Formalised in the early 20th Century, the commemoration of All Souls on 2 November every year is an opportunity for people on earth to assist the souls in purgatory. We might well ask how this is possible or even why it is necessary. The answer to this is probably found in the term “temporal punishment”.
It’s like this: there are always consequences of sin. These are both spiritual and worldly (or temporal). When we receive absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), we are cleansed of all our spiritual impurity and receive a penance. The problem is that there are also physical consequences of sin. For example, confessing to a priest that you have offended someone may bring absolution but it does not repair the damage that was done to the relationship. That requires that you fix it!
So, if we die without resolving the practical consequences of sin, we receive temporal punishment. And this brings us to the whole thorny issue of Purgatory.
Catholics, and some other Christian denominations, recognise that the soul needs to be purified before it can enter into the presence of God. This process, not unlike the purging of soil to reveal the purity of the precious metal, brings the soul to that state which makes it worthy to be in heaven. We call this process Purgatory.
On All Souls Day, the living have a special opportunity to assist the souls in Purgatory to be cleansed of their temporal sin by attending Mass or praying for the souls in a cemetery – both temporal activities. Conveniently for us, we have Gardens of Remembrance which are equivalent to the traditional version of cemeteries.
This feast is also an important reminder of the relationship that exists between the living and the dead. In prayer, not only can we petition God on behalf of our loved ones; we can also do so WITH them - since prayer is a spiritual exercise and we can unite our souls spiritually.
So, in this crazy time where values and ideals seem to have been churned up in a blender, let’s just stop for a moment today and remember that we, too, will probably need prayers one day while in Purgatory. Pray today for a soul who needs it.
God bless and stay safe.
Dc Mike & the team.