Rev. Fr. Leonard Goffine's
THE CHURCH'S YEAR
ALL SOULS' DAY
What is All Souls' Day?
It is the day set apart by the Catholic Church for the special devout commemoration of all those souls who have departed this life in the
grace and friendship of God, for whom we pray, that they may soon be released by God from the prison of purgatory.
What is purgatory?
Purgatory is a middle state of souls, suffering for a time on account of their sins. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: And the fire shall
try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built there upon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. (i. Cor. in. 13-15.) "And when St. Paul," says St.
Ambrose (Serm. 20. in Ps. cxviii.) "says, yet so as by fire, he shows that such a man indeed becomes happy, having suffered the punishment
of fire, but not, like the wicked, continually tormented in eternal
fire." St. Paul's words, then, can only be understood to refer to the
fire of purification, as the infallible Church has always explained
Are the heretics right in denying that there is such a place of
purification as purgatory?
By no means, for by such denial they oppose the holy Scriptures,
tradition and reason. The holy Scriptures teach that there is a
purgatory: it is related in the Second Book of Machabees, that Judas
Machabeus sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem, to be
used in the temple, to obtain prayers for those who fell in battle,
for he believed it a good and wholesome thought to pray for the dead,
that they may be loosed from their sins. But for what dead shall we
pray? Those in heaven do not require our prayers; to those in hell
they are of no avail; we must then pray for those who are in the
place of purification. Christ speaks of a prison in the future life,
from which no man comes out until he has paid the last farthing.
(Matt. v. 25, 26.) This prison cannot be hell, because from hell
there is never any release; it must be then a place of purification.
Again Christ speaks of sin which shall be forgiven neither in this
world nor in the next, (Matt. xii. 32.) from which it follows that
there is a remittance of some sins in the next world; but this can be
neither in heaven nor in hell, consequently in purgatory. As the
council of Trent says, (Sess. 6. c. 30.) the Church has always
taught, according to the old tradition of the Fathers, in all her
councils, that there is a purgatory, and every century gives proofs
of the continual belief of all true Christians in a purgatory.
Finally, man's unblinded reason must accept a purgatory; for how many
depart this earth before having accomplished the great work of their
own purification? They cannot enter heaven, for St. John tells us:
There shall not enter into it any thing defiled. (Apoc. xxi. 27.) The
simple separation of the soul from the body does not make it pure, yet
God cannot reject it as He does the soul of the hardened sinner in
hell; there must then be a middle place, a purgatory, where those who
have departed not free from stain, must be purified. See how the
doctrine of the Church, reason and the holy Scriptures all agree, and
do not let yourself be led away by false arguments from those who not
only believe in no purgatory, but even in no hell, so that they may
sin with so much more impunity.
For what, how much, and for how long must we suffer in purgatory?
Concerning this the Church has made no decision, though much has been written by the Fathers of the Church on the subject. Concerning the severity of the punishment in purgatory, St. Augustine writes: "This
fire is more painful than any that man can suffer in this life." This should urge us to continual sanctification and atonement, so that we may escape the fearful judgment of God.
How can we aid the suffering souls in purgatory?
St. Augustine writes: "It is not to be doubted that we can aid the
souls of the departed by the prayers of the Church, by the holy
Sacrifice of the Mass, and by the alms which we offer for them." The
Church has always taught-that prayers for the faithful departed are
useful and good, and she has always offered Masses for them.
What should urge us to aid the suffering souls in purgatory?
1. The consideration of the belief of the Church in the communion of
saints, by which all the members of the Church upon earth, in heaven,
and in purgatory are united by the bonds of love, like the members of
one body, and as the healthy members of a body sympathize with the
suffering members, seeking to aid them, so should we assist our
suffering brethren in purgatory. 2. The remembrance that it is God's
will that we should practice charity towards one another, and that
fearful judgments are threatened those who show no charity to a
brother in need, together with the recollection, of God's love which
desires that all men should be happy in heaven. 3. We should be urged
to it by love for ourselves, for if we should be condemned to the
pains of purification, we would assuredly desire our living brethren
to pray for us and perform good works for our sake, while the souls
who have found redemption, perhaps through our prayers, will not fail
to reward us by interceding for us.
Can we aid the souls in purgatory by gaining indulgences?
Yes, for indulgences, (as explained in the Instruction on the
eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost,) are a complete or a partial
remittance of the temporal punishment due to sin, bestowed by the
Church to penitent sinners from the treasury of the merits of Christ
and His saints. If we gain such a remittance, we can apply it to the
souls in purgatory. Such an indulgence, however, can be transferred
only to one soul.
For which souls should we pray?
We should, on this day especially, offer prayers and good works for
all the faithful departed, but particularly for our parents,
relations, friends and benefactors; for those who are most acceptable
to God; for those who have suffered the longest, or who have the
longest yet to suffer; for those who are most painfully tormented;
for those who are the most forsaken; for those who are nearest
redemption ; for those who are suffering on our account; for those
who hope in our prayers; for those who during life have injured us,
or been injured by us; and for our spiritual brethren.
When and by what means was this yearly commemoration of the departed
introduced into the Church?
The precise time of its introduction is not known. Tertullian (A. D.
160) writes that the early Christians held a yearly commemoration of
the faithful departed. Towards the end of the 10th century St. Odilo,
Abbot of the Benedictines at Cluny, directed that the yearly
commemoration of the faithful departed should be observed on the 2nd
of November with prayers, alms and the Sacrifice of the Mass, which
time and manner of celebration spread through various dioceses, and
was officially confirmed by Pope John XIX. This day was- appointed
that, having the day previously rejoiced at the glory of the saints
in heaven, we might on this day most properly pray for those who are
yet doing penance for their sins and sigh in purgatory for their
The Introit of this day's Mass as of all Masses for the dead reads:
Eternal rest give to them, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon
them. A hymn, O God, becometh Thee in Sion; and a vow shall be paid to
Thee in Jerusalem: hear my prayer; all flesh shall come to Thee.
Eternal rest give to them, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon
The Epistle and Gospel of this day speak of the resurrection of all
men and of the judgment, when every one according as he has lived,
sinful and impenitent, or pure and innocent, will receive an
eternally miserable or an eternally happy life. Purgatory will then
end and there will be only heaven and hell. It remains with us to
choose which of these two we shall possess.
At the Offertory of the Mass the priest prays:
O Lord Jesus Christ, King of Glory, deliver the souls of all the
faithful departed from the pains of hell and from the deep pit:
deliver them from the mouth of the lion, that hell may not swallow
them up, and they may not fall into darkness: but may the holy
standard-bearer, Michael, introduce them to the holy light: which
Thou didst promise of old to Abraham and to his seed. We offer to
Thee, O Lord, sacrifices and prayers: do Thou receive them in behalf
of those souls whom we commemorate this day. Grant them, O Lord, to
pass from death to that life which Thou didst promise of old to
Abraham and to his seed.
We may profitably and devoutly repeat the following as often as we
pass a graveyard.
V. From the gates of hell,
R. Deliver their souls, O Lord.
V. Eternal rest give to them, O Lord,
R. And let perpetual light shine upon them.
V. May they rest in peace,
V. May the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of
God rest in peace,
The Church s Year online: