I’ll never forget my maternal grandfather telling me this boyhood recollection of his Catholic upbringing in New Orleans. It seems that the good Sisters who taught him in grammar school imposed upon the children a vivid awareness of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, and the communion that exists between the militant Church and the suffering Church. They taught their young charges a little ditty that was set, appropriately enough, to the melody of Chopin’s “Funeral March” (from the Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35). If you know the tune, sing these words to the main theme: “Pray for the dead and the dead will pray for you!” Haunting, isn’t it. You won’t get it out of your head. I haven’t for almost four decades.
Speaking of New Orleans and Purgatory, an interesting bit of Crescent-City history involves the Holy Souls. On this day, Catholics in this most Old-Word of American cities customarily went to their scenic cemeteries — with their famous above-ground tombs — to clean up, whitewash, beflower, and otherwise maintain and beautify the habitations of their loved ones’ earthly remains. Of course, the whole enterprise followed logically from the doctrine of Purgatory and the charity we’re to have for the suffering souls. But despite these associations with Catholic dogma and praxis, the cultus of the cemetery visit caught on, and, at least in olden days in the Big Easy, even Protestants could be seen on All Souls Day paying their respects to the dead.
Catholic culture can be a powerful channel of grace.
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And now, a few offerings on Purgatory and the Holy Souls:
Remember: The Holy Souls Need Your Prayers — article by Christine Bryan
Saint Odilo — a short bit on the Benedictine Abbot who gave us All Souls Day
The Gift of Purgatory — an apologetics article by Jack McManus
Proving Purgatory — another apologetics article, by your humble servant
Purgatory, Indulgences, Predestination, and Relics – an Apologetical Wrapup — by Father M. Philipps
Rome’s Purgatory Museum: A November Pilgrimage — an article about an interesting church in Rome