The Souls in Purgatory Need Your Help
This Friday, 2nd November is All Souls Day, and throughout the whole of November the Church asks us to pray particularly for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. The doctrine of Purgatory is certain since it is a defined dogma of the Church, and to pray for the dead is part of what it is to be Christian. Purgatory is where the souls of those who die in God’s grace (ie. without un-repented mortal sin) but still imperfectly purified undergo purification after death. It is not a second chance. Only those who are saved pass through Purgatory, so there is also a profound joy there because they know they are destined for Heaven. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030-1031). In the Old Testament in the book of Maccabees (12:39-46), Judas Maccabaeus sent a sum of twelve thousand talents to Jerusalem asking the priests to offer a sacrifice for the intention of the soldiers who had died in combat, in order that they might be delivered from their sins and enter Heaven. The Scripture adds that it is a good thing to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins. St Paul also speaks of those who will be saved by fire (1 Cor 3:12-15) and there are a number of other texts one could quote.
We shouldn’t think of Purgatory merely in terms of punishment. Rather it is a fulfilment of Our Lord’s promise in Matthew 5:48 when He said, “You must be perfect as Your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Nothing imperfect or impure can enter Heaven, and so this promise of our purification is carried out in Purgatory.
But why must we pray for the dead? Ultimately our sins must be atoned for either on earth through penance or by offering up the trials and sufferings of our lives, or else after death which means in Purgatory. We on earth can merit for the Holy Souls and they count on us for their deliverance. This is because once we die, we cannot help ourselves. We humans, being both body and spirit, have to work out our salvation in our bodies, which means in this life, because at death the soul separates from the body. So after death, we depend on the prayers and sacrifices of those still living. By helping the Holy Souls we make great friends and intercessors in Heaven. Once in Heaven they must surely intercede for us before the Throne of God. Praying for the dead is also one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy.
To conclude, a beautiful thought from the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979) who said, “As we enter Heaven, we will see them, so many of them, coming towards us and thanking us. We will ask who they are and they will say, ‘A poor soul you prayed for in Purgatory.’”
Fr Paul Gillham, IC