All Souls Day
Commemoration of all the faithful departed
No doubt many of us associate the Holy Souls with the expression we may have heard in a time of pain – ‘offer it up for the Holy Souls’! My mother often said to us often, if we were without money: ‘Pray to the Holy Souls in Purgatory, because that’s where all the bank managers go!’
The doctrine of Purgatory may seem at first glance a rather distant teaching in our minds. It seems a bit remote in our understanding and maybe we question its relevance.
Maybe we can look at it from the following two stories:
First, there is the story of the man who kept going to confession month after month, and kept repeating in confession the exact same sins. After a number of months of repeating himself, he got annoyed with himself and made an audio cassette for the priest and said ‘here Father, are the sins. I will save you the bother of hearing me again and of me repeating them and wasting your time now. Listen to them later and give me absolution and forgiveness now!’
The other story concerns the man who wondered what monks in a monastery do all day. On asking the abbot, his reply was ‘we fall down and we get up again, we fall down and we get up again.’
Most of us can relate to these two stories as they apply to our own moral and spiritual lives. Despite our best efforts we continually fail, and repeat sins, mistakes, compulsions, as if they were addictions. They differ in all of us. – and may perhaps be our temper, gossip, lack of charity in thought, dishonesty, impurity, laziness, and so on. I suspect that most sins committed by regular penitents are sins of weakness rather than malice. It is a consequence of our fallen human nature, of Original Sin. But we must not be discouraged and keep trying our best. These failings keep us humble. Many of the saints had afflictions too.
I imagine that just as there is a patron saint for all of us, there is a patron soul or souls. Purgatory is a place of purification, a place where people are purified of their imperfect love, expressed in imperfect choices or preferences for temporary pleasures that failed to supply happiness sought.
Think of the sins that appear or have appeared more than once in the recent past. There is a soul or souls in Purgatory who had the same difficulty. They persevered in the struggle but, while obviously repentant, did not yet merit heaven at the time of their death. So it may be for us.
But praying to the Holy Souls and for them is not simply devotion, but a spiritual work of mercy. They are helpless but require our assistance and in turn can intercede on our behalf. And moreover, they can identify with our struggles. They can look after our needs here on earth. Let is make ot a resolution to pray for them often this month, and always on Saturdays.
May they rest in peace. Amen.