Purgatory is one of those doctrines that confounds most people not of our faith.
If truth be told, it confounds quite a few people of our faith as well, being one of those things we are not terribly well catechized about, and often one of those many teachings that is completely misunderstood.
Rather than the punitive reputation it has, Purgatory is rich in mercy and the love of God. It greatly expresses His desire for us to be with Him in Heaven.
November is a wonderful time to invite the Holy Souls in Purgatory into your homeschool and to encourage a lifelong devotion in your children to these souls . Such a relationship will bear much fruit in their lives as well as, eventually, adding to the Communion of Saints.
Explaining Purgatory to children, even small ones, begins with a discussion of sin; both mortal sin (that which is committed with the knowledge that it is serious sin and which can have eternal consequences) which requires the Sacrament of Confession, and venial sin (sins that are lesser in nature and healed by a worthy reception of the Eucharist.).
It should be emphasized that all sin, no matter how small, has consequences on the soul even when confessed and forgiven. Sin marks us by lessening our resistance to further sin and by diminishing our capacity for holiness.
Thus purgation is necessary, either in this life or after death. “All who die in God’s grace, 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.” (CCC1030)
This purgation allows us to enter the Kingdom of God in the state of grace that God intended for us time out of mind. It allows us to gain Heaven, by healing the damage of sin in our souls, and this is why it is merciful.
The Church Expectant
To pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory is a spiritual act of mercy. Those souls cannot pray for themselves, and the only way to help them along in their journey is to pray ardently and frequently for them.
These souls can and do reciprocate by praying for us and our intentions and they are powerful intercessors. To have an army of the Church Expectant on your side is to be truly covered in prayer.
Devoting November to the Holy Souls will take very little time and reap many rewards. Many homeschoolers, myself included, set up a little area that draws attention to those who are in need of our prayers.
Mine is extremely simple: a few candles and the funeral cards of those who have died. These memorials can be as simple or elaborate as you like, but approach them with more reverence and less craftiness. This is one of those times when less is more.
I also teach the St. Gertrude prayer to those who don’t know it yet, and we add it to our daily prayers.
Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the Universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.
This prayer was dictated to St. Gertrude the Great by Our Lord in the twelfth century. St. Gertrude was a cloistered Benedictine nun who was a mystic with a great devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Holy Souls.
She is said to have had great tenderness and sympathy in her heart for these souls, and we can confidently emulate her devotion to bring ourselves closer to Heaven.