Instruction On The Feast Of All
What is All Souls' Day?
It is the day
set apart by the Catholic Church for the special devout
commemoration of all those souls who have departed this life in the
grace and friendship of God, for whom we pray, that they may soon be
released by God from the prison of purgatory.
What is purgatory?
Purgatory is a
middle state of souls, suffering for a time on account of their
sins. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: And the fire shall try
every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which
he hath built there upon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's
work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet
so as by fire. (i. Cor. in. 13-15.) "And when St. Paul," says St.
Ambrose (Serm. 20. in Ps. cxviii.) "says, yet so as by fire, he
shows that such a man indeed becomes happy, having suffered the
punishment of fire, but not, like the wicked, continually tormented
in eternal fire." St. Paul's words, then, can only be understood to
refer to the fire of purification, as the infallible Church has
always explained them.
Are the heretics right in denying that there is such a
place of purification as purgatory?
By no means,
for by such denial they oppose the holy Scriptures, tradition and
reason. The holy Scriptures teach that there is a purgatory: it is
related in the Second Book of Machabees, that Judas Machabeus sent
twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem, to be used in the
temple, to obtain prayers for those who fell in battle, for he
believed it a good and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that
they may be loosed from their sins. But for what dead shall we pray?
Those in heaven do not require our prayers; to those in hell they
are of no avail; we must then pray for those who are in the place of
purification. Christ speaks of a prison in the future life, from
which no man comes out until he has paid the last farthing. (Matt.
v. 25, 26.) This prison cannot be hell, because from hell there is
never any release; it must be then a place of purification. Again
Christ speaks of sin which shall be forgiven neither in this world
nor in the next, (Matt. xii. 32.) from which it follows that there
is a remittance of some sins in the next world; but this can be
neither in heaven nor in hell, consequently in purgatory. As the
council of Trent says, (Sess. 6. c. 30.) the Church has always
taught, according to the old tradition of the Fathers, in all her
councils, that there is a purgatory, and every century gives proofs
of the continual belief of all true Christians in a purgatory.
Finally, man's unblinded reason must accept a purgatory; for how
many depart this earth before having accomplished the great work of
their own purification? They cannot enter heaven, for St. John tells
us: There shall not enter into it any thing defiled. (Apoc. xxi.
27.) The simple separation of the soul from the body does not make
it pure, yet God cannot reject it as He does the soul of the
hardened sinner in hell; there must then be a middle place, a
purgatory, where those who have departed not free from stain, must
be purified. See how the doctrine of the Church, reason and the holy
Scriptures all agree, and do not let yourself be led away by false
arguments from those who not only believe in no purgatory, but even
in no hell, so that they may sin with so much more
For what, how much, and for how long must -we suffer in
the Church has made no decision, though much has been written by the
Fathers of the Church on the subject. Concerning the severity of the
punishment in purgatory, St. Augustine writes: "This fire is more
painful than any that man can suffer in this life." This should urge
us to continual sanctification and atonement, so that we may escape
the fearful judgment of God.
How can -we aid the suffering souls in
writes: "It is not to be doubted that we can aid the souls of the
departed by the prayers of the Church, by the holy Sacrifice of the
Mass, and by the alms which we offer for them." The Church has
always taught-that prayers for the faithful departed are useful and
good, and she has always offered Masses for them.
What should urge us to aid the suffering souls in
consideration of the belief of the Church in the communion of
saints, by which all the members of the Church upon earth, in
heaven, and in purgatory are united by the bonds of love, like the
members of one body, and as the healthy members of a body sympathize
with the suffering members, seeking to aid them, so should we assist
our suffering brethren in purgatory. 2. The remembrance that
it is God's will that we should practice charity towards one
another, and that fearful judgments are threatened those who show no
charity to a brother in need, together with the recollection, of
God's love which desires that all men should be happy in heaven.
