For the Holy Souls

Holy Souls
Holy Souls being released from Purgatory

It is November, the month dedicated to the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

Some years ago now, a dear Priest friend, gave me a book called Hungry Souls, about the plight of these Holy Souls.

I found the book heart-wrenching, as the author detailed reported visitations and experiences of the Holy Souls, pleading with us, the living, to pray for them.

Converting to the Catholic Church in the year 2000, I received no instruction at all about the Holy Souls and their desperate need for our prayers and sacrifices on their behalf.

So, for many years, as a Catholic, I was unaware of the importance for us to pray for the Holy Souls, particularly in the month of November.

Let us then consider this November month. The liturgy begins on the first, with a celebration of the Church Triumphant on All Saints Day.

It then immediately takes us, on the second of November to the Feast of the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed, All Souls Day, where we pray for the Church Suffering. We are then invited throughout the month to especially offer prayers and sacrifices for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

For as the St. Andrew’s Missal tells us:

It is a precept of charity to relieve our neighbour’s wants as if they were our own, in virtue of the supernatural bond which unites in Jesus those in heaven, in purgatory and on the earth.

In other words, being united in the Mystical Body of Christ, Holy Mother the Church we are all in some way responsible for each other.

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For, each and every one of us, whether we are part of the Church Triumphant in Heaven, the Church Suffering in Purgatory, or the Church Militant on earth, together form the Mystical Body of Christ, in which we are one Church and one people.

We all desire the same reward – to come home to our Father in Heaven, whether we be from Africa, the USA, India or Europe. Whilst our individual lives are very different, in terms of environment and circumstances, we are all heading towards the same goal: to follow our Lord into Heaven.

If this is truly our goal, we therefore have a duty, not only to continually examine our own consciences and lives, but also to help those who have left this world before us.

The Holy Souls, it is said, are unable to help themselves. They rely on God’s mercy and our prayers on their behalf, to procure God’s mercy for them. And to help the Holy Souls gain entrance to Heaven also helps our own salvation. For once in Heaven, their prayers are greatly beneficial for us.

It is believed that the poor souls in Purgatory experience a two-fold suffering. On the one hand, they suffer the fires of purification, needed to cleanse them of their sin, in order that they may enjoy the eternal banquet.

Yet, there is a greater suffering – the suffering of separation from God. For they can sense God, perhaps they see Him, or feel Him, but they cannot be with Him, because of their sin.

St. Paul tells of this process in his first letter to the Corinthians. He speaks about the need for the purging of sin and of the purification that will take place, which is necessary for the victory over death to be complete.

Our Lord Jesus Christ has gained victory over death, yet, we too must play our part. And so St. Paul writes:

Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall all indeed rise again: but we shall not all be changed.

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible: and we shall be changed.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption; and this mortal must put on immortality. And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?

Now the sting of death is sin: and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast and unmoveable; always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.’ (1 Corinthians xv. 51-8 – used, in part, as the Epistle for the Mass on All Souls Day.)

This is a work, a duty, to uphold the victory over death. Our duty is to be ‘steadfast and unmoveable; always abounding in the work of the Lord.’

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This most necessary of works is never undertaken in vain. And yet, as I have said, this was missing from my Catholic formation.

My first encounter with this practise was when Roger and I lived close to a community of sisters in rural Switzerland.

For the whole of the month of November, the Priest there wore black vestments and we all prayed in the small cemetery next to the chapel each day after Holy Mass. This was very special.

And now here in Ireland I am so very touched by the number of people who pray by the graves of their deceased loved ones and friends.

We live opposite our Parish church and cemetery and there are often people visiting and tending the graves.

I have noticed this practice in cemeteries all around the country. Also, my current Irish confessor always asks me to pray my penance for the Holy Souls.

When Roger and I lived in Carmarthen, South Wales, our Parish Priests would offer every Mass that was not offered for a particular intention, for the Holy Souls.

