On November 2, we will once again celebrate the important Feast of All Souls Day. Traditionally, we Filipinos on this day troop to cemeteries to pray for our loved ones. Due to Covid restrictions, however, we may not be able to visit the cemetery, but that does not mean we cannot make this day a special day for our dearly departed loved ones. It is on this day that we should offer extra prayers for them.
In this article, we will share two amazing stories from saints on the suffering souls in Purgatory. These two stories prove to us that yes, Purgatory is real, and that the suffering of souls in Purgatory are intense. We therefore need to pray for the suffering souls in Purgatory, particularly our loved ones.
But before we share these two stories, let us answer first the question: Why should we even pray for our dearly departed loved ones? Aren’t they already in Heaven? Aren’t they already resting in the arms of the Lord?
Souls in Purgatory Cannot Pray for Themselves
The Catholic Church teaches that after we die, our souls go to only one of three places or states: Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. Very few souls can go to Heaven directly, because most souls need to be completely pure to deserve the Beatific Vision of God. After death, most souls go either to Hell, or to Purgatory.
Purgatory exists because although our sins are forgiven by the Lord every time we repent and confess during the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the effects or consequences of sin are not wiped out. Every sin we commit in this life leaves a stain in our souls which need to be purified in the cleansing flames of Purgatory. We cannot enter Heaven until such time that all such stains on our souls are completely purified clean in Purgatory.
We therefore need to assume that our dearly departed loved ones are in Purgatory. Souls in Purgatory cannot pray for themselves. They can pray for us, but they cannot pray for themselves in order to shorten their time in Purgatory or alleviate their sufferings.
But we, their relatives who are still on earth, can help shorten their stay in Purgatory and alleviate their suffering if we offer prayers for their souls. This is the reason why we should pray for our departed loved ones, especially on All Souls Day, and the whole November in fact.
We should assume that our departed loved ones are in Purgatory. Otherwise, if we mistakenly assume that they are no longer in Purgatory and are in Heaven, then they will be left in Purgatory with no one to pray for them!
“That Prison of Suffering”—St. Maria Faustyna Kowalska
St. Maria Faustyna Kowalska, most commonly known as St. Faustina, was a Polish nun who received various visions and messages from the Lord. It is from her visions that the Church received the now popular devotion to Jesus, the Divine Mercy. In one vision which she recorded in her diary, she tells the story of a vision of Purgatory that she had:
“I saw my guardian angel, who ordered me to follow him. In a moment I was in a misty place full of fire in which there was a great crowd of suffering souls. They were praying fervently, but to no avail, for themselves; only we can come to their aid. The flames, which were burning them, did not touch me at all. My guardian angel did not leave me for an instant. I asked these souls what their greatest suffering was. They answered me in one voice that their greatest torment was longing for God.
“I saw Our Lady visiting the souls in purgatory. The souls call her ‘The Star of the Sea.’ She brings them refreshment. I wanted to talk with them some more, but my guardian angel beckoned me to leave. We went out of that prison of suffering. [I heard an interior voice, which said] ‘My mercy does not want this, but justice demands it. Since that time I am in closer communion with the suffering souls.’” (Diary of St. Faustina 20)
“As Much Pain as in Hell”—St. Catherine of Genoa
St. Catherine of Genoa was a 15th century nun was is known for her incredible mystical experiences. She narrates her mystical experiences of purgatory as follows:
“No tongue can tell nor explain, no mind understand, the grievousness of purgatory. But I, though I see that there is in purgatory as much pain as in hell, yet see the soul which has the least stain of imperfection accepting purgatory, as I have said, as though it were a mercy, and holding its pains of no account as compared with the least stain which hinders a soul in its love.
“I seem to see that the pain which souls in purgatory endure because of whatever in them displeases God, that is what they have willfully done against his so great goodness, is greater than any other pain they feel in purgatory. And this is because, being in grace, they see the truth and the grievousness of the hindrance which stays them from drawing near to God.”
How Can We Help Souls in Purgatory?
Yes, Purgatory is real! Souls who are there, including many of our departed loved ones, do suffer intense pain. But the great news is that God, in His mercy, allows us to help our departed loved ones in Purgatory have a shorter, less intense stay in Purgatory, through our prayers!
The highest form of prayer we can offer for our departed loved ones is, of course, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This November, let us offer as many Masses as we can for our departed loved ones.
After the Mass, there are many other beautiful and powerful prayers we can recite for our loved ones in Purgatory. Laudate Mariam has produced a 4-minute video that shares 3 beautiful and powerful prayers for the souls in Purgatory. Watch the video below, and join the prayers for 4 minutes!
It is recommended that we pray these prayers every day for our loved ones. All it takes is 4 minutes of our time to show our love for our departed loved ones by praying for them these 3 powerful prayers.