Praying for the dead
By Daniel Charland
In the Catholic Church, many months have special devotions. For example, June is devoted to the Sacred Heart, July to the Precious Blood, and October to the Rosary. As we near the end of the liturgical year along with the chilly change of seasons, it’s only fitting that November be dedicated to praying for the dead. Specifically, the souls in Purgatory.
The Catechism defines Purgatory as: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of haven,” (CCC 1030).
In other words, everyone who is in Purgatory is going to get to Heaven someday, but they have a lot of suffering and cleansing to do beforehand. Why must they go through this? Because Heaven is the abode of God, who is perfection Himself. Only a person cleansed of their sins through the temporal punishments of Purgatory could even stand to be in the presence of something that wonderful. For someone who hasn’t achieved that, it would be like staring at the sun; they just wouldn’t be able to handle it. However, this suffering isn’t filled with despair like it is in Hell but an experience of great consolation from assurance of salvation. Much like students during finals week, it’s the one last push before freedom and peace. Of course, the comparison stops there, as a final can determine your grade while there is no such system for souls. Instead, they are joyful in their suffering because they know with certainty that Heaven is just around the corner.
Since the entirety of the Church is united—whether in Heaven, Purgatory, or on earth—it’s only natural for us to all look out for each other. We, on earth, can pray for the souls in Purgatory to ease their suffering and speed up their cleansing process. It’s good to do this in general but making it personal, like specifically praying for a loved one who has passed on, will motivate you to pray more. While it’s tempting to think of your grandma as instantly being in Heaven, it’s important to remember that we all have imperfections and all have a decent chance of passing through Purgatory before entering paradise.
But have no fear, because your prayers ease the process and even strengthen the spiritual bond between the person(s) in mind. While any prayer is helpful, there are a few special ones that are particularly powerful. The Mass, of course, is the most powerful prayer of all. Never underestimate the significance of offering a mass for someone, since it’s the prayer where Jesus takes a physical role. Another prayer is the Prayer of St. Gertrude, said to be given to the saint by Jesus, who promised that one-thousand souls would be released from Purgatory every time it is said.
“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.”
As a bonus, prayers for souls in Purgatory are a great investment of your time, since the bond that you build with the souls—and their gratitude for your help—is so great that they will intercede for you in your own times of need on earth.