We (members of the Body of Christ, alive today here on earth) are the Church Militant. This is an important thing to understand today, on the Solemnity of All Saints, the eve of the Commemoration of All Souls.
- So far I have not seen any stats indicating that there have been visits to this blog from members of the Church Triumphant or Church Suffering. That’s a funny thought though…
Occasionally I get a page view from Vatican City, which is really exciting for me, but imagine the credibility of an “Orthodox Catholic Blog” that is visited by non-Militant members of the Church! That might even be better than getting a “follow” from Pontifex on Twitter! Anyway, I digress.
The Church Suffering (those souls in Purgatory, destined for Heaven) cannot pray from themselves. It is a spiritual work of mercy to pray for the dead. But prayers aren’t useful for everyone who has died. Why do we pray, and for whom do we pray?
We do not pray for the souls in the Hell. A soul in Hell sends itself there and cannot escape. Such a prayer would be fruitless.
We do not pray for souls in Heaven. A soul in Heaven is already in that perfect state of Beatitude; essentially a person in Heaven is a saint; we might ask a saint to pray for us, but we do not pray for a saint. There is nothing added by our prayers to the blessings poured out upon the souls in that are already in Heaven.
We pray for the souls in Purgatory, who like just about all of us, undergo spiritual purification after death before joining our Lord in Heaven. Purgatory is not necessarily fun, because it is a type of separation from God. In fact, it might be painful. It might be lonely. It might even be frightening. A soul in Purgatory will want to leave, because Heaven is in sight and Purgatory is supposed to be temporary.
Because souls in Purgatory cannot pray themselves out, it falls to us to pray to God and the saints for them. When I pray for souls in Purgatory, I can’t help inserting a rather self-serving prayer that someone will take pity and pray for me when my time in Purgatory comes.
Tomorrow is All Souls’ Day. The Church offers a plenary indulgence for the faithful who pray for souls in Purgatory. According to Fr. Z:
Will you not, for love, try to gain these indulgences? Make a plan.
Requirements for Obtaining a Plenary Indulgence on All Souls Day (2 Nov)
- Visit a church and pray for souls in Purgatory
- Say one “Our Father” and the “Apostles Creed” in the visit to the church
- Say one “Our Father” and one “Hail Mary” for the Holy Father’s intentions (that is, the intentions designated by the Holy Father each month)
- Worthily receive Holy Communion (ideally on the same day if you can get to Mass)
- Make a sacramental confession within 20 days of All Souls Day
- For a plenary indulgence be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin (otherwise, the indulgence is partial, not plenary, “full”).
As much as we are called to make our lives an expression of caritas, but sometimes lack the means (due to time, lack of money, or some other obstacle) to care for the physical well-being of others, we can all pray for the dead, out of love, regardless of our particular situation. This type of work for the good of the Church has great merit in the eyes of God.