What do we know about purgatory and the Holy Souls... Read more
How to Be a Living Sacrifice for the Dead
By Andy Leeco (Oct 1, 2014)
The Marian Fathers turned a conference that focuses on the dead into a call to the living.
"We need to put our prayers into action," Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, told more than 100 people at the fourth annual Mercy for Souls Conference on Sunday, Sept. 28, at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
The conference's theme was "Divine Mercy and Parish Ministry." In their talks, both Fr. Dan and Marian seminarian Br. Charley, MIC, underscored the critical — and often forgotten — need to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, those faithful departed who still must be purified from sin. Through our prayers, we come to their aid, that they may enter more quickly into the fullness of Heaven.
Father Dan noted that prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory has been one of the Marians' charisms since Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski founded the Congregation in Poland in 1673. Today, the Marians continue to share this charism with the laity through the Holy Souls Sodality, for which Fr. Dan serves as spiritual director. The conference drew Sodality members from throughout the country.
In addition to praying for the dead, Fr. Dan urged attendees to minister to the living.
"One of the thoughts that I wanted to share is doing something in your own parish about the Holy Souls in Purgatory," said Fr. Dan, who was the principal celebrant and homilist for Holy Mass. "I'd like to recommend either starting a bereavement society in your parish [with approval of your pastor] or becoming more involved if there is already one in place."
He explained the practical applications of bereavement societies.
"The job of a bereavement society is to contact the family," he said. "To give them a little booklet usually with the readings that have been chosen by the pastor and recommended by the Church that would be involved in a funeral Mass or at least at a chaplet service. There is also a list of music. Then you can present that to the family. Often they realize, 'Oh, there's a song that the deceased enjoyed or that's a reading that really speaks to the life of the one whom we are burying today.'"
The other important duty of the society, he said, is to provide support for families during stressful times.
"They organize people who would provide a casserole for a family that is grieving," Fr. Dan said. "When you are in the midst of having to deal with the planning of a funeral, especially if it was sudden and unexpected, nothing can be better than to receive a casserole or two from parishioners. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. It just has to be comfort food. A meatloaf and some mashed potatoes go a long way to saying, 'I love you. I care for you. I recognize you as another member of the family of God here at our parish.'"
Father Dan continued, "Recently, I was caring for my parents, and I was so grateful when one of my cousins said, 'Why don't I make a roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and some vegetables.' I said, 'Great!' That cousin instantly became my favorite relative."
Then Fr. Dan pointed out that while this is an important work of mercy, it doesn't have to be an all-consuming part of your life. He said the key was to keep it simple.
"These are practical acts of charity — 'Here, these are the readings that are usually used. This is the music that is frequently suggested. Here, have a chicken wing on me.' It doesn't have to be complicated. You just need to sit down with your pastor and say, 'Father, we'd like to be of assistance.'"
A number of those in the audience were enthusiastic about introducing Fr. Dan's ideas to their parishes.
"We are certainly going to give it a try," said Betty Lou Novak, who attended the conference with her husband, Hubert. They travelled almost 1,900 miles to Stockbridge from their home in Shiner, Texas. Why? Because of their devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory, a devotion that led to their meeting each other in the first place. Both had lost spouses.
"We pray the Rosary every day for our deceased spouses, our parents, and Hubert's sister," Betty Lou said. "We actually met at the cemetery praying for our deceased spouses. We never were looking for anyone, but God put us together."
Doug and Irene Johnson, who had traveled more than 3,000 miles from Corvallis, Oregon to come to the event, were also very enthusiastic about Fr. Dan's suggestions. "We have a Divine Mercy cenacle, and this could be another of our works of mercy," Doug said. "We timed our trip to Boston to our son so that we could come to this event."
The day began with Mass at the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine. Here's Fr. Dan's homily:
Following Mass, Marian seminarian Br. Charley, MIC, gave a "Purgatory 101" talk that also encouraged the faithful to turn their prayers into action. He noted that the Church dedicates the month of November to the Holy Souls in Purgatory.
"Take the week of Nov. 1-8 and pray the Rosary at a cemetery or just say a quick Eternal Rest Prayer as you drive by a cemetery," Br. Charley said. That prayer is as follows:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
"It's a very simple prayer and it's helping the Holy Souls," said Br. Charley. "You would be surprised how many cemeteries you pass while driving."
He continued, "If you have kids or grandkids, you can make it a game. The first one to see a cemetery can be the one to start the Eternal Rest Prayer. Bring some joy and fun into praying for the souls."
In the following video, Br. Charley explains why prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory is one of the Marians' charisms — and why it should be a duty undertaken by all of us.
Joan Lane, who had a much shorter drive to the conference from her home in Stockbridge, said she converted to Catholicism in 2001 and found Br. Charley's talk to be just what she needed.
"I'm still learning about the Holy Souls," she said. "I did not know that they couldn't pray for themselves. It behooves us to pray more diligently."
Father Dan ended the conference by reminding attendees of the importance of putting our prayers into action.
"I hope we have given you something to think about and pray about, that we have given you ideas for ways of making the Holy Souls Sodality something a little bit more than just a prayer group," he said. "We also need to put our prayers into action: to share from our hearts the love of Christ that we have so that others might come to know him, and to love him and to serve him more profoundly."
For more information on the Holy Souls Sodality, visit PrayForSouls.org.