Waiting in the foyer of Heaven

by Jill Ragar Esfeld
jill.esfeld@theleaven.org

Every year, the month of November summons death to the world around us.

Our beautiful flowers fade and wither, our trees burst into a show of color and then turn into bare, brown bones, and the long days of sunshine grow dim, dreary and so quickly dark.

It’s a sensible time to think about purgatory.

Purgatory is a conundrum: some fear it, some dread it, and some are confused by the concept.

I choose to perceive it as proof of God’s merciful love.

As a doctrine of our Catholic faith, the catechism says this about purgatory: “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” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030).

I know, most days, I fall into the category of “imperfectly purified.” And I’m so thankful God doesn’t give up on me.

Even though I’m imperfect, He judges me worthy of heaven; and if I die in that imperfect state, I know He’s got my back in purgatory where I will be made ready to share His goodness and glory forever.

I equate the burning pain of purgatory to February, when I long for spring so much it hurts.

I only feel that burning desire for spring because I know its joy and goodness.

Likewise, the suffering of those in purgatory is centered in being without the light of God’s face.

I think of purgatory as the foyer to heaven, where we wait in anxious exile to be admitted to the party.

And I know there are many waiting in that foyer, desperately in need of our prayers. Those in purgatory can’t pray for themselves, but we can and must pray for them.

That’s why the Catholic Church designates November as the Month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

Here are some ways to help the Holy Souls:

  • Find a Novena to the Holy Souls in purgatory and say it during this month.
  • Attend daily Mass and offer it for the Holy Souls.
  • Have Masses said for your departed loved ones and send friends a memorial Mass card for their loved ones.
  • Pray the rosary for those in purgatory, remembering to recite the Fatima prayer for those “most in need of God’s mercy.”
  • Give assistance to the poor as a penance offered for the Holy Souls.
  • When you pass by a cemetery, pray the short Eternal Rest prayer. “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”
  • Each day during November say the prayer of Saint Gertrude given to her by Christ in a vision: “Eternal Father, I offer You the most Precious Blood of Your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for all sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.”
  • Spend time with the Blessed Sacrament in adoration on behalf of those in purgatory.
  • Practice small acts of self-denial throughout your day and offer these penances up for the Holy Souls.

Every soul in purgatory is on the way to share in God’s glory. As you pray for them, remember to ask that they pray for you once they enter Heaven.

I know I will need those prayers someday.

And that’s enough incentive for me to devote every dreary day of November to devotions for the Holy Souls.

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