Five Things to do for the Holy Souls
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5 Things to do for the Holy Souls
5 Things to do for the Holy Souls

Five Things to do for the Holy Souls

November is dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory (the Church Suffering) and is a perfect time to learn more about Purgatory and help those who are there.

1) Learn about Purgatory.

Purgatory is one of those “hot points” that Protestants and Catholics disagree about. A lot. Martin Luther dropped the Book of Maccabees from the Protestant Bible primarily because it supported the doctrine of Purgatory. Why is Purgatory so controversial?

Here are several books that can help you understand more about this doctrine of mercy.

Purgatory and the Means to Avoid It
Purgatory and the Means to Avoid It

In 1949, this English translation of Fr. Martin Jugie’s acclaimed book — which had gone through seven editions in France — was greeted as a much-needed corrective to popular fallacies about Purgatory, many of which continue to cloud the faith of good Catholics. Chief among those fallacies, writes Fr. Jugie, is that Purgatory is kind of “temporary” Hell, its pains differing only in duration. From this follows many other errors that can lead us seriously astray in our conduct and in our prayer lives.

The Biblical Basis for Purgatory
The Biblical Basis for Purgatory

In The Biblical Basis for Purgatory, author and apologist John Salza (Why Catholics Cannot Be Masons) offers the definitive scriptural explanation of this distinctively Catholic doctrine. Building on the teachings of Christ and St. Paul, he shows how the existence of a place of temporal punishment after death is not only a logical extension of what we know about the reality of sin and God’s justice, but is also a supreme expression of God’s love and mercy.

Purgatory Explained
Purgatory Explained

It is a fact of divine revelation that the soul of every person who dies in the state of grace, but without having made sufficient expiation on earth for his forgiven sins, will undergo the punishment and purification of Purgatory before entering Heaven.  In this fascinating book, Father Schouppe presents the ancient Catholic tradition on Purgatory, how its pains are adapted to the past sins of each individual soul, how they can vary in duration from less than one minute to a period of several centuries, and how they manifest the infinite mercy of God no less than His justice.

2) Attend Mass on All Souls Day

Did you know that priests are only allowed to say two Masses a day? Did you know that on All Souls Day a priest has special permission to offer three Requiem Masses? Did you know that you receive grace for attending Mass? Did you know that you can offer that grace for others? When you add it all up, you have an amazing opportunity on All Souls Day to offer the graces you receive at Mass for those in Purgatory, and you can do it three times!

3) Do some cooking

This doesn’t specifically help the Holy Souls but it does mark the season and hopefully puts you in mind to do something spiritually beneficial once you’ve energized your body.

Soul Cakes

From the Fisheater’s Website:

From the English Catholics we get begging from door to door, the earlier and more pure form of “trick-or-treating.” Children would go about begging their neighbors for a “Soul Cake,” for which they would say a prayer for those neighbors’ dead. Instead of knocking on a door and saying “Trick-or-treat” (or the ugly “Trick-or-treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat”), children would say either:

A Soul Cake, a Soul Cake,
have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake!


Soul, soul, an apple or two,
If you haven’t an apple, a pear will do,
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for the Man Who made us all.

While Soul Cakes were originally a type of shortbread, it is said that a clever medieval cook wanted to make Soul Cakes designed to remind people of eternity, so she cut a hole in the middle of round cakes before frying them, thereby inventing donuts! Fresh plain cake donuts would be a nice food to eat on this day.

Recipe from Catholic Culture:

Cream shortening and sugar. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water to which a teaspoon of sugar has been added. Set aside. Scald milk and add to the creamed mixture. When cooled add yeast mixture and stir until thoroughly blended. Sift together flour, salt, and spices, and add gradually to other ingredients, kneading into a soft dough. Set sponge to rise in warm place in greased covered bowl. When doubled in bulk, shape into small round or oval buns. Brush tops with slightly beaten egg white. Bake in moderately hot oven (400° F.) for 15 minutes. Drop temperature to 350 ° F. and bake until delicately browned and thoroughly done.

