ALL SOULS’ DAY is the annual commemoration of all those souls who departed this life in the grace and favor of God but who are still detained in purgatory. Purgatory is that third place in the other world in which the souls of the departed suffer the temporal punishment of those sins for which in life they have not sufficiently atoned, and in which they are purified until they are worthy to appear in the presence of God.
Is there a purgatory?
Yes; it is a doctrine of our faith.
1. Even under the Old Law the Jews held to this belief, and accordingly Judas Machabeus sent twelve thousand silver drachmas to Jerusalem to procure the offering of sacrifices for the dead.
2. Under the New Law Jesus Christ seems to point to such a place (Matthew 5:26, 12:32). The apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians:
“The fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide, which he hath built thereupon [upon Christ], he shall receive a reward; if any man’s work burn, he shall suffer loss [by the fire of purgatory], but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.” (1st Corinthians 3:13-15)
A fire from which a man may be saved cannot be the fire of hell; for from hell there is no redemption. The words of Saint Paul, therefore, can only be understood of purgatory.
What souls are they that go to purgatory?
The souls of all those who, though dying in the grace of God, have yet something to atone for. Those persons dying in the grace of God are still friends of God, and certainly God does not cast those who are His friends into hell. It is, therefore, as suitable to the idea of God’s mercy as it is consonant to reason that such souls should be first purified in purgatory.
How can we assist the souls suffering in purgatory?
1. By our prayers. The Holy Scripture says: “It is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” (2nd Machabees 12:46) The Catholic Church has therefore always taught that the prayer of the faithful for the departed is holy and wholesome.
2. By the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the fruits of which are most beneficial to the souls in purgatory. For this reason holy Church has always, from the time of the apostles, remembered the dead in the holy Mass.
3. By gaining indulgences, and other good works, by which we supplicate God to show mercy to the souls of the suffering, to accept what is performed by us in satisfaction for the punishment to be endured by them, and to bring them into the kingdom of everlasting peace and light. (Ecclesiasticus 7:37)
When and how was this yearly commemoration of the departed introduced?>
The time of the introduction of this commemoration cannot be determined; for as early as the time of Tertullian he mentions that the Christians of his day held a yearly commemoration of the dead. Towards the end of the tenth century Saint Odo, abbot of the Benedictines, at Cluny, directed this feast to be celebrated yearly, on the 2d of November, in all the convents of his Order, which usage was afterwards enjoined upon the whole Christian world by Pope John XVI. The feast of this day was probably established in order that, after having one day before rejoiced over the glory of the saints in heaven, we should this day remember in love those who are sighing in purgatory for deliverance.
O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of Thy servants departed the remission of all their sins, that, by our pious supplications, they may obtain the pardon which they have always desired. Who livest and reignest, now and forever, Amen.
Epistle: I Corinthians 15:51-57
Brethren: Behold I tell you a mystery: we shall all indeed rise again, but we shall not all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible; and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? Now the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, Who hath given us the victory through Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Gospel: John 5:25-29
At that time Jesus said to the multitude of the Jews: Amen, amen, I say unto you, that the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself, so He hath given to the Son also to have life in Himself, and He hath giveth Him power to do judgment, because He is the Son of man. Wonder not at this, for the hour cometh wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that have done good things shall come forth unto the resurrection of life, but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.