The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed

By Neilan D’souza

All Souls’ Day is a day of prayer and remembrance for the faithful departed and we Christians commemorate this day on the 2nd November; through prayer, intercessions, alms and visits to cemeteries, we commemorate the poor souls in purgatory and gain them indulgences in hope that they may rise to heaven.

What we must observe in the Catholic Church is that the terms “the faithful” refers essentially to baptized Catholics; “all souls” commemorates the church of souls in Purgatory, whereas “all saints” commemorates the church triumphant of saints in heaven.

Interestingly, according to Catholic belief, the soul of a person who dies can go to one of three places. The first is heaven, where a person who dies in a state of perfect grace and communion with God goes. The second is hell, where those who die in a state of mortal sin are naturally condemned by their choice. The intermediate option is purgatory, which is thought to be where most people, free of mortal sin, but still in a state of lesser (venial) sin, will go.

Then, what is this purgatory all about? Why does it exist in the first place? Why does the Catholic Church believe in this so strongly? In short, purgatory is a temporary space and the word the Church uses to describe a state of spiritual “cleansing” which occurs after we die. We are told in Scripture that nothing impure will enter into heaven (Rev. 21:27), but we are also told there are sins which we commit which are not “deadly” (or mortal) to our relationship with God, meaning, they do not completely break our relationship with God (1 John 5:17). Purgatory lies at the intersection of those two scriptural teachings: that we need to be completely cleansed of sin before we enter heaven, and that we can have sins on our soul when we die that do not damn us, as mortal sins do.

The Catholic Church teaches that the purification of the souls in purgatory can be assisted by the actions of the faithful on earth. The theological basis for the feast is the doctrine that the souls which, on departing from the body, are not perfectly cleansed from venial sins, or have not fully atoned for past transgressions, are debarred from the Beatific vision, and that the faithful on earth can help them by prayers, alms, deeds, and especially by the sacrifice of the Holy Mass. Which is why we Christians consider this holy day important and offer our prayers and practice sacred rituals all over Asia in our own indigenous ways so that the souls of our dearly departed, including everyone else be united in communion with God in heaven.

Why do we pray for the souls in purgatory? –

All Souls’ Day –



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