Prayers for November

The Month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory

As the weather grows colder and the leaves fall, and Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, it is natural that our thoughts turn to those whom we have loved who are no longer with us.

How appropriate, then, that the Catholic Church offers us November, which begins with All Saints Day and All Souls Day, as the Month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory—those who have died in grace, yet who failed in this life to make satisfaction for all of their sins.

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.

Purgatory is not, as many people think, one last trial; all of those who make it to Purgatory will one day be in Heaven. Purgatory is where those who have died in grace, but who have not fully atoned for the temporal punishments resulting from their sins, go to finish their atonement before entering Heaven. A soul in Purgatory may suffer, but he has the assurance that he will ultimately enter Heaven when his punishment is complete. Catholics believe Purgatory is an expression of God's love, His desire to cleanse our souls of all that might keep us from experiencing the fullness of joy in Heaven.

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 the faithful departed that they may be freed from the punishment for their sins and enter into Heaven.

We should pray for the dead throughout the year, especially on the anniversary of their death, but in this Month of the Holy Souls, we should devote some time every day to prayer for the dead. We should start with those closest to us—our mother and father, for instance—but we should also offer prayers for all the souls, and especially for those most forsaken.

We believe that those Holy Souls for whom we pray will continue to pray for us after they have been released from Purgatory. If we live Christian lives, we too will likely find ourselves in Purgatory someday, and our acts of charity toward the Holy Souls there now will ensure that they remember us before the throne of God when we are most in need of prayers. 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.

One of the most commonly recited of Catholic prayers in times past, this prayer has fallen into disuse in the last few decades. Prayer for the dead, however, is one of the greatest acts of charity we can perform, to help them during their time in Purgatory, so that they can enter more quickly into the fullness of heaven. More »

Eternal Memory

Prayer Rope

This prayer is used in Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches and is the counterpart to the Western prayer "Eternal Rest." The "eternal memory" mentioned in the prayer is remembrance by God, which is another way of saying that the soul has entered heaven and enjoys eternal life.

Mother and Baby at Grave
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The Church offers us different prayers that we can say each day of the week for the faithful departed. These prayers are especially useful for offering a novena on behalf of the dead. More »

A Prayer for Deceased Parents

Richert gravestone, Saint Peter's Lutheran Church, Corydon, IN. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)
The gravestone of George and Grace Richert, Saint Peter's Lutheran Church graveyard, Corydon, Indiana. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)

Charity requires us to pray for the dead. In the case of our parents, to do so should not be simply a duty but a joy. They gave us life and brought us up in the Faith; we should be happy that our prayers can help end their sufferings in Purgatory and bring them fully into the light of Heaven.

Woman at Grave

For most of us, it was our mother who first taught us to pray and helped us to understand the mysteries of our Christian Faith. We can help repay her for that gift of faith by praying for the repose of her soul. More »

Women at Grave
Our fathers are the model of God in our lives, and we owe them a debt that we can never fully repay. We can, however, pray for the repose of our father's soul and thus help him through the sufferings of Purgatory and into the fullness of Heaven. More »

Prayer for Mercy on the Souls in Purgatory

A Memento Mori marks a tomb in Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. (Photo by Scott P. Richert)
A Memento Mori marks a tomb in the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. "Memento mori" is Latin for "Remember, you must die." The image reminds us of our own mortality and the judgment to come. (Photo by Scott P. Richert)

While we know (and the Holy Souls in Purgatory know) that the pains of Purgatory will end and all who are in Purgatory will enter into Heaven, we are still bound by charity to try to lessen the suffering of the Holy Souls through our prayers and deeds. While our first responsibility, of course, is to those people we have known, not everyone who ends up in Purgatory has someone to pray for him. Therefore, it is important to remember in our prayers those souls who are most forsaken.

Prayer for All the Deceased

Remembering.
Remembering. Andrew Penner/E+/Getty Images

This beautiful prayer, drawn from the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, reminds us that Christ's victory over death brings us all the possibility of eternal rest. We pray for all of those who have gone before us, that they, too, may enter into Heaven.

Prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

Man mourning in a graveyard.
Man mourning in a graveyard. Andrew Penner/E+/Getty Images
Christ's mercy encompasses all men. He desires the salvation of everyone, and so we approach Him with confidence that He will have mercy on the Holy Souls in Purgatory, who have already proved their love for Him.
I miss you.
I miss you. Nicole S. Young/E+/Getty Images

The De Profundis takes its name from the first two words of the psalm in Latin. It is a penitential psalm that is sung as part of vespers (evening prayer) and in commemorations of the dead. Every time you recite the De Profundis, you can receive a partial indulgence (the remission of a portion of punishment for sin), which can be applied to the souls in Purgatory. More »