Revelation: 14: 13 “Happy are those who have died in the Lord. Let them rest from their labours
for their good deeds go with them”.
“It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins” (2
This is a day annually set aside by Holy Mother the Church to remind us of the value intrinsic in
recalling our dear departed, indeed all the departed in purgatory, and praying for the repose of
their souls. The feast was established in 998 by St Odilo, first Abbot of Cluny, to enable his
monks to offer special prayers for the departed. This Cluniac practice gradually gained popularity
and spread to parts of Europe and Latin America.
The date, which became practically universal by the end of the 13 th century, was so chosen as to
immediately follow the feast of All Saints. Thus, having honoured the Church Triumphant in
heaven on 1 November, the very next day the Church Militant on earth, with due concern, turns
her gaze onto the members of the Church suffering in Purgatory, thus demonstrating in no
unmistakable terms the supernatural bond of the Communion of Saints. The Council of Trent
officially declared that the souls in Purgatory benefit from and need the prayers and works of
charity of all Christian believers as spiritual helps in eventually surmounting their spiritual
separation from God. Catholic tradition regarding All Souls Day centres on the belief that even
though some people who have died are presently in a painful state, they nevertheless experience
some joy in knowing that they will, in time, be fully united with the creator in His glory and
happiness. Accordingly, the Church has enriched with a Plenary Indulgence the custom of
visiting the cemetery to pray for the deceased during the octave 1 – 8 November, and a Partial
Indulgence on other days. Besides, on 2 November, one Plenary Indulgence applicable to the
dead can be gained under the usual conditions (visiting a Church, receiving the sacraments,
praying for the Pope’s intentions).
For the succor of the innumerable dead in World War I, Pope Benedict XV, by a decree dated 10
August 1915, granted each priest the blessed privilege of celebrating three Masses on this day –
one for his own intentions, another for the Souls in Purgatory and a third one for the intentions of
the Holy Father.
In the final analysis, this day is a day of hope for the entire Church, focusing as it does on the
fullness of the Paschal Mystery enveloping every believer in its redeeming embrace.
On this All Souls’ Day, we commemorate all the souls of the faithful who have departed from this
world. We remember our loved ones who have passed on and all others who have gone before us,
those whose earthly lives and existences had come to an end.
We pray for those holy souls in purgatory, those who are also part of the universal Church of God.
They are the Church Suffering just as the glorious saints in Heaven are the Church Triumphant
and we who are still living in this world are part of the Church Militant. We are all united as part
of this same Church of God and through the Church we have been brought together as one family
of people who have called God as our Father, Lord and Master.
While the saints have already attained the glory of Heaven, those holy souls in purgatory we are
remembering and praying for today and throughout this whole month in particular are those who
have yet to merit immediately the glory of Heaven. Their sins, unrepented and unforgiven, while
judged by God not to be great enough to be condemned for eternity in hell, were significant
enough that they could not enter immediately into heavenly glory unlike the saints.
They had passed through what the Church called as the ‘particular judgment’, which refers to the
judgment of everyone’s souls right at the moment of their passing from the earthly life. This is
distinct from the general judgment that will happen at the end of time, also better known as the
Last Judgment, when everyone righteous will be judged to be worthy, and their bodies will be
raised again and reunited with their holy souls, in a new glorious existence with God as described
at the end of the Book of Revelations.
Thus, the holy souls in purgatory have been judged to be worthy and will never end up in hell,
hence being considered as holy. It is a misconception to think that purgatory is a place in between
heaven and hell, and that people may still end up in hell after purgatory. Those who have ended
up in purgatory and will be there in time to come, which include many of us, not holy enough to
be like the saints, or wicked enough to deserve hell, we shall endure the flames of purgatory on
our way to Heaven.
What is purgatory like, brothers and sisters in Christ? There had been several descriptions of
purgatory by the Church fathers, saints and other authors, but they agreed that purgatory while it
is a place where the souls of the righteous were awaiting their entry into Heaven, but it is also a
place of great suffering, not because of their wickedness but rather because their residual sins,
unforgiven, that made them to suffer for their love of God.
Those who have significant sins and ended up in purgatory cannot come directly to the holy
presence of God because no sin, no matter how small or insignificant it may be, can be in the
presence of God. Thus, those in purgatory are waiting for the expiation or the atonement of their
sins. They suffer because they all love God and to be in the presence of God, but they were not yet
able to do so.
The flames of purgatory were often described in descriptions of purgatory, but in truth, the flames
and the sufferings of purgatory are symbolic of the burning love of God that are in each and every
one of the holy souls there. It is their burning love and desire to be with God, and the sorrow and
repentance over the sins which prevented them from attaining the fullness of heavenly glory that
made them to suffer.
It is indeed good that all these souls are already destined for Heaven, in time to come. For some, it
will be shorter while others had to wait for longer time. But regardless of this, the suffering of the
holy souls in purgatory is real, and some saints, including St. John Vianney have written their
experiences of interacting with the souls in purgatory, as for example, in one occasion, saw the
holy souls in purgatory and their sufferings, and how through prayer, and offering of the Holy
Mass with intentions for those souls in purgatory, the souls were liberated and brought into
Through what we have heard, discussed and listened today on the matter of the holy souls in
purgatory, many of whom we may have known, and one day which may be our turn to be there in
purgatory, we are all called to pray for the sake of those souls in purgatory still waiting for the
complete expiation and purification from all of their sins and their residual evils, that had
prevented them from being completely reunited with God.
We are praying for them because they cannot pray for themselves. And in fact, the saints are also
constantly, daily, praying for all these holy souls that have yet to be able to join them in the glory
of Heaven. We should also pray for them because we are after all, members of the same Church of
God. If one part of the Body of Christ, the Church suffers hurt, then it is natural for all the other
parts to feel the hurt and pain as well. Therefore, today, and throughout this whole month, as Pope
Francis has recently extended the plenary indulgences for the holy souls in purgatory by the
authority of the Church, let us all pray for the holy souls in purgatory, for all the faithful departed,
and offer intentions in the Holy Mass for them, that the priests may offer the Mass for their sake.
Do not forget, brothers and sisters, that we ourselves are still on the journey as well. Because of
that, we should keep in mind the sufferings of the holy souls in purgatory as a reminder that we
ourselves must live as holy a life as possible in this world. Let us all distance ourselves from
wickedness and sin, and repent from our sinful ways as soon as possible, if not now. Remember
that every sins that we have, unrepented and unforgiven, will be judged against us on the day of
the particular judgment when we die and pass on from this world, and also at the final judgment.
Let us pray for the holy souls in purgatory, so that one day, when we too are probably in
purgatory ourselves, these holy souls who have gone before us to Heaven will then in turn pray
for us, remembering our love and fraternal kindness, as brothers and sisters in the same Lord, that
we, although separated between this world and purgatory, our bonds of faith in Christ remain the
same, and remain strong as always. Let us all ask God for His mercy and compassion, on all of us,
and on all those who are still now enduring the flames of purgatory. May God lead them all into
His heavenly glory, in His good time, and by His enduring love for all of them. Amen.
Eternal Rest Grant Unto them O Lord, and let your perpetual light shine upon them! May the
souls of faithful departed rest in peace!