Purgatory 101

All Souls Day

As many were preparing for Halloween parties by painting their faces to resemble the skeletons depicted in the Dia De Los Muertos, I was adapting to this religious concept. The earliest roots in this tradition  can be traced back to the Aztecs, hence the sculls. The Catholic Spaniards fused this custom into honoring the dead with a monotheistic concept. For the first time in my life I understood the theory of this enriching celebration.

Since both of my parents were born in the United States, we never celebrated this holiday or understood it. I thought it was a little on the eerie side to see all those altars at churches dedicated to the souls of the deceased and saints. And to carry this tradition from the altar to their personal homes was even more alarming. Since none of my relatives in Brawley, my birthplace, ever celebrated this day, the void and the unknown tradition lain dormant in my spirit. Curiosity finally got the best of me. I was slowly adapting to this theological doctrine and the reason for praying for the souls in purgatory. I have a dear friend, Sylvia, who has always prayed for the repose of their souls. For the passed two years many of us have experienced the death of a loved one because of COVID. For me to pray for the repose of souls was unheard of,  but when the Lord tugged at my heart to pray for the deceased, I complied and  I have a long list!

The Lesson

In my healthy attempt to flood my mind with pious knowledge, I listen to several Catholic radio stations. In the morning, while preparing our smoothies and having my coffee with Ezekiel toast, I’m feeding my soul as well. I cannot recall the name of the priest who so eloquently explained All Souls Day/Dia De los Muertos and why we need to pray for our loved ones. We can help those who are in purgatory by praying for them. The month of November is dedicated to Souls. While listening to this broadcast, I discovered what is required to receive a plenary indulgence.

Information from Relevant Radio:

In addition to visiting these places and offering the prescribed prayers, the general requirements for indulgences must be met:

  • Pray for the intentions of our Holy Father
  • Worthily receive Holy Communion (ideally on the same day, or within several days if that is not possible)
  • Go to Confession within about 20 days of the indulgenced work
  • Be in a state of grace at the time the indulgenced work is completed
  • For a plenary indulgence it is also necessary to have a complete detachment from sin, even venial sin (a minor offense)

My husband is a planner; therefore I can never suggest anything without details. On Tuesday I suggested that we visit his parents’ gravesite as well as my brother Robert’s. He thought it was a great idea, so on Friday morning after Mass we headed out to the Inland Empire. Mike purchased three arrangements of assorted flowers for the visit. I made a confession on Thursday to be in good graces for the plenary indulgence.

The Visit

When Mike was a child, his family’s business was located near Mitlas’ Cafe. Whenever we are in town, we always frequent this Mexican restaurant in San Bernardino. After our delicious breakfast we headed out to Montecito Memorial Park. It had been a while since visiting Mike’s parents’ gravesite, so we needed help locating the grave stones. I packed some cutting shears and a beach towel so that we could clean the sites. Mike got on his knees to clean the debris on the tombstones. Surprisingly, they were both in good condition. We set the flowers over their engraved names and said a prayer. We prayed for the repose of their souls. To the right of his mom’s tombstone, weeds had disrespectfully taken over the grave stone of a stranger, so much so, that the name was completely covered. Mike graciously cleaned that one as well.

Hermosa Garden Cemetery was our next stop. My heart ached with sorrow because it had been decades since I last visited my brother Robert’s  gravesite. I had an idea where he was laid to rest but, again, we needed  help. The small office was closed for lunch but I felt that it would be a while before they returned. So, on our own, Mike and I started the search. I called my sister Norma and she was able to confirm that we were in the right area. Because this cemetery is smaller than where Mike’s parents are laid to rest, I was surprised that the squirrels have comfortably had their way with the grounds. Several of the graves were covered in mounds of soil, so much so that I had to clear the dirt in order to read the names on the tombstones.  We split up and in about 20 minutes Mike found Robert’s gravesite. We prayed for the repose of his soul, but deep within my spirit I prayed for forgiveness for not visiting Robert’s gravesite more frequently.

Eternal Rest Prayer

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,

and let perpetual light shine upon them.

May they rest in peace. Amen.

Three Places

When we die we are either going to heaven or hell, but before going to heaven we are in purgatory. As Catholics we believe that there is a state of purification call purgatory. How can we believe that we enter  into the pearly gates with blemish? How can we truly believe that we can stand in the presence of God with sin? We can’t! That is why we need to be purified.

27 but nothing unclean will enter it, nor any[one] who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
My Prayer

Dear Lord, I pray that with the help of Your Holy Spirit that my simple way of explaining purgatory will help more people understand this process of purification. I ask that You bless Mike and me for our effort to pray for our loved ones. I pray for all those listed in my prayer journal who are making their journey to their final destination, heaven.  Amen.

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