This past week saw the Church celebrate two very important dates on its calendar: All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.
All Saints', the original reason for Halloween which was once called All Hallows (Saints') Eve, is the day in which the Saints, known and unknown are celebrated. That includes all those who are still working out their salvation...the Church Militant...which would be you and me.
We are all called to perfection in Christ. We are called to be holy. In other words, we are called to be saints!
While the Church has never and will never say that any person is in Hell, they do, from time to time, declare that a certain person is in Heaven. These are the Canonized saints whose names may be used in the canon of the Mass. In truth, anyone who makes it to heaven is a saint, whether canonized or not. There are countless saints known only to God.
All Souls' Day is the day in which we remember and pray for the dead. Some of those dead will have gone to Heaven. Some will still be having the rough edges worked off in Purgatory. For those in Purgatory, we offer prayer which we hope will shorten their stay there. Those prayers may also shorten OUR stay there!
One need never fear praying for a person who may actually be in Hell. A person in Hell will not be helped by prayer. Their destiny is already set. Any prayers directed that way will be used to help someone who still has hope of Heaven.
Our churches often have a Book of the Dead available for the month of November so people can write in it the names of their deceased loved ones. These dead are remembered at Masses throughout November.
I will not get into a discussion here on "Last Things" which are our destinies of Heaven or Hell. Nor will I enter into an apology of Purgatory. Many have gone before me who have done a fine job of that. Maybe I'll tackle it another day.