Saints, Sinners, and Sojourners

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Reflection from the Past

I saw my grandmother today – when I caught my reflection in the mirror! I was shocked to find how much I looked like her. She often wore her long hair up in a bun fastened by a comb on either side to keep it in place. My Saturday morning basement cleaning project had necessitated putting up my own hair. Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror temporarily jarred me from my mission. It has been decades since my grandmother died, and I hadn’t thought about her for some time. While my hands got back to work, my mind remained occupied with memories of her, and of many loved ones who have died.

“Lord, have mercy on their souls.”

Liturgical Year Ending

November is the month in which we pray for the souls in purgatory.  November also comes at the end of the liturgical year. This is a time in which the Church directs our attention to the last things: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. The liturgical calendar officially ends with the Feast of Christ the King, and rightly so as Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. However at the beginning of November we celebrate the feasts of All Saints and All Souls. These feasts give us opportunities to call upon the help of the holy men and women in Heaven and to pray for the souls of our “faithful departed.”

The Church has clear teachings on the saints and also on the souls in purgatory. It is worthwhile to learn more about these teachings. Armed with this knowledge we can more fully participate in the prayers of the Church on earth (the Church Militant) as we ask the intercession of the saints in Heaven (the Church Triumphant) and beg mercy for the souls in purgatory (the Church Suffering). We are brothers and sisters in the one family of God. Prayer is one way of helping each other forward in our goal to be one with God in Heaven.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1030 states, “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death, they undergo purification, to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”  We, still sojourners on earth, can help mitigate the sufferings of those souls in purgatory by our prayers and sacrifices.

Bound Together in Love

Because my mother was widowed at a young age, intercessions for my father and relatives who had
died was a big part of our daily rosary prayers. We learned about relatives we never met as she included a litany of deceased family members in the intercession. When she told us about them, we not only could picture them as persons, but we learned of their struggles, trials, and choices. As
children, we could appreciate that their lives and choices had real impacts on our own lives. We are thankful for our deceased loved ones, and we pray for them out of love and gratitude.

As we make a point to consistently pray for the souls of our departed loved ones, we can also teach our children to make this a part of their prayer life. Our children should know that they are also members of the Church who prays for souls in purgatory. Here are some suggestions on how to participate in family prayers for the souls of our loved ones:

    1. Include this traditional prayer after meals: “We give You thanks, Almighty God, for all Your benefits, and for the poor souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, may they rest in peace. Amen.”
    2. Teach children the traditional Morning Offering Prayer that includes the souls in purgatory.
    3. Let driving by a cemetery be a reminder and opportunity to pray for loved ones who have died and also for all those buried in that cemetery. Ask children to join in this prayer.
    4. Remember to pray for loved ones on their death anniversaries. Offering a Mass for them is a tradition that we should continue and teach to our children.
    5. Offer up and teach children to offer little sufferings and sacrifices for the souls in purgatory.
    6. Learn about and understand the Church’s teaching on indulgences (CCC 1471) and teach older children about them.


My grandmother had golden hoop earrings that she wore permanently, and I remember them because she wore her hair up. I recently bought a pair of golden hoop earrings, and I wear them occasionally. They remind me of people who lived before me, generations of them, who cooperated with God and participated in relationships that transmitted life to me, which is now being transmitted to my children. Some of them probably lived as saints, but most as sinners like me. Thus, I pray for them and teach my children to pray for them. Doing so is an act of love and a spiritual work of mercy.

Copyright 2020 Nannet Horton

Nannet Horton is a wife, mother, homeschool teacher, NFP teacher, and CGS catechist. She enjoys being a student of the Catholic faith and teaching it to others. Her first book, “Missionary Parenting – Cultivating the 6 Key Relationships Essential to Your Domestic Church,” is co-written with her husband, Bob.

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