The Church dedicates the month of November to praying for the dead. The month begins by remembering All Saints on November 1st, and All Souls on November 2nd. Many parishes hold a special remembrance Mass each year to pray for those who have died over the past 12 months, inviting their families to come to the Church and pray for their loved one’s soul.
As Catholics, we believe that after death there is a period of purification, which occurs in a place called Purgatory. During this month in which we pray for and remember the dead, I wish to propose seven different souls we could pray for, asking God to be merciful to them and bring them into their eternal reward.
One time at Mass, I preached on having Masses said for those who have gone before us. Afterward, a person asked me why they should do that. I gave several reasons, one being, if their soul was detained in Purgatory, it would assist their speedy entry into the Kingdom. The person responded, telling me he believed his parents were in Heaven. Of course, he might have been right, in which case, the Mass intention would have increased their intercessory power for us and accidental glory in Heaven. We know some parents are truly in heaven, as declared by the Church through the process of canonization (i.e. Louis and Zellie Martin, parents of St. Therese; St. Gianna Beretta Molla). The fact is, we shouldn’t canonize our parents; we should pray for them often.
Praying for our parents is an important task, because it is a way that we can still be connected to them from here below. Our prayers are a sign of our affection and love, and the offering a Mass, is a participation in the Heavenly liturgy, which we hope that they too are sharing in, and so we can be united through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Don’t forget about mom and dad, and if you have a chance, perhaps pay a visit to their grave this November.
It is always tragic when a young person dies. During their short life they could have had a deep friendship with God (as was the case with many of our youthful saints and blesseds, like Bl. Chiara Luce Badano or St. Jose Sanchez del Rio) or it’s possible the brevity of their life didn’t afford them time to repent and make amends for their sins. Especially in our day and age, there are many ways young people can fall into sin; temptation surrounds them in many ways, as it does all of us. This November, when you pray for those who have gone before you, don’t forget those who died in their youth.
3. Those Who Die Unexpectedly and Without the Sacraments
Do you know someone who died tragically in a car accident or someone who had a heart attack and passed quickly? It’s possible that if they died suddenly and unexpectedly, the person didn’t die fortified with the sacraments. It also means they might not have had time to repent and make reparation for their sins in this life. It’s important for us to remember them in prayer and perhaps even make small sacrifices on their behalf to atone for the sins of their life. It’s a simple way we can help out those we loved.
The following quote is attributed to many saints, but most likely St. John Chrysostom. He said, the road to Hell is paved with the skulls of priests and bishops. It is very common for us to canonize our clergy, because of who they were in this life, and their closeness to the sacred mysteries. We believe that they must have already received their eternal reward since they labored in the Lord’s vineyard. The words of Jesus come to mind, “to whom much is given, more is expected” (Luke 12:36). It is a great responsibility to have the care of souls. Perhaps the souls of clergy and religious have things for which they must atone. Don’t forget your favorite priest or pastor who has passed away. Say a prayer for them.
5. For those who committed suicide
As I include those who have taken their own life in this listing, I do not wish to pass judgement on their souls. Unfortunately, in the past, this has been done. Today we rightfully understand the interplay of psychology within the role of our decisions, and as believers, hold a belief that in those last moments they could have cried out to God for mercy. Unfortunately, many people still believe suicide is a mortal sin in all instances, which as mentioned, psychological factors lessen culpability. This mentality may cause some people to lose hope and never offer prayers for their loved one who died in this manner.
A faithful Catholic woman, June Klins, felt called by God to pray for those lost to suicide. She shared her story on the Marians of the Immaculate Conception website, thedivinemercy.org. Read about her special calling here. To fulfill her calling, she maintains a blog and a Facebook page, in which people share names to pray for, and dedicate themselves to this prayerful apostolate.
6. For our Protestant Brothers and Sisters
I am sure you have had friends who were Protestants pass away. Don’t forget to pray for their souls. For the most part, the belief of Purgatory is something believed only by Catholics. For our Protestant brothers and sisters they don’t have much opportunity, if any, for Masses to be offered for their soul, or for prayers to be prayed for their eternal rest. As Catholics, this responsibility falls to us. What a gift you could give your friend, by praying them out of Purgatory and into the kingdom of Heaven.
7. Your Enemies
A while back on social media, I saw a person who rejoiced at the death of someone from their past because of the person’s cruelty toward them. Jesus said in the gospel to do good to those who hate you; love your enemies. When we hear of the passing of someone whom we did not count as a friend, and instead as a foe, offer a prayer for them. It’s a kind thing we can do, and an act of mercy. Perhaps as we forgive and show mercy, God will do the same for us, and that enemy of our ours might return that favor for us, by interceding for you.
Eternal Rest Grant Unto Them O Lord, and Let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Them. May They Rest In Peace.