Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s Video: The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls), November 2,2017

Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s Video: The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls), November 2,2017

Today is all Souls Feast Day. This solemn feast commemorates all of those who have died and are now in Purgatory – being cleansed of their venial sins and the temporal punishments for those mortal sins that they had confessed and atoning before entering fully into Heaven (cf. CCC: 1030-1032). From the Christian tradition, it has been known that we cannot go to heaven with our sins. Sins must be purged from us. The purifying pain of purgatory is our deep regret over how imperfectly we have loved, fueled by our yearning to live eternally in total, holy love. St. Augustine once remarked that monuments are built for the survivors; prayer is the best way of assisting the dead. There is a mysterious healing and forgiveness that comes to others through our prayer. St. Francis of Assisi wrote, “Praised are you, my Lord, for our sister bodily Death, from whom no living man can escape. Woe on those who will die in mortal sin! Blessed are they who will be found in your most holy will, for the second death will not harm them.” St. Catherine of Genoa, a mystic of the 15th century, wrote that the ‘fire’ of purgatory is God’s love ‘burning’ the soul so that, at last, the soul is wholly aflame. It is the pain of wanting to be made totally worthy of One who is seen as infinitely lovable, the pain of desire for union that is now absolutely assured, but not yet fully tasted.” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote that “Purgatory basically means that God can put the pieces back together again. That he can cleanse us in such a way that we are able to be with him and can stand there in the fullness of life. Purgatory strips off from one person what is unbearable and from another the inability to bear certain things, so that in each of them a pure heart is revealed, and we can see that we all belong together in one enormous symphony of being.”

All of us will die. We may need some purification when we die. However, it is the will of God that we not be lost, but that we be raised up and have eternal life. We can be assured of this because of what Jesus said in today’s Gospel reading. The Father’s decision is that everyone who recognizes Jesus as the Son of God, wanting him to be their Savior and the Redeemer of their sins, will have eternal life. “And I shall raise him on the last day,” Jesus promised (Jn 6:37-40).

Taking part in the Eucharist at least every Sunday is one way we keep turning to Jesus in this lifetime. It is one way we can claim the promises of today’s Scriptures for ourselves. And let us attend Masses in memory of our departed brothers and sisters and pray: “Lord God, may the death and resurrection of Christ which we celebrate in the Eucharist bring the departed faithful to the peace of your eternal home.” Amen.


Opening Prayer

“Lord Jesus Christ, your death brought life and hope where there was once only despair and defeat.  Give me the unshakeable hope of everlasting life, the inexpressible joy of knowing your unfailing love, and the unquestioning faith and obedience in doing the will of our Father in heaven.” In your Mighty Name, I pray. Amen.

Reading I
Wis 3:1-9 – As sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
they shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the LORD shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
R. Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
R. Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me.

He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
R. Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
R. Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
R. Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me.

Reading II

Rom. 5:5-11 – Justified by his Blood, we will be saved through Christ from the wrath.

Brothers and sisters:
Hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For Christ, while we were still helpless,
died at the appointed time for the ungodly.
Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,
though perhaps for a good person
one might even find courage to die.
But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
How much more then, since we are now justified by his Blood,
will we be saved through him from the wrath.
Indeed, if, while we were enemies,
we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son,
how much more, once reconciled,
will we be saved by his life.
Not only that,
but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have now received reconciliation.

The word of the Lord.

Rom 6:3-9 – Let us walk in newness of life.

Brothers and sisters:

Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.

For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.
We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person has been absolved from sin. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.

The word of the Lord.

John 6:37-40 – Everyone who believes in the Son will have eternal life and I shall raise him up on the last day.

Fr. Robert Barron’s Homily on All Souls Day – The Mystery of Immortality click below:

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.”

The Gospel of the Lord.


Reflection 1 – I shall raise him on the last day.

When a couple is united in the sacrament of matrimony, the possessions of each spouse, ideally become joint property of the other. One spouse may have earned whatever wealth he or she has from one’s profession or may have inherited it from one’s family but one’s wealth all become joint property of the couple. Through marriage both spouses share in the benefits that the same wealth will bring.

In the same light, our union with Christ enables us to share in all he has including the power to be more godly and holy and to stay away from what is evil and sustain ones’ desire to live a new and reformed life.

Every believer baptized in Christ becomes truly united with Him that His death becomes the believer’s death – a death that will free him from the power of sin. Being baptized in Christ through the powerful work of the Holy Spirit joins a believer to Jesus such that our Lord’s resurrection also becomes his very own.

Being with Christ does not mean that we will be free from the tendency to sin as it will always be there considering our sinful nature. But being with Christ means that our sinful nature will no longer have the capacity to dominate us unless we allow ourselves to be under its control.

