Mary Who She Is and Why She Matters

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Photo: Luca Giodarno - Madonna and Child with Souls in Purgatory

How Can She Assist the Souls in Purgatory?

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As we enter the month of December, the month in which we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us focus on Mary and how she can help the souls in Purgatory. Father John Larson, MIC, offers some insight into how Mary assists the souls in Purgatory.

From the standpoint of official Church teachings, there is at least one thing that points to Mary helping the souls in Purgatory: an ancient prayer of the Mass.

It is the collect or opening prayer for a Mass celebrated for deceased relatives, friends, and benefactors, and it is the same in both the extraordinary and ordinary forms of the Latin Rite. The new English translation of this prayer is:

O God, giver of pardon and loving author of our salvation, grant, we pray you, in your mercy, that through the intercession of Blessed Mary, ever-Virgin, and all your Saints, the members, friends, and benefactors of our community, who have passed from this world, may attain a share in eternal happiness. Through our Lord Jesus Christ ... (Roman Missal, 3rd Edition, page 1413).


Clearly, the Church believes that the prayers of Our Lady and the saints can be helpful to the souls in Purgatory.

Mary is the mother of the Church Suffering: If the Blessed Virgin Mary is not only mother of the physical Christ but also the mother of the mystical body of Christ, then it follows she is Mother of Christians on earth, in Heaven, and in Purgatory. The first two are sometimes referred to as the Church Militant and Church Triumphant. The souls in Purgatory are referred to as the Church Suffering. Therefore, we can say that Mary is the mother of the Church Suffering. We have the marvelous certainty that "Mary is ever pleading for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and that her intercession merits more than that of all the saints and angels taken together" (Drinan, R., "Mother of the Church Suffering," Ave Maria Magazine, Vol. 70, Oct. 29, 1949, pg. 551).

Mary has the ability to intercede in a special way: In the Raccolta, A Manual of Indulgences, a prayer asks the sorrowful Virgin Mary to "present unto Him (the Eternal Father), together with the dolorous Passion of thy dear Son, thine own sighs and tears, and all the sorrows thou didst suffer in His suffering, in order that, through the merits of the same, refreshment may be granted to the souls now suffering in the fiery torments of Purgatory" (Prayer no. 595 in the 1952 edition). Her participation at the foot of the Cross in the work of redemption gives her the ability to intercede for the souls in a special way.

Many saints were confident of Our Lady's intercession for the souls in Purgatory.

Mary has a special ability to help: Saint Thomas Aquinas explains that the saints in Heaven cannot merit, and thus their prayers for the souls in Purgatory do not bring the relief that our prayers and sacrifices for the souls do. Our Lady has a special situation, though, because she was involved in the meriting of all graces as the associate with the Redeemer in the work of redemption. Her mediation is universal, and thus she has a special ability to help the souls in Purgatory.

Mary is the "consolation of the souls in Purgatory": In the writings of St. Brigid, she tells about hearing Jesus say to His mother: "You are My Mother, the Mother of Mercy, and the consolation of the souls in purgatory." She also mentions Mary telling her that as a poor, sick person, bedridden, suffering, and abandoned, is relieved by words of encouragement and consolation, so are the souls in Purgatory consoled and relieved by only hearing her name.

Mary brings them refreshment: St. Faustina had a vision during her postulancy with the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in which her Guardian Angel took her to Purgatory. She says, "I saw Our Lady visiting the souls in Purgatory. The souls call her 'The Star of the Sea.' She brings them refreshment." She also heard an interior voice say to her, "My mercy does not want this, but justice demands it" (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 20). Purgatory is a result of the justice of God, but Mary is there providing the souls with refreshment.

Souls are often visited and relieved by Mary: Saint Bernadine of Sienna discusses Purgatory in a similar manner, explaining that "that the pains of Purgatory are called waves, because they are transitory, unlike the pains of hell, which never end; and they are called waves of the sea, because they are so bitter. The clients of Mary, thus suffering, are often visited and relieved by her." The above quote was found in St. Alphonsus de Liguori's The Glories of Mary.

The Marian Fathers have talked about this topic in the past, and to close the article, I will quote from an anonymously written article from The Marian (a magazine the Marians in Chicago published in the past) called "The Mother of All the Souls in Purgatory":

Since Mary, Our Blessed Lady, is so solicitous for the souls suffering in Purgatory, we must recommend our faithfully departed friends and relatives to her sincere prayers and intercession. [Let us pray] the Rosary for them. It must be recited often for the souls in Purgatory, and it is here that we must develop a zeal for being present at the wakes of friends when the Rosary is recited for their repose. Mary must be asked to take their souls under her special protection, so that they too may be relieved of their sufferings (p. 4, November 1959).


So as we approach the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8 and enter Advent and the Christmas season, remember the Holy Souls in Purgatory through your prayers and works. Especially have Holy Masses celebrated for their souls. As you do, keep in mind that noted author Susan Tassone tells us that the most souls are released on Christmas Day.

Also, remember at Mass and in your prayers to ask the Queen of the Suffering Souls for her intercession. May she bring them consolation and relief, and may she welcome many of them into the glories of Heaven on Christmas Day.

— Sincerely in The Divine Mercy and Mary Immaculate,
Father Dan Cambra, MIC
Stockbridge, Massachusetts

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