Over the last two days, the Catholic Church celebrated two major feasts in her liturgical calendar – The Solemnity of All Saints and The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, commonly known as All Souls Day. The readings on both days this year speak of the heavens, the Kingdom of God, souls of the just, and eternal life. Since I already focused on the Communion of Saints seven years ago in this series (click on the link above), I want to turn my attention to the Last Things, particularly praying for the dead aka the souls in Purgatory.
In all honesty, for many years I loved celebrating All Saints Day but never gave much attention to All Souls Day, although there were hints of it in my life growing up. It wasn’t until I was working at a parish in Gilbert, AZ that our Pastor at the time purchased black vestments. I remember how intrigued I was about the black vestments and the purpose and symbolism behind them, especially on the one day he could wear them, All Souls Day. It was also around this time that we started our Pastoral Care to the Sick and Homebound Ministry. The woman that ran that program once said that on the Day of the Resurrection, the cemeteries will be the place everyone will gather, when the dead rise from their graves.
As all of this was happening around me in my position at the parish, in April 2015, my father passed away from complications with Crohn’s Disease. Dad fought it for many years but it overtook him that year. I remember thinking prior to this death and thereafter about the importance of praying for his soul. After his departure from this world, I also remember the strong connection I felt with him knowing that he was now part of the communion saints. I firmly believe that my father prayed for me and that he was his prayer while in the heavenly presence of Our Lord that led my wife into my life, just over two years after his passing.
The reason why I am writing this today is that, first, I have not written for some time and felt that I needed to return to it, but secondly, and most importantly, as I was sitting in Mass today on the campus of the University of Mary with my wife and two boys, the notion of writing this post pierced my heart. Praying for the souls in Purgatory has become a daily prayer request of ours during nighttime prayers, which started on this day last year. I remember thinking one year ago, after reading some excerpts from St. Faustina’s Diary, that as a family we really needed to start praying for the souls, especially those souls that have no one to pray for them.
Last night, I found out that my wife wanted to start praying for the souls a few days before I started praying for them last year. This is one of those times when I know that Our Lord and Heaven play a part in our family when things like this happen – it was on both of our hearts to pray for the souls in Purgatory. As long as we are praying nighttime prayers, the souls in Purgatory will have our prayers.
Now let us turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church to read what the Church teaches on the matter of the Last Things –
“Every man receives his eternal recompense in his immortal soul from the moment of his death in a particular judgment by Christ, the judge of the living and the dead.” [#1051]
“We believe that the souls of all who die in Christ’s grace . . . are the People of God beyond death. On the day of resurrection, death will be definitively conquered, when these souls will be reunited with their bodies” (Paul VI, CPG § 28). [#1052]
“We believe that the multitude of those gathered around Jesus and Mary in Paradise forms the Church of heaven, where in eternal blessedness they see God as he is and where they are also, to various degrees, associated with the holy angels in the divine governance exercised by Christ in glory, by interceding for us and helping our weakness by their fraternal concern” (Paul VI, CPG § 29). [#1053]
“Those who die in God’s grace and friendship imperfectly purified, although they are assured of their eternal salvation, undergo a purification after death, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of God.” [#1054]
“By virtue of the “communion of saints,” the Church commends the dead to God’s mercy and offers her prayers, especially the holy sacrifice of the Eucharist, on their behalf.” [#1055]
Following the example of Christ, the Church warns the faithful of the “sad and lamentable reality of eternal death” (GCD 69), also called “hell.” [#1056]
“Hell’s principal punishment consists of eternal separation from God in whom alone man can have the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.” [#1057]
“The Church prays that no one should be lost: “Lord, let me never be parted from you.” If it is true that no one can save himself, it is also true that God “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4), and that for him “all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).” [#1058]
“The holy Roman Church firmly believes and confesses that on the Day of Judgment all men will appear in their own bodies before Christ’s tribunal to render an account of their own deeds” (Council of Lyons II :DS 859; cf. DS 1549).” [#1059]
“At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. Then the just will reign with Christ for ever, glorified in body and soul, and the material universe itself will be transformed. God will then be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28), in eternal life.” [#1060]
For a more complete understanding of the Last Things in the Catechism, I would suggest you also read paragraphs 1020-1050. I would also encourage you to start praying for the souls in Purgatory. They need our prayers because one day we will be where they are today.
Hi Tom !
We really enjoyed reading your article!
We too pray for the souls in purgatory each day.
Question… I know that the souls in purgatory can’t pray for themselves but I thought I heard one time that they can pray for us.
Is that correct theology ?
Take Care !
Kathy & Ron Klemme
Yes, that is my understanding as well.
St. Gertrude is also a great resource for praying for those loved ones who have been lost and may be sitting in the purgative fire. See link below
Thanks for sharing!