November begins with All Saints Day and All Souls Day, and so it is appropriate that the Church calls us, throughout the month, to remember the Holy Souls in Purgatory. In recent years, perhaps no Catholic doctrine has been more misunderstood by Catholics themselves than the doctrine of Purgatory. Consequently, we tend to downplay it, even seem a little embarrassed by it, and it is the Holy Souls who suffer because of our discomfort with the doctrine.
Simply put, Purgatory is where those who have died in grace, but who have not fully atoned for the punishments resulting from their sins, go to finish their atonement before entering Heaven. A soul in Purgatory may suffer, but he ultimately has the assurance that he will enter Heaven when his punishment is complete.
As Christians, we don't travel through this world alone. Our salvation is wrapped up with the salvation of others, and charity requires us to come to their aid. The same is true of the Holy Souls. In their time in Purgatory, they can pray for us, and we should pray for them that they may be freed from the punishment for their sins and enter into Heaven.
We believe that those Holy Souls for whom we pray will continue to pray for us after they have been released from Purgatory. So if we, too, should die after confessing our sins, but before atoning fully for them, those souls for whom we have prayed will offer prayers for us while we are in Purgatory. It's a comforting thought, and one that should encourage us, especially in this month of November, to offer our prayers for the Holy Souls.
Prayers for the Faithful Departed: