It's the Feast of All Souls! Today is the day we're called to pray for the souls of all the departed in a very intentional way. Tonight, my husband and I are going to make a list of those people we especially want to pray for and pray a rosary together for them. This is such an important job in the life of the Christian. The readings today reflect the reality that at death, life is not ended but changed. "They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace."
We, as Catholics, believe in purgatory, were souls go after death to be purified of all attachment to sin. We believe that heaven is pure and complete union with God, and God cannot contain anything impure or sinful, and so we believe that purgatory is necessary for (most) souls. Purgatory is generally a belief unique to Catholics, but it's actually such a great gift to the entire Church. The holy souls in purgatory cannot pray for themselves or each other but spend all of their time crying out in intercession for us, the faithful (and unfaithful) on earth. They ask on our behalf for the grace we need to become saints, but like I said, they are unable to pray for themselves. Our prayers on their behalf attain for them the graces they need to be purified faster and thus enter into their eternal reward.
Purgatory isn't what most would consider a "pleasant" place. Our first reading can be thought of as alluding to purgatory when it ways "as gold in the furnace." Our impurities will be burned away. Our attachment to anything other than God will be burned away. In that way, people often think of purgatory as more like hell than like heaven. I get that comparison. But I think of it as more like doing in purgatory what we should have been doing on earth, but it's harder. When you work out and train your body, your muscles burn, your body aches, your lungs may feel like their on the verge of exploding, but the results is a fitter, faster, stronger body. Suffering in hell is meaningless and eternal. Suffering in purgatory is temporary and will result in the greatest reward.
Our prayers for the souls in purgatory as kind of like a protein shake to an athlete. The work out is all theirs, but the protein gives them the nutrients they need to attain their goal faster. Our prayers assist them in becoming free of their attachments faster. The truth is that we don't know exactly how purgatory works as far as time goes. We don't know if 1 moment on earth is 30 years in purgatory or vice versa. I think of purgatory as outside of time since it's on the spiritual dimension and not the physical. But our prayers matter for these holy souls. Your departed friends and family are likely among them. So please pray for them.
-Amanda Benner, Director of Evangelization