3. We should be urged to it by love for ourselves, for if we
should be condemned to the pains of purification, we would assuredly
desire our living brethren to pray for us and perform good works for
our sake, while the souls who have found redemption, perhaps through
our prayers, will not fail to reward us by interceding for
Can we aid the souls in purgatory by gaining
indulgences, (as explained in the Instruction on the eighteenth
Sunday after Pentecost,) are a complete or a partial remittance of
the temporal punishment due to sin, bestowed by the Church to
penitent sinners from the treasury of the merits of Christ and His
saints. If we gain such a remittance, we can apply it to the souls
in purgatory. Such an indulgence, however, can be transferred only
to one soul.
For which souls should we pray?
We should, on
this day especially, offer prayers and good works for all the
faithful departed, but particularly for our parents, relations,
friends and benefactors; for those who are most acceptable to God;
for those who have suffered the longest, or who have the longest yet
to suffer; for those who are most painfully tormented; for those who
are the most forsaken; for those who are nearest redemption ; for
those who are suffering on our account; for those who hope in our
prayers; for those who during life have injured us, or been injured
by us; and for our spiritual brethren.
When and by what means was this yearly
commemoration of the departed introduced into the
time of its introduction is not known. Tertullian (A. D. 160) writes
that the early Christians held a yearly commemoration of the
faithful departed. Towards the end of the 10th century St. Odilo,
Abbot of the Benedictines at Cluny, directed that the yearly
commemoration of the faithful departed should be observed on the 2nd
of November with prayers, alms and the Sacrifice of the Mass, which
time and manner of celebration spread through various dioceses, and
was officially confirmed by Pope John XIX. This day was- appointed
that, having the day previously rejoiced at the glory of the saints
in heaven, we might on this day most properly pray for those who are
yet doing penance for their sins and sigh in purgatory for their
The Introit of
this day's Mass as of all Masses for the dead reads: Eternal rest
give to them, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon them. A
hymn, O God, becometh Thee in Sion; and a vow shall be paid to Thee
in Jerusalem: hear my prayer; all flesh shall come to Thee. Eternal
rest give to them, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon
COLLECT O God, the Creator and
Redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of Thy servants
departed the remission of all their sins: that through pious
supplications they may i obtain the pardon which they have always
desired. ! Who, livest &c.
EPISTLE (i. Cor. xv. 51-57.)
BRETHREN, behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall all indeed rise
again, but we shall not all be changed. In a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall
sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible: and , we shall
be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this
mortal must put on immortality. And when this mortal hath put on
immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O
death, where is thy sting? Now the sting of death is sin: and the
strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who hath given us
the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
GOSPEL (John v. 25-29.) At that time,
Jesus said to the multitudes of the Jews: Amen, amen, I say unto
you, that the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the
voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the
Father hath life in himself, so he hath given to the Son also to
have life in himself: and he hath given him power to do judgment,
because he is the Son of man. Wonder not at this, for the hour
cometh wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of
the Son of God: and they that have done good things shall come forth
unto the resurrection of life: but they that have done evil, unto
the resurrection of judgment.
The Epistle and
Gospel of this day speak of the resurrection of all men and of the
judgment, when every one according as he has lived, sinful and
impenitent, or pure and innocent, will receive an eternally
miserable or an eternally happy life. Purgatory will then end and
there will be only heaven and hell. It remains with us to choose
which of these two we shall possess.
At the Offertory of the Mass
the priest prays:
O Lord Jesus
Christ, King of Glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful
departed from the pains of hell and from the deep pit: deliver them
from the mouth of the lion, that hell may not swallow them up, and
they may not fall into darkness: but may the holy standard-bearer,
Michael, introduce them to the holy light: which Thou didst promise
of old to Abraham and to his seed. We offer to Thee, O Lord,
sacrifices and prayers: do Thou receive them in behalf of those
souls whom we commemorate this day. Grant them, O Lord, to pass from
death to that life which Thou didst promise of old to Abraham and to
We may profitably and devoutly repeat the following as
often as we pass a graveyard.
V. From the gates of hell,
R. Deliver their souls, O Lord.
V. Eternal rest give to them, O
R. And let perpetual
light shine upon them.
they rest in peace,
V. May the souls of all
the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace,