“The devotion to the memory of the dead
is one of the most beautiful expressions
of the Catholic spirit.”
(Pope St John XXIXX)
The Catholic Church dedicates the entire month of November to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. During this entire month we pray for the souls of the faithful departed, especially those whom we have known and loved. The souls in purgatory died in the mercy of God, this is why they are called holy; however, because they still had attachment to sin at the time of their death, they must undergo a spiritual purification of their souls before they are able to fully love God with their whole heart, mind, and soul for all eternity.
Those in purgatory cannot pray for themselves, this is why they are also called “poor” souls. They can no longer merit anything for themselves (their opportunity for increasing in merit was during their earthly lives) and they must rely entirely on others to pray and make sacrifices on their behalf. As they are nevertheless part of the Communion of Saints, they depend upon us to help ease their suffering and quickly advance them through their purification so that they can join the saints in heaven.
Prayers for the faithful departed pleases God, who makes use of our prayers to help purify these souls that He loves. It is an act of charity that we can give for those we have known and loved, for our ancestors who gave us life, for those who were our benefactors, for those whose memory is lost, and for those who have no one else to pray for them.
What should we do to help these suffering (and often neglected) souls, especially during the month of November. Firstly we should offer up Holy Communions for the souls in purgatory. It is good to have Masses said for your departed loved ones, especially on the anniversary of his or her death and offer Masses for Holy Souls. We could also obtain indulgences (indulgences reduce or cancel the temporal punishment that we incur through sin). A good practise is praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for the intention of the Holy Souls and when passing by a cemetery, pray the Eternal Rest prayer.
There are many other ways to help the Holy Souls. Let us then do our best as we begin this special month of prayer.