Why We Pray for Souls in Purgatory | All Souls’ Day
Why Do We Need to Pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory?
Thong Nguyen ‘21, Diocese of Washington D.C.
Fr. Khai Nguyen, a Redemptorist priest, shared a story at Mass: Once he took a bus from Sai Gon to Ha Noi. A man seated near him was also travelling to Ha Noi to visit his mom after many years. When the bus arrived near Vinh city, in the middle of Vietnam, the man said goodbye. Fr. Khai asked him, “Why do you not go straight to your mom? She is waiting for you.” He replied, “I need to buy new clothes, cut my finger nails, cut my hair, and shave my beard before seeing my mom. I don’t want my mom to see me look like this. It will make me happy, and my mom will be happy too.”
The word “Purgatory” comes from Latin purgare which means “to purify” or “to make clean”. The young man in the story above wants to make himself clean before seeing his mom.
Purgatory is a temporary, transitional state between death and eternal life with God. Those in Purgatory are guaranteed of their place in Heaven.
In the Catechism of Catholic Church, “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” (CCC, 1030).
Purgatory is God’s mercy and justice. Purgatory is hope and suffering. Purgatory is the burning love of Jesus Christ.
So, why should we pray for the holy souls in Purgatory?
1. God wants us to pray for them. Praying for the holy souls in Purgatory is God’s intention.
God says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25: 40).
In the Diary of St. Faustina, Jesus let us know that many souls are detained in Purgatory. He told her: “Bring to Me THE SOULS WHO ARE DETAINED IN PURGATORY, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. Let the torrents of My Blood cool down their scorching flames. All these souls are greatly loved by Me. They are making retribution to My justice. It is in your power to bring them relief. Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf. Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice” (1226).
2. They are thirsty and hungry for our prayers and sacrifice.
They cannot earn merit for themselves anymore. We can help them. These are the words of St. Faustina in Diary 20: “I saw my Guardian Angel, who ordered me to follow him. In a moment I was in a misty place full of fire in which there was a great crowd of suffering souls. They were praying fervently, but to no avail, for themselves; only we can come to their aid.”
Padre Pio once said, “More souls of the dead from Purgatory than of the living climb this mountain to attend my Masses and seek my prayers.”
3. Our Lady loves the holy souls in Purgatory and wants us to pray for them.
“I saw Our Lady visiting the souls in Purgatory. The souls call her ‘The Star of the Sea.’ She brings them refreshment” (Diary of St. Faustina, 20).
“O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Your Mercy.” This prayer was taught by Our Lady of Fatima when she appeared to the three children in Portugal in 1917. Sister Lucia, once asked Our Lady, “Can I go to Heaven?” She said, “Yes, you can.” “How about Jacinta?” Mary said, “She can.” “How about Francisco?” She said, “He needs to pray the rosary more.” Lucia also asked about a girl in the village who had recently died, Amelia. Mary said, “She has to stay in Purgatory until the end of the world.”
4. It is clear that the holy souls in Purgatory are suffering. We cannot turn away from their suffering. They may be our parents, grandparents, relatives, friends, and benefactors.
St. John Vianney, who had visions of Purgatory, says: “I come on behalf of God Himself. I come on behalf of your poor parents, to awaken in you that love and gratitude which you owe them. I come to bring before your minds again all those kindnesses and all the love which they gave you while they were on Earth. I come to tell you that they suffer in Purgatory, that they weep, and that they demand with urgent cries the help of your prayers and your good works. I seem to hear them crying from the depths of those fires which devour them: ‘Tell our loved ones, tell our children, tell all our relatives how great the evils are which they are making us suffer. We throw ourselves at their feet to implore the help of their prayers. Ah! Tell them that since we have been separated from them, we have been here burning in the flames’” (Sermons of the Cure of Ars).
Brothers and sisters, this again reminds you and me to remember the sufferings of the holy souls in Purgatory. Do you hear their cry? Do we remember to pray and sacrifice every day for our beloved ones and friends who have passed away?
5. They will remember our kindness.
St. Leonard of Port Maurice says, “If you deliver one soul from Purgatory, you can say with confidence, ‘Heaven is mine.’”
St. Louis Guanella wrote, “The holy souls in Purgatory will obtain for us an increase of the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Faith will open the doors of paradise and will kindle in us the light of joy that radiates Heaven. Hope will lift us away from mire of the earth and will lead us by the hand to ascent up high. Charity will say ‘Come, come!’ and give us strength and carry us in its bosom until we are in the presence of the Most High God.”
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let the perpetual light shine upon them.
And may the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.