November is the month devoted to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. It is a month of honor and remembrance. It is a time to reflect and pray about and for the souls who have departed before us. Those who have led the way, those who were martyred, those who had fallen but wanted to be in grace, and those who died before they could receive the sacraments of Last Rites.
The Doctrine of Purgatory is the belief that Christians may undergo a period of purification by grace after death, but before entering Heaven. The Church also teaches that Christians alive on earth can pray for the dead in Purgatory and so quicken their entry into Heaven. (MOTHF)
The word Purgatory comes from the Greek root πῦρ (“pur”) which means both “fire” and “pure.” This is a fitting description, as the fires of Purgatory, rather than destroying like the fires of Hell, instead purify. Purgatory is where we expiate for the pain due to mortal sins that have been forgiven through the sacrament of Confession, and unrepented venial sins. Much like a scar left on the body after a wound has healed, the pain due to sin remains long after the sin has been forgiven.
The Church commemorates all her faithful children who have departed from this life but have not yet attained the joys of heaven. St. Paul warns us that we must not be ignorant concerning the dead, nor sorrowful, "even as others who have no hope ... For the Lord, Himself shall come down from heaven ... and the dead who are in Christ shall rise. (Catholic Culture)
In this life, we are given the graces to shorten our time due in Purgatory by prayer, fasting, undertaking penance, frequenting the sacraments, wearing the scapular, and making use of indulgences.
While Purgatory is a place of suffering, it is actually a beautiful example of Divine mercy. It is a metaphysical impossibility for anything even slightly impure to enter the presence of God.
And these souls have every reason to be happy! The souls in Purgatory are confirmed in grace. This means that their salvation is guaranteed – they are incapable of sin or error, and they are no longer at any risk of damnation. They know they will see God face-to-face one day, and they, therefore, embrace their suffering as the necessary means by which to attain the beatific vision. (Uden)
Purgatory is not eternal. Its duration varies according to the sentence pronounced at each particular judgment. It may be prolonged for centuries in the case of the more guilty souls, or of those who, being excluded from the Catholic communion, are deprived of the suffrages of the Church, although by the divine mercy they have escaped hell. But the end of the world, which will be also the end of time, will close for ever the place of temporary expiation. God will know how to reconcile His justice and His goodness in the purification of the last members of the human race, and to supply by the intensity of the expiatory suffering what may be wanting in duration. But, whereas a favourable sentence at the particular judgment admits of eternal beatitude being suspended and postponed, and leaves the bodies of the elect to the same fate as those of the reprobate; at the universal judgment, every sentence, whether for heaven or for hell, will be absolute, and will be executed immediately and completely.
All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but are 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. — Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1030
It cannot be doubted that the prayers of the Church, the Holy Sacrifice, and alms distributed for the departed relieve those holy souls and move God to treat them with more clemency than their sins deserve. It is the universal practice of the Church, a practice that she observes as having received it from her forefathers — that is to say, the holy Apostles. — Saint Augustine of Hippo
“Purgatory”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 15 September 2022. Web. 31 October 2022. <https://catholicsaints.info/purgatory/>
The Church has always taught us to pray for those who have gone into eternity. Even in the Old Testament prayers and alms were offered for the souls of the dead by those who thought "well and religiously concerning the resurrection." It was believed that "they who had fallen asleep with godliness had great grace laid up for them" and that "it is, therefore, a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins." We know that a defiled soul cannot enter into heaven. (Catholic Culture)
Excerpted from Liturgical Meditations, The Sisters of St. Dominic
Indulgences and Prayers
A partial indulgence can be obtained by devoutly visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed, even if the prayer is only mental. One can gain a plenary indulgence by visiting a cemetery each day between November 1 and November 8. These indulgences are applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory.
A plenary indulgence, again applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is also granted when the faithful piously visit a church or a public oratory on November 2. In visiting the church or oratory, it is required, that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.
A partial indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, can be obtained when the Eternal Rest (Requiem aeternam) is prayed. This is a good prayer to recite especially during the month of November:
Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.