Last weekend was about getting dressed up in costumes, going trick or treating for Halloween, and then celebrating All Saints Day Parties. Some parents were industrious enough to have two costumes for their children: one for trick or treating, and one for All Saints Day. I used to make my kids wear their saints costumes for trick or treating and that in itself was very time consuming.
Now that they are older, I let them decide and if they do go trick or treating but I don't allow anything demonic or scary - just fun and maybe something from a favorite show or game, or perhaps an historical figure or someone from literature. This year, Rosie went as Rosie the Riveter because she heard her sister and I discuss the role of civilians on the home front during World War II. Then they went trick or treating and had a lot of fun.
But today, the church focuses on the rest of communion of saints - the unknown saints, but more particularly, the saint wannabees, the poor souls, the souls in purgatory.
I am a point in life where I know quite a significant number of people who had died. Many of the friends of my vintage have lost parents, siblings, perhaps children and even spouses. In her mercy, the church encourages us to pray for the souls of our beloved dead and to remember that living or dead, we are all part of the family of God, a part of the communion of saints.
I wasn't always that good about praying for the dead. I would remember them during that part of the mass, and probably on their birthdays or date of death if I remembered. But I didn't have a systematic set time for praying for the dead in my life.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to find the grave of my grandparents and my uncle. Their graves were overgrown and looked untended, uncared for and unloved and I felt ashamed. Because I did love them all very deeply. I know my sister and I will always have a special place in our hearts for them. Yet the state of their graves reflected the state of my practice of praying for their souls. I knew that I had to to be more deliberate in praying for their souls.
That November I made a promise to turn that around and this November I encourage all of you to do the same. In the liturgical year, November month to start since the Catholic Church remembers all of the dearly departed in a special way during this month.
In past years, I have taken the pictures of all of my beloved dead relatives and friends, and put them in a prominent place so that we remember to pray for them every day during the month. I talk to the children about each one and remind them of the importance of prayer for the deceased.
Now, I have a lot of deceased relatives, so this year I have all of their holy cards from their funerals in a basket and I have that on the table so that we can remember all of them at each meal.
The Catholic Culture Site reminds us that we may earn indulgences for the souls in purgatory.
Praying for the Dead and Gaining Indulgences During November
Indulgenced Acts for the Poor Souls
A partial indulgence can be obtained by devoutly visiting a cemetery and praying for the departed, even if the prayer is only mental. One can gain a plenary indulgence visiting a cemetery each day between November 1 and November 8. These indulgences are applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory.
A plenary indulgence, again applicable only the Souls in Purgatory, is also granted when the faithful piously visit a church or a public oratory on November 2. In visiting the church or oratory, it is required, that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.
A partial indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, can be obtained when the Eternal Rest (Requiem aeternam) is prayed. This is a good prayer to recite especially during the month of November:
Requiem aeternam dona ei (eis), Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei (eis). Requiescat (-ant) in pace Amen.
Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Many families add to the "Prayer Before Meals" the second half of the "Eternal Rest" prayer:
Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts,
Which we are about to receive,
from Thy bounty,
through Christ, our Lord, Amen.
And may the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God,
rest in peace. Amen.
Other families recite the "Eternal Rest" prayer in between decades of the rosary.
As the beauty of fall begins to fade and we get ready for advent and Christmas, this month becomes one of preparation, not just for those holidays, but preparing us for the home we will eventually have at sometime after this life.
This month, try to visit the grave of a deceased love one, or if you're not near the graves of any family members, just go to a local cemetery and pray for the dead there.
We used Ancestry.com and Findagrave.com to find some of my long deceased ancestors and visited their graves
At the grave of my great, great -grandmother Emmeline Klinger
We also found the graves of Mr. Pete's grandparents who both died in their 20s yet now have many descendents.
Finding Mr. Pete's Grandparents - something he never had the chance to do before. They died when they were very young. It was a touching experience to find their graves and clean them up a bit.
Resources for remembering the poor souls in purgatory during the month of November.
Prayer for the poor souls in purgatory.
St. John Vianney on Purgatory
Simple prayer for the poor souls that you probably didn't learn in Catholic School.
Rosary from Father Lovasick for the poor souls
Father Hardon on Purgatory.