It was the hottest week of the year in Saint Louis, and my family was making our summer visit to my parents’ house. One night towards the end of the trip I woke up with a chill over my body from a dream. I don’t remember the bulk of the dream, but at the end a silver four-door sedan pulled across the grass and stopped with the driver’s side next to me. My deceased great-grandmother rolled down the window and asked me with a solemn face, “When are you coming to see me?” She then rolled up the window and drove away.
I awoke unsettled and unsure. As I lay in my bed I realized that we only had one day left in Saint Louis, and during that last day, I could go see her. I could go to her grave and pray for her, and in doing so, I could earn her a partial indulgence (partial remission of temporal punishment due to sin). She passed away over 20 years ago, but many of her descendants are no longer Catholic. Who, if not me, is praying for her soul?
In the Gospel, Jesus said, “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.” On the last day, those who believe will be raised. But that does not take away our temporal punishment due to sin. Purgatory is a purging of our souls so that we can be fully ready for Heaven, and my great-grandmother could have very well been asking me for prayers for her soul.
Today is All Souls day, and we are called today to pray for the souls of those in purgatory, so much so that the Church gives plenary indulgences* (full remission of temporal punishment due to sin) to souls in purgatory when we on All Souls Day “devoutly visit a church or an oratory and recite an Our Father and the Creed.” Also, “on any and each day from November 1 to 8, devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, if only mentally, for the departed” (From the Manual of Indulgences (Fourth Edition, 1999).
So, this day of All Souls’, get thee to a church and this week to a cemetery, and pray for the dead. If you don’t, who will? Intercede for them, and they will intercede for you!
Requiem aeternam: Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let the perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. (Order of Christian Funerals)
“1478 An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity.
1479 Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted.”
Susanna Spencer once studied theology and philosophy, but now happily cares for her three adorable little girls, new baby boy, and her dear husband in Saint Paul. She loves beautiful liturgies, cooking delicious meals, baking amazing sweets, reading good books, raising her children, casually following baseball, and talking to her philosopher husband. You can find out more about her here.