It is well known that Holy Mass is the most efficacious form of Prayer and very much so, in aiding the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

As was declared at the Council of Trent:

The souls in purgatory are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, especially by the sacrifice of the Altar.

This is because, as the St. Andrew’s Missal has it:

In Holy Mass the priest offers officially to God the ransom for souls, that is the blood of the Saviour.

Whilst Holy Mass is the most efficacious form of prayer, other prayers and sacrifices are also very important. As it states in Hungry Souls:

Poor souls indeed very often ask for holy Masses; but an expiatory act of high value is also the offering up of Holy Communions, even of so-called spiritual communions. Furthermore, prayers, alms, indeed all acts of charity and all and every ordinary daily work; all mortifications and sacrifices that are offered to God for the relief or release of the suffering souls.

Since reading the book, Hungry Souls, I have been offering daily prayers and sacrifices for the Holy Souls, such as the Holy Rosary, the recitation of the Profundis and the prayer of St. Gertrude the Great.

Each day, in the early hours, I enter the cemetery and implore mercy for the Holy Souls. I also offer my prayers and Holy Communion at Holy Mass.

I highly recommend this book, Hungry Souls (available at Amazon here)  for it brings the reality of the poor souls into focus and may well encourage others, like myself, to pray daily for the Holy Souls.

Please remember, we have a vital role to play in praying for the Church Suffering, for, as it is said, they are powerless to help themselves.

Here below are some prayers used to aid these Holy Souls in Purgatory.

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De Profundis,  Psalm 129

Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord; Lord hear my voice.

Let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.

If Thou, O Lord, shalt observe iniquities, Lord, who shall endure it?

For with Thee there is merciful forgiveness: and by reason of Thy law I have waited for Thee, O Lord.

My soul has relied on His word; my soul hath hoped in the Lord.

From the morning watch even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord.

Because with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him plentiful redemption.

And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Eternal rest give to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Let us pray

O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of Thy servants departed the remission of all their sins, that through pious supplications they may obtain that pardon which they have always desired; who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer of St. Gertrude The Great

(St. Gertrude reported that Our Lord told her that this prayer would release 1000 souls from Purgatory each time it is said.)

Eternal Father, I offer Thee The Precious Blood of thy Divine Son Jesus in union with the Masses said throughout the whole world today for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

A Petition for the Souls Suffering in Purgatory – Rev. Francis Xavier Lasance, written to be recited before our Lord in His Blessed Sacrament.

O God of all consolation, sole Author of salvation of souls, have mercy on those who suffer in purgatory.

Look with compassion on the greatness of their torments: they are more keenly devoured by their ardent desire of being united to Thee, than by the purging flames wherein they are plunged.

With them, I adore Thy avenging justice, and confess the equity of Thy judgments.

But since Thou art pleased favourably to hear the prayers which the members of Thy Holy Church offer to Thee in behalf of their brethren, graciously hear the supplications which I now address to Thee for those suffering souls.

Remember, O Lord! Thou art their Father, and they are Thy children.

Forget the faults, which through the frailty of human nature they have committed against Thee during the course of their mortal pilgrimage.

Adorable Jesus! Victim of propitiation both for the living and the dead! Vouchsafe, in Thy quality of Redeemer, to apply the merits of Thy passion and death to the relief of those souls whom Thou punishest as their sovereign Judge.

Remember Thy faithful followers and Thy spouses. Let some drops of that Precious Blood which Thou hast shed for their salvation flow on those devouring flames; and let the infinite price of that Sacred Blood afford a full satisfaction for their offences.

Deliver them, O most merciful God! from that place of darkness and torture, and call them to a place of refreshment, light and peace.

Grant them the possession of the Sovereign Good, after which they so ardently sigh, and for which Thou hast created them.

Receive them into Thy paternal bosom, where they will praise and love thee to all eternity.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.


(Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them.)

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