardless how long they have been gone; pray for all the souls in purgatory, (it does not matter whether or not you knew them in life), particularly those most abandoned or who might not have anyone to pray for them. Remember that in praying for the holy souls we are shortening their sufferings and helping to usher them into God’s presence. Their gratitude and joy for our prayerful help in releasing them from purgatory is returned to us immeasurably as they become our very effective intercessors in Heaven!
What happens when the soul gets to Heaven and Masses are continued to be said and Rosaries and prayers still offered? Well, no prayer is ever wasted with God. We can trust that in His great mercy and love He will apply those Masses offered and Rosaries prayed to other holy souls in need. According to Saint Thomas Aquinas “…the deceased in Heaven receives an increase in their intimacy of God’s love and an increase in their own intercessory power.” God is never outdone in generosity!
“As we enter Heaven, we will see them, so many of them, coming towards us and thanking us. We will ask who they are and they will say: “A poor soul you prayed for in purgatory!” (Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen). What a joyous thought to know that someday we will meet the souls we helped bring into the glorious presence of God!
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.