Main image: Souls being harried by demons, Doom Painting, All Saints, Hastings. Photo: © W Perkins 2021.
All Souls’ Day is the third day of Allhallowtide; a day of remembrance for the ‘faithful’ departed through the action of prayer, intercessions & the giving of alms. Christians commemorate the ‘poor’ souls in Purgatory* in an attempt to gain them indulgences.
Indulgences were believed to be a way to reduce the amount of punishment that the dead had to undergo for their sins (Peters 2008:13). It was believed that the purification of souls in Purgatory could be assisted by the actions of the faithful on Earth.
The Catechism of the catholic church states that such actions can provide a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to past sins.
The ‘Doctrine of the Souls’ states that those departed from the body are not ‘perfectly’ cleansed from venial sins (or have not fully atoned for their past transgressions).
Purgatory was believed to have been an ‘intermediary’ state after physical death for the expiatory purification of the soul – the final purification of the elect. Purgatorial fire was believed to have been ‘expiatory’ not punitive like Hell-fire (Mershman 1913).
* (Latin, “purgare”, to make clean, to purify)
Historic England (2022) Church of All Saints. *, List Entry Number: 1353127.Date first listed: 19-Jan-1951.Statutory Address:CHURCH OF ALL SAINTS, ALL SAINTS STREET.
FOSMC (2022) ‘A Short Guide to the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, Newington-next-Sittingbourne, Kent.’ Church booklet.
Mershman, F (1913) Purgatory. New Advent
Peters, E (2008) A Modern Guide to Indulgences; Rediscovery of This Often Misinterpreted Teaching.
Osei-Bonsu, R (2012) “Purgatory: A Study of the Historical Development and Its Compatibility with the Biblical Teaching on the Afterlife” in Philosophy Study, ISSN 2159-5313 April 2012, Vol. 2, No. 4, p. 291