Man’s favorite expression, “I could not help it. I was at my weakest point!” will no longer hold ground as the good news to all is we can help it with Christ.  Our Lord Jesus Christ has the power to fight sin and if we are with Him we can be sure that He will save us from our sinful death. “With Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. Being raised from the dead He dies no more and death no longer has power over him!” Romans 6:9

Having believed in Christ and united to Him, we will have eternal life. “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.” John 6:40


Live your new life in Christ – with Christ.


Lord, guide me in the right paths for your Name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage. I pray and hope in Jesus, the True Christ and my Lord and Savior! Amen.

Reflection 2 – Every one who believes in him will be raised up at the last day

Is your hope in this present life only? What about the life to come after our physical death? God puts in the heart of every living person the desire for unending life and happiness. While physical death claims each of us at the appointed time, God gives us something which death cannot touch – his own divine life and sustaining power.

God does not abandon us to the realm of the dead
One of the greatest examples of faith and hope in everlasting life with God is the testimony of Job in the Old Testament. God allowed Job to be tested through great trial and suffering. In the midst of his sufferings Job did not waver in his trust of God. In chapter 19 of the Book of Job, he exclaims:

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27).

King David also expressed his hope in the promise of everlasting life with God. In Psalm 16 David prays,

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16:9-11 NIV translation).

We wait with hope for the Lord to raise us up to everlasting life
Jesus made an incredible promise to his disciples and a claim which only God can make and deliver: Whoever sees and believes in Jesus, the Son of God, shall have everlasting life and be raised up at the last day (John 6:40)! How can we see Jesus? The Lord makes his presence known to us in the reading of his word (John 14:23), in the breaking of the bread, and in his church, the body of Christ.

The Lord Jesus reveals himself in many countless ways to those who seek him with eyes of faith (Hebrews 12:2, 11:27). When we read the word of God in the Bible Jesus speaks to us and he reveals to us the mind and heart of our heavenly Father. When we approach the table of the Lord, Jesus offers himself as spiritual food which produces the very life of God within us (I am the bread of life, John 6:35). He promises unbroken fellowship and freedom from the fear of being forsaken or cut off from everlasting life with God. And he offers us the hope of sharing in his resurrection – abundant life without end. Do you recognize the Lord’s presence in your life and do you long for the day when you will see him face to face?

The Holy Spirit is the key to growth in faith
What is faith and how do we grow in it? Faith is an entirely free gift which God offers us through his Son Jesus Christ. We could not approach God if he did not first approach us and draw us to himself. The Lord Jesus gives us his Holy Spirit who works in us to open our ears to hear God’s word and to respond to it with trust and submission. The Holy Spirit is the key to our growing in faith. The Holy Spirit is our teacher and guide who makes our faith come alive as we cooperate with his help and instruction.

To live, grow, and persevere in faith to the end we must nourish it with the word of God. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) said: I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe. Jesus promises that those who accept him as their Lord and Savior and submit to his word will be raised up to immortal life with him when he comes again at the close of this age. Is your life securely anchored to the promises of Christ and his everlasting kingdom of heaven?

“Lord Jesus Christ, your death and resurrection brought life and hope where there was once only despair and defeat. Give me unwavering faith, unshakeable hope, and the fire of your unquenchable love that I may serve you joyfully now and for ever in your everlasting kingdom.” – Read the source:

Reflection 3 – Life is short

Ben was in the hospital, and the family, seeing his deteriorating condition, sent for his parish priest. As the priest stood beside the bed, Ben’s condition rapidly grew from bad to worse. He was desperately gasping for air and frantically motioned for something to write on. The priest tenderly handed him a pen and piece of paper, and Ben used his last remaining strength to scribble a note. Then he died. The priest quickly pocketed the note, not bothering to look at it, and proceeded doing the necessary prayers.

At the Funeral Mass a few days later, the pastor delivered the homily. He realized that he still has in his pocket the note that Ben handed him. He took it out. “You know,” he said, “our dear Ben gave me a note just before he died.  I haven’t read it, but knowing Ben, with his abundant wit and wisdom, I’m sure there’s a beautiful message there for us all.” He unfolded the note and read aloud, “I can’t breathe! You’re standing on my oxygen tube!” (Adapted from M. Ezeogu).

A teacher was discussing in her class of elementary pupils the topic on death. He asked them about the meaning of the initials R.I.P. written on the tombstones in the cemetery. There was a moment of silence as the children tried to think about the possible answer. One boy broke the silence. He raised his hand and bravely answered, “Return If Possible.”

For many of us who have lost a loved one or two, there are times when we have the desire to have them back with us: Return if possible. But we know that is not possible anymore. Life goes on, and our loved ones, though not with us anymore, have their own lives to live in the next.

And so the Church sets the second of November as the day to commemorate all the faithful departed. This is the day when the whole Church prays for all the departed, that God will forgive all their sins and eventually welcome them into the eternal glory in heaven. Perhaps, by the grace of God, some of them are already admitted into heaven, enjoying the eternal life and happiness. And most likely, most of them may still be undergoing purification in Purgatory. These are called “poor souls” for they cannot do anything else to help themselves. They are utterly dependent on the prayers, suffrages, and especially indulgences we offer in their behalf. That is the reason why we set aside this day, and the whole month of November, to pray for them, so that they may soon enter heaven.

