Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the beauty of the colors. Of course I have many fond memories of playing in the leaves. At the farmhouse we had 6 or 7 very large trees tha
t after dropping their leaves would be the source of leaf piles so large that an adult could get lost in them. I also love the fall because it is a time of harvest and bounty. I love apples, apple cider and pumpkins and, yes, pumpkin pie; YUM! It all just speaks to me of a time of plenty. One of my favorite holidays has always been Thanksgiving, mostly because of family, football and food. Of course many people look forward to hunting season as well. I have been known to do a little hunting myself. Still haven't gotten the big buck, but I’m four for four as far as shots taken. There is always so much to look forward to in the fall, as well as a lot to prepare for. Now that we are in the month of November, everything begins to look cold and dead, and nature begins to hunker down for the long winter ahead. It’s a time where preparations have been made and food has been all stored up for the season.
Just as nature speaks of things coming to an end for the season, the Church contemplates the reality of dying. We first remembered all those who have died with the odor of sanctity and now rest from their labors in Heaven. Next we celebrated the feast of All Souls Day, in which we remember and pray for all the souls in Purgatory. These are those souls who still have a process of purification to go through in order to obtain the joys of Heaven. We know that they will make it to Heaven, but upon their death they perhaps had either venial sins on their souls or ripple effects of their sins that they needed be cleansed of. Not many of us like the idea of purgatory, but I actually find it very beautiful and merciful. The reality is, none of us can come before God and remain in his presence with any imperfections, because God is perfect. To share in the fulness of His life we need to allow His grace to perfect and purify us. If we don't quite get that finished up while we are alive on earth, we will have to go through the process of purification or purgation in Purgatory. The issue is that once we leave material time and space, we can no longer make reparation for ourselves. Our time for meriting purification is over and we have to passively undergo God’s purifying fire. St. Paul states in his letter to the Corinthians that “each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:13-15).
While is is true that the souls in purgatory can no longer merit purification for themselves, we who are alive on earth can merit graces of purification through our prayers and sacrifices offered. There is a long standing tradition even among the Jews of offering prayers for the dead (See 2 Maccabees 12:38-45). During the whole month of November the Church has declared that we can earn a plenary indulgence (Full pardon of all sins and full reparation for all effects of sins) for a soul in purgatory. To obtain this indulgence, we simply need to make a visit to a cemetery and pray for the dead, along with all the regular criteria for receiving a plenary indulgence, which are: 1) Go to confession within 20 days of the visit to the cemetery, 2) Receive Holy Communion, 3) Pray at least and Our Father and Hail Mary for the Holy Father, 4) be detached from sin. Remember that when you die you will want the prayers of your loved ones, so take the opportunity to pray for those who have died, during this month. Eternal rest grant unto them oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in Peace.
Fr. Peter Wigton