Prayers and Practices for the Souls in Purgatory

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'Blessed are they who mourn'

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By Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC (Nov 2, 2021)

November, with its winds and rains, its first snows and cold nights, reminds me of Purgatory. It comes at the dying of the year, the final months before we turn the page in the dead of winter and embark on another trip round the sun.

What an appropriate time to remember those who've died.

And the fact that we celebrate Thanksgiving in November makes it all the more appropriate. After all, the source and summit of our faith, the Eucharist, is so named because it is an offering of thanksgiving to God. And we have so much to be thankful for in the lives of those whom we have lost.

Take my Marian brothers Fr. Seraphim Michalenko and Fr. Walter Gurgul, both of whom passed during the pandemic. What extraordinary lives those two men had! Father Walter was a refugee in his youth, a man of many nations and languages, of extensive experience around the world. And Fr. Seraphim, one of the greatest promoters of Divine Mercy the Church has ever seen, who documented St. Faustina's beatification and canonization miracles, who brought the Diary out of Poland against all odds — what an extraordinary gift his life and ministry has been!

So we make thanksgiving to God this cold and blustery month for those who've passed, and we mourn them, as well, not because we lack faith, but because we have faith. After all, Jesus told us, "Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Mt 5:4). And He gave us the example of mourning for His friend Lazarus, even though He was shortly going to restore Lazarus to life (see Jn 11:33-44).

As we all have been forcibly reminded over the past couple years, death is a terrible, terrible reality. The fact that we all must suffer it somehow doesn't make it any better. But we Catholic Christians have reasons for hope, and a mission to undertake. We know, as Scripture tells us, that our accounts must be settled down to the last penny (see Mt 5:25-27), and that no unclean or imperfect thing will enter Heaven (see Rev 21:27). We know that it is a good and praiseworthy thing to pray for the dead (see 2 Macc 12:39-46). We know from the testimony of the Tradition, of the Liturgy, and of the saints that praying for the dead is an ancient Christian practice, going back to the time of the Apostles. We know from the Magisterium that the Church distributes generously from her treasury of graces (that is, the merits obtained by Christ and His saints, the members of His Mystical Body) in the form of indulgences to enable ordinary Christians to set the captives free from Purgatory.

We are blessed by our faith with confident hope and ways to help our deceased loved ones, especially in this month of November, dedicated by the Church in a particular way to the remembrance of the faithful departed and prayer for them. The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (more popularly known as All Souls' Day) on Nov. 2 is an occasion to pray for and to our loved ones who have gone before us to their particular judgment.

Some will have received the last Sacraments and the Apostolic Pardon, and gone straight on to their heavenly reward. Some will be in Purgatory, in need of expiation for the ill effects of their sins. Some will need prayer now for the moment of their death, as my Marian brothers Fr. Chris Alar and Br. Jason Lewis explained in their book After Suicide: There's Hope for Them and for You. Since God is outside of time, our prayers to Him and the graces He distributes partake of His eternity. That is to say, we can pray now for people at the moment of their deaths in the past, present, or future. We can ask God's grace into that most private of moments, the final moments of life when God and the soul are in conversation. We can ask for every grace and blessing souls need in order to welcome Jesus as Merciful Savior and not force Him into the role of Just Judge.

So in this month of prayer for the dead, let us rejoice in our calling as Patrons of the Holy Souls Sodality. This, in a special way, is our month. This is the time the whole Church turns her attention to the calling we have received, the work of mercy that presses most urgently on our hearts, summoning us to aid our brethren in such need in Purgatory. I outline a lot of different ways to obtain indulgences and assist the Holy Souls in my book Prayers and Practices for the Souls in Purgatory — let this be your guide in the month of November.

Let us also ask in a special way for the intercession of St. Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510), a mystic who had some extraordinarily wise and insightful things to say about Purgatory in her Treatise on Purgatory. For instance, she wrote, "I believe no happiness can be found worthy to be compared with that of a soul in Purgatory except that of the saints in Paradise; and day by day this happiness grows as God flows into these souls, more and more as the hindrance to His entrance is consumed. Sin's rust is the hindrance, and the fire burns the rust away so that more and more the soul opens itself up to the divine inflowing."

Let us bring happiness to the souls in Purgatory this November through our prayers and practices in their service.

May God bless you.

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