I love the cool crisp mornings of the fall. Here in Michigan, each morning the leaves on the trees spread a spectacular array of orange, red, yellow and amber colors. Fall is also a reminder to me that soon we will be in the month of November celebrating two great feasts in the liturgical year, All Saint's day and All Souls days.
The Feast of All Saints is a reminder to us of the wonders God has worked through the lives of those who have lived out their discipleship here on earth. And it is a reality check for myself that if I rely on the grace of God, I too will join the ranks of the blessed in heaven at the end of my journey.
It is fitting that the next day is the Feast of All Souls. As a church we are reminded to pray for those who have gone before us. We know that if they have followed the Lord Jesus during their life, they will be with Him in heaven, but they may still need some purification before they behold the awesome face of God.
The Catechism for Adults published by the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) tells us: “The Church gives the name of Purgatory to the final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC, 1031). Those who die in the state of friendship with God but who are not fully purified and perfected are assured of their eternal salvation. However, they must undergo a purification to obtain the perfection of love and holiness needed to enter heaven, where they have a heart that is totally open to Him. ( cf CCC, 1030)
Sacred Scripture also reminds us; “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” (2 Macc 12:46) So on this feast of All Souls the church asks us to be intercessors with Our Lord for their deliverance. In praying for the dead, the Church contemplates the mystery of the Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, who obtains salvation and eternal life for us through his Cross.
One of the most effective ways to help those undergoing this purification is to receive the Eucharist and have Mass offered for them. The Enchiridion of Indulgences tells us the Church grants a special indulgence to the faithful, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, “to those who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed. The indulgence is plenary each day from the 1st to the 8th of November; on other days of the year it is partial.”
“To obtain the plenary indulgence on November 1-November 8, we must receive Communion and sacramental Confession (and have no attachment to sin, even venial). Communion must be received each day we wish to gain the indulgence, but we only need to go to Confession once during the period. And, as with all plenary indulgences, we must pray for the intentions of the Holy Father each day we perform the work of the indulgence.”
The holy souls can no longer help themselves, so they rely upon our prayers and works of charity. But know, that they will be powerful intercessors for us in return. St. John Vianney said: "If one knew what we may obtain from God by the intercession of the Poor Souls, they would not be so much abandoned. Let us pray a great deal for them, they will pray for us."
Will you join me in this spiritual work of mercy, to pray for the dead?