November Prayers for the Dead
In the month of November, the Church traditionally remembers things involved with the end: the end of our lives, the end of time, the second coming of Christ, the four last things (death, judgment, heaven, hell). We begin with All Saints Day and All Souls Day, then conclude with the Solemnity of Christ the King and the beginning of the season of Advent, a time of special preparation for Jesus' return in glory. It's a great month to remember what really matters in life: our eternal destiny and that of those around us.
Keeping with this theme, praying for the dead is an important tradition in November as well. Those who die in a perfect relationship with God will immediately experience the glory of God in heaven. But those who are not yet perfect (or in other words, are still holding on to some attachments to things that aren't God) when they die will go to heaven, but through the purifying sufferings of purgatory. It's in purgatory that the soul is made perfect so that it can behold the glorious beauty of our God.
Our prayers, works, joys, and sufferings, when offered up for these holy souls in purgatory, can become means through which God can "speed up," if you will, this purifying process in purgatory. In other words, we can offer these things up to their benefit. (There's more on how this is possible below.)
With this in mind, below you'll find a link to a pdf file that contains prayers for the holy souls in purgatory corresponding to each day in November. We encourage you to add these prayers as part of your spiritual routine this month, and consider keeping those in purgatory in your prayers all year round, for the benefit of our brothers and sisters in purgatory.
Link to the November Prayers for the Dead PDF
How Can Our Prayers Benefit Our Brothers and Sisters in Purgatory?
Jesus Christ, in His suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension (called the Paschal mystery), destroyed death and opened up the way for eternal life to those who follow Him. His sacrifice is the all sufficient sacrifice that obliterated our sins, restored our fallen human nature to a state more glorious than before Adam's sin, and gave us the opportunity to have eternal life with God in heaven.
But St. Paul gives us something interesting to think about in Colossians 1:24. "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake," he writes, "and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church." If Jesus' sacrifice was the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, how does this make any sense?
Here we must remember how the Church views the Paschal mystery. Although Jesus' sacrifice was substitutionary (he took on our punishment), it's so much more than that: it's participatory. We don't simply remember the extreme love of Christ that landed Him on the cross and gives us salvation. We participate in the Paschal mystery with Christ! Consider how many times St. Paul says in the New Testament that if we've died with Christ, we will rise with Him. Our lives are bound up with that of Christ, who united us to Himself in Baptism. This makes it possible for all our prayers, works, joys, and suffering to be offered with Christ in his ultimate sacrifice to the Father on the cross. It's through offering our lives as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) that we die with Christ so as to rise with Him to the glory of the resurrection in heaven.
This offering takes place in a special way through the sacraments, which are unique participations in the Paschal mystery. Consider how St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:16 that "the cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?" If we are participating in His Body and Blood, are we not participating in what this Body and Blood did? Our sufferings, inconveniences, prayers, joys, and works can be offered in the Mass, with Jesus on the cross, for the salvation of the world. For more information on this, especially concerning the Eucharist, look up Dr. Scott Hahn's talk The Fourth Cup on FORMED.org, or on YouTube.
So this brings us back to praying for the dead. These prayers are not just pious thoughts concerning the afterlife or our departed brethren. When offered with Jesus, they become a means through which God the Father can unleash the power of the Paschal mystery. These prayers, or perhaps fasting or almsgiving as well, offered as a sacrifice for their sake provides an opportunity for Christ's grace to speed them on to their goal of heaven.