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All Souls Day
Plan to attend Mass on November 1 and 2
All Saints and All Souls Days
Monday and Tuesday this year
Next month, right after the Feast of Christ the King, we
will celebrate All Saints day on Monday, and All Souls day on Tuesday. In
order to encourage you to attend Mass on All Souls Day, I am going to say a few
things today about the need of the Souls in Purgatory for our prayers and good
works, and the consequent importance of All Souls day. Please try to keep
it in mind, even though it is a few weeks off. And please do schedule your
affairs so that you are able to attend at least one of our three Masses.
And, don't forget to return your prayer list before All Souls. The lists
will remain on the altar until All Souls Day the following year.
It is the common teaching of the Catholic Faith that at the
moment of death, those people that are in the state of serious sin, that have no
sorrow for the fact that they have offended God by the actions of their
lifetime, are consigned to an eternity of banishment from God in Hell.
They took no delight in God during this life, so it would be unreasonable to
think that they would ever be admitted into His company in the next life.
On the other hand, we have those who die in the state of
grace; those who, at a minimum, died with sorrow for the fact that their sins
offended Almighty God, who deserves all of our love and none of our rejection.
Of course, this is a minimum. Hopefully, we are able to prepare for death
by making a good Confession, by being Anointed, by receiving Holy Communion and
the Apostolic Blessing. Even if we are perfectly sorry for our sins, we
still should make every effort to receive these Sacraments for the last
time—that is an obligation, not a choice. Indeed, it is so strong an
obligation that, in danger of death, we may receive these Sacraments from any
And also, let's not forget that our preparation for death
should not be something done in a panic in the last few days or hours of our
lives. Our entire life ought to be a preparation for death; with every
thought, word, and deed, weighed in the balance of eternal salvation. Lest
we be caught unprepared and without sorrow for our sins, we should always remain
in the state of grace; frequently confessing our sins, and frequently joining
ourselves to God through prayer, the Mass, and the Sacraments.
Staying in the state of grace is important in preparing
ourselves for our end—which may, of course, come at any time, even
unexpectedly. And it figures into the degree of reward we will receive in
heaven. But it is also essential from another perspective—because, even
when God forgives our sins, there is still a debt that we owe in justice.
In other words, when I sin, I not only offend God and require His forgiveness;
but I also do something to upset the order of things. When I sin, I do
something to harm an individual, or to harm society, or to reduce the glory
given to God by His creatures. And any of these things, even though they
be forgiven by God, still demand that something be done in reparation.
Some reparation can be made on the purely human level.
For example, I can restore what I stole, or I can rebuild what I destroyed, and
I can even do some things to patch up the human relationships that my sins have
damaged. But not everything can be repaired through merely human activity.
Some things are beyond our abilities to repair; even earthly damages
cannot all be fixed. And in so far as we have sinned against the glory of
God—and there is an element of this kind of damage in every sin—in so far as
we have sinned against the glory of God—only by being in the state of grace
and giving further glory to Him can we begin to repair that kind of damage.
But, if we are not in the state of grace, we are like Adam
and Eve, who sinned against God, and had no way to make up for the damage of
their sin. It is only through the sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ that
our prayers and good works have any value for the satisfaction of the punishment
that is due to our sins. Through this grace, all of the good things we do
become valuable in the sight of God; He looks at us and He sees His Son
Jesus working in us. And then too, if we are in the state of grace, the
Church may add to our good works through indulgences, allowing us to share in
the abundant merits that are gained through the offering of Mass and the prayers
of the saints.
Now this being in the state of grace, and repairing any of
the temporal damage that is done by our sins, is something that we should be
very serious about. For now, while we are alive, we have the ability to do
it with relative ease. We may still be able to repair what we have done to
others, and we certainly can easily gain the graces that God makes so abundantly
available to us through prayer, the Sacraments, and the indulgences of the
But some day, at the moment of our death, that will stop.
Being dead, we will no longer be able to do any of the human things that are
necessary to avoid the temporal punishment that is due to our sins. At
that point—at the moment of death—the only thing we will be able to do for
ourselves about any remaining punishment is to suffer it in Purgatory.
What was easy only moments before, suddenly becomes very difficult. And,
this is precisely the reason why it is so important to pray for the dead.
We must help those who cannot help themselves.
As members of the Church on earth, we are fellow members
with those in Purgatory and those in Heaven. If we expect the prayers of
the Saints, we have a corresponding obligation to pray for those in Purgatory.
And, of course, we have a particular obligation to pray for those who have
helped us in some way: our parents, our friends, and others who were somehow
close to us. And even from a purely selfish point of view, it makes a
great deal of sense to pray for the souls in Purgatory, for all of them will one
day be Saints with God in heaven. It is kind of like loaning money to
desperately poor men, whom you know will someday be grateful millionaires.
In fact it is better than that, for those in Purgatory, even though they cannot
help themselves, are able to pray as saints to God for us right now. (I
can tell you from personal experience that prayer to the souls in Purgatory is
The Catholic Church, therefore, has a strong tradition of
prayer for all of the souls in Purgatory. Perhaps there are people in
Purgatory who have been forgotten by everyone on earth; dead many centuries.
And perhaps there are people in Purgatory that lived rather wicked lives, and
need more prayers than most. Perhaps there are people in Purgatory whose
friends and relatives don't even know that they should pray for them, or have no
Mass to offer for them. Perhaps there are even some who made generous
donations to have Masses offered for themselves, only to have such foundations
lost through political or religious upheaval and loss of faith.
That last reason, in particular, and all of them in
general, is why Pope Benedict XV allowed priests to offer three Masses on
All Souls day: To make up for the prayers and Masses that are lacking for
all of those causes. It is also why the Church allows us to earn a plenary
indulgence for the souls in Purgatory just by visiting a church or oratory on
All Souls day and reciting a few prayers for the Pope. But please let us
not forget that this is not just a once a year thing. We can pray, we can
attend Mass, receive the Sacraments, and gain indulgences for the souls in
Purgatory each and every day of the year.
Let me close with a personal recollection: I was
ordained on December 6th, so it was almost a full year before All Souls day
came around. And my schedule in those days was very tight, and it dictated
that I say all three of my Masses one after the other. And I was a little
bit concerned about that; that while I knew it was a privilege to offer the
three, I was concerned that something might be lost in the repetition or in
fatigue. But having done this now, more than a few times, my only
difficulty is in trying to express which of the three Masses is the best; for
there is no better preparation for Mass than the Mass, and there is no better
thanksgiving for Mass than the Mass.
I tell you this because I want to ask you—and inspire
you, if my words are capable of doing that—to take full opportunity of all the
Masses that will be offered during November and particularly during the first
week of November. All Saints day will be a holy day of obligation,
But please don't allow that to stop you attending Mass on All Souls Day; maybe
even a couple of Masses. And please don't let that stop you from coming on
First Friday and Saturday; even though you will “have” to attend Mass again
on Sunday. The souls in Purgatory would give anything to be able to do
what you can do that week.
And there is no better preparation for Mass than the Mass,
and there is no better thanksgiving for Mass than the Mass.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let
perpetual light shine upon them.
May all the souls of the Faithful
Departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.