All Souls’ Day, November 2, is the Church’s liturgical feast commemorating the faithful departed. When the human person dies, the body returns to the dust from which it was made. The immortal soul, the spiritual essence of the person, goes to God for its particular judgment.
If the person lived as a saint during his earthly life, the soul goes directly to Heaven, eternal happiness. If the person lived as a great sinner and never repented, never asked for God’s mercy, and persisted in this state through the process of death, the Sacred Scriptures teach that this soul goes to hell, to eternal torment.
If the person attempted to live a life of faith, love and obedience to God, but was imperfect, the soul must be purified. The Book of Revelation says "that nothing profane will enter Heaven" (Rev. 21:27). This soul must pass through Purgatory, in order to reach its ultimate destiny in Heaven.
Once a soul has left its body, it cannot attain any more merit, it can only be passively purified in Purgatory, if this is necessary, and for most of us, this will be the case. But the prayers, sacraments and sacrifices of the faithful, united to the Paschal Mystery of Christ, can assist in the purification of the soul of a deceased person, as the Second Book of Maccabees tells us (2 Mac 12:38-46). This is why we pray for the souls in Purgatory.
The greatest prayer, of course, is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Christ’s own sacrifice re-presented on the altar, whose merits are applied in time and space. This is why we offer Masses for the souls of our deceased loved ones regularly, but above all, on the Feast of All Souls. Should they already be in Heaven, the merits will be applied to some other souls in Purgatory. The souls of your loved ones wait your prayers and Masses.
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them!
Fr. Tim Byerley
St. Gertrude the Great
Our Lord told St. Gertrude the Great that the following prayer would release 1,000 Souls from Purgatory each time it is said. The prayer was later extended to include living sinners as well.
I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus,
in union with the Masses said throughout the world today,
for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere,
for sinners in the universal Church,
those in my own home and within my family.