Praying with the Saints for The Holy Souls in Purgatory

Susan Tassone addresses what devotions and practices we can observe for the... Read more


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By Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC (Jun 3, 2012)
As the weather turns warmer, I'm sure many of you are planning some sort of summer vacation. Because praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory is one of the Marians' charisms, I thought I would offer some travel destinations that would allow you to remember the Holy Souls during your travels. Noted author Susan Tassone reminds us that summer is when the Holy Souls are most forgotten.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, Va.

For those who pray for the most forgotten souls in purgatory, this famous tomb is a reminder of how many soldiers and innocent civilians die in wars without receiving the Sacraments or a proper burial. A trip to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has a strong Marian connection to our Father Founder, Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski, and the Marians of today through Fr. (Major) Donald Van Alstyne, MIC, a U.S. Army chaplain who is ministering on the front lines of the war in Afghanistan.

First, praying for the Holy Souls, especially those who died as a result of war, was a central part of Blessed Stanislaus's life and thus is an integral part of the life of every Marian. Father Stanislaus realized that most of the casualties of war were unprepared to meet God, and it moved him to remember them in prayer, especially at Holy Mass. Later, his personal mystical experiences intensified his devotion for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, as he grew in understanding how much they suffer.

Father Stanislaus was keenly aware that those baptized souls who died unprepared would have to suffer the torment of purgatory in order to purify them of all sin, so they could enter, holy and immaculate, into their heavenly reward. He would pray for hours, sometimes spending the entire night in the chapel. There, he would descend in spirit into purgatory and stay with them, praying for them the whole time.

Blessed Stanislaus reportedly ministered as a chaplain in the Polish Army. He felt obliged to extend his spiritual care to the souls of the soldiers who had died in battle by praying at their gravesites. There is even testimony that the souls of the fallen soldiers would appear to him, begging for his intercession before God. He would devote his Masses, prayers, mortifications, penances, and all kinds of works of mercy for the Holy Souls. He always encouraged others to do the same, especially the members of his Congregation.

Father Donald says that his connection to the Holy Souls and to Blessed Stanislaus continues as he minsters to the soldiers on the battlefield in Afghanistan. "Every time I gather for a memorial service and celebrate a separate Mass for those soldiers who were Catholic, I draw upon the spirituality of our Marian Founder, Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski. My soul, like his was, is filled with anguish to see young men and women cut down in the flower of their youth for such a noble cause — the defense of one's country and, in our day, an end to the scourge of terrorism.

"Like our Marian Founder, I know that one of the most important persons on the battlefield is the chaplain, standing side by side with the soldiers who are in harm's way. For many soldiers, this is the first time that they are confronted with the reality of death."

There is no better time to remember the fallen, to remember those soldiers whose remains were lost on the battlefield and those who may die this day, than on a trip to Arlington Cemetery. Or you could make an outing to your local war memorial.

Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C.

Another option is to visit the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C., where there is a spectacular Holy Souls altar in their Purgatory Chapel. The altar is a vivid wood-carved relief of the Holy Souls crying out, beseeching Mary for her intercession, with several angels pouring down vessels of water to symbolize the blessed relief that our prayers give the Holy Souls. Within the chapel, on one side the Old Testament story of "Ezekiel and the Raising of the Dead" is captured in one of the largest mosaics on the property. On the other side is a huge mosaic of Jesus' body being being prepared for burial after He was taken down from the cross.
To visit the chapel, you must take the tour, and reservations are required. In the summer, the tours are scheduled daily at 9, 10, and 11 a.m.; 1, 2, and 3 p.m. The Puragtory chapel is one of stops on the tour and you will have the opportunity to pray for the holy souls. For more information, visit

The National Shrine of the Holy Souls in Berwyn, Ill.

If you live in the Midwest or will travel there this summer, make a visit to St. Odilo Church. It is the only parish in the United States dedicated to the Holy Souls and serves as the National Shrine of the Holy Souls. It was founded and sanctioned as the Shrine of the Holy Souls by His Eminence, Cardinal George Mundelein, in 1928, with a special indulgence granted upon each visit to the shrine. Saint Odilo was the fifth abbot of the Abbey of Cluny in France. About the year 1030, he began the practice of commemorating the dead of his own monastery and its dependent houses the day after the feast of All Saints. This custom spread and was finally adopted universally. Thus November 2 is observed as All Souls Day because of St. Odilo. For more information, visit

If you are not able to travel, here are some suggestions to remember the Holy Souls in your own community this summer:

Pray the Stations of the Cross for the Holy Souls for 33 days at home or at church and, if possible, go to Mass on each of those days in honor of our Lord's 33 years on earth. Pray the Stations especially for those victims of tragedies who have died suddenly and may be forgotten, bringing them to the foot of the cross.

Trace your family tree and visit the cemeteries of your ancestors in your area. Involve your children and grandchildren by making it a fun family project for the summer. Also, have Masses said for all your ancestors. Invite family members to attend the Masses. Involve your family in cleaning the graves of your loved ones in a spirit of prayer and penance. Around the graves, you can place flowers in their honor.

Adopt a forgotten grave in a local cemetery. You can clean it up, weed it regularly, and place flowers on it. Then you can pray the Eternal Rest Prayer for the forgotten soul.

Have Masses said for the Holy Souls on major feast days and other special occasions during the summer. The major feast days in June include the Most Holy Trinity on June 3. June 15 marks the solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, while June 16 is the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. June 24th is the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, and June 29 marks the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. The feast of St. James is celebrated July 3. August 6 is the Transfiguration of the Lord, and Aug. 15 is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Plant a prayer garden in your yard in remembrance of the Holy Souls. Plant some of your loved one's favorite flowers as a reminder to pray for that soul whenever you look out onto the garden. You can say prayers for your loved one whenever you are watering or weeding your garden.

I hope you consider some of these suggestions and make praying for the Holy Souls a priority this summer. It might be a time of relaxation for you and your loved ones, but the Holy Souls never get a day off. They will only find peace in heaven, and they can only get there through your prayers and sacrifices.

Sincerely in The Divine Mercy and Mary Immaculate,

Father Dan, MIC

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

Grannie - Jun 18, 2012

They only have us here in this world to pray for and help them atone for their sins-they can no longer help themselves except to suffer as they do. So just say a prayer here and there for them-what have you to lose?-they WON'T forget you when you're in need!

Kaylan - Jun 3, 2012

I'm a convert to the Faith. Came into the Church when I was only a teenager on my own accord. Purgatory made perfect sense to me because God is just. If a soul is not a saint and has to atone for sins so their soul will truly be clean and perfect for heaven, it makes sense that it must be purified. I used to tell others that they should think of Mother Teresa and a Nazi war criminal who repents on his death bed. It would not be just for the two to enter heaven if one did saintly things her whole life, while the other murdered and harmed people. So it would be just that the Nazi soldier who repented would be sent to purgatory first to be purified of all those sins. While Mother Teresa would most likely go straight to heaven given the goodness and love in serving God her whole life. At least that is how I have always seen it :)

Bea - May 30, 2012

There are plenty of Saints that have seen souls from Purgatory and spoke to them. They all can't be liars. I believe them.

Editor - May 30, 2012

Hello VI.
Here's a great article by Robert Stackpole that discusses the Scriptural basis for Purgatory:

Thanks for reading.

VI - May 29, 2012

I am a 75 year old cradle Catholic but still have doubts about the existence of purgatory. It makes sense but I do not find it in Scripture. When did this idea of Purgatory originate and is it an article of faith?