Why You Should Pray for All Souls – Even if You’re Not Sure They’re in Purgatory

For Catholics, the entire month of November is dedicated to praying for the Holy Souls. And it’s all the more important to do so this year, as the Vatican has extended the opportunity to gain a plenary indulgence that can be applied to the souls in Purgatory.

If you’re not familiar with what Purgatory is, it is the name the Church gives to the final purification after death and judgement, a period when those who die in God’s grace and friendship undergo a purification to achieve the holiness necessary to enter into the joy of heaven. All souls in Purgatory are assured of eternal salvation, but they must first be cleansed of all their lesser sins before they can enter the glory of heaven.

But what about those souls we don’t think were in a state of grace when they died? Should we continue to pray for our loved ones who were fallen-away Catholics? Our atheist friends? Or what about those (uncanonized) people who lived such holy lives that we figure they must already be in heaven? Fr. Daniel Schuster, a regular contributor to The Inner Life®, responded to a listener asking these very questions.

Fr. Schuster answered, “We don’t know where they are, and our task that the Lord gives us is to pray unceasingly. St. Paul says to pray without stopping – to pray unceasingly.”

He also pointed out that while we do know about certain aspects of the afterlife due to divine revelation, there are still plenty of things we don’t know for sure.

“When we’re talking about the communion of saints and the body of Christ, there are all kinds of questions that come up with this topic,” said Fr. Schuster. “Like whether we’ll all enter heaven at the same time or whether it’s an immediate judgement. The Catechism says there’s an immediate judgement, but what does that mean when there’s no time? You can kind of go cross-eyed and get a headache after a while.”

“So I would say, just keep praying. Never could we just give up hope and say, ‘Well, this person is probably in hell. I’m going to stop praying for them.’  That’s not Christian.”

Fr. Schuster pointed the listener to the book of Romans, in which St. Paul illustrates the faith that Abraham had in the promise of God, saying, “He believed, hoping against hope.” (Romans 4:18)

“That was Abraham’s faith, and that’s who Catholics are,” Fr. Schuster said. “We’re the ones who hope against all hope that Jesus can purify and can save. We can’t draw conclusions, we just keep praying.”

In honor of the Month of the Holy Souls, Relevant Radio® will celebrate a Novena of Masses for the Holy Souls in Purgatory from November 16-24 – and we want you to join us! Send us the names of your departed loved ones and we will remember them in our intentions during this special Novena of Masses.

Head to relevantradio.com/souls to submit the names of your loved ones, and then join us November 16-24 as we broadcast the Novena of Masses for the Holy Souls in Purgatory from the Chapel of the Nativity at the Relevant Radio headquarters. You can listen to the broadcast on your local Relevant Radio station each day at Noon CT and 7:30pm CT or you can listen or watch online each day at Noon CT.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.