Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Pray for the Poor Souls
Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of All Saints, honoring those who have finished the race and won the heavenly crown, the gift of eternal life. On this the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed - also known as All Souls Day - we remember all those who have gone before us but have not yet gained eternal life. These are the many souls who died in a state of God's grace but are not yet totally purified so as to be ready to enter into the presence of God. This is where the doctrine of purgatory comes into play. These souls are being purged or cleansed in preparation for entry into Heaven and so we pray that their purging may be sped along and they might enter into glory more quickly. The beautiful thing about praying for the poor souls in purgatory is that when they finally attain the gift of eternal life, they will surely pray for us as we too journey along the way to salvation, both in this life and while we ourselves are in purgatory (assuming we find ourselves there after our own death).
It is a good and holy practice to pray for the dead. In fact it is one of the seven spiritual works of mercy and today on All Souls Day there is a plenary indulgence granted to the souls of the faithful depart when you "devoutly visit a church or an oratory and recite an Our Father and the Creed" (Manual of Indulgences, 99.1.2). Also, there is a plenary indulgence granted to them if "on any day and each day from November 1 to 8, devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, if only mentally, for the departed" (Manual, 99.1.1). If you have the ability, I would strongly encourage you to do these things because, with God's grace, we'll eventually find ourselves in purgatory too seeking the prayers of others to speed along the path the Heaven.