However, this day is not only for the departed. It is also for the living. First, in praying for them, we are already doing a spiritual work of mercy, which will surely help us in our journey to heaven. Second, it gives us the opportunity to think about two realities we can never avoid: life and death. We know that life is the greatest gift of God to us. Yet earthly life is too short. And nobody knows when it will end. So, our life in this world has to be lived to the fullest. This is what Jesus assures us: “I came that you may life, and have it to the full.” And when we live our life to the full, we do not worry about death anymore.

Hence, the celebration today helps us realize the value of life, its vulnerability and brevity, and the urgent need to make it truly meaningful. This is very important to consider because nowadays, materialism and unbridled egoism have made a firm grip in this world, making life meaningless for so many people. The increasing number of suicide cases in many parts of the world, especially in more affluent societies, and the growing prevalence of depression even among the young, reveal the futility of having more and the folly of the rat race most people are into. This points to the fact that, far from making life meaningful, material abundance, when coupled with selfishness and materialism, leads to more misery and pain.

Last Sunday, the lesson was the centerpiece of the teaching of the Lord: “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.” Love is the key to a happy and meaningful life. St. Teresa of the Child Jesus said: “It is not important how many years we have in our life; but how much love we put into our lives that truly matters.”

Life in this world is short. We will all die. No one is exempt. And the best way to prepare for death is by living. There is a quotation, which may sound funny, but is true in the experience of so many people:

“First, I was dying to finish high school and start college. 

And then I was dying to finish college and start working. 

And then I was dying to marry and have children. 

And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school so I could return to work. And then I was dying to retire. 

And now I am dying … and suddenly I realize I forgot to live.” (Anon)

Life is meant to be lived. St. Irenaeus said: “The glory of God is man truly alive.” When we live our lives to the fullest, we give glory to God. Living life to the full simply means living according to God’s plan for us, developing our potentials, and sharing our gifts and blessings to those in need. And that is the best way to prepare for death.

And lest we forget, death is not the end of life. Death is just part of life; it is the transition to the eternal life Jesus has won for us. We are destined for life in eternity. There is no need to be afraid of death when we are prepared for eternal life.

Let us pray for our departed brothers and sisters. Rest assured they also are praying for us. And in God’s boundless mercy and love, He will gather us once again in our true home, the House of the Heavenly Father. Pope St. John Paul II once said that when somebody dies, we should not say, “goodbye”; rather we say, “till we meet again…in heaven!” (Source: Fr. Mike Lagrimas, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road, Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422).

Reflection 4 – The Hope of the Faithful Departed

Purpose: What the Catholic faith tells us about our ultimate origin, present state, and future destiny is credible. It corresponds to the deepest desires of the human heart, and gives us a reasonable basis for hope.

Faith and reason both tell us that, by our very nature, we have immortal souls. Our souls are intrinsically incorruptible. They can be separated from our bodies, but they cannot die. Once they are created, they are everlasting.

Our bodies, however, will die. When they are separated from our souls, our bodies disintegrate and return to dust. But that was not part of God’s plan for us. In the beginning, we were free from death, in body as well as soul. Of course, there were probably millions of years of evolution in the animal kingdom, but there were certainly no humans on the face of the earth, until God infused immortal souls into the bodies of our first parents. And our first parents possessed everlasting life. Unfortunately, they chose death. The separation of our bodies from our souls is a state that is unnatural for us, because we were created to be immortal. Animal death is natural. Human death is unnatural. Believe it or not, that is the truth about the human race. Yet God has not abandoned us to death.

Even though our bodies are now subject to death, our souls are not. Human experience confirms this truth. Every culture in every age has had a basic understanding of it. Pagan philosophers have recognized and defended the immortality of the human soul from the beginning of recorded history. The Church goes further and explains the reason why our souls are immortal. By faith, we know that each and every human soul is created immediately by God. It is not produced by the parents. It does not perish when it is separated from the body at death. It subsists in itself, and it will be reunited with its body at the final Resurrection.

We were created immortal, and have a destiny which lies beyond this world of change and corruption. To think that this world is our home is a tragic error in self-knowledge. We can never feel at home in this world. Dogs and cats are perfectly at home in this world, but we are not. The old Gospel hymn expressed it well: “This world is not our home. We just are passing through. Our treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue.” Those old hymns contain a great deal of wisdom that the present age has almost forgotten. Our Lord tell us, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor corruption destroys, where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matthew 6:20).

