November 1, 2023
In his published article in Knightline on November 2, 2020, Brother Knight Gerald Korson of Indiana summarized the reasons why during the month of November, we pray for the ‘Poor Souls,’ a culture that has been observed and given various names around the world. From the celebrations of All Souls Day for the English-speaking faithful, the Dia de los Muertos in Mexico, the Jour des Mort in France, the Dzien Zaduszny in Poland, to the Araw ng mga Patay in the Philippines, each speak of the necessity to remember and pray for the “Poor Souls.” He said that “the souls we remember on All Souls’ Day are the Poor Souls in purgatory, who have died in a state of grace but require further purification due to lingering effects of sin committed in their lives.”
As faithful Catholics, we have learned to embrace this wonderful devotion of remembering our faithful departed. Thus, it is good to be reminded of this wonderful Catholic tradition that many spiritual writers consider as a great act of charity whenever we pray for the poor souls who can no longer pray for themselves. They rely on the rest of the Church, those in heaven and on earth, to pray for them as they pass and transition through purgatory to heaven. The word “purgatory” comes from Latin “purgare,” which means, “to purify” or “to make clean.” We read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (CCC, 1030).
On the value of praying for the deceased, I recall a story about a Vietnamese priest who shared a story at his homily. Once he took a bus from Saigon to Hanoi, a man seated near him was also traveling to Hanoi to visit his mother after many years. When the bus arrived near another city in the middle of Vietnam, the man said goodbye to the priest. But the priest asked, “Why don’t you go straight to your mother’s house? She’s waiting for you.” The man replied, “I need to buy new clothes, cut my fingernails, cut my hair and shave my beard before seeing my mother. I don’t want my mother to see me look like this. With my new look, my mother will be happy.”
This image of being clean and in the state of grace before meeting our Creator is what our prayer does for our faithful departed as they go through a period of purification.
Great spiritual and holy people in the past spoke of this essential truth about this beloved devotion during the month of November. Saint Augustine’s mother, Saint Monica, requested that after her death her soul would be remembered whenever her priest son, Augustine, offered the mass (Office of Reading – St. Monica’s Memorial). In her diary, Saint Faustina wrote in her vision, “I followed my Guardian Angel. I was in a misty place full of fire in which there was a great crowd of suffering souls. They were praying fervently, but to no avail, for themselves; only we can come to their aid…” (Diary #20). Also, Saint Padre Pio once said, “More souls of the dead from purgatory than of the living climb this mountain to attend my Masses and seek my prayers.”
Brothers, we have this great opportunity this month of November to remember and hold special devotions and prayers for our faithful departed, especially our beloved deceased brother Knights from our respective councils. Their names are in the Book of Necrology that we put out especially on this month of November. May. I echo the call of our Supreme Chaplain, Archbishop Lori, to lovingly remember our beloved departed during the entire month of November and commend their souls to the Lord in our masses and prayers. Thus, I encourage that we dedicate at least one service this month, either designate a special Memorial Mass, an Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, recitation of Holy Rosary or the Litany for the Dead while placing the Book of Necrology in a prominent place near the Altar with lit candles on each side. Visiting cemeteries during the month of November and lighting candles can also be a great way to remember the poor souls.
I sincerely hope that we will open our hearts to the greatest act of charity possible: that of praying for the poor souls who can no longer pray for themselves. For one day, we will find ourselves in their place and will need the ongoing prayers before facing our Creator more worthily.
“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace and may the souls of the Faithful Departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.”
REV. RAYMUND REYES
State Chaplain 2023-2024