The whole month of November is dedicated to increasing devotion to aid the souls in purgatory. I came across a great article on this topic in National Catholic Register written by Joseph Pronechen and printed October 24, 2011. The article is an interview with author Susan Tassone. Here are excerpts from the article:
“What is the best devotion to help the souls in purgatory? The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the chief source of devotion for the holy souls. So, the most powerful means to relieve or release a soul from purgatory is through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. You’ll find that in the Catechism. It says it in 1032: “From the beginning, the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.” After the Mass, the next most powerful way to help the souls is the Rosary, the most powerful Marian prayer on earth — in her approved apparitions, Mary says pray the Rosary for peace in the world, in your hearts, in your family —and the Stations of the Cross, because they’re indulgenced. You have to be in the state of grace to help the souls in purgatory. When we pray for the souls, we’ve got to remember we’re giving them paradise, the face of God, when we get them out sooner from purgatory. Our prayers are shortening this horrible suffering of being without God. They then show us their gratitude in the same proportion to their joy.
Why do we need constant reminders to have Masses said for the dead and offer prayers for them? Why pray for the holy souls? Because God’s justice demands expiation of their sins. Christ told St. Faustina that His mercy didn’t want to send a soul to purgatory, but His justice demands it (Diary 1226, 20). He places in our hand the means to assist them. We are their only resource. We have an obligation to pray for our loved ones. Can we say that one goes straight to heaven? Can we say that soul was totally pure and holy and in line with God’s will to go to heaven at once? We don’t know what the state of the soul was at the hour of death, and we tend to canonize everybody. Only God knows the state of the soul, if it is totally in line with his will. He’s all-holy and majestic and pure. But we’re given this great power and privilege to release souls from purgatory. Only we are the deliverers. Christ turns to the Church militant. Heaven encourages us. For whatever reason, we’ve been given this great honor and privilege. We’re responsible to pray for our dead.
But what happens if the soul then gets to heaven and you continue to have Masses and prayers offered? The common answer is that God will apply those Masses to other souls in purgatory or to the most in need or souls in your family. But there’s more: If the soul is already in Heaven, and you continue to have Masses said for them and continue to pray for them, what they get is a term we get from Thomas Aquinas — “accidental glory.” The soul gets an increase in its intimacy with God and an increase in its intercessory power. So the lesson is this: Never stop praying for your dead, no matter how long they’ve been gone. You continue to push them up higher. The prayers are never wasted. God is never outdone in generosity.
Why do you often point out the importance of having Masses offered while the person is alive, including Masses for yourself? I asked Father Edward McNamara, well-known professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum in Rome about that. There are three main reasons why Masses should be offered for loved ones while alive. First, it’s an infinite gift. It never stops giving. A living person is still capable of growing in sanctifying grace, so the effect of this incredible grace is they may willingly receive it to be more Christ-like. You have to respond. When you have Masses offered for loved ones and you pray, they respond to the grace. Second, if it’s offered as intercession for a person in the state of actual mortal sin, it may supply the grace necessary for conversion. Third, it also fits in the sanctity of healing people. Who do you miss the most? Who do you wish you could have done more for? Who helped you spiritually and temporally? Who had a major impact on your life? Your enemies or those who hurt you: Have Masses said for them. Have Masses said for yourself. Mass heals the living and deceased. Pray for the living now, for their eternity. Purgatory points to the seriousness of sin and points out we have to pray and do penance in our own lives. The Catechism says, in 958, “Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.” They can’t help themselves, but they can pray for us. So, the more we pray for them, the more effective their intercession is for us.
Why are they called poor souls and holy souls? They’re called poor because their poverty is the loss of the sight of God. They’re called poor because they can no longer merit; they can’t help themselves. They rely totally on us. We’re their only resource. Nothing is done alone. The Church Militant reaches out to the Church Suffering and joins them to the Church Triumphant. And they’re called the holy souls because they can no longer sin. They know they’re saved. They know Heaven is awaiting them.
How can we avoid purgatory? St. John of the Cross said, “God provides.” So avoid sin. Pray the Rosary. Go to monthly confession. Accept trials. Forgive. The more you pray on earth —constant, fervent prayer throughout life —the closer you will be to getting out of purgatory if you go there.
Do the souls in purgatory help us in this regard? Because of their great love for us, they’re not only anxious for leaving purgatory, they’re most concerned about our salvation, especially the salvation of their loved ones. They can intercede for us while in purgatory. Their prayers help us recognize our sins and help us understand the malice of sins. And so they reproach us through inspirations of the Holy Spirit. They want us to become holy and saints here. They don’t want us to go to the true purgatory.
Do you have any other advice? Perhaps for educating children that seems especially appropriate with Halloween and All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day coming up? Pray for the dying. Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for them. Your prayer can give a soul the grace of final repentance. Join the Pious Union of St. Joseph for the Dying. Nov. 1-8 you can receive a plenary indulgence when you visit a cemetery on those days and apply it to a soul in purgatory. Remember the children. Teach them the meaning of All Souls’ Day. Take them to the cemeteries. Teach them to sprinkle holy water on the graves. Plant the seed of reverence for the dead, and, in due time, this will assure us of their aid. We need to learn from purgatory, avoid purgatory and empty purgatory.” (for the whole article, please see http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/how-to-help-the-holy-souls-in-purgatory)
Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Columbkill, may God bless the Holy Souls in Purgatory and bring them to Heaven!
In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel
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