How Can We Aid the Souls in Purgatory?

Catholic Apologetics #8

Purgatory is “the place and state in which souls suffer for a while and are purged after death, before they go to Heaven, on account of their sins. Venial sins, which have never in life been remitted by an act of repentance or love or by good deeds, and grave sins, the guilt of which with its eternal punishment has indeed been removed by God after an act of repentance but for which there is still left a debt of temporal punishment due to His justice on account of the imperfection of that repentance, must be purged away after death by the pain of intense longing for God, whose blissful vision is delayed, and also, as is commonly taught, by some pain of sense inflicted probably by material fire.”[1]

Purgatory is not mere conjecture. Its existence is ancient and definitive, and it must be believed by all Christians. To reject Purgatory is to reject the Christian Faith entirely since it is not possible to be a Catholic and reject any single article of Catholic doctrine.[2] The Catechism of the Council of Trent states in its Canon on Prayer: “Prayers for the dead, that they may be liberated from the fire of purgatory, are derived from Apostolic teaching.”

Just as we pray for others here on earth, we are encouraged by the Church to pray for souls who may be in purgatory. Why? We cannot enter Heaven if we have not been completely cleansed of sin and all punishment due to sin. Unlike the souls in purgatory who cannot pray for themselves, we have the ability, if we are in the state of grace, while still on earth to make satisfaction for the sins of those on earth or in purgatory.

Since the Mass is the heart of the Christian Life, we naturally look to that Holy Sacrifice of Christ, containing the perfect prayer, for our deceased relatives and friends who may still need the help of our prayers. Priests are under a strict obligation to remember in a special way the person for whom the Mass is being offered.

Holy Mass is the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and for that reason it is efficacious.  We are present at Calvary.  Rather than merely remembering the life and death of Christ, we are present at it and partake of the eternal fruits which flow to us from the altar when the priest stands in the place of Christ and offers the Eternal Victim on the altar to God.  We can further receive grace by partaking of the Holy Eucharist, if we are Catholics in the state of grace. And since the Mass truly is the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, it is the most perfect prayer and sacrifice.  As such, there is nothing more glorious that we can offer to God on behalf of the Suffering Souls than applying the fruits of that Sacrifice to them.

The Miraculous Value of the Holy Mass is well documented by many saints whose inspiring writings and visions bear testimony to this: “My son, if men only knew the value of the Holy Mass, they would be forever on their knees listening to it.” (Padre Pio to Vittorio Chimetto)

We should pray fervently and frequently for the souls in Purgatory.  Start by adding the St. Gertrude Prayer to your daily prayers: “Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.”

Remember to mention in your will the desire to have Gregorian Masses, the Holy Mass offered for 30 consecutive days for your soul. Orders like the Servants of the Holy Family[3] still offer this amazing opportunity.

Today, besides offering our prayers or Rosaries for the Poor Souls, do what you can to have the Holy Mass said for them. For instance, you can easily enroll the souls of your departed family and friends in the Purgatorial Society of Rorate Caeli which is offered completely free of charge.[4]

Jesus, Mary, I love Thee: Save souls.


[1] Definition from A Catholic Dictionary, 1951.

[2] Athanasian Creed: “Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the Catholic faith. Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.”




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