Sometimes we use expressions without really thinking about what they mean. Take for example the common name of today, All Souls. In an earlier time when "soul"meant person ( e.g. There wasn't a soul in the place) it was a bit more accurate. But even then we are not praying for all people. Nor are we praying for all people who have passed, as we say in the south.
Yesterday we celebrated All Saints, all those who have won the prize, as it were. Yesterday was about remembering that they continue to pray for us, as they enjoy eternal life in heaven.
If some poor soul is in hell, no prayer will help them.
Today is called the Commemoration of All the Departed, the ones in the middle. Will they enter heaven? Yes. But there is a final step. In the words of the Catechism:
1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
We call this purification purgatory. One should note that purgatory is defined by process not location.
All Souls is imprecise on two fronts:
1) We believe in the resurecction, that is salvation, of the body as well as the soul.
2) Today is neither about those in heaven or in hell, but those faithful departed, who still need to experience the final purification.
The 1st through the 8th of November in particular we are encouraged to visit cemeteries and pray for the departed. Our tendency of course is to pray the most for those who perhaps need it the least, the most beloved of our relatives.
Perhaps this year is a time for us to consider praying for those died alone and on the margins of society, those who faith was known to God alone. The thousands of people who were forgotten even before they died.