The devotion to the memory of the dead is one of the most beautiful expressions of the Catholic spirit.” – Pope St. John XXIII
The Catholic Church gives the entire month of November to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. During this entire month, we intercede for the souls of the faithful departed, especially those whom we have known and loved. November 2nd is All Souls Day, also known as the Day of the Dead.
CHURCH TEACHING ON PURGATORY
The souls in purgatory died in the mercy of God, this is why they are called holy; moreover, because they still had attachment to sin at the time of their death, they must pass through a spiritual purification of their souls before they are able to fully love God with their whole heart, mind, and soul for all eternity.
The holy souls are “saved souls” – they will enjoy the reward of heaven – but during their lives they were not the perfect souls that Christ instructed them to be (Mat. 5:48), and for which he supplied every grace and means for them to become (2 Pet. 1:3). We are meant to die after living as saints. Those who die in the love of God but fall short of holiness due to habitual sinful clingings must be pure before being assigned to the beatific vision, that is, the vision of God that the saints in heaven enjoy for all eternity.
Those in purgatory cannot intercede for themselves, this is why they are also called “poor” souls. They can no longer merit anything for themselves (their opportunity for increasing in merit was during their earthly lives) and they must rely entirely on others to pray and make sacrifices on their behalf. As they are nonetheless part of the Communion of Saints, they hope upon us to help ease their suffering and quickly advance them through their purification so that they can join the saints in heaven.
Prayers for the faithful departed pleases God, who makes use of our prayers to help purify these souls that He loves. It is an act of charity that we can provide for those we have known and loved, for our ancestors who gave us life, for those who were our benefactors, for those whose memory is lost, and for those who have no one else to pray for them.
These are some information for praying for those suffering (and often neglected) souls, particularly during the month of November dedicated to their memory:
9 WAYS TO PRAY FOR THE HOLY SOULS IN PURGATORY
1. Obtain Indulgences: Indulgences reduce or cancel the temporal punishment that we incur through sin. There are many ways to obtain indulgences through pious actions, and we can apply their merits to the dead. You can find a partial list of indulgences.
If you visit a church or oratory on All Souls Day and there recite the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed, you can earn a plenary (full) indulgence applicable only to the souls in purgatory (under the usual conditions).
2. Give alms: The giving of material assistance to the poor has always been considered a penance that can be offered for the Holy Souls. “For almsgiving saves from death and purges away every sin” (Tobit 12:9).
3. When passing by a cemetery, pray the short Eternal Rest prayer. This prayer carries a partial indulgence applicable to the poor souls:
“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”
4. Practice the tradition of praying the Eternal Rest prayer (above) before and after your meals as an easy way to recall to pray for the holy souls every day. You can equally say the prayer between the decades of your daily rosary.
5. Go to a cemetery: Pray over the graves of your departed loved ones, or visit a random graveyard and pray for those who may have no one to pray for them. Simply doing this gains a partial indulgence for those in purgatory. Once you get there, sprinkle holy water on the graves. If you make this visit during the first eight days of the month dedicated to the Holy Souls (November 1-8) you can gain a plenary indulgence applicable to the souls in purgatory.
6. Ask for the intervening of saints who were known to be great friends of the Holy Souls during their lifetime to join you in prayer for the faithful departed: St. Nicholas of Tolentino, St. Gertrude the Great, St. Catherine of Genoa, St. Padre Pio, St. Philip Neri, St. John Macías, St. Faustina Kowalska, St. Joseph, Our Lady, and others.
7. Special prayers: Throughout your day, offer up short and ejaculatory prayers for the holy souls. Consider buying purgatory books with more prayers and unique devotions for the Holy Souls.
8. Repent of your offenses against God and go to confession: Confessing your own sins enables your prayers for souls of others more effective.
9. Talk about devotion to the Holy Souls: Make others aware of the great need these suffering souls have for our prayers.
What else could you add to this list? Leave your thoughts in the comments beneath!