NOVEMBER: PRAYING FOR THE DEAD. November is a month in which Catholics are called to
particularly pray for all the souls in Purgatory.
Many Catholics nowadays wrongly think Purgatory is an outdated remnant from the Middle
Ages, even though Christian belief in Purgatory is rooted in Jewish doctrine (2 Maccabees 12), and
was well established in the early Church. Many other Catholics, in their grief, prefer to think of their
departed loved ones as already being in Heaven, and can’t bear the thought that they might be in
But the doctrine of Purgatory is not something to fear, because it is a doctrine of God’s
mercy and reflects the reality that none of us is perfect. All of us sin or cling to things of this
world—however small or seemingly insignificant. But Scripture tells us “nothing imperfect shall enter”
into Heaven (Rev. 21:27)—and rightly so, since Heaven is about perfect happiness, perfect love,
etc… Given this, and confident in Our Lord’s desire for all to be with Him in Heaven, Christians have
always believed that between death and Heaven there is a purification, or purgation, where we’re
cleansed from all imperfections, i.e., made perfect. This state, or “place,” we call Purgatory.
Now, we must remember that Purgatory is NOT anything like Hell, and all the Souls in
Purgatory are good and “worthy” of eternal joy in Heaven—we call them the “Holy Souls.” So
thinking of them as in Purgatory is not an insult but praise. Moreover, these Souls are certain they
are going to Heaven, so they are filled with a joy beyond anything experienced on earth.
But we must also remember that there is suffering in Purgatory. The simplest way for many
of us to understand this is to think of the suffering related to change. All change is difficult. Consider
the person who is trying to lose weight, or exercising for an athletic competition. The effort involved
in change is painful, but as you see progress, you are also invigorated and happy, seeing your goal
Even so, since 1) Purgatory involves pain, and 2) we want our beloved dead to swiftly enter
the joys of Heaven, we should never neglect praying for them. And if they are already in Heaven, no
prayer is wasted, since every prayer is an act of love, and they hear each prayer as telling them how
much we love them.
So in love, let us pray for our beloved dead this month, and for all the Holy Souls in
Purgatory, especially the “most abandoned,” the souls who no one else remembers to pray for.
“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May their
souls, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.”
Offering Masses: ”Mass Intentions.” The greatest prayer Christians can offer is the Sacrifice of
the Mass. We remember that at each Mass the one and only Sacrifice of the Cross on Calvary is
made present. This Sacrifice of Jesus was and is the greatest prayer ever offered: God the Son’s
great offering to the Father for the expiation of sins and salvation of the world. Because of this, the
graces that flow from the Mass are infinite and that grace produces various “fruits,” or benefits:
impetratory fruits (spiritual and temporal benefits), propitiatory fruits (forgiveness of sins), and
satisfactory fruits (remission of temporal punishment).
Tradition teaches that these fruits flow to: 1) the whole Church (“general fruits”), 2) those
participating in the particular Mass (“special fruits”), to the priest himself (“personal fruits”), and to
those for whom the priest is offering the Mass (“ministerial fruits”).
This last type of fruit, ministerial, is what we usually mean when we speak of the priest
“offering a Mass” for a particular intention, or when the Mass Intention is announced in the bulletin or
at Mass. (Note: contrary to what some seem to think, when this “Mass Intention” is for a person(s),
this is not meant to publicly honor that person, nor is the congregation required to pray for the
person. The Mass honors God; it bears fruit in us, including the person it is offered for.)
These ministerial fruits have infinite power—they flow from the infinite perfect Sacrifice of the
Cross. But they are limited by the disposition of the person who receives them. So, for example,
when you receive the Sacrament of Penance, you receive all the grace you need to never sin again,
but you benefit from that grace only to the extent you cooperate with it, or are “open to it.” Grace isn’t
magic that immediately turns a sinner into a saint. Grace is a gift, that if you chose to use, will help
you become a saint.
So, when a priest offers the Mass for John, John receives infinite graces, but they are only
beneficial to him if he is disposed to let them benefit him. So, if John has his heart set on sinning, but
has a small opening in his heart to God, then he will benefit from the infinite fruits of the Mass only a
The same is true for the Souls in Purgatory. So, when a Mass is offered for a Jane in
Purgatory, the Mass will benefit her only to the extent she is purified and is open to that fruit.
Because we understand purgation as a process of purification and that some souls need more
purification than others, the Soul in Purgatory benefits from ministerial fruits of the Mass in a
powerful but limited way: they are not yet perfectly open to them, but they are more and more
perfectly open to them. So that when multiple Masses are offered for a Soul he/she will benefit more
and more as he/she becomes more and more perfectly disposed to the fruits.
So, “offering Masses” for the dead is absolutely the best way we can help them in their
I’m Just Quoting Here… Don’t blame me for reporting. Reacting to the working document for the
“Synod on Synodality” released last month by the Vatican, Dutch Bishop Robert Mutsaerts
responded (in part):
“The contours of the synodal process are becoming increasingly clear. It provides a
megaphone for …those who do not agree with the teachings of the Catholic Church. What the
working document seems to suggest is that we compile a list of complaints and then debate them.
The mission of the Church is a different one… Jesus commanded us something else: proclaim the
truth; it is the truth that will set you free…
“To date, the synodal process is more like a sociological experiment and has little to do with
the Holy Spirit supposedly sounding through all. That could almost be called blasphemous.
“…One thing is clear to me. God is out of the picture in this damned synodal process. The
Holy Spirit has absolutely nothing to do with it… I have since dropped out of the synodal process.”
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles