Each year, as signs of the fall slowly emerge in nature, I find my thoughts turning more to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Fall, though commencing with radiant, vibrant colors, ultimately conveys to me a sense of solemnity with its visible signs of death. The decaying leaves and withering summer crops often bring to mind my own mortality as well as the memory of those who have gone before me.
It makes sense that the Church dedicates the month of November to the Holy Souls in Purgatory, the place where souls experience purification after death. Church teaching tells us that as nothing unholy can enter God’s presence, those who die with venial sin on their souls or who have not satisfied the temporal punishment due to their sins, need to be cleansed before entering heaven.
St. Francis de Sales tells us that “to assist the souls in Purgatory is to perform the most excellent of the works of mercy.” The Church encourages us to pray regularly for the faithfully departed, as they cannot help themselves and need our aid to lessen their suffering and expedite their entry into heaven. Here are seven ways we can help our suffering brothers and sisters:
Visit a cemetery, especially the graves of deceased relatives, and pray for them there
After my grandfather’s passing, my family frequently brought my grandmother to my grandfather’s grave. There, we said a prayer for him before visiting the graves of other extended family members. By stopping by a cemetery and praying for the Holy Souls or the souls of our loved ones, we obtain an indulgence for them.
Pray an Eternal Rest prayer
Growing up, my family prayed an Eternal Rest after grace before meals, and I have retained this practice throughout the years. This short and simple prayer can easily be prayed any time during the day: “Eternal Rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”
Have a Mass or Masses offered for the Souls in Purgatory or for deceased relatives
Souls in Purgatory visited St. Padre Pio and St. Faustina, asking that Masses be offered for their liberation. Why? Because God extends a plethora of graces through the Mass – the highest form of prayer – as it perpetuates Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. So, when family members or acquaintances pass, I have a Mass offered for them and oftentimes request Mass to be said on the anniversaries of their deaths or birthdays. Ways we can have Masses said for those departed include requesting a Mass through our parish church, enrolling loved ones in a Holy Souls Novena, having Gregorian Masses said, or offering our own Holy Communion for the Souls in Purgatory.
Sacrifice something and offer it up for a soul in Purgatory
By choosing to forgo an extra cup of coffee, snacks, or dessert, or by cheerfully accepting inconveniences, we can offer up our sacrifices to lessen the pain of souls in Purgatory.
Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet
When I pray the Chaplet, I am reminded how Jesus often spoke to St. Faustina of his love for souls and his desire that all experience his love and mercy, including the Souls of Purgatory, whom he “greatly love[s].” When we pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, we ask God’s mercy upon all—including the Holy Souls.
Pray the Prayer of St. Gertrude
Tradition holds Christ promised St. Gertrude the release of many souls from Purgatory when praying: “Eternal Father, I offer You the Most Precious Blood of Your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.”
Obtain an indulgence and offer it up for the Souls in Purgatory
The Church grants us indulgences – a remission of temporal punishment due to sin – which we can receive, or impart to a soul in Purgatory. To gain an indulgence, we need to perform a certain pious act and complete the following conditions: sacramental Confession, receiving Holy Communion, praying for the Pope’s intentions, and being detached from sin. Ways to gain an indulgence include: spending half an hour before the Blessed Sacrament, meditating upon Scripture for 30 minutes, praying the Stations of the Cross, praying all five decades of the Rosary, or visiting a church on the day of its patron.
Our prayers aid the Holy Souls by lessening their sufferings and transform us. Remembering the Souls in Purgatory recalls their presence in my life and my own mortality. By praying for the departed, I gain friends and intercessors. They are grateful for my prayers, and will remember me before God’s throne.