by Susan Tassone –
The month of November is dedicated to the holy souls in purgatory. There is great wisdom in the Church giving us this month. Our charity and gratitude not only demand we pray for the holy souls, but our faith requires our prayers to help them join the house of the Lord.
During November, Veteran’s Day, on Nov. 11, is a special day dedicated to those, living and deceased, who have served in the United States Armed Forces. I come from a family of servicemen who served in all branches of the military: father, godfather, uncles, nephew and cousins.
According to statistics from the Department of Veterans Affairs, 325,574 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II were still alive in 2020. Some 610,000 Vietnam War veterans were still alive in 2019. And there have been many other wars and conflicts in between and since that have killed or harmed our military men and women. Many of them still suffer the terrible consequences of war, which also impacts their families. They need our support and prayers.
The Church invites us to look to all those who have walked this path and in a special way to honor our war dead. In addition to praying for them, we can offer a Mass for them, and can visit the gravesites of those deceased during the month of November and impart our indulgences to them. One of the greatest gifts is to offer a Novena of Masses or Gregorian Masses (30 consecutive Masses), which can be done through many different orders, including the Pious Union of St. Joseph and Seraphic Mass Association. The National Blue Army Shrine frequently offers Novenas of Masses for loved ones and enrollments in Perpetual Mass Associations (call 908-689-1700, Ext. 233).
If praying for deceased persons who have no further need of purification, the prayers are not wasted. The deceased in heaven receive an increase in their intimacy of God’s love and an increase in their own intercessory power as “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” (Heb 12:1) St. Thomas Aquinas called this “accidental glory.” Never stop praying for your dead. God is never outdone in generosity!
Padre Pio and deceased soldiers
St. Padre Pio had a special relationship with the holy souls. He once said that he encountered more souls from purgatory than he did those who were in this world!
Padre Pio received souls, including those of deceased soldiers during World War II, who, it was said, lined up for his intercession. In one case, a monk who lived with him spotted strange soldiers near the friary’s fireplace. Wondering how they got in, Padre Pio explained that they were not actual soldiers, but departed spirits who stopped by for help on their way to the hereafter. Such souls beseeched him constantly, and he offered his powerful two-hour Masses along with personal sufferings for their release. He knew the importance of supplication.
Pope Pius XII and the war dead
When I was completing a book, Prayers, Promises and Devotions for the Holy Souls, (OSV). I found every kind of prayer for every circumstance for a deceased soul except a prayer for the war dead. I searched everywhere, but to no avail.
While doing research at Feehan Memorial Library & McEssy Theological Resource Center, at University of St. Mary of the Lake, in Mundelein, Illinois, I found myself on the top floor among rare books written on St. Bernadette. I pulled a book off the shelf and stuck in the pages was the 1946 Apostolic Intention from Pope Pius XII, titled The War Dead for the Month of November.
It was a beautiful prayer and reflection, perfect to complete the book and very fitting here:
“Those who have fallen in battle deserve to be gratefully remembered. Innocent citizens who were killed are to be counted among the heroes who faced the enemy without weapons. In life, they were ready to carry on with quiet bravery, doing the ordinary things necessary for life. Dying, they did not lose confidence in human government; in death they utter no reproach.
Now some are buried under the pile of rubble of shattered cities; the remains of others are scattered about in deserted prison camps. Many of them died in the state of grace, it is true, but suddenly and without the benefit of the Last Sacraments, and with a debt upon their souls.
We could not minister to them and ease their pain while they were dying, but through our prayers, we can help now and obtain for them a speedier release from their sufferings in purgatory.
Divine Redeemer, at your Ascension you preceded us in order to prepare a dwelling with your Father for your followers. We beg you to allow the souls of our departed ones to take possession of this eternal home in peace and blessedness, where sorrow and war and death are forgotten. May your holy angels keep watch at their tombs until resurrection day when you will call their bodies also to glory. You who live and reign eternally. Amen.”
Susan Tassone is the author of 14 best-selling award winning books, including Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. She wrote this for the Fall 2021 issue of Soul Magazine.