Remember, remember, All Souls in November – Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell!
I had been extremely caught up with my worldly duties lately. In addition to my classes, which had resumed in October, I was juggling several other things as well. All my time and energy were focussed on my present and my foreseeable future. I suppose it is for this reason that with the onset of November, my good Lord saw fit to remind me that at some point, all of this will come to an end - And then what? Am I prepared for what would happen next? If I die, where will my soul end up?
I know, I know, that escalated pretty quickly. But all for good reason.
The month of November is dedicated to praying for the holy souls in Purgatory. It is a most suitable time to fast, do penance, and pray, for these suffering souls. It is also a great time to reflect on the condition of our own soul. That said, it’s a good idea to start by understanding the four last things - Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell.
Death is the temporary state of separation of the mortal body from the immortal soul. After death, we remain in this state of body-soul separation, until the ‘General Judgement’, which is the final judgement that will happen at the end of the world.
Judgement is the decision that God makes after we die, based on our way of life. If we lived a good and holy life, we can look forward to an eternal reward. If not, we can expect eternal punishment. The judgement that God makes at the moment of our death is known as the ‘Particular Judgement’.
Heaven is the eternal reward we receive if we die free of the stain of mortal sin (a grave offence committed with full knowledge and consent) and venial sin (a milder offence, usually committed with less self-awareness and consent). In Heaven, we experience total joy as a result of being in the constant sight of our Lord.
Hell is the eternal punishment we receive if we die with the stain of mortal sin. In Hell, we experience total despair as a result of being completely deprived of the sight of our Lord.
So where does Purgatory come into the picture?
If we unfortunately die with the stain of venial sin, we need to go through a temporary process of cleansing before we can go to Heaven. This intermediate state of purification through suffering is known as Purgatory. Souls in Purgatory are, by the mercy of God, saved from the eternal fires of Hell, but they still need to be ‘purged’ of their imperfections before they can enter into the perfect presence of our Lord.
We do not know who goes to Purgatory, and for how long. This depends on the judgement of God. What we do know, however, is that these souls are sure of their salvation. Once they have completed their time in Purgatory and atoned for their sins, they can finally enter into the presence of God. This is also why we refer to them as ‘holy’ souls.
Here’s the beautiful thing - We, who are still alive on earth, can help our brothers and sisters, who are suffering in Purgatory, reach Heaven sooner.
Through prayers, sacrifices, alms, penances, indulgences, and having Holy Masses said for them.
While we are alive, we still have the opportunity to make reparation for our own sins, and to reconcile with God. Once we die, this is no longer possible. Thus, those who are still on earth need to consider it their Christian duty to pray and do penance on behalf of those who are in Purgatory.
That said, here are some things that we can do to help our suffering brethren:
1. Pray the prayer of St. Gertrude.
Here’s how it goes - “Eternal Father, I offer Thee the most precious blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, for those in my own home and in my family. Amen.”
2. Pray the Holy Rosary.
The Holy Rosary is a powerful prayer that can be said for any intention. When we pray the Holy Rosary, we can add the following aspiration at the end - “Eternal rest grant unto them, oh Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”
3. Offer Holy Masses.
This is one of the best ways to pray for the holy souls in Purgatory. If we are unable to request a Holy Mass for them, we can still offer up the Holy Mass that we attend, along with all the other prayers and deeds of our day, for their intentions.
4. Offer up sacrifices and daily chores.
We don’t need to make huge sacrifices like some of the Saints did. Even something as simple as washing our dishes or brushing our teeth can be offered up for the holy souls in Purgatory. And if we can skip a meal during our day, well, even better!
5. Perform acts of charity.
We can perform acts of charity, like giving alms to the poor or feeding the hungry, and offer it up for the souls in Purgatory.
6. Obtain indulgences for the holy souls in Purgatory.
An indulgence is the full or partial remission of the temporal punishment of sins already forgiven. We can gain these indulgences for the holy souls in Purgatory, especially during the month of November. There are many ways one can gain indulgences throughout the year, like praying a rosary together in a chapel, or reading the Bible with due veneration for at least 30 minutes. Refer to the Enchiridion of indulgences for more information.
One particular way throughout this month in 2020 is to visit a cemetery and mentally pray for the repose of the souls there. Refer to this decree for more information.
Remember, we are all one body in Christ. If one member of the body suffers, we all suffer. Therefore, let us pray for our holy brothers and sisters in Purgatory, so that they may soon be free of their pain and be united with our loving Father in Heaven!