November – Month of tender charity for the Suffering Souls of Purgatory
Month of November – month in which we are urged by Holy Mother the Church to be more generous in prayer and in performing acts of charity towards all those souls who suffer in the flames of Purgatory.
We might be tempted to diminish the pains of the Purgatory and even more the reality of Purgatory itself, repeating, as is often heard nowadays: "Purgatory is empty. There is nobody there" or even worse: "It doesn’t exist at all". To that, let us listen to the voice of the Church. As the Catechism teaches, Purgatory is the place of temporary punishment where the souls of those who die in the state of grace must be cleansed before entrance into heaven, if their love for God is not yet perfect.
St. Augustine teaches us how terrible are the torments endured by the souls in Purgatory: “Souls, after death, are penetrated by a very fiery fire that the human mind cannot conceive. Although this fire is destined to purify the soul, it is more painful than anything that can be endured on earth.” And St. Bernardin said: “There is as much difference between our material fire and the fire of Purgatory as between a painted fire and a real fire!"
St. Catherine of Genoa explains that souls in Purgatory have a such desire to be purified to see God, that they would throw themselves into a thousand hells rather than to be in the presence of the Divine Majesty with some stain. And therefore, having Purgatory to remove them, they throw themselves into it, and find it a great mercy to be able to get rid of that impediment.
The doctrine of the Catholic Church concerning Purgatory is expressed in the following two sentences: 1) There is, in the next world, a temporary place for the atonement of such venial sins, and temporal punishments of sin, as man is found guilty of on his departure from this world. 2) The faithful can, by prayer and good works, especially by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, assist the souls suffering in Purgatory.
The above sentences are dogmas which we must firmly believe in.
Having it all in mind, let us ask ourselves: What shall we do? How can we help the suffering souls?
There are many means of relieving the suffering souls: Catholic Burial, many forms of prayer for the suffering souls approved by the Church and the gaining of Indulgences. We cannot omit mentioning the burning of blessed candles for their benefit, fasting and alms-giving.
Another great means is also the prayer of the Holy Rosary. One day, St Pio of Pietrelcina, giving to Cleonice Morcaldi a Rosary granted by Pius X, said to her: “I entrust you with a treasure, know how to treasure it, let us help the souls in purgatory, let us empty that prison”.
But the most powerful and efficacious means in aiding the suffering souls is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The Holy Sacrifice of Mass has always been considered by the Church to be the most effective means of releasing the souls of the faithful departed from their torments. St. Cyrillus says: “Although we are sinners, we nevertheless send up our supplications to God for the departed, not offering Him for instance a crown, but Jesus Christ Himself, who bled for our sins, and beseeching the bountiful and gracious God to be merciful to them and to us. We pray for all that have departed this life, because we confidently believe that the prayer at the altar will be most profitable to them”. And St. Jerome says: “During the celebration of Holy Mass, how many souls are freed from Purgatory! Those for which it is celebrated do not suffer, accelerate their atonement or immediately fly to heaven, because the Holy Mass is the key that opens two doors: that of Purgatory to get out of it, that of Paradise to enter it forever”. And so for all the faithful, let us follow the teaching of St Robert Bellarmine: “Nothing is more effective for the suffrage and liberation of souls from the fire of the Purgatory than the offering to God for them of the sacrifice of the Mass”.
Let us then be more charitable. Let us resolve to do everything in our power for the suffering souls, especially in this month of November which is dedicated in particular to remembering them. Charity is inventive, as the saying goes. If true charity inspires us, we will find many ways of helping and ransoming these suffering souls. Let us then pray! Let us offer Masses, offering them in union with the priest, for all those in purgatory! Let us take in hand the holy Rosary and, trusting in the grace and help of all Paradise, let us “empty Purgatory”!