WE ALWAYS DO THINK OF them, don't we, as the poor souls in Purgatory. That seems curious, from one point of view; from one point of view they are so much better off than we are. You and I might go to hell; they can't. We sometimes think of them enviously for that reason. They are like friends who have gone on ahead, and successfully jumped over the precipice that lay in our path; we haven't jumped it yet - how much better off they are than we! Yes, but from another point of view they are hard up, the holy souls, desperately hard up. We can still merit; they can't. Nothing they can do can give them any relief, can bring them any nearer to the heaven which is their only desire, their only dream.
If you will, they are like people who have got plenty of money at the bank, but no cash in their pockets; what is the use of money if one can't get at it? So they ask for our prayers, which can help them; our prayers, which we ought to give generously, just as the saints give their prayers to us. So, each year, November reminds us about the Communion of Saints; about the help we can get, about the help we can give. You remember the fable about the lion which was caught in a net, and the mouse that helped it by eating through the net so that it could get out? You and I are like that when we pray for the souls of Christians departed. They are much more splendid people than you and I are; they are already on the last lap of their journey home. But they are held up on that journey, and they can't help themselves; we can help them, and it isn't presumptuous to think of ourselves as helping them, even splendid people who have fallen gloriously in battle - we are the mice nibbling away at the bonds which hold them, that is all.
- Ronald A. Knox, "The Communion of Saints (I)",
The Creed in Slow Motion