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Souls in Need
All Souls’ Day
Jesus said to the crowds: “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, today on All Souls’ Day, I want to offer myself in prayer for all the souls still in Purgatory, especially the souls of my deceased family and friends. Allow me to grow in the faith that recognizes that your love accompanies me throughout my journey—in this life and the next.
- “I Will Not Reject Anyone Who Comes to Me”: The Church’s teaching on hell can seem like a contradiction to its belief in a loving God. “How could God send a soul away to eternal torment?” “Doesn’t God want everyone to be saved?” In essence, a soul that dies “in mortal sin without repenting” freely chooses to reject God (Catechism #1033). Regarding the “unforgivable” sin against the Holy Spirit, St. John Paul II writes that it is “the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, Jesus will not reject anyone who comes to him, but he or she must come. Jesus will not force a soul to follow him in this life or the next. We must freely choose, and the time for choosing Jesus is in this life (see Catechism #1021). God’s radical respect for our freedom is both sobering and awe-inspiring.
- The Freedom to Love: On All Souls’ Day the church invites us to pray for those souls who have died and are in purgatory. They died in God’s grace and are assured salvation, but must first go through a period of purification (see Catechism #1030). This doctrine also strikes people as somewhat vindictive on the part of God, as if a soul needed a bit more punishing before entering heaven. The reality is much simpler. Imagine a young man who broke up with one girlfriend to date another. If, in his conversations with the new girlfriend, he kept referring to the previous one, saying things like “She used to dress like this,” or “She used to talk like that,” it would seem that his attachment to the previous girlfriend hinders his freedom to commit fully to the new one. Having chosen to leave sin and selfishness behind, souls in purgatory have accepted God’s mercy and have chosen to enter into a “new” relationship with God. However, there are residual effects from their previous sins that need purification if they are going to love fully. The souls in purgatory want to have their love purified to be able to love God more perfectly.
- Intercede for One Another: We pray for the souls in purgatory and for each other. The question may arise as to why that is necessary. “Doesn’t God know what they need?” “Doesn’t he already want what’s best for them?” “What do our prayers add?” The answer is that in the church “all the faithful form one body, [therefore] the good of each is communicated to the others” (Catechism #947). This doctrine may be difficult for our individualistic society to grasp, but what happens to my brother or sister for good or for bad affects me, and vice versa. Therefore, my prayers, sacrifices, and acts of service increase charity in the entire body, which benefits all. This encourages a harmonious interdependence in which we rely upon and support one another, both in this life and the next.
Conversing with Christ: Dear Jesus, you know that I love you, but you also know that my love needs purification of selfishness and fear. Help me to love you with an ever more perfect love that “drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). Help me to let go of that which keeps me from loving you and my neighbor more fully. May your purifying love form my heart to be more like yours. Finally, I pray for all the souls in purgatory so that they may more quickly enter into your heavenly kingdom to be with you forever.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will offer up two or three prayers and one small sacrifice for the souls in purgatory.
For Further Reflection: “What Is Purgatory?” is an article in Catholic Answers which explains in greater depth the church’s teaching on the subject: https://www.catholic.com/tract/purgatory.
Written by Fr. John Bullock, LC.