by Margo Borders
November is the month traditionally devoted in the Catholic calendar to praying for the holy souls in purgatory. Although All Souls’ Day is often remembered and revered in our faith, it is often forgotten that the entire month can be a time to remember, and especially pray, for these suffering souls.
All people on earth are sinful in nature and, despite the sacrament of penance, have permanent scars of sin on their souls. The state of purgatory, then, is a time of purification after death, or
a “purifying fire,” that cleanses a soul of its sins so that it might be holy enough to enter the “joy of heaven” (Catechism of the Catholic Church). The importance of the task of the faithful to
pray for these souls is often overlooked because it is not clear to many what the fruits of these prayers might be.
It is important to remember the reality of the souls in purgatory, many of whom may be our loved ones, and the suffering that they endure to wash away their sins. Thomas Aquinas says that the desire for God is so intense in the souls of the just that the delay in being with Him causes immense suffering. Our prayers and actions help relieve them of their suffering and aid them towards reaching heaven. Giving our love and our time to these souls, even souls you don’t know, is beautiful in your sacrifice and the joy it will bring you.
In addition to the month of November, Monday is the day of each week traditionally devoted by Catholics to praying to the Holy Ghost and for the souls in purgatory. We can use this day to remember these suffering souls in our prayer intentions, as well as offering up the small annoyances or tasks in our day for them. You can even pray to your guardian angel for the souls in purgatory, that they may find relief from their suffering.
The souls in purgatory pray for us, so we can unite our prayers with them. St. Padre Pio explained, “the souls in purgatory pray for us, and their prayers are even more effective than ours, because they are accompanied by their suffering. So, let’s pray for them, and let’s pray them to pray for us.”
Ultimately, remembering the souls in purgatory should give us hope in God’s everlasting mercy and forgiveness. He gives us the chance to become worthy of the beatific vision, to see Him face-to-face in everlasting life. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:54, “death is swallowed up in victory.” Death and tragedy plague our world, and yet we have the gift of a faith that informs us that death is not the end, instead it is simply the pathway to a happiness that cannot even be imagined in this life. We have reason to give thanks to God for His love, while giving our prayers to our loved ones and all the souls in purgatory as they endure their purification so that they might be given God’s gift of mercy and enjoy the fruits of heaven.