Prayers and Practices for the Souls in Purgatory

Discover the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, its roots in Scripture and Tradition... Read more


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November is the month the Church dedicates to praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Father Dan Cambra, MIC (the spiritual director for our Holy Souls Sodality, stopped by to talk about the release of his new book, Prayers and Practices for the Souls in Purgatory.

Why should we care about Purgatory?
According to the revelation of Our Lady of Fatima to Sr. Lucia, the vast majority of people end up in Purgatory, and the second largest group ends up in hell. It's probable that relatively few souls are so completely focused on doing God's will in their lives that they step out of this life into eternity and go directly into heavenly glory. So I extrapolate that I can reasonably anticipate a final gift of mercy from God, which will be Purgatory.

Why did you write the book?

I'm always inspired by Susan Tassone, who has written some wonderful books about praying for the souls in Purgatory. But I wrote this book to address the philosophical and theological basis as to why we as Catholics believe that Purgatory exists. Then, I wanted to share how this doctrine ought to affect our everyday lives.

How is Purgatory misunderstood?
A lot of people look at Purgatory as, "Oh, we haven't suffered enough in this lifetime, He's going to whack us one more time." The approach for a devout Catholic should be, yes, we suffer in this lifetime, but if we suffer wisely, we recognize it as God disciplining His beloved servants. We're all going to suffer because that's part of the ongoing effect of original sin. But we can choose to suffer, to accept the discipline it provides as a means of growing in holiness, acquiring our own sanctification and possibly the sanctification of others. Or we can go through it kicking and screaming. It's a matter of how we want to approach it mentally and spiritually.

How is Purgatory a gift of God's love?

We're like a willful child who is misbehaving and the mother is trying to calm him down. She wants to give him a big hug and squeeze him tight; you see the kid just fighting like mad to get away. That's what God is doing to every soul in Purgatory. He's trying to give them a hug of love, and that burning love in His heart is what they find incredibly uncomfortable. In Purgatory, that burning love is purging out everything unholy.

As much as Purgatory causes suffering, it's still something of a positive experience. Let's say you skinned your knee, and the doctor has to brush away all of the gravel to clean out the wound and to put on antiseptic. That's painful, but you know in your mind that this is a necessary thing, or it's not going to heal.

What can we do to shorten the time we may need to be in Purgatory?
Pray a Rosary. Pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet. Meditate upon the Passion of Christ while visiting the Blessed Sacrament. In St. Faustina's Diary, Jesus tells her that meditating upon His Passion is more powerful because we come to understand God's infinite love for us (186).

Is it possible to help others pass through Purgatory?
It's not just possible. It's mandated by Christ who said we have to love God and love one another. It's one of the seven spiritual works of mercy, to pray for the living and the dead. And then there's the reason that I find personally most motivating; ultimately, I save my own skin.

How does praying for others in Purgatory help "save your own skin?"
If I help release a soul from Purgatory, many saints have said that soul will know who was responsible for their release from Purgatory. And I figure if I can do a plenary indulgence every day, at the end of a year, I've got 365 more friends pleading my cause before the throne of God, saying, "Help him, Lord, because he can't help himself."

That's what we call the "economy of salvation." We pray for each other, and the value of our prayer for someone else is more than the value of our prayers for ourselves. But that's because God made the decision that He wants us to cooperate.

Join the Holy Souls Sodality.

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Laura - Nov 12, 2017

Dear Father Cambra,
It is really wonderful that you promote this devotion to the holy souls in purgatory. There is one thing that I wanted to point out. To the best of my knowledge, the claim that most souls go to purgatory was from Medjigorjia ( which has not been approved) and not Fatima. It was at Fatima that Our Lady stated that many souls go to hell. This coincides with what Our Lord says in the Gospel that the road to perdition is wide and many follow it, few find the narrow path. While it is so important for us to pray for the Holy Souls, we need to do more to tell people that, yes, hell exists and many go there.
Yours truly,
Laura B