“It is in your power to bring them relief”
(the Merciful Lord to Saint Faustina)
On the eighth day of the Divine Mercy Novena, which precedes the Feast of Mercy, we remember the Holy Souls in Purgatory. These souls, whose salvation is now assured, still suffer terribly in that place and state, on account of the earthly imperfections from which they are now being purified. The Holy Souls cannot help themselves – they have no power to free themselves nor to lessen their sufferings. Indeed, they would not wish to, for they now have full knowledge of their needs prior to entering Heaven. Their greatest torment is their longing for God.
We, however, have the power to assist them and to alleviate their sufferings.
We can do this by bearing with humble submission and resignation to the Divine Will whatever the good God wishes to send us in life; to bear all for love of Him, uniting our earthly sufferings to those of Christ Crucified and to the sufferings of the Most Blessed Virgin; and to offer prayers and sacrifices for the speedy release of these Holy Souls.
But above all else, we can have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered for the Holy Souls – nothing is as efficacious as the Mass, which is the offering of the Lord to the Eternal Father.
For our part, we can sometimes forget about these Holy Souls, despite our good intentions. We are more conscious of their needs during the month of November, that month which is dedicated to them; but their needs exist all year long.
So perhaps it is useful to remember that among them are souls we have known in life – loved ones, parents, children, relatives, friends, benefactors, Priests and Religious who have taught and supported us and ministered to our spiritual needs; as well as all those whose names are known only to God, and who perhaps have no-one to remember them and pray for them.
Remember, too, that it is all too easy to assume that a particular soul, whom we may think was ‘holy’ in life, who lived a good life and died a good death, now is already in Heaven and so has no need of our prayers; but we do not know the state of any soul. Only God knows that. And so, it is prudent to pray for those souls also, who are in need as much as any other soul. We should never presume to know the eternal fate of any soul.
It is a spiritual Work of Mercy to pray both for the living and for the dead – and in this extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, this is a particularly salutary practice; it is one we would do well to continue long after this special year has ended.
One simple way to remember the Holy Souls in Purgatory is by making a simple Morning Offering, remembering to explicitly offer all our thoughts, prayers, sacrifices and sufferings of the day for the intention of the Holy Souls as well as any other intentions we have, and to offer all this in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, through and with Her to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
It is also good practice to leave to the Most Holy Virgin the application of any graces or merits we may be granted, for She knows far better than us where these are most needed and by which souls. In her Diary, St Faustina refers to this role of the Mother of God when she writes –
“I saw Our Lady visiting the souls in Purgatory. The souls call Her ‘the Star of the Sea’. She brings them refreshment.” (Diary, entry #20)
In doing all this, we follow the tradition and practice of the Church, and the example of numerous Saints and Popes who have gone before us in the Faith – in more recent years, for example, St Faustina, St Gemma Galgani and St Pio of Pietrelcina.
It is worthwhile remembering, too, that one day – God willing – we shall be amongst these Holy Souls; and then, we, too, will depend on the merciful prayers and sacrifices of others, offered on our behalf.
Our Lady, Star of the Sea, pray for them.