The Book of Wisdom points out that the foolish misunderstand death. The foolish think that death is utter destruction. They think that there is no eternal reward for those who believe God and commit themselves to his ways. The book of Wisdom, which was written before Christ came and rose from the dead, argues that the souls of the just are in the hands of God, and that they abide with him forever. This life is full of injustice, but in the life to come, justice will be done. Our Lord confirms this hope and tells us that whoever believes in him will receive mercy and an eternal reward at the final Resurrection. This is the faith by which we are saved. This is the faith which gives us the hope of immortality. Faith confirms what reason suspects about human death, that it is not the end, but only the beginning.

Human death is a fact of our experience, but it ought to have been otherwise. A wise man once said, “Grief is partly constituted by the desire that what we know is true ought not to be so.” When someone close to us dies, we are confronted with the fact that the person can never be replaced. No one can ever be to us what that particular person was to us. No one can ever mean to us what that person means to us. As we go through life, that person will always be missed. We are filled with sorrow, and the sorrow will endure.

But in grief, it is more than sorrow that we feel. The emotion is like no other. Grief is always in a state of rebellion against death. In grief, we have this sense that something has happened that should not be so. Our emotions refuse to accept the event that has taken place. In grief, we cannot be happy with anything, but the undoing of what our loved one has experienced, and the undoing of what we have experienced. We have this sense that it ought not to have happened.

And one of the most important things that we have to decide in life is whether grief is a reliable guide to the truth about life. Does grief tell us how things really are, or is it just an impossible desire, the failure to accept the reality of death? Is it unreasonable to believe that what ought not to be, but unfortunately is, can somehow be undone?

No, it is not unreasonable to believe in the Resurrection of the dead. It is not unreasonable to believe that life is created, that human souls are immortal, and that the dead are in the hands of God. Today we commend the souls of the faithful departed to his mercy, and we ask that they be admitted to the courts of heaven. This is a hope that shall not be disappointed, for Christ will not reject anyone who comes to him in faith. Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love (Source: Homelitic & Pastoral Review).

Suggestions for Further Reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church §355-384; 954-962; 988-1019

Reflection 5 – What is purgatory?

All Souls Day is a special day that the Church has given us to remind us about how important it is to offer prayers for those who have died in the arms of Jesus but have not yet reached the full glory of heaven. Transitioning from earthly life to full union with God in heaven is usually not instantaneous.

We call this transition “purgatory”. Since there is much confusion and misunderstanding about the Doctrine of Purgatory, I’m providing here a brief explanation.

What does the Church teach about the after-life?

  1. We are all sinners. Even after we’ve been freed from Original Sin through baptism, we cannot become perfectly holy by our own efforts.
  2.  Because we are sinners, we would die separated from Holy God, except:
  3. Jesus died in our place, taking our sins to the cross. Then he rose from the dead and wants us to join him in the resurrected life for all of eternity.
  4. Those who accept this and seek forgiveness from sins will live eternally united to Jesus in heaven.
  5. Those who understand this yet reject it will die full of sin, unable to enter heaven, opting for hell so as to avoid spending eternity with God.
  6. Those who follow Christ but fail to seek forgiveness for ALL of their sins will still go to heaven, but in order to enter into the fullness of unity with God they must be purified – purged (thus the name “Purgatory”) – of everything that’s unholy.

Jesus spoke of Purgatory every time he taught that sinners who belong to the kingdom of God will have to be “put into prison” until they’ve “paid the last penny” of their debt. Since the earliest years of Christianity, it’s been known that we cannot take our sins into heaven. Unrepented sins must be purged from us.

“Purgatory” comes from the Latin word for “cleansing fire”. Some people confuse this with the fires of hell. Think instead of the “fire of the Holy Spirit.” When we die, we come into full contact with the Holy Spirit (the “Beatific Vision”), and suddenly we realize how unlike God we really are. Now completely aware of what was unholy in us, it deeply pains us to see the damage caused by our sins. This pain would last forever if God did not provide, in his great mercy, a cure.

Purgatory is a gift of God’s mercy, not a punishment. He gives it to us because we want it. The fiery, purifying pain of purgatory is our deep regret over how imperfectly we have loved, fueled by our yearning to live eternally in total, holy love.

Pope John Paul II liked to point out that purgatory is a place of joy. Let’s not forget that! Your departed loved ones who believed in Jesus are rejoicing in the Beatific Vision to the extent that they are ready to be united to it. They are rejoicing because they are free from evil and are totally with God, even if they are also still suffering from the agony of knowing how much damage they have done against God through their earthly sins.

As today’s first reading (Wisdom 3:1-9) says, “The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.” In other words, in contrast to the tortures of hell, the pain of purgatory is really a blessing, not a torment (Source: Terry A. Modica, Good News Ministries).

Reflection 6 – Will you get to heaven?

Do you sometimes wonder if you’ll ruin your salvation and never get to heaven? In John 6:37-40, Jesus says: “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me.”

He’s referring to you! God the Father has given you to Jesus so that Jesus can lead you to heaven.

During your baptism, our Father in heaven said to Jesus: “Here Son, take good care of this one. Make sure he/she is going to make it home to heaven okay.”

