Spring a Friend — the All Souls Day way

Not by weeping,” says St. John Chrysostom, “but by prayer and almsgiving are the dead relieved.” 

Know anybody that passed away this past year? Time to visit their grave and pray for them, because you can get a soul out of purgatory today due to that wrinkle which permits a plenary indulgence to be gained for a soul in purgatory today, All Souls Day. Remember:  This is the beginning of acknowledging your end – a key to gaining wisdom.

Wait! Before you ask:  someone always says, “but how do you know they are still in purgatory? Isn’t that presumption?”  No. If you go to a cemetery and pray for the soul of a person who isn’t in purgatory, do you think God will waste the merited grace? After all, since you have no way to know, God won’t waste any of it. Grace isn’t cheap. Today, however, when doing this act on behalf of a deceased person, it’s easy at least.


After first saturday Mass, I was fortunate enough to be able to find the grave of a recently departed friend.

Go by a Church or a cemetery and pray for a soul today!

All Souls’ Day was introduced in 998 by the abbot Odilo of Cluny. Over time, Popes extended the practice to the universal Church. It wasn’t a novel idea, though, as early as the fourth century, St. John Chrysostom spoke on the prayers for the dead saying, “these practices of Christians are not meant for mere show, but that they are ordained by the Holy Spirit.”

The bishops of the Church at Florence (1439), and Trent (1445-1463) expressly defined that there is a purgatory. The idea of purgatory is common in history. The Egyptians believed in the transmigration of souls into animals. Among the Greeks, we have the story of Prometheus, condemned to be bound to a rock and his liver gnawed by a vulture, because he stole fire from heaven. The Jews had the same belief, for they offered sacrifice for the dead, as we saw in the case of Judas Machabeus.

Likewise, the early Christians were accustomed to pray for the dead during the holy sacrifice. St. Augustine relates that his mother St. Monica, on her death-bed, said to him and his brother: “Bury me where you will; only, I pray you, think of me always at God’s altar.”

St. John Chrysostom continued his discussion on prayers for the dead saying the Christians from the very beginning prayed during Mass for the dead by order of the Apostles. Thus, this practice, having come from the Apostles is like that chief sacramental, making the Sign of the Cross, also given from the Apostles.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem writes : “It is of great service to pray for the dead when the holy sacrifice is being offered.” Hence the oldest Mass-books contain prayers for the dead. Reason also teaches that there must be a purgatory. We know, for instance, that nothing defiled can enter heaven (Apoc. xxi. 27) ; yet there is many a man not so wicked as to be lost forever; and if he can enter neither heaven nor hell there must be a third place where he can be purified.

The faithful on earth can help the holy souls in purgatory by good works; in particular by prayer, fasting, alms-deeds, by offering or being present at Mass, by receiving the sacraments and gaining indulgences. The holy souls cannot help themselves, since they can no longer do good works to satisfy for their sins. After death “the night cometh when no man can work” (John ix 4).


See Fr. Z’s listing of the ways to get a plenary indulgence for a holy soul here.

So you can’t get to a Church, a cemetery, or even drive past one? At least say a prayer (or an extra prayer) for the holy souls. The grace won’t be wasted!

As to making such a prayer, God does not regard so much their length as their fervor. Christ once said to St. Gertrude: “A single word from the heart has far more power to free a soul than the recital of many prayers and psalms without devotion; the hands are cleaned better by a little water and much rubbing than by merely pouring a large quantity of water over them.”

We are not to conclude from this that in ordinary cases a short prayer, an Our Father, for instance, will at once set free a soul — on this point, says Maldonatus, “God would be very cruel if He kept a soul, for which He had shed His own blood, in such terrible suffering for the sake of an Our Father which had been omitted.”

Did I move you to pray for a poor soul yet? One heartfelt Our Father can do so much!!! Get cracking!

This article, Spring a Friend — the All Souls Day way is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

John B. Manos

John B. Manos, Esq. is an attorney and chemical engineer. He has a dog, Fyo, and likes photography, astronomy, and dusty old books published by Benziger Brothers. He is the President of the Bellarmine Forum.

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