Since my visit coincided with the celebration of All Saints Day and All Souls Day it was not possible to avoid the topic of purgatory. It often happens at funerals that the consoling hope that the dearly departed is in heaven with God leads to an over-exaggerated statement that the newly departed is in heaven already. This, of course, is merely conjectured and not known. It is hoped for but not certain. Nonetheless these compassionate sermons can generate within us a profound sense of peace and even joy at the thought that our loved ones are with God. This does sound wonderful but we do not know if it is true or not. Imagine yourself having just died and having discovered that all of your past attachments to sin, which were never completely denounced, have trailed you into eternity. Imagine your shock as you discover that you must now spend (by analogy) one hundred years in purgatory. Imagine your hope as you recognize that the assiduous prayers and Masses offered by your friends and relatives on earth will greatly reduce your purgatorial sentence. Finally, imagine your shock and dismay as you see your family and friends still on earth “canonizing” you and rejoicing that you have no need of their prayers because you are already enjoying the beatific vision, already seeing God face-to-face. These are the ones whom we in the Church refer to as the Poor Souls.
Undoubtedly, it is consoling for us on earth to envision our loved ones as already united with God in heaven but it is much more consoling for the poor souls in purgatory for us to presume that they are not yet fully reconciled with God. There is no harm done in praying for someone as if they were still in purgatory even if they are, in fact, in heaven. There is, by contrast, great harm done in not praying for someone because of a conviction that they are in heaven when they are, in fact, among the Poor and forgotten souls in purgatory. Put yourself in their shoes and pray for them as you will want your children and grandchildren to pray for you. A simple test. Call to mind those whom you know and love who have died in the past year. While you will certainly have recalled them many times in memory, have you also remembered on those occasions to say a decade of the rosary for them, have a Mass offered for them or gathered the family together to pray a rosary for the happy repose of the soul of that loved one? It is good to be remembered, it is better to be remembered in prayer.
All Souls Day this year was particularly poignant for me because one year ago my family and I were keeping vigil with Mom during her last days. She died on November 3 and so the approach of that one year anniversary made this year’s liturgical passage through All Saints Day and All Souls’ Day very memorable. Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen. Let us remember to pray throughout the year for the poor souls in purgatory.
from the Catholic Sentinel online edition.