It is our solemn duty to pray for the poor souls in purgatory. They are suffering and longing to be with their God.
What is Purgatory?
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
Purgatory (Lat., “purgare”, to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.
The faith of the Church concerning purgatory is clearly expressed in the Decree of Union drawn up by the Council of Florence (Mansi, t. XXXI, col. 1031), and in the decree of the Council of Trent which (Sess. XXV) defined:
“Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has from the Sacred Scriptures and the ancient tradition of the Fathers taught in Councils and very recently in this Ecumenical synod (Sess. VI, cap. XXX; Sess. XXII cap.ii, iii) that there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar; the Holy Synod enjoins on the Bishops that they diligently endeavor to have the sound doctrine of the Fathers in Councils regarding purgatory everywhere taught and preached, held and believed by the faithful” (Denzinger, “Enchiridon”, 983).
Why Should We Pray for the Souls in Purgatory?
The Poor Souls Are Suffering – They’re Really Suffering!
We do not know for sure what form the purification takes, but we know that purification of the soul in purgatory is extremely painful.
St Thomas Aquinas tells us:
“The more one longs for a thing, the more painful does deprivation of it become. And because after this life, the desire for God, the Supreme Good, is intense in the souls of the just (because this impetus toward him is not hampered by the weight of the body, and that time of enjoyment of the Perfect Good would have come) had there been no obstacle; the soul suffers enormously from the delay.The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”
Therefore, we should pray to bring them relief.
Most of Us Will Experience Purgatory – Don’t You Want As Many People Praying For You As Possible?
One of the benefits of praying for the poor souls is that, one day we will need friends who will pray for us. These poor souls will one day be in heaven and will pray for you, when you’re going through your purification.
The Catechism of The Catholic Church tells us that the poor souls will be eternally grateful.
“In the communion of saints, “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory, and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things”(CCC 1475)
Ten Ways to Bring Relief to the Poor Souls in Purgatory
1) Make reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the Souls in purgatory
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a 17th Century French nun and mystic, received many apparitions from Jesus during her life. In one of her visions, he showed her his Sacred Heart and said:
“Behold the Heart that has loved men so much that It has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify to them Its love. But in return I receive from the greater part of mankind only ingratitude, by reason of the contempt, irreverence, sacrilege, and coldness shown Me in this Sacrament of Love.” This divine complaint is duly noted in this prayer!
Therefore, it behooves us to periodically make atonement for this disregard of the Lord’s Sacred Heart and at the same time, we can sometimes offer it up for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.
Here is an example of an Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
2) Pray the Rosary for the Holy Souls
The Rosary for the Holy Souls is basically the standard rosary but it specifically mentions and remembers the souls in purgatory. Here is an example of how this is beautifully done.
“ The Agony in the Garden
Lord Jesus Christ, through Your bloody sweat of fear that You shed on the Mount of Olives, we ask You to have mercy on the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Bring to completion their purification and console them with the Cup of heavenly comfort.”
3) Offer Up Holy Communion for the Souls in Purgatory
You don’t need to say a special prayer. You just need to ask the Lord that the graces you would have received at that particular holy communion be applied to the Poor Souls.
4) Offer Gregorian Masses
“The practice of Gregorian Masses goes back to a tradition hailing from Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-604). According to legend, a deceased monk appeared and requested 30 Masses to be celebrated for the release of his soul from purgatory. On completion of the stipulated days he appeared once more radiant in heavenly glory. From this legend the practice of celebrating 30 consecutive Masses for one and the same person with the intention of procuring release from purgatory became an established custom which has been regulated in various ways over the centuries.” EWTN
5) Pray the Eternal Rest prayer.
Get into the habit of praying the “Eternal Rest” prayer whenever remember, like when you pass a cemetery, after your meals, or before you go to bed.
V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
R. 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. Amen.
V. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.
R. Et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.
6) Pray St Gertrude’s Prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory
According to tradition, the Lord told St Gertrude, a 13th century German nun and mystic that this prayer, when piously recited, would release 1,000 souls from purgatory:
“Eternal Father, I offer You 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, for those in my own home and in my family. Amen.”
7) Sprinkle Holy Water on the Ground:
St John Macias used to sprinkle Holy Water on the Ground for the souls in purgatory.
Say the following prayer:
“By this holy water and by Thy precious blood, wash away all my sin, O Lord, and relieve the souls in purgatory,” and then make the sign of the cross.”
We should always give to charity with the intention of helping the poor souls. St John Chrysostom says “Not by weeping, but by prayer and alms-giving are the dead relieved.”
9) Sacrifice & Mortification
Give up something small for the intention of providing relief for the Holy Souls in purgatory, or add an extra devotion, especially when you don’t feel like it.
10) Last, but not least: Promote the Mission to Pray for the Souls in Purgatory
Speak to those in your parish about praying for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. I know a woman who has an apostolate where she hands out for free, copies of Hungry Souls: Supernatural Visits, Messages, and Warnings from Purgatory. In that way, she helps Catholics to learn about the plight of the poor souls and encourages then to pray for them.
For those who never had a devotion to the Poor Souls in Purgatory, I hope this article has convinced you to at least set aside some time, daily, weekly or even monthly to help the Holy Souls in Purgatory in some small way.
There will come a time when we will all need the same attention.
Created 2017. Updated 2018.
Recommended Books on Purgatory
- Hungry Souls: Supernatural Visits, Messages, and Warnings from Purgatory
- On Purgatory: The Members of the Church Suffering (De Controversiis)
- Purgatory: Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints
- Life and Revelations of St. Gertrude the Great (with Supplemental Reading: A Brief Life of Christ) [Illustrated]