All Souls Day
(Celebrated 2 November)

Saint Gregory delivers the Soul of a Monk - by CRESPI, Giovanni Battista - from S. Vittore, Parese . . . .
In this 1617 painting by Giovanni Crespi, an Angel prepares to carry the Soul of a Monk and others
from Purgatory to Heaven, in response to the Mass said for the repose of their souls by Saint Gregory


The Feast of All Souls is a continuum of the Triduum of the Communion of Saints, with this day set aside to remember the Church Suffering, the poor souls in Purgatory who desperately need the Prayers of the Church Militant here on earth. Through our prayers, particularly the Mass, the souls in Purgatory can be released into Heaven and, having joined the Church Triumphant, can then intercede before the Throne of God for those on earth, especially remembering those who remembered to pray for them.


Feast of All Souls

by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.

purgatory_mass_cross.jpg (30913 bytes)

The way a question is asked sets the direction in which one goes in pursuit of an answer. It shapes the quest. It also determines the end point, the questionís finality. One must be careful, then, in how one asks a question.

To ask ďWhere is PurgatoryĒ is to presume that it is a location, a place one can find in space and time, in the physical universe in which we have our existence. Do we expect, then, to find Purgatory in our galaxy or in some other distant galaxy? Probably not. The Church does not speak of Purgatory as a place. Check the Catechism of the Catholic Church if you donít believe me.

"The term (Purgatory) does not indicate a place, but a condition of existence. Those who, after death, exist in a state of purification, are already in the love of Christ Who removes from them the remnants of imperfection" -  Pope John Paul II.

Pope John Paul II, on a number of occasions, has spoken of Purgatory as a state of being, a condition in which we find ourselves. It has to do with the status of our relationship with God, a concept quite different than thinking Purgatory to be a place somewhere out there in the cosmos.

The better way to phrase the question is ďWhat do we mean by PurgatoryĒ? ďHowĒ questions and ďwhereĒ questions call for technological or spatial answers. ďWhyĒ questions and questions dealing with purpose and meaning call for theological answers.

When you stand back and look that the grand sweep presented to us in the bible you will see a theme that runs throughout the entire history of our salvation, namely the fact that God is continually giving us another chance. God is continually starting over. The Book of Genesis, for instance, has not one but three creation stories, the story of Noah and his Ark being the third and most dramatic of them all.

And as for Godís covenant in which He pledges Himself to be our God so we can be His people, that covenant is renewed over and over again throughout the long story of the bible.

Praying for the dead connects us with the entire human communion in which we find ourselves. Itís a statement that we not only belong to each other, but that we can care for each other. Itís a statement that we all have aspects in our hearts and souls that need to be purged out of us, so that we can be more crystalline and transparent in revealing the Light of God that has been created in us when we were brought into being. It is also a statement that death cannot forever separate us from each other. Life is merely changed, not ended.

It is Godís will that everyone be saved. In theology this is referred to as ďthe universal salvific will of GodĒ. The Second Vatican Council tells us that after the Fall of Adam and Eve, God ďceaselessly kept the human race in His care, in order to give eternal life to those who perseveringly do good in search of salvationĒ - [Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Chapter 1, paragraph 3]. This reflects what Saint Paul was teaching us in his Letter to the Romans.

Is the purging away of all that hinders our full union with God, a purging that is ended when we pass from this earth? Or can that purging process be something that might need to continue for those who have passed over into the next life? Christians, from the earliest times, have believed the latter is the case.

We need to note that Lazarus got a second chance. He died, was raised from the dead, and then died again. We shouldnít miss the point that we, too, will get a second chance. Lazarus, after all, stands for all of us. Godís saving action for him is a prelude to Godís saving action for us. Death cannot defeat Godís saving love for us. The raising of Lazarus from the dead isnít simply a medical miracle Ė itís a theological statement, an epiphany of what God is doing and will be doing for those of us who love Jesus as Lazarus did.

The notion of Purgatory is another way of saying that we not only have faith, we have hope. If ever God offers us hope it is in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and the faith response of the Church in calling us to pray for all souls who have passed over from this life into the next. We pray for the dead because we hope. We hope not only for them but we offer ourselves and others around us the gift of hope. Hope is one of the greatest gifts that Christians can give to those around us who think that they live hopeless lives in a hopeless world. The Christian virtue of hope, real because the resurrection of Christ is real and because His stupendous miracles are real.

Praying for the dead is not, as some claim, senseless. Praying for the dead is something that has been done by the Communion of Saints from the very beginning of Christianity. Praying for the dead is a statement of faith, of hope and of love. Paying attention to the crippled, the lame, the blind, the oppressed, those cast aside and those forgotten was at the very heart of Christís ministry. In all that He did and in all that He said, He was always drawing us to the forgotten, the left out, and those whom the world has cast aside. Praying for the dead is at the very heart of all that Jesus Christ was all about.

Should we not, with Christ, lift them up before the eyes of God our Father? Should we not ask our Father in Heaven to receive their souls in the resurrected humanity of Jesus Christ?

Where Lazarus is poor no longer, may all the souls of the faithful departed rest in Godís peace.


Prayers for the Departed
Holy Souls in Purgatory

Novena for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

Litany for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

Other Prayers for the Holy Souls

Heroic Act of Charity for Souls in Purgatory


Indulgenced Acts for the
Holy Souls in Purgatory

A partial indulgence can be obtained by devoutly visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed, even if the prayer is only mental. One can gain a plenary indulgence visiting a cemetery each day between November 1 and November 8. These indulgences are applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory.

A plenary indulgence, again applicable only the Souls in Purgatory, is also granted when the faithful piously visit a church or a public oratory on November 2.


Normal Conditions for Plenary Indulgence

To gain indulgences, whether plenary or partial, it is necessary that the faithful be in the state of grace at least at the time the indulgenced work is completed.  [i.e. one must be a Catholic, not excommunicated or in schism].

A plenary indulgence can be gained only once a day. In order to obtain it, the faithful must, in addition to being in the state of grace:

have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin;

have sacramentally confessed their sins;

receive the Holy Eucharist (it is certainly better to receive it while participating in Holy Mass, but for the indulgence only Holy Communion is required);

pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.

It is appropriate, but not necessary, that the sacramental Confession and especially Holy Communion and the prayer for the Pope's intentions take place on the same day that the indulgenced work is performed; but it is sufficient that these sacred rites and prayers be carried out within several days (about 20) before or after the indulgenced act. Prayer for the Pope's intentions is left to the choice of the faithful, but an "Our Father" and a "Hail Mary" are suggested. One sacramental Confession suffices for several plenary indulgences, but a separate Holy Communion and a separate prayer for the Holy Father's intentions are required for each plenary indulgence.