November is the month of the Poor and Holy Souls in Purgatory
There is no need to pray for the dead if they are all in heaven, since our prayers cannot improve the perfect joy of the saints in heaven.
Nor if the dead are all in hell, since our prayers cannot improve the just condemnation of the unrepentant sinners in hell.
We pray for the dead only because some of them are in neither place. Some of them are in a temporary place of purification, and they can be helped by our prayers.
Some saints have taught that our prayers for the souls in Purgatory are the most pleasing to God because our prayers for them are the most charitable. How so? As we said, praying for the souls in heaven or hell is fruitless. Besides the souls in Purgatory, the only other people we can and should pray for are those still alive on earth. But, to some extent, some more than others, everyone on earth can in some way improve their own situation. Not so the souls in Purgatory! They can do nothing whatsoever to decrease their pains in Purgatory. The time for merit is over. They depend entirely on the judgment of God, and the prayers of the saints in heaven and the faithful on earth. What can be more charitable than to help the most helpless, and the souls in Purgatory are certainly the most helpless. And since God is charity, the most charitable prayers and works please Him the most. If we want to be as charitable, good and holy as God is, we will be very active in praying and sacrificing for the souls in Purgatory.
The souls in Purgatory are both holy, because they died in the state of grace and are destined for heaven; and they are also poor, because they are suffering the just delay of heaven on account of their venial sins and incomplete reparations.
Practical Things We Can Do for the Holy Souls this Month
- Offer Holy Mass for their intention. This is the best thing we can do for them, for in Holy Mass we offer not just our own unworthy and imperfect prayers, but the saving sacrifice of Jesus.
- Pray the Rosary and the Chaplet for the Holy Souls for them
- Offer little sacrifices, penances, mortifications for them like fasting or abstinence
- Spread devotion to them, reminding people to pray for them
- Make a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament for them
- When gaining indulgences, apply them to the Holy Souls rather than for yourself
- Visit the cemeteries (Coemeterii Visitatio). Some saints have told us that the souls experience more consolation when we visit their graves or the sites of their death. Say prayers at the gravesite. If you do this on or before November 8, a plenary indulgence can be gained; for the rest of the month, a partial indulgence.
The Grandmother of the late Fr. Daniel Lord, SJ
Father Lord was a famous Jesuit; an orthodox Catholic writer and teacher who was a key person in composing a code of decency used by Hollywood at the time. He tells the story how his grandmother would take him many Sundays to the cemetery, where, besides praying, they would bring a picnic basket of sandwiches and sweets. Their visits to the cemetery were real visits, not just quickies. To stay in a cemetery for an hour or so was to really spend time with one's loved ones, to give them real attention. It reminds us that, though physically dead, our loved ones are alive in the spirit. We are still one family - the Communion of Saints. How neglected the souls are! Not by this grandmother!
To eat a picnic lunch at the cemetery is a reminder that life goes on. Death is only of the body. The soul is immortal. On Judgment Day, our bodies will re-unite with our souls and join it wherever the soul may be.