Commemorating All Souls

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day)

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“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” John 6:40

Yesterday’s Solemnity of All Saints gave us an opportunity to celebrate and rejoice in the fact that there are countless people who have gone before us who are now enjoying the glories of Heaven. These faithful souls lived lives that were grounded in God’s grace and have been fully purified of all sin. They now gaze at our good God face-to-face.

Today, we commemorate the fact that many who die in a state of grace are not immediately ready to stand before the glorious throne of God and see Him face-to-face. The only way this is possible is if every sin and every attachment to sin is purged from our souls. We must have nothing but pure charity alive within us if we are to enter the eternal glories of Heaven. But how many people die in such a state?

The Church, in her wisdom and holiness, has taught clearly through the centuries that when a person passes from this world to the next while still attached to less serious sin, they need to be fully purified in order to enter Heaven. This is Purgatory. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (#1030–31a).

For some, Purgatory can be a frightening and even confusing thought. Why doesn’t God, in His infinite mercy, simply take all our loved ones who followed Him straight to Heaven? The answer is simple. He does! And the path for them to Heaven is this incredible mercy of their final purification.

Purification of all attachment to sin within our soul is a mercy beyond what we can imagine. Through this final purification, God prepares the holy souls who have died for an eternity of joy. But this purification is necessary because God, in His love, does not want any soul to live eternally with even a minor attachment to sin. God wants us all free. The truth is that every sin on our soul, even the smallest one, is reason enough for us to be excluded from Heaven. So Purgatory must be seen as a final mercy from God by which He lifts every last burden that keeps us from perfect love, so that our eternity will be one of utmost freedom and ecstasy. God wants us to be filled only with the purity of love forever. Thus, upon our death, we are graced to enter into a final and intense purification of every minor sin, so that when we see God in all His glory, we will see Him with the perfection to which we are called. Purgatory is a gift, a grace, a mercy. It will be painful to go through in the same way that overcoming any sin is painful. But the good fruit of freedom from sin makes every final purification we must endure worth it a hundredfold and more.

Reflect, today, upon the spiritual truth that God wants you to be a saint. If you are among those few who die in a state in which you are purified from every sin, then be assured that you have already completed your purgatory on earth. But if you or your loved ones are among the many who still hold some minor attachment to sin at the time of death, then rejoice that God is not done with you yet. Anticipate with much gratitude the final purification that awaits and look forward to the freedom that ultimately comes from that purification.

My merciful Lord, You desire that my soul and the souls of all your faithful be purified of every sin, even the smallest imperfection. I thank You for the mercy of Purgatory and pray that I will continually work toward that purification here and now. I pray, also, for all those who have gone before me and are still in need of these purifying fires. Pour forth Your mercy upon them so that they may be counted among the saints in Heaven. Jesus, I trust in You.

Prayers for Peace

More Gospel Reflections

Divine Mercy Reflections

Scripture Meditations for Ordinary Time

All Saints/Feasts

Further Reading – All Souls Day—Commemoration

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Featured image above: Madonna and Child with Souls in Purgatory by Luca Giordano, via Wikimedia Commons