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Remembering the Holy Souls in Purgatory

often overshadowed by the two days preceding it, Halloween (October 31) and All Saints Day (November 1), All Souls Day is a solemn celebration in the Roman Catholic Church commemorating all of those who have died and are now in Purgatory, being cleansed of their venial sins and the temporal punishments for the mortal sins that they had confessed, and being made pure before entering into the presence of God in Heaven.

The History of All Souls Day

The importance of All Souls Day was made clear by Pope Benedict XV (1914-22), when he granted all priests the privilege of celebrating three Masses on All Souls Day: one for the faithful departed; one for the priest’s intentions; and one for the intentions of the Holy Father. On only a handful of other very important feast days are priests allowed to celebrate more than two Masses.

While All Souls Day is now paired with All Saints Day (November 1), which celebrates all of the faithful who are in Heaven, it originally was celebrated in the Easter season, around Pentecost Sunday (and still is in the Eastern Catholic Churches).

 By the tenth century, the celebration had been moved to October; and sometime between 998 and 1030, St. Odilo of Cluny decreed that it should be celebrated on November 2 in all of the monasteries of his Benedictine congregation. Over the next two centuries, other Benedictines and the Carthusians began to celebrate it in their monasteries as well, and soon the commemoration of all the Holy Souls in Purgatory spread to the entire Church.
Offering Our Efforts on Behalf of the Holy Souls

On All Souls Day, we not only remember the dead, but we apply our efforts, through prayer, almsgiving, and the Mass, to their release from Purgatory. There are two plenary indulgences attached to All Souls Day, one for visiting a church and another for visiting a cemetery. (The plenary indulgence for visiting a cemetery can also be obtained every day from November 1-8, and, as a partial indulgence, on any day of the year.) While the actions are performed by the living, the merits of the indulgences are applicable only to the souls in Purgatory. Since a plenary indulgence removes all of the temporal punishment for sin, which is the reason why souls are in Purgatory in the first place, applying a plenary indulgence to one of the Holy Souls in Purgatory means that the Holy Soul is released from Purgatory and enters Heaven.

Praying for the dead is a Christian obligation. In the modern world, when many have come to doubt the Church’s teaching on Purgatory, the need for such prayers has only increased. The Church devotes the month of November to prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, and participation in the Mass of All Souls Day is a good way to begin the month.



 Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Servant of God, Luisa Piccarreta,

The Little Daughter of the Divine Will:


 July 3, 1903

If the soul gives herself completely to Jesus in life, Jesus gives Himself to her at her death and exempts her from Purgatory.

 This morning, as I was very afflicted because of the loss of my adorable Jesus, all of a sudden He made Himself seen in my interior, filling my person completely – that is, my head, my arms, and all the rest. As I was seeing this, almost wanting to explain to me the meaning of the way He was making Himself seen, He told me: “My daughter(Luisa), why do you(Luisa) afflict yourself if I am the master of all of you(Luisa)? When a soul comes to rendering Me the master of her mind, of her arms, of her heart and of her feet, sin cannot reign; and if something involuntary enters into her, since I am the master and the soul is under the influence of my lordship, she is in continuous attitude of purgation, and that something immediately goes out of her. Furthermore, since I am Holy, it is difficult for her to retain within herself anything which is not holy. Even more, since she has given all of herself to Me in life, it is justice that I give all of Myself to her at her death, admitting her to the beatific vision without delay. So, if one gives herself completely to Me, the flames of Purgatory have nothing to do with her.”


February 8, 1904

One of the qualities of Jesus is Pain. For one who lives of His Most Holy Will Purgatory does not exist.

 I remember that another day, as I continued to feel in suffering, I saw the confessor praying Our Lord to touch the part where I was suffering so as to have the sufferings mitigate. And blessed Jesus told me:  “My daughter(Luisa), your confessor wants me to touch you(Luisa) to alleviate your pains, but among my many qualities I am also Pain, and if I touch you(Luisa), instead of decreasing, your pain could increase.  In fact, the thing in which my Humanity delighted the most was suffering, and It still delights in communicating it to those whom It loves.”  And it seemed that, in reality, He would touch me and make me feel more pain.  So I added:  ‘My sweet Good, as for myself, I want nothing but your Most Holy Will.  I do not look at whether I suffer or I enjoy – your Will is everything for me.’  And He added:  “And this is what I want, this is my design upon you(Luisa), and this is enough for Me and contents Me.  This is the greatest and most honorable worship that the creature can render Me, and that she owes Me as her Creator; and as the soul does so, it can be said that her mind lives and thinks in my mind; her eyes, being in mine, look through my eyes; her mouth speaks through my mouth, her heart loves through Mine, her hands operate within my own hands, her feet walk within my feet.  And I can say:  “You are my eye, my mouth, my Heart, my hands and my feet.”  And, likewise, the soul can say:  “Jesus Christ is my eye, my mouth, my heart, my hands and my feet.”  Being in this union, not only of wills, but personal, when the soul dies there is nothing left of her to be purged, and therefore Purgatory cannot touch her, because Purgatory touches those who live outside of Me, whether completely or in part.”



By Fr. Paul O’Sullivan


The idea of Pope St. Pius X was the same when he granted a plenary indulgence at the hour of death to those who say at least after one Holy Communion the following prayer:

“Eternal Father, from this day forward, I accept with a joyful and resigned heart the death it will please You to send me, with all its pains and sufferings”

It will be better still to say this prayer after every Holy Communion we receive.

A plenary Indulgence was granted by Pope St. Pius X at the Hour of death to those who say at least after one Holy Communion the following prayer:

“Eternal Father, from this day forward, I accept with a joyful and resigned hert the death it will please You to send me, with all its pains and sufferings.”


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