November is the month in which the Church historically celebrates all Saints (Canonized or not) and remembers all Souls who have departed this world. In particular, we remember and pray for Souls in purgatory,* who are waiting with deep (and painful) yearning to complete their purification so they can enter heaven. Here are some ways that you, as a Soul working on being a Saint (Phil: 2: 12) can make the most out of November in this regard.
- Concretely Recognize the Saints
Put a photo of a Saint on the home-screen of your phone or computer, and change it to another Saint, every day or every week for the rest of November. Another way is to print one Saint or a few on a piece of paper and discreetly stick that paper to your work station.
The Saints are with us, daily, cheering us on (Heb 12: 1-3). We are in a race to a finish line (heaven) and they do not want us to give up, no matter the obstacles we encounter on the course. Imagine them in the stand, calling your name; asking you to lift up your head and try again. Some are on their knees praying. Others are asking God to come to your aid. Remember this throughout the month with the help of any of the above physical objects.
2. Improve One Small Thing
Make a firm resolution to improve one slight but concrete thing. Because, we who are in Christ, are connected (aka the “communion of the Saints”). Improving one thing in our lives can become a benefit to everyone else. Just as one part of the body can cause a body to hurt, one joyful and good thing in the body such as a joyful heart or prayer can cause the rest of the body to be joyful or improved in goodness (1 Cor 12: 25-26). Therefore, make a subtle but concrete resolution this month to contribute to the overall good of the body of Christ. Resolve to do your morning offering prayer, every day, or resolve to do your rosary everyday. Resolve also to do one Glory be at 3pm to thank God for his amazing salvation of all Souls. You can use technology such as your phone alarm to remind you to carry out your resolutions.
3. Visit a Cemetery
Visit a nearby cemetery and pray for the Souls whose bodies were buried there. You can also walk through and pray a rosary for all of them. Even if we do not know any of the people buried there, it remains important to remember those who have gone ahead of us. Most of us never go to cemeteries unless we have to. Yet all of us will die one day. Praying for the dead in this way is a generous gift for these Souls, especially those suffering in purgatory. This is because Souls in purgatory cannot pray for themselves (See here at part III). However, they can receive the benefit of the prayers of those praying for them on earth. Once these Souls enter heaven, they will pray for us because all the good they will do in the body of Christ serves the entire body (especially those who prayed for them).
4. Mass with Saints
Go to Mass with an increased awareness of the presence of the Saints there. Talk to them by name in your heart. Use your imagination to “see” them worshiping God and the Host during Holy Communion – because that is exactly what they are doing. Pay particular attention to when the church invokes them such as during the Eucharistic prayers, during baptisms, Priestly ordinations and during the “I confess” prayer. Ask them to pray for you and everyone in the Church. Ask them to pray in particular for the Priests, the leaders in the Church and for Souls far away from God, including Souls in purgatory.
5. Think About Your Death
We do not know when we will be asked to return to Christ so we have to always be ready for him to welcome us as faithful servants (Mt. 25: 21). Death will happen to all of us. Therefore, to avoid thinking about death or planning for death is neither prudent nor smart. Some prudent people have purchased their own burial plots already. This is not only to save their family the stress and financial burden when the time comes, but is also to remember always that they too will die. This, in addition to the day-to-day decisions made in light of the sure-end of death are concrete ways to remember your mortality and focus on the goal of heaven.
6. Deepen Prayer for Souls in Purgatory
Souls in purgatory, unlike us, have run out of time to do things for themselves. Therefore they are unable to pray for themselves. They must wait to be purged of their impurities and be admitted to heaven (Rev 21: 26-27). This wait to enter heaven is painful (1 Cor 3: 14-16). We can help to advance these Souls by praying for them. We, here on earth, still have the benefit of time and the ability to make choices that can change our lives and the lives of the Souls in purgatory. This is a great privilege. Therefore, this November, make a deliberate effort to pray for Souls in purgatory during Mass, while you pray the rosary or any other short prayer in your heart during the day. Pray in particular for your relatives who have passed on, and those Souls that no one is remembering. Ultimately, pray for all Souls in purgatory.
7. Read the Lives of the Saints
There are many resources about Saints in the Church. Read about their lives and how they overcame many challenges. Many of these challenges may be familiar to you therefore their victories could be a major source of inspiration for you.
There is a Saint for nearly every challenge. Google keywords such as: Catholic Saint and depression or Catholic Saint and lost items and you will be sure to find one Saint in the Church for these common problems. Saints are icons of our future. They show us that holiness is possible in a myriad of circumstances. Therefore, finding out about how they persevered to the end will be a major encouragement for you this month and beyond.
Did Jesus Teach That Purgatory is Real?
What is Purgatory?