Jesus replied, “I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I do your will.”

What the Father wants, the Father gets, unless the recipients of his love reject all of his efforts to bring them to heaven.

This is equally true for your deceased loved ones. If they had any desire to be with Jesus while they were on earth, they of course – more than ever – wanted to be with him at the moment of death as he stood before them in the fullness of his love.

When we meet Jesus face to face, everything becomes clear. We regret the sins that we have not yet purged from our lives, and Jesus lets us choose purgatory as a completely thorough purification process so that we can live eternally in the fullness of God’s love.

Let’s keep in mind, though, that the fire of love today and throughout our earth-bound life is more sanctifying than the fire of purgatory. By purifying how well we love now – loving others even when it’s difficult, forgiving others as often as they sin, and giving ourselves generously to the needs of others – we unite ourselves to God’s love.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux said that God prefers that we never experience the sufferings of purgatory. “As soon as you try to please him in everything and have an unshakable trust, he purifies you every moment in his love and he lets no sin remain. And then you can be sure that you will not have to go to purgatory.” – Read the source:

Reflection 7 – Why pray for souls in purgatory?

Can we help those who are in purgatory? Definitely! That’s why the Church provides us with a memorial Mass for all the faithful departed. We’re praying for those who died in the arms of Jesus but who have not yet reached the full glory of heaven. Think of your loved ones who died believing in Jesus and wanting to be loved by Jesus. Even if there was the smallest seed of faith in them, they wouldn’t have wanted to reject Jesus when he came for them as they took their final breath; they are with him now.

We can be assured of this because of what Jesus said in today’s Gospel reading. The Father’s decision is that everyone who recognizes Jesus as the Son of God, wanting him to be their Savior and the Redeemer of their sins, will have eternal life. “And I shall raise him on the last day,” Jesus promised.

However, rarely does anyone die in the full state of grace, perfect in holiness. Most still have unrepented or unexpiated sins (“unexpiated” means insufficient penance has been made to rectify the damage of sin). God wants all of his children to receive the fullness of his perfect love, which means being forever united to him in a state of complete holiness. Because nothing unholy exists in heaven, when souls realize what they’ve forfeited by clinging to their sins, they want to be purged. They gladly choose the state or process of purgatory to reach the state of full grace.

Our loving prayers help them in this transition.

Pope Leo XIII wrote in his encyclical on the Eucharist, “Mirae Caritatis”, on May 28, 1902: “The communion of saints is nothing else but a mutual sharing of help, satisfaction, prayer and other good works, a mutual communication among all the faithful, whether those who have reached heaven, or who are in the cleansing fire, or who are still pilgrims on the way in this world.”

Through Jesus and our love for the souls in purgatory, we can do penances on their behalf in imitation of Jesus who was crucified on our behalf. Such penances include prayers, alms-giving, fasting, sacrifices, good works and other acts of piety. A bonus benefit is that we’re also purified, here on earth instead of later after our own deaths, because such deeds made on behalf of others will increase our own holiness.

By offering Masses for the souls in purgatory, publicly and privately, we consciously give them our love and we commend them more fully to Jesus’ love. The celebration of All Souls Day and the whole month of November is given over to this important ministry. What are you going to do this month that will help your loved ones who’ve gone Home to Jesus but who are probably not yet enjoying the fullness of his love for them? – Read the source:

For more information about purgatory, read the Good News WordByte “Defining Purgatory and the Communion of Saints” at
and for a printable copy or for distributing it to others, please go to Catholic Digital Resources: (Source: Terry A. Modica, Good News Ministries).

Reflection 8 – Praying for the Dead: An Important part of Catholic Spirituality

Today’s Mass is celebrated for the Commemoration of All Souls. It is the culmination of what was once referred to as the second triduum in the liturgical calendar, the Triduum of All Saints, which included the Vigil of All Saints, the Solemnity of All Saints, and the Commemoration of All Souls.

But because we live in a country that was founded by Protestant Christians and whose culture has been heavily influenced by Protestantism, Halloween, as it is referred to in this country, has been totally secularized, and the commemoration of All Souls is largely ignored by most protestant churches, and the culture at large. After all, it makes no sense to dedicate a day of prayer for the departed souls if one does not believe in the existence of Purgatory. So the Commemoration of All Souls is today mostly a Catholic liturgical practice.

Praying for the dead has always been an important part of Catholic spirituality, and this can already be seen in early Church inscriptions on grave markers. Moreover, this ancient Christian practice has something in common with the general religious sensibilities of most ancient peoples, who not only remembered their dead, but in some way also tried to assist them in life beyond this world, however they may have misunderstood that life in the beyond.

This deeply religious custom was also present among the Israelites, as we can see in a passage from the 2nd Book of Maccabees, which passage can be chosen as one of today’s readings, in which we are told that Judas Maccabeus, having discovered amulets on his dead soldiers after a battle, “then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice … Thus, he made atonement for the dead.”

And Catholics have always had a strong sense of solidarity, not only with the dead who are now saints in heaven, but also with the dead who are still in need of a final purification before they enter the glory of heaven. Indeed, praying for the dead clearly reveals the elevated notion of what heaven isintimate union with Godand thus the purity necessary for this union. We are not simply destined to be with God, but to be in God, and that’s why Jesus taught us that we must be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. It is impossible to see how the soul that is not perfect in virtue, and purity of heart, could possibly enter into the most intimate union with Almighty God.

And yet, how many people actually leave this world in such a state of perfection? The church has always taught that there is an intermediary condition between the total imperfection that merits hell, and the total perfection that heaven requires. Moreover, the church believes in both the justice and mercy of God. To assume that sinners who are sorry for their sins, but who escape the justice of this world for their sins, would simply be immediately purified by God’s merciful forgiveness, without suffering any just punishment, surely undermines not only belief in the reality of divine justice, but likewise the rational for any retributive justice in this world as well. How could it be that those who undergo tremendous suffering, including the unjust suffering caused by the injustice of this world, would be less fortunate than those who would escape not only the justice of this world, but likewise, by God’s mercy, any justice in the world to come?

Finally, while the church definitely teaches that souls who do not undergo perfect purification for their sins in this world will undergo such a purification in Purgatory, the Church also teaches that, because of the communication of spiritual goods and merits among the communion of saints, we on earth can be of great help to those who have gone before us and are not yet in the state of perfection necessary to enter in to the divine embrace and blessedness of perfect union. We can do this through our prayers and sacrifices, not only on All Souls day, but throughout the year.

Purgatory, then, is an infallible teaching of the Catholic Church, and praying for the dead is still taught by the Church to be a religious practice in keeping with that doctrine, and the mutual love of the faithful. Unfortunately, the secularized religious culture in which we live has profoundly undercut this belief and devotion, even among many Catholics. There are, perhaps, many reasons for this.

For instance, homilies at Catholic funerals are often virtual canonizations declaring that the dead person is already in heaven and, therefore, it would follow logically that we should be praying to that deceased person rather than for that person.

A second reason is, perhaps, the general loss of the sense of sin. Why pray for someone if sin is equated with bad manners, as nothing really serious to worry about. If God doesn’t care about sin in this world, why would God care about it in the next? So again, why pray for the dead? They soon become forgotten.

On the other hand, Catholic and Orthodox Christians who regularly pray for their dead will almost certainly remain more mindful of, and thus closer to their deceased loved ones than others who assume they are immediately in Heaven after their death. In addition, this remembrance of love also strengthens their own faith and hope, because they certainly wouldn’t for their dead unless they believed and hoped that they are either in heaven or on their way to heaven.

Finally, praying for the dead is a salvific practice for keeping our focus on eternity, on the world beyond, on the true goal of our existence. It keeps death before our minds in a spiritually healthy way and, in doing so, keeps us mentally focused on what really matters in this life. May we who pray for the dead today be blessed with devout friends and relatives who will perform this service for us when we finally pass from this world. Source:

Reflection 9 – Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed

The Church has encouraged prayer for the dead from the earliest times as an act of Christian charity. “If we had no care for the dead,” Augustine noted, “we would not be in the habit of praying for them.” Yet pre-Christian rites for the deceased retained such a strong hold on the superstitious imagination that a liturgical commemoration was not observed until the early Middle Ages, when monastic communities began to mark an annual day of prayer for the departed members.

In the middle of the 11th century, St. Odilo, abbot of Cluny, France, decreed that all Cluniac monasteries offer special prayers and sing the Office for the Dead on November 2, the day after the feast of All Saints. The custom spread from Cluny and was finally adopted throughout the Roman Church.

The theological underpinning of the feast is the acknowledgment of human frailty. Since few people achieve perfection in this life but, rather, go to the grave still scarred with traces of sinfulness, some period of purification seems necessary before a soul comes face-to-face with God. The Council of Trent affirmed this purgatory state and insisted that the prayers of the living can speed the process of purification.

Superstition easily clung to the observance. Medieval popular belief held that the souls in purgatory could appear on this day in the form of witches, toads or will-o’-the-wisps. Graveside food offerings supposedly eased the rest of the dead.

Observances of a more religious nature have survived. These include public processions or private visits to cemeteries and decorating graves with flowers and lights. This feast is observed with great fervor in Mexico.


Whether or not one should pray for the dead is one of the great arguments which divide Christians. Appalled by the abuse of indulgences in the Church of his day, Martin Luther rejected the concept of purgatory. Yet prayer for a loved one is, for the believer, a way of erasing any distance, even death. In prayer we stand in God’s presence in the company of someone we love, even if that person has gone before us into death.


“We must not make purgatory into a flaming concentration camp on the brink of hell—or even a ‘hell for a short time.’ It is blasphemous to think of it as a place where a petty God exacts the last pound—or ounce—of flesh….” St. Catherine of Genoa, a mystic of the 15th century, wrote that the ‘fire’ of purgatory is God’s love ‘burning’ the soul so that, at last, the soul is wholly aflame. It is the pain of wanting to be made totally worthy of One who is seen as infinitely lovable, the pain of desire for union that is now absolutely assured, but not yet fully tasted” (Leonard Foley, O.F.M., Believing in Jesus).

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Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God’s invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint. Click here to receive Saint of the Day in your email.

The Origin of All Souls day…Voices from a Volcano

What is the origin of All Souls day? It started in the 900s with voices coming from a volcanic cave. But before that a little background on praying for the dead:

Door of PurgatoryAs we all know, the practice pf praying and sacrifice for the dead goes back to the Jewish custom of sacrifice for the dead. This custom of prayers and sacrifices for the dead predate the birth of our Lord Christ in Bethlehem.

We find an explicit Old Testament description and exhortation of prayer and sacrifice for the dead in 2 Maccabees 12:42-26. Moreover, all the Church Fathers testify to the practice of praying for the dead in the Eucharistic liturgy. Praying for the dead an example of one of the most ancient Christian customs – older than Christmas, older than church buildings, even older than the New Testament itself.

But what about this special day, All Souls, on which we pray and sacrifice for the dead in a special way? We find an account of its origins in the writings of Saint Peter Damian, who records the following story.

In the 900s, there was a French pilgrim returning from the Holy Land who was shipwrecked on an island with a cave from which belched heat and gas (a volcano of some sort). This pilgrim met a Christian hermit who lived near this cave. The hermit explained that he could sometimes overhear demons in the cave complaining about all the souls that are released from purgatory through the prayers and sacrifices of the monks in Cluny, France.

When the French pilgrim returned to France, he visited the monastery of Cluny and recounted the hermit’s story to the abbot of the monastery, then Abbot Odilo. The pilgrim testified to the great number of souls delivered from purgatory through the humble prayers of the Cluniac monks.

Odilo (died in 1048) was deeply moved by this and redoubled the monks efforts in assisting the souls in purgatory. Thus, he dedicated the day after All Saints Day (Nov 1) to all the souls still in purgatory (Nov 2).

Soon, the practice spread to the rest of France and then to the universal Church so that November 2nd became All Souls Day.

Saint Odilo, pray for us.

May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.

To discover the Jewish origins for praying for the dead, please see my book The Crucified Rabbi.

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How to Spring a Soul from Purgatory in 4 Easy Steps

Purgatory and Indulgences. There’s a lot of confusion out there. Here’s the Catholic Church’s official teaching on how to spring a soul from Purgatory from November 1-8.

According to the current Enchiridion of Indulgences, one can apply a plenary indulgence to a departed soul by the “visitation of a cemetary” {Coemeterii visitatio} from November 1st till the 8th (i.e. the octave of All Saints).

Here’s the official text:

13. Visit to a Cemetery (Coemeterii visitatio)

An indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed.

The indulgence is plenary each day from the 1st to the 8th of November; on other days of the year it is partial.

In order for the indulgence to be plenary, the following conditions must also be met alone with the visit and prayers at the cemetery:

  1. Sacramental confession within “about twenty days”[1] of the actual day of the Plenary Indulgence.
  2. Eucharistic Communion on the day of the Plenary Indulgence.
  3. Prayer for the intentions of the Pope on the day of the Plenary Indulgence.
  4. It is further required that all attachment to sin, even venial sin, be absent.[2]

Taking young people, particularly teenagers, to cemeteries to pray for the dead is a wholesome thing. Young people are not usually aware of their mortality. It’s a good thing to recognize the tombs of the dead…and pray for them.

Perhaps our culture’s fascination with death and horror movies is related to the fact that young people are isolated from death and prevented from attending funerals.

Question: Do you agree? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

PS: Please  “Share” this blog post on Facebook with your friends so that we can thousands of people assisting the faithfully departed souls in Purgatory.

[1] Apostolic Penitentiary, Prot. N. 39/05/I (18 February 2005).

[2] If the latter detachment from sin is in any way less than perfect or if the prescribed three conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence will be partial only. In accordance with the canonical norms 34 and 35 of the Enchiridion of Indulgences (1968), a confessor or bishop can dispense someone of one or two of the norms above.

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How to pray your loved ones out of Purgatory this November


It’s the first week of November, which means it’s the best time of year, liturgically speaking, for you to shave off some temporal punishment for all your loved ones in Purgatory.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Catholic teaching on the afterlife, there are three places for a soul to go after death: Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, those who go to Heaven are “(t)hose who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ.”

Those souls that go to Hell are those who have freely chosen through mortal sin “exclusion from communion with God and the blessed.”

