The month of November reminds us of the Communion of Saints. We express our belief in this doctrine each time we say the Apostles’ Creed. The Communion of Saints refers to the relationship that binds the Church Militant (the Pilgrim Church on earth), the Church Suffering (the souls in purgatory) and the Church Triumphant (the souls in heaven). The Communion of Saints teaches us that these three aspects of the Catholic Church remain bonded both in life and in death.
In particular, the month of November reminds us not to forget our beloved dead. In the Early Church, a chair was left vacant at table, along with a plate and tableware, to remind the family to pray for the repose of the souls of their deceased loved ones. Today, the month of November reminds us to visit the graves of our beloved dead, to gain indulgences to be applied to their souls, to have Masses offered for the repose of their souls and also to pray for the souls in purgatory. Celebrations of life, or the decision to have no funeral services, or to forgo the Mass of Christian Burial frequently can be a denial of the reality of purgatory, which exists for the souls of those who die in a state of venial sin or who have not fully atoned for the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven. Too often, then, the deceased are looked upon as saints already in heaven because they have had no need of purification.Some people also desist from praying for the dead and having Masses offered for them because they believe that the word purgatory is not found in the Bible. Indeed, the word is not found in the Bible. The words Incarnation, Christmas, Easter and Trinity are also not found in the Bible. Nevertheless, true believers accept all those doctrines, regardless of the distinct names given to them. Accordingly, there are bona fide references in the Bible that imply a state of purification that we call purgatory.
Therefore, during this month of November, let us remember our beloved dead with appropriate religious remembrances. “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.”
“Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son Jesus in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the Universal Church, for those in my own home and within my family. Amen.” — Attributed to St. Gertrude the Great.
“St. Nicholas of Tolentino, Patron of the Souls in Purgatory, pray for them.”
By Msgr. Matthew Malnar