Recipe Source: Feast-Day Cakes from Many Lands by Dorothy Gladys Spicer, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960


Beans of the Dead

Here is a recipe for Italian “soul” cookies called Fave dei Morti, “Beans of the Dead.” The theme of beans suggests, among other things, the idea of burial in the ground and rebirth. Sometimes “soul” cookies are called Ossi  dei Morti – “Bones of the Dead” – and are made in the shape of bones. In fact, the central ingredient in all the forms of this cookie us ground or crushed nuts, which are understood to suggest bones. (This theme is also common in bakery items for this day in other countries, such as Mexico.) These perhaps morbid considerations notwithstanding, Fave (and Ossi) dei Morti are delicious.

Ossi dei Morti
Ossi dei Morti

2/3 cup blanched almonds
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tbs butter, cut in small pieces and softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Grated rind of 1 lemon

Place the almonds on a baking sheet and dry them out for 10 minutes or so in a slow oven: 200 F. Reset the oven to 350 F.

Grind the almonds very fine. Place them in a large bowl. Add the sugar, and blend the mixture well with a fork. Add the flour, and the cinnamon, then the butter, then finally the egg,the vanilla and grated lemon rind, mixing well with each addition. With a fork or floured hand, work the mixture to a smooth paste.

Break off large-bean-sized pieces of paste (about 1 inch long), and place them about 2 inches apart on a greased, floured baking sheet. Squash each piece slightly to produce an oval shape like a lima or fava bean.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until they are a golden color.

Yield: about 100 one-inch beans.

Taken from A Continual Feast

A Continual Feast - A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family and Faith Throughout the Christian Year
A Continual Feast – A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family and Faith Throughout the Christian Year


4) Visit a Cemetery

During November you can earn a plenary indulgence for souls in Purgatory from November 1st through November 8th. Here are the conditions:

Receive communion on the day you visit the cemetery and go to confession at least once during this period.

Pray an Our Father and Hail Mary for the intentions of the pope.

A popular prayer to pray at a cemetery would be:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.


All Souls by Bouguereu
All Souls by Bouguereu

5) Remember the dead in your family

Make a list of all of your deceased family members and keep it wherever you say your daily prayers. Put pictures of your deceased family members somewhere where you will be reminded to pray for them regularly.

Here are some books that contain prayers specifically for those in Purgatory.

Thirty-Day Devotions For The Holy Souls
Thirty-Day Devotions For The Holy Souls

The months following the death of a loved one are an especially difficult time. Thirty-Day Devotions for the Holy Souls offers comfort to those who are grieving and gives them a personal and powerful method of praying for their departed family member or friend.

Day by day, here are:

  • Prayers and meditations that console the one who mourns and assist the one who has died
  • Scriptural passages
  • Reflections from Church Fathers, saints, and theologians
  • Answers to the most commonly-asked questions about purgatory.
Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory
Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

Throughout the ages the devotions, prayers, and practices of the Communion of Saints have been offered up on behalf of souls in purgatory, the “Church Suffering.” The saints’ ardent desire to intercede for the holy souls impelled them to pray ceaselessly for their eternal rest.

This inspiring book shows how you can join the saints in this act of divine charity, thereby attaining spiritual gifts for acts done for the souls that cry out to us for relief.

The Rosary for the Holy Souls in Purgatory
The Rosary for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

When we pray this Scriptural Rosary for the holy souls in purgatory, we gain powerful intercessors and increase God’s glory.  It is the greatest work we can do on earth.

Now Susan Tassone has taken the greatest Marian prayer of all – the Rosary – and adapted it to pray for the release of the holy souls in purgatory.

This Rosary not only includes scriptural references to purgatory, but also moving passages that reflect the penitent’s love and concern for the dead, as well as supplications to God for His justice, love, and mercy.






Ian Rutherford is the President and founder of, one of the largest and oldest on-line Catholic stores.

He lives with his lovely wife and eleven kids in northern Colorado.
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