In the Church, the month of November is traditionally dedicated to praying for the poor souls in purgatory. On November 1, we celebrate All the Saints who are rejoicing with God in heaven. And on November 2, we pray for All Souls, so that they may be purified and enter heaven. It’s a remarkable teaching of our Catholic faith that God allows us here on earth to help those in purgatory to reach heaven, something they could not do on their own.
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” (CCC 1030). As Catechism notes, the souls in purgatory have passed from this world in the state of sanctifying grace. This means that they died in union with God, and they will one day enter heaven which is the very goal of our lives.
Even though the souls in purgatory will enter eternal glory, they require further purification of their souls. The Book of the Revelation says that nothing unholy can enter the presence of God (Rev 21:27). In the gospels, our Lord himself tells his disciples to “be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). The tradition of praying for the dead goes back to our ancestors in the faith, the Jewish people. The 2nd Book of Maccabees tells us “It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins” (2 Maccabees 12:46).
When we become a member of the Body of Christ at Baptism, we are part of the Communion of Saints. The Communion of Saints consists of three states: the pilgrim church on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven.
The saints in heaven offer the Church the witness of their lives. Their lives demonstrate that holiness is indeed possible, and all, with the grace of God, can be sanctified. And again, the souls in purgatory have passed from this world in the stat of grace but require further purification of their souls. When we, the pilgrim Church on earth, pray and offer sacrifices for these souls that await the full glory of the Lord, they most certainly will never forget us.
Sincerely in Christ,