Prayers and Practices for the Souls in Purgatory


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Mary Immaculate and the Souls in Purgatory: What's the Connection?

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By Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC (Sep 16, 2018)
I'm often asked, "Why is it that your religious Congregation — named for the Immaculate Conception — puts so much emphasis on the Holy Souls in Purgatory? What's the connection?"

I'll give you the simplistic answer first: Our Founder, St. Stanislaus Papczynski (1631-1701), had an abiding devotion to the mystery of Mary's Immaculate Conception, and it so happens that, like many great saints, he also received visions of the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

That's an easy and accurate explanation, good enough for most people. Others want more. "But," they wonder, "surely something more profound was afoot when God saw to it that a Congregation named for the Immaculate Conception has as a founding mission a devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory."

To them I say, "Excellent point! How much time do you have?"

Seriously, it is an excellent point, one that draws us into deeper realities of our faith. Let's take a look.

Reality 1: Heaven
Heaven exists, and God "wills everyone to be saved," St. Paul tells us (1 Tim 2:4). Those who die in God's grace and friendship — and who are perfectly purified — go to Heaven, joining the Holy Trinity, Mary, the angels, and saints (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1023).

Reality 2: Hell
Hell exists, and "whoever does not love remains in death," the Apostle John writes (1 Jn 3:14). Indeed, "we cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. ... To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from Him forever by our own free choice" (Catechism, 1033).

Reality 3: Purgatory
Purgatory exists. Saint Paul writes that we are to be brought "holy, without blemish, and irreproachable before [God]" (Col 1:22). The existence of Purgatory logically follows from two facts: our imperfection on earth and our perfection in Heaven. Therefore, the souls in Purgatory, though destined for Heaven, must first undergo their "final purification" (Catechism, 1031), which cleanses them from past wrongdoing for which they have not fully atoned.

Yes, God gave St. Stanislaus the grace to see the reality of Purgatory. I've heard it described that at least on one occasion a hole opened up under the altar, and he encountered the souls in Purgatory begging for help. Knowing full well that the souls in Purgatory cannot gain merit for themselves, St. Stanislaus urged people to double up on prayers and penances on their behalf.

On another occasion, while he was saying Mass, the ground underneath him suddenly became transparent. He could see the souls of those who were benefitting from the prayers he was offering for them through the sacrifice of the Holy Mass.

During his lifetime, St. Stanislaus ministered to the marginalized. For him then and for us today, the marginalized include both the living and the dead, though the latter are concealed by a very thin veil.

How does Mary's Immaculate Conception figure into all of this?

By her Immaculate Conception — which kept her free from sin — Mary became a channel of graces and living proof of God's love and care for all of humanity. And St. Stanislaus explains, "[S]he is concerned for us in the same way that she was concerned for Christ the Lord."

By "us," he means both the living and the dead.

When it came time to write the Marian Constitutions, St. Stanislaus made it clear that we Marians, "under the guidance and patronage of Mary, Immaculately Conceived, [are] to strive earnestly with the Church, in the Church and through the Church so that all who are still journeying here on earth, as well as those who are being purified after this life, may attain the fulness of maturity and eternal happiness in Christ with all the saints." (Emphasis mine.)

In other words, we Marians dedicate ourselves to purging sin from individual souls and ultimately from all of creation. And we do this through Mary.

Remember at Lourdes that Mary identified herself to St. Bernadette as "the Immaculate Conception," implying she's not merely holy, but rather, by the special indwelling of the Holy Spirit, she is holiness realized.

We know her concerns extend into Purgatory. In Fatima, Our Lady speaks of a particular woman in Purgatory. In one of St. Faustina's visions of Purgatory, she discovers Our Lady providing comfort to the suffering souls.

Inevitably I am also asked, "What does this mean for all of us in practical terms?"

Part of St. Stanislaus' plan — part of God's divine plan — is that we, the living, become holy by aligning ourselves with Mary, the "model and source" of holiness (Catechism, 2030). We thereby become, with her, merciful as God calls us to be merciful (see Lk 6:36).

We're to entrust to Mary Immaculate our own salvation — and that of the Holy Souls.

God invites us to continuously turn to Mary, offering her all our prayers, works, joys, and sufferings. And as we pray to hasten the purification of the souls in Purgatory, keep in mind we also hasten our own purification.

We invite you to join the Marians this November in our month-long remembrance of all the faithful departed. Visit marian.org/b39 to join us in our November Remembrance.

Visit PrayForSouls.org to learn more about the Marians' dedication to the souls in Purgatory.

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