“Every family has an Uncle Louie.” I was told this fact while discussing funerals with a priest. “Uncle Louie” represented those “black sheep,” who, though beloved by their family and friends, we all knew were no saints and unless Heaven had lowered the bar considerably, didn’t stand much chance of walking straight through the Pearly Gates when they died. However, as Christians we hope that through the mercy of God and the prayers of the Church that “Uncle Louie” did make it into Purgatory. Perhaps before he died, “Uncle Louie” mumbled a heartfelt pray from childhood and turned back to God.
“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but 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.” (CCC 1030) The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of souls that they may attain the beatific vision, or gaze on the Face of God. Theologians have said that the purification or suffering of the souls in Purgatory is their intense longing for the Face of God. This is expressed beautifully in Dante’s Divine Comedy, which is recommended reading by Pope Francis for the Year of Mercy. In the poem, a soul in Purgatory proclaims:
“We were all sinners till our latest hour/… when light from Heaven made us wise to see our sins,/ and we repented and forgave,/ leaving our lives at last in peace with God,/ who now torments our hearts with the desire,/ to see His Face.”
Since the faithful departed being purified are also members of the communion of saints, we can help obtain indulgences for them, so that temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted through the merits of Jesus Christ. (Explanation of indulgences here.) Throughout November the Church, in charity, remembers the Faithful Departed in its prayers. “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” (2 Macch. 12, 46) There are many ways to obtain indulgence from God through the Church such as visiting a cemetery and praying for the dead. A plenary indulgence for the souls in Purgatory can be obtained by visiting a cemetery each day between November 1 and November 8 or by a visit to a church or public oratory on November 2nd and reciting the Our Father and The Creed. A partial indulgence can be obtained for the souls in Purgatory, especially in the month of November, when we recite:
Eternal rest grant unto 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.
In your charity, please pray for the souls in Purgatory, so that they may soon see God face to face.