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Month of souls

To remind people to pray for the dead, the Church dedicates November as the Month for the Souls in Purgatory.

All Souls Day is celebrated on November 2, a day on which priests may celebrate three Masses for the dead. This tradition dates back to the 15th century Spanish Dominicans. In 1749, Pope Benedict XIV recognised the practice and granted the permission to clergy in Spain, Portugal and Latin America.

On 10 August 1915, Pope Benedict XV extended this permission to the universal Church.

Purgatory is conceptualised as a period of waiting to enter the joy of eternal life. The view that people on earth can shorten the stay through prayer and charitable works, relies on a belief in eternal life and the immortality of the human soul.

The belief that when a person dies, the immortal soul goes through a waiting period before entering into communion with the Holy Trinity is an earthly attempt to imagine eternity from within the constraints of the human experience of time and space.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “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” (1030).

On the one hand, since no one can be saved through their own merit, the communion of saints is a reminder from the Church of the importance of praying for these souls.

Our prayer or Mass intentions can deliver them from the agony of waiting and smooth their way into eternal joy, because “we believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers” (Catechism, 962).

On the other hand, praying for the deceased helps people deepen their own understanding of the meaning of the communion of saints and the significance of death, both of their own and that of others.

It is a way of cultivating virtue and a practice of charity, as well as preparing for the inevitability of death. The prayer becomes a plea for pardon, both for self and for those who have gone before us.

The dead remain part of the community of the faithful—the body of Christ—and are also part of this body of Christ, as Christ, through his own death and resurrection, has become the Lord of the living and the dead.

We believe that the communion of saints embraces both the living and the dead through the link of everlasting love and sharing in all things beautiful. During this amazing sharing, virtue is experienced as an expression of community goodness and support.

We have always believed that it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins. The operative word here is loosed, as the tentacles of sin wrap binding arms around both the living and the dead, and all need the knots of their tie to be loosened. SE