Have you prayed for the souls in purgatory lately?

Good question.

We have a tendency, I think, to forget — and to worry, instead, about our own personal concerns: the kid who is failing chemistry, the bills that are past due, the anxieties that keep all of us up at night, staring at the ceiling, whispering to God, “Help me.”

But blogger Kathy Schiffer offers a timely reminder:

Well, some of you may know that my mother died recently; and over a period of days, I talked with many people—many of whom assured me that she was most certainly already in heaven.  They said it in different ways:  “She suffered her Purgatory here on earth, during her time in the nursing home.”  “She’s finally at rest.”  “God has taken her to be with Him.”  “She’s happy with your dad now, at last.”

To which I say (excuse my bluntness), “How the hell would you know that?”

The effect of Purgation, as I understand it, is that the person becomes Shiny Like God.  Only when all sin is eliminated, when the soul shines with a purity and grace unknown on this earth, will he or she be ready to enter into eternal happiness in heaven.

That could happen in an instant, or over a long period of time. In our casual culture, it’s common to act as though the deceased person has already passed through any unfortunate suffering which might be imposed, and is already in the arms of the Father.  But why would we presume that?

I remember a story from a childhood book on Our Lady of Fatima.  Mary, speaking to the three young visionaries, told them that one young woman—a girl of about 14, if I recall—“would be in Purgatory until the end of Time.”   What sort of great sins must this young girl have accumulated in her short lifetime, to warrant such a delay in welcoming her to Heaven?  (You might take a minute right now to pray for that girl—since she may, in fct, still await admission to the pearly gates….)

*     *     *     *     *

The Council of Trent, Session XXV (December 3-4, 1563), reconfirmed the long-standing teaching of the Church, “that Purgatory exists, and that the souls detained therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but especially by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar.”

Please don’t let Presumption blind you to the need to pray for those who have gone before us.

Please pray for my mother, who remained imperfect despite her confinement and who, no doubt, fell short of reflecting the full glory of God.  Of course, much can be forgiven due to her frailty; and if we, her children, cut her some slack for her obstinacy, how much more must her Heavenly Father love her and want to hold her to Himself?

But unless you have some super-duper inside track with St. Peter at the gate, you don’t really know what’s goin’ on with Mom right now.  And if she’s waiting, in need of our prayers, and you aren’t there for her, you know how much she’d like to hit you upside of the head?  Pray for her.  Pray for her always, until the day you die, because you just don’t understand what it’s like out there in Eternity.  If she’s already in Heaven, your prayers can be reassigned to some poor bloke who needs them.  But don’t stop!

Please pray for my other relatives, too. My father was a good and faithful man, and he died many years ago; but what do we on earth know of his experience outside of Time, and whether he is even yet with God in Heaven?  Please pray for him.

And when I die, please pray for me. The Lord (and my husband) know that I’m not perfect.  And no one knows just what it will take for me to reach that state of perfection where I’ll feel properly dressed to go in to the banquet.

I won’t be able to tell you then, so let me tell you now: I am one heck of a piece of work, and it’s gonna take a lot to polish me up for heaven.  Your prayers, especially your offerings of Masses, are so needed, and so appreciated.

Pray for me, and I will pray for you.

Read it all.  And pray for the souls in purgatory, okay?

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8 responses to “Have you prayed for the souls in purgatory lately?”

  1. Of course we should pray for the souls in Purgatory. But is being in a state of purgation at odds with being in the hands of a loving God? It isn’t presumption to be able to trust our loved ones to the care of God. I had a hard time with this after my mom died, having suffered from cancer for many months. It helped me to talk to our pastor, who emphasized that God loved her even more than I could, and that she was in His keeping. Praying for her was something which I could do for her, but ultimately her (and everyone’s) salvation is accomplished by Jesus Christ. I feel that images of purgatory which imagine the departed soul as a prisoner, or undergoing torture, or somehow “lost” between this earth and heaven are neither helpful nor theologically accurate, and only add to the burden of grief experienced by family and loved ones. ( I know Kathy’s post isn’t saying this; I am venting a little bit because I read things along these lines sometimes, and find them less than helpful). We don’t have to be afraid to entrust our loved ones to God. Even if they have some issues to deal with before they are admitted to the Beatific Vision.
    Father Benedict Groeschel’s book “Arise From Darkness” had some very enlightening and comforting things to say about purgatory, and loss of loved ones.

  2. “But is being in a state of purgation at odds with being in the hands of a loving God?” should read, “But does being in a state of purgation necessarily have to be at odds with being in the hands of a loving God?”

  3. Melody,
    “But does being in a state of purgation necessarily have to be at odds with being in the hands of a loving God?”

    IMHO Absolutely not.

    Peace to all

  4. how sad !!! this blogger has absolutely no assurance that she or her family will be with JESUS for eternity !
    PURGATORY > NO !! JOHN 5 : 24 > YES !!
    What must we do to be saved ? ” believe in the lord JESUS and you shall be saved ” ( ACTS 16 : 31 )
    And if that is not enough , look at : ROMANS 10 : 9 & 10
    Works have no part in ” justification “. The only thing that can make any sinner acceptable to GOD is the imputed merit of the LORD JESUS CHRIST !
    Scripture warns of people preaching ” another gospel “.
    ” FIGHT truth decay , read the BIBLE every day “.

  5. Jim, we actually *do* believe that all those in purgatory are on their way to heaven, and that they will be with Jesus for all eternity. We also believe that we are saved by the cross of Jesus Christ, and that there is no way we can earn our way to heaven; that would be the heresy of Pelagianism. The belief in purgatory is not about earning one’s own way or appeasing God. However sometimes we bend over backwards so much to avoid the sin of presumption that it is not immediately obvious that we believe these things, even though the Church has always taught them.

  6. Yes, we pray for them at mass:

    The old words are – “welcome into your kingdom our departed brothers and sisters and all who have left this world in your friendship.”

    (The new words are “To our departed brothers and sisters and to all who were pleasing to you at their passing from this life, give kind admittance to your kingdom.”)

    And at daily mass there’s always a lady who prays for “all the holy souls in purgatory” during intercessory prayer.

    We’re on top of it.

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