Visit cemeteries on All Souls Day and all through November
The Holy Souls in Purgatory gain our full attention during the month of November with a time of reflection and prayer. On November 1st our attention is turned toward the saints who are already in the sight of God. On November 2nd, we focus on all the Poor Souls in Purgatory who yearn for the time when they attain the same glory. With our prayers, we can participate in their journey toward that moment when they leave Purgatory. The church offers a partial and full indulgence during the octave of All Souls Day, but we area asked to remember with prayer the Holy Souls in Purgatory every day in November and urged to visit cemeteries and remember those souls buried there and, perhaps, forgotten.
The Prayer of St. Gertrude for the Holy Souls in Purgatory
I seem to have a growing devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. They piqued my interest when I first read about them but the real devotion came about in the first few months after my mother died last year. By the time November rolled around, I was ready to fully embrace the Prayer of Saint Gertrude:
Eternal Father, 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. Amen.
All Souls Day
This year I attended a special mass at the the Catholic cemetery next to the historic Hollywood Cemetery. After mass, I spent some time walking around the cemetery saying St. Gertrude’s prayer and pausing now and then to offer additional prayers at an old grave that caught my attention. One grave that demanded my attention was that of Mary A. Sweeney:
Of course, the statue, so sweet and so lovely, speaks eloquently even before you have time to digest the words. Here was a young woman who was born on Christmas Day in 1886 in Worcester, Massachusetts. How in the world did she end up in Houston, Texas? She died so young, not even 28, and died on The Day of Epiphany, another Christmas season holy day. Her life bookended by two Catholic holy days: Christmas Day, the day we celebrate the birth of Christ, and then Epiphany, meaning “vision of God,” the day the Wise Men visited the Christ child. I didn’t see all that at first. It came gradually as I stood there and prayed, and then the questions. Who is she? What was her life like? How did she arrive in Houston? And, of course, why did she die? The one thing I know? She was Catholic.
Visiting Catholic cemeteries to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory
I learned a lot about the holy souls and about purgatory by reading the work of Susan Tassone. Last year, using her book, The Way of the Cross for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, I prayed the Stations of the Cross for the souls. I also visited Houston’s historic Glenwood Cemetery, as well as a Catholic cemetery near my home, and prayed for the souls. My mother has died a few months earlier and the attention I brought to the Holy Souls seemed to help me during my time of sorrow.
This year, Tasoone’s latest book has quickly become my favorite: Day by Day for the Holy Souls in Purgatory: 365 Reflections. I love this book. Each day illuminates the devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory with prayers, teachings, stories, and quotes by saints. I am using it as a daily devotion, but you can use it any way you like. Each day is a quote, a reflection, and a suggested action. I have it both Kindle and print.
So much good comes from a devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. I urge you to learn more about this practice, what it means, and how you can be a part of this wonderful, rich expression of the faith. To learn more about Saint Gertrude and why so many saints and doctors of the church share this devotion, read Susan Tassone’s books.
Have you given any thought to All Souls Day or wondered about the Holy Souls in Purgatory? Share your thoughts, comments, and experiences below. I’d love to learn more.