From their cleansing prison of fire the holy souls cry to us for help. With joy indeed they bear the pain which cleanses them from the foul marks of sin, for now at last they know the awful purity of Him against whom on earth they dared to sin. Upon their souls they see the hideous taint of what was once their joy; and even were heaven’s gates thrown open wide, they would not enter and stand with spotted robe before Him in whose eyes the heavens themselves are not pure. Still they sigh and long for the happiness of their eternal home, for the company of the blessed saints, for Jesus whom at last they know. To be separated from Him is now their most grievous pain, exceeding far the torture of the cleansing fires.
COMMENT: We take a short break today from the Spiritual Exercises to consider today’s feast – the feast of All Souls.
Relatively few people will reach Heaven immediately – we can speculate on circumstances where this could happen – martyrdom, dying immediately after receiving an indulgence etc – but this speculation is outside our remit on this website. Most of us will need to be cleaned up a bit in Purgatory. The notion of Purgatory makes a lot of sense – if somebody invited us to meet the Pope we would want to ensure that we were dressed in our best clothing for the occasion. Even more so when it comes to contemplating the Trinity in heaven – we want to ensure that our soul has been cleansed from the many sins which have besmirched it. As Fr Doyle says, even if they could enter Heaven to see Jesus they would not, until they have been cleansed.
Here is a description of St Faustina’s vision of Purgatory:
I saw my Guardian Angel, who ordered me to follow him. In a moment I was in a misty place full of fire in which there was a great crowd of suffering souls. They were praying fervently, but to no avail, for themselves; only we can come to their aid. The flames, which were burning them, did not touch me at all. My Guardian Angel did not leave me for an instant. I asked these souls what their greatest suffering was. They answered me in one voice that their greatest torment was longing for God. I saw Our Lady visiting the souls in Purgatory. The souls call Her “The Star of the Sea”. She brings them refreshment. I wanted to talk with them some more, but my Guardian Angel beckoned me to leave. We went out of that prison of suffering. [I heard an interior voice which said] ‘My mercy does not want this, but justice demands it. Since that time, I am in closer communion with the suffering souls.
We must pray for the holy souls in Purgatory. They cannot help themselves, but they can assist us. Remember – they know they will enter Heaven. They are good souls who have avoided damnation. They can and do help us. As St Catherine of Bologna said:
I received many and very great favours from the Saints, but still greater favours from the Holy Souls.
We can assist these souls by obtaining indulgences for them. We can do this on any day of the year, but especially during this first week of November when the Church urges us to consider our faithful departed friends and family.
Here is a guide for obtaining indulgences this week.
Remember – if we are to get to Heaven, it is probable that we too shall desire the prayers and indulgences of the living after we have died.