The month of November is dedicated to the ‘Poor Souls’. Sometimes people see Purgatory as something negative, but it is far from it. It is a place of God’s mercy and justice that is alluded to in the Scriptures. November is the month when, in a particular way, we remember and pray for the souls in Purgatory. November 1st is All Saints’ Day wherein we honor those in heaven. November 2nd is All Souls’ Day when we remember and pray for those in Purgatory. Nov. 2 begins a month-long prayer for the souls in Purgatory.
Purgatory is a place to which souls go after death to be purified of venial sins and atone for repented mortal/serious sins. (Not to be confused with marriage as one little boy did!) (We should recall that those in hell are not sorry for mortal sins.) Those in Purgatory will go to heaven one day. Purgatory will cease to exist at the end of this world. A good priest I know of often says that he will turn out the lights in Purgatory!
2 Maccabees 12 recounts the story of Judas Maccabeus praying for his fallen comrades in arms. The book, which is the Word of God, goes on to say that it was a holy and pious thought to pray for the dead. Now, if there is only heaven and hell, how can it be a holy and pious thought to pray for the dead? If there is no Purgatory, it is useless to pray for anyone after they die. It is not holy and pious, but foolish. Why? Those in heaven are already in heaven, no prayers add to their heavenly glory. Those in hell have chosen hell no prayers can change their condemnation. Therefore, there must be a place where people can go wherein prayers can help them get to heaven. This place the Church has called Purgatory. It should not upset us that the word itself is not in the Scriptures; the teaching is clearly there. The understanding is similar to that of the Trinity which is clearly taught by Jesus without mentioning the word, ‘Trinity’. The Church created the word, ‘Trinity,’ for the truth of the Triune God.
Our Lord Himself alludes to Purgatory in Matthew 12: 32 when He speaks of sins that can be forgiven in the next life, “And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” There is no sin in heaven and sins are not forgiven in hell. Therefore, there must be a place where sins can be forgiven.
Our prayers can help those in Purgatory to be purified so they can attain heaven sooner than if no prayers were offered. This is why we have Masses offered for the dead throughout the year. It is also good to keep in mind the deepest soul in Purgatory and the one who has no one to pray for him.