All Souls Day
On All Souls Day, the church commemorates and prays for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. These souls are the faithful departed, those who died in God’s faith and friendship, but are not immediately ready for God’s presence.
The Church describes being in the presence of God as the contemplation of God in His heavenly glory, “the beatific vision.” Or as the Catechism states, “Because of His transcendence, God cannot be seen as He is, unless He Himself opens up His mystery to man’s immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it.” CCC #1028 Or in laymans terms, when one attains the beatific vision, one will know God directly, see Him face to face and be in His presence always, bringing one unending joy and eternal happiness.
No one is owed heaven nor can anyone buy their way into heaven. Heaven is a totally free gift from God. It is however, up to each individual to freely accept or reject this gift. We cannot be united with God unless we freely chose to love Him. We cannot love God if we sin gravely against Him, our neighbor or ourselves.
This kind of grave sin is our choice. It is never the will of God for us to choose grave sin, because the will of God never leads us to do something that the grace of God will not protect us from. Though God may protect us from some of the ramifications of our free choice to sin, we live with the consequences of our free choice. God never wills us to experience the consequences of our sin; He only desires what is good for us. But as the saying goes, sow a thought reap an act, sow and act reap a habit, sow a habit reap a destiny." I must be careful what I sow.
Thankfully, as I have learned time and again, we can always come back to God and turn away from sin through His mercy in the Sacrament of Confession. If we chose not to confess and accept God’s mercy, the Catechism states that if we die in this condition, or in the state of mortal sin, we remain separated from Him forever by our own free choice. “This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called ‘hell.’” CCC #1033
Fortunately, God predestines no one to go to hell, He does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) “It would take a willful turning away from God (in mortal sin)…and persistence in it until the end.” CCC #1037 While no one deserves heaven, everyone, thanks to Christ’s death and resurrection has the possibility of going there.
For those “who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, (these souls) are indeed assured of eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” CCC#1030
This purification is necessary because as we read in Revelation 21:27, nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven. In other words, we may die in a state of grace, having repented of our mortal sins, but still need purification from venial sins and temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.
Now what is this temporal punishment all about? Say you broke someone’s window, after apologizing; you may be required to pay for the broken window. Or during an argument with your spouse you said something that you should not have said and it hurt your spouse deeply. After apologizing; you will have to work at mending your relationship. Another example would be a person caught or admitting to an adulterous affair. An apology is just the beginning of a long road to mend this broken relationship. Or, ok this will be my last example, you rob a bank and get caught. After returning the money you still will go to jail and serve time for this act. These are some examples of temporal punishment, or paying the consequences so to speak, for crimes or sins against God, your neighbor or yourself.
Temporal punishment due to sin, even after the sin itself has been forgiven by God, is clearly shown in scripture. In Genesis 3:19 God redeems man out of his first disobedience, giving him power to govern all things, but condemns him “By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, until you return to the ground. In Numbers 20:12, God forgave the disbelief of Moses and Aaron but as punishment would not let them “led this community ( of Israelites) into the land I will give them.” And in 2 Samuel 12:13-14, the Lord forgave David his sin and did not take his life, “But since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you must surely die.”
Not only does God demand just punishment for sin, so does the world. When you really think about it, how we conduct our life, affects ourselves and those around us. Everything we do has a kind of ripple effect from ourselves, to our family and down through the generations to come. Temporal punishment or the price you pay for sin can either be worked out in this life or, by the mercy of God, after death.
How can sin be worked out after death? Well, if our soul is in Purgatory, the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant can intercede for us, through prayer to Our Heavenly Father. Some question the Catholic practice of praying for the dead, but it is based on scripture. It is clear that the Jews believed in the concept of after-death purification from sin from 2 Maccabees 12:46, where we read Judas Maccabeus “made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.” And also from Job 1:5 we read that Job habitually offered sacrifice for his sons, “who may have sinned and blasphemed God in their heart.”
The same is found in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 where we read that “the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work stands, that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone’s work is burned up that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.” In Matthew 12:31-32, reference to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. This indicates that in the age to come some things may be forgiving. Those in heaven need no forgiveness. Those in hell do not want forgiveness which leaves another state after death where some things may be forgiven.
So what happens when we die? According to Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment.” This is what the Church calls our individual or particular judgment. At our individual judgment we learn of our final destiny, either heaven or hell. “Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven through a purification or immediately, - or immediate and everlasting damnation.” CCC #1022
At the very end of time when Christ comes again, we will undergo a general judgment as referenced in Matthew 25:31-32. This does not change the first verdict given to us at our death, our individual judgment. However, it is the time when all people will be gathered together before God and all of our sins will be publically revealed. “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.” Luke 12:1-3
At the general judgment we will see how the sins we committed in our lifetime affected our children, and their children, and their children, etc until the end of time. In fact we will see everyone’s sins and how they shaped the lives of others. We will see each person’s judgment and know that God is a just God. “But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will render to every man according to his works…” Romans 2:5-6.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I have a lot to answer for, and would like to take this time to publicly apologize for my sins that may have caused undesirable influence or come to cause adverse affects on the generations to come.
This is where the temporal punishment after death comes in. It is between the individual (particular) judgment and the general judgment that a soul still in need of purification is cleansed from their remaining consequences of their sin. “From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.” CCC #1032
“The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.” CCC #1031
It is for these souls who abide in Purgatory that we pray for on All Souls Day. For all those who have gone before me, I pray eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.
Other sources for Prayer this Day of All Souls
From EWTN Novena for the Holy Souls in Purgatory
From Catholic On Line The Prayer of Saint Gertrude the Great who was told by Our Lord that by praying the following prayer 1000 souls would be freed from purgatory each time. The prayer was extended to include living sinners as well.
"Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen."
Kissing the Face of God
Face of Jesus
Lamb of God
Banished from the Garden
Carracci Angel Frees Souls from Purgatory
Michelangelo Final Judgment
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Michelangelo Final Judgment
All Souls & All Saints