Hello! Yesterday (now two days ago: this is what happen when I work late), 1 November, was All Saints' Day, and today (now yesterday) is All Souls' Day, when we think of those who have died. These two days are a new experience for me so I'm still trying to understand what's up with them and what I should be doing to properly recognize them.
As a Protestant I thought Purgatory was a place for the dead to have a "second chance," to try to make up for less than holy lives they lived on Earth. It seemed totally unfair and nonsensical to me. As I've learned more, I've realized it isn't in place to allow people do-overs. The following verse helps:
"For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: Every man's work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)
At the close of our lives, we will be judged. Jesus Christ is the foundation for salvation and our works--acts of charity, prayers, instruction--exemplify the faith we have. These works are all performed while on earth but are tried by fire to determine their worth. Purgatory is for the refinement of our souls, bringing us to fuller holiness. It is only a temporary state: those in Purgatory will advance to Heaven (collecting far more riches than $200).
There is more to be said on these matters, but the focus (one of them, at least) of All Souls' Day is to pray for the souls in Purgatory, that they will soon be welcomed into the light of His face.
A slight problem with this day is the phrase I keep hearing about praying for our "family and friends" in this circumstance. The problem is I don't know if I know any dead Catholic loved ones. I know my great grandma was Catholic at one point in her life, but that she became Baptist later.
Fortunately, as history necessitates, my ancestors some time must have been Catholic. You can't be a Protestant before the Reformation or a Baptist before the first Baptist-labeled church in 1609 with John Smyth. Maybe my line of Protestantism began in that very church, maybe it arose much later. In either case, though I've never known them personally, I do have family that are in need of my prayers. Maybe as their children converted, they wondered how long it would be until their descendants prayed for them.
Eternal rest grant unto them, Oh Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.