Purgatory: A Guide

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'The Most Powerful Weapon in Our Spiritual Arsenal'

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Father Dan Cambra, MIC, stood before a packed assembly and wasted no time getting down to matters of life and death.

"We're dedicated to praying not only for the souls in Purgatory, but also about preparing people to die well," said Fr. Dan, addressing the nearly 175 attendees of our 8th Annual Mercy for Souls Conference on Sept. 9, at the St. Faustina Center, on the grounds of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

The conference theme was "St. Faustina's Mercy for Souls." Indeed, the great Polish saint, known as the Lord's "secretary of Divine Mercy," provides the blueprints for all who seek to grow in their love of God and love for the souls of both the living and the dead.

"I'm anticipating I will be in Heaven," declared Fr. Dan, the spiritual director of the Holy Souls Sodality. "I'm hoping I can avoid Purgatory all together, and I'm hoping you can avoid Purgatory all together. You all know the thing you need to do to avoid Purgatory all together? You need to love God with your whole heart, all of your mind, and all of your strength — and love your neighbor as yourself.

"I can't imagine any of you would be here if you didn't already love God with your whole mind," Fr. Dan said. "Now we've got to work on the rest."

The "rest" comprises our relationship with our "neighbors" — in this world and in Purgatory. To that end, Fr. Dan said the most powerful weapon in our spiritual arsenal is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, given to the world by our Lord through St. Faustina in the 1930s.

Father Dan said he's witnessed countless souls die in peace after he prayed the Chaplet for them.

Jesus makes many promises to those who pray the Chaplet. At one point, He tells St. Faustina, "When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the Merciful Savior" (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 1541).

And Jesus, indeed, keeps His promises.

"We have numerous examples of St. Faustina praying for souls who were in torment in their final hours," said Fr. Dan. "It was precisely at their final hour that Jesus would have her bilocate from her cell in the convent to their bedside, and when she arrived she would see the soul was dying alone in their bed, surrounded by demons who were tormenting the soul, trying to convince the soul that they should despair because they were not in a state of grace. But as St. Faustina would pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the spirits of darkness fled, with hissing and threats. The prayers would, in turn, bring peace to the dying soul" (See Diary, 1798).

Saint Faustina also teaches the powerful effects of our prayers for the dead. Father Dan quoted from her Diary. In one passage, St. Faustina writes of visions she had of a religious sister suffering in Purgatory, for whom Faustina prayed:

She told me that I had a true love for my neighbor and that many other souls had profited from my prayers. She urged me not to cease praying for the souls in purgatory, and she added that she herself would not remain there much longer. How astounding are the decrees of God! (58)

Preceding Fr. Dan's talk, Br. Jeff, MIC, a Marian seminarian, spoke about the needs of the suffering souls in Purgatory. The purification process can be quite painful, Br. Jeff warned.

"I hear people talk about their relatives who have died," he said. "They'll say, 'They're in Purgatory. Why worry about it?' I think to myself that there's such a poverty in ignorance of what the souls in Purgatory go through."

So what are the souls in Purgatory experiencing?

"If we look at Scripture, tradition, papal teachings, it says that Purgatory involves a spiritual fire," said Br. Jeff. Saint Faustina affirms the fires of Purgatory, writing in her Diary:

In a moment I was in a misty place full of fire in which there was a great crowd of suffering souls. They were praying fervently, but to no avail, for themselves; only we can come to their aid (20).

"The worst pain," said Br. Jeff, "is that the soul isn't yet able to be unified with its beloved, with God."

In closing, Fr. Dan spoke of the duty Sodality members have to pray every day for people who are dying without comforters, "without people around them who can guide them in holiness." One suggestion he gave was to vow each morning to pray a Chaplet for the intentions of someone who will die that day.

In matters of life and death, such a deed of mercy carries the promise of eternal rewards.

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

ashes4him - Mar 12, 2019

Hi, my new to catholiclism I don't know much about purgatory or the faith in general? Both my parents died, mother in 2001 and dad in 2011. How can I know if they are in purgatory. My mother was a Baptist who gave her life to the Lord and my dad did not go to church, but gave his life to the Lord as a child and renewed his faith as an adult. Is there any chance they are in purgatory and how can I and others help and pray for them?

Anon - Nov 9, 2018

Imagining being in a unspeakably cruel void, with no help, no assistance, no consolation whatsoever. A bottomless vacuum that sucks the life out of every pleasure you have ever known or had no matter how great, making it all null and void. That is true abandonment. Please pray for the souls in purgatory.

Judy K. - Nov 8, 2018

Every day I pray: for the most abandoned soul in purgatory that You would let one drop of your precious Blood fall upon that one and release it to Yourself; for all of the souls in purgatory that you would have mercy on them and shorten their time; for the soul most in danger of being lost that you would touch that one and draw it irresistibly to Yourself.