Purgatory is a place where souls go who die in grace in friendship with God but are still imperfectly purified.  Purgatory is where “after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” These souls are ensured eventual entrance into Heaven, once they are purified.

Souls in purgatory rely on the prayers of souls still on Earth to relieve some of their temporal suffering and speed their journey to Heaven, so be sure to take advantage of these days to pray for them by gaining indulgences for them.

An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints. [CCC 1471]

Here’s when and how:

  1. The first chance for gaining a plenary (or full) indulgence for the deceased is available Nov. 2 only. In a Church, recite the Creed and the Our Father for the dead, receive Communion, and pray for Pope’s intentions.
  2. The second opportunity lasts through November 8. A person can obtain one plenary indulgence for a deceased person per day if they receive Communion, pray for the deceased at a cemetery, and pray for the Pope’s intentions.
  3. Throughout the year, a person can obtain one partial indulgence for a deceased person per day if they receive Communion, pray for the deceased at a cemetery, and pray for the Pope’s intentions. November is a good time to remember to do this, since the Church is praying in a special way for souls this month.

In each instance, the person obtaining the indulgences needs to receive the sacrament of confession within about a week of the indulgence act. One confession covers the person obtaining one partial indulgence per day. Additionally, the person needs to be in a state of grace when completing the indulgence act, and have detachment from all sin (which, if that sounds impossible, is more fully explained by a priest in this blog post.)

So take advantage of the month of November, and love your deceased relatives by praying them out of Purgatory!

“Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice [Job 1:5], why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them” – St. John Chrysostom

This story originally ran on Nov. 2, 2016. 

Mary Rezac is a staff writer for Catholic News Agency/EWTN News.

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Visit a Cemetery and Pray for the Dead

Release a Soul From Purgatory Each Day November 1-8

A man in a cemetery.
 A man in a cemetery. Christian Martinez Kempin/E+/Getty Images


The Bible tells us that “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins” (2 Maccabees 12:46), and especially in the month of November, the Catholic Church urges us to spend time in prayer for those who have gone before us. Prayer for the souls in Purgatory is a requirement of Christian charity, and it helps us to call to mind our own mortality.

 The Church offers a special plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in Purgatory, on All Souls Day (November 2), but She also encourages us in a special way to continue to keep the Holy Souls in our prayers throughout the first week of November.


The Church offers an Indulgence for a Cemetery Visit that is available as a partial indulgence all year round, but from November 1 through November 8, this indulgence is plenary. Like the All Souls Day indulgence, it is applicable only to the souls in Purgatory. As a plenary indulgence, it remits all punishment due to sin, which means that simply by performing the requirements of the indulgence, you can obtain the entrance into Heaven of a soul who is currently suffering in Purgatory.

This indulgence for a visit to a cemetery encourages us to spend even the briefest of moments in prayer for the dead in a location that reminds us that we, too, will someday need the prayers of the other members of the Communion of Saints—both those still living and those who have entered into eternal glory.

  For most of us, the indulgence for a cemetery visit takes only a few minutes, and yet it reaps immense spiritual benefit for the Holy Souls in Purgatory—and for us as well, since those souls whose suffering we ease will pray for us when they enter into Heaven.


To obtain the plenary indulgence on November 1-November 8, we must receive Communion and sacramental Confession (and have no attachment to sin, even venial).

 Communion must be received each day we wish to gain the indulgence, but we only need to go to Confession once during the period. A good prayer to recite to earn the indulgence is Eternal Rest, though any formal or informal prayer for the dead will suffice. And, as with all plenary indulgences, we must pray for the intentions of the Holy Father (one Our Father and one Hail Mary) each day we perform the work of the indulgence.


13. Coemeterii visitatio


Plenary on November 1-November 8; partial the rest of the year


Applies only to the souls in Purgatory


An indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed. The indulgence is plenary each day from the 1st to the 8th of November; on other days of the year it is partial.

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What is purgatory? Purgatory  is the state of those who die in God’s friendship, assured of their eternal salvation, but who still have need of purification to enter the happiness of heaven (CCC: 1030-1031, 1054).

How can we help the souls being purified in purgatory? Because of the communion of saints, the faithful who are still pilgrims on earth are able to help the souls in purgatory by offering prayers in suffrage for them, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice. They also help them by almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance (CCC: 1032).

In what does hell consist? Hell consists in the eternal damnation of those who die in mortal sin through their own free choice. The principal suffering of hell is eternal separation from God in whom alone we can have the life and happiness for which we were created and for which we long Christ proclaimed this reality with the words, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41; CCC: 1033-1035, 1056-1057).

Death does not put an end to life with loved ones in Christ. It actually enhances Life. “What is the Church if not the assembly of all the saints? The communion of saints is the Church” (CCC: 945). “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness… They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus…. So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped” (CCC: 956). “In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins she offers her suffrages for them (2 Macc 12:45). Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective” (CCC: 958).