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Thirty Days for the Holy Souls: A Practical Way to Survive November

Thirty Days for the Holy Souls

Lawrence OP

Cari Donaldson - published on 11/04/13

Recovering from Halloween, preparing for Christmas, voting, Thanksgiving - November is a busy month. But don't forget to pray for the dead.

October has finally passed, and so the tedious “Hooker Halloween” and its backlash spawn, “Neo-Puritans Sucking All the Fun Out of the Holiday,” have trotted off for another year. There was a brief flare-up of “Whoever Came Up With Time Changes Did So Only to Drive Parents Insane” vs. “Stop Your Griping So I Can Shame You Into Spending That Extra Hour With Your Kids,” but I was too busy trying to remember which clocks I’d changed and which I hadn’t to pay it much mind.

Facebook seems to be pretty evenly split between those who spend November spreading messages of thanksgiving and those who spend their time spreading ridiculous political memes that make us all discernibly dumber by pretending that you can distill a complex social issue into a pithy statement on an e-card.

November is an anxious month – the giddiness of fall foliage has more or less fallen, been raked up, and thrown onto the compost pile, and we find ourselves with a growing sense of dread that the holiday season is zooming toward us – and the fact that you’re going to try this year, darn it, to remember the real reason for the season. In the end, however, it all just makes you feel even more stressed.

I’ve started laying in wait for the mail lady, sort of hiding in the bushes from my kids, so I can snatch the mail and purge the toy catalogs before they can be seen. There are few things that press my buttons like the “I want [insert favourite toy name here] for Christmas” mantras that are always triggered by the Target toy catalog.

There have already been murmurings about the Thanksgiving menu, and my mom (bless her heart) has called no less than three separate times specifically to ask me about Christmas gift ideas for the kids. I bought an evergreen wreath from a Boy Scout who came knocking at my door the other day, but I swear I’ll stick a purple bow on it during Advent.

Thank God that the Church, like the excellent mother she is, has the perfect tonic for our anxious, irritable, November-bound selves.  What better way to stop griping than to remove the focus from ourselves? What better way to dispel irritability than by cultivating compassion? And so, November has been set aside as a month to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory with more frequency than we probably do normally. It is a whole month to remember those who have gone before us, and who are undergoing final sanctification; a whole month to shift the focus from our troubles and passing inconveniences, and to help those who can’t even whisper a scrap of a prayer for themselves.

Light a candle every day. Visit a cemetery. Pick a group of souls to pray and sacrifice for on a daily basis. I silently choose a different one of my kids every day, and each time they do something that would normally make me yell or beat my head against the wall or drive me to drink at one in the afternoon, I just offer it up for the Holy Souls. Today, for example, I’m praying for the souls who have been in Purgatory the longest, and I’ve secretly picked the three-year-old as my target child.  Good news, all you Holy Souls longest in Purgatory – the toddler has already been caught scribbling on the walls, eating sugar by the spoonful, removing his sister’s diaper and wearing it on his head, and attempting to streak all the kids at the bus stop. I’m offering up things left and right for you, and if the boy continues at this rate, a sizable portion of you may be seeing those Pearly Gates by sundown.

Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the Universal Church, for those in my own home and in my family. Amen.

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