The month of November is dedicated to the Holy Souls – those faithful who have gone before us having 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). For the living, it is Christian obligation to pray for the souls in Purgatory, and doing so is one of the greatest spiritual works of mercy we can perform during our earthly lives.
Saint Thomas Aquinas taught “there is no greater charity than to help the souls who cannot help themselves in Purgatory.” The holy souls depend on the living to aid them in their suffering, because they can no longer help themselves. But how can we aid the souls in purgatory?
The most efficacious means of relieving the terrible sufferings of the holy souls 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 of alleviating the sufferings of the holy souls is the Rosary. We can merit many indulgences, both plenary and partial, which we can apply toward the holy souls.
God wants us to pray, “to pray unceasingly”, as Saint Paul tells the Thessalonians (1 Thes 5:17). So during November, on All Souls Day, even throughout the year, remember to pray for your deceased loved ones regardless how long they have been gone; to pray for all the souls in purgatory, (it does not matter whether or not you knew them in life), keeping in mind particularly those most abandoned, 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. Once released from their sufferings, the gratitude of the holy souls to their living friends knows no bounds. Our prayerful help to them is returned to us immeasurably as they become our intercessors in Heaven. According to Saint Thomas Aquinas “…the deceased in Heaven receive an increase in their intimacy of God’s love and an increase in their own intercessory power.” God is never outdone in generosity!
What happens when a soul gets to Heaven and Masses are continued to be said and Rosaries and prayers still offered? 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 still in need.
In the words of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, “As we enter Heaven, we will see them, so many of them, coming toward us and thanking us. We will ask who they are and they will say: ‘A poor soul you prayed for in purgatory!’”
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.