“It was a holy and devout thought to have atonement sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin.” (2 Maccabees 12:46)
Throughout November we pray for the Holy Souls. This good and holy practice is connected to our belief in Purgatory. Purgatory refers to purification which happens after death, in order to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. St Catherine of Genoa explained that even if our mortal sins are forgiven, the rust and stain caused by them remains in us. We know for ourselves that asking for and receiving God’s forgiveness brings us great joy, but it does not suddenly make us perfectly loving.
Scripture tells us that nothing unclean will enter the presence of Heaven (Revelation 21:27). But we need not despair. Purgatory is the place in which our love is perfected. It is often depicted in art as a place of pain, but remember that in Purgatory souls are purified and change. For most of us change is painful, but the souls in Purgatory must also experience an incredible joy at their nearness to Heaven. In fact St Catherine writes that “Apart from the happiness of the saints in heaven, I think there is no joy comparable to that of the souls in purgatory.”
The souls in Purgatory cannot help themselves to get to Heaven. For them night has come (John 9:4). It is our great privilege that we can help those who have died. Our prayers and self-offerings shorten their time of separation from God. The offering of Mass is the greatest help of all, because in Mass we join our own prayers and offerings to Christ’s offering of himself on the Cross.
So in this month of the Holy Souls pray for your departed loved ones, and remember too those holy souls without anyone to pray for them. You can help them.