November's dedication to the Holy Souls

All Souls day - Sanctissima Trinita, FSSP Rome

November’s dedication to the Holy Souls is marked in glorious ways with the many votive requiem’s offered by the Church, particularly on All Souls day itself. 

The prayers which the Church offers for the Church Suffering are a reminder that the Church is not comprised merely of the visible element on earth, but of the invisible – both in Purgatory and in Heaven. Indeed the command to pray for the Holy Souls is contained within Scriptures: “It is a holy and wholesome thing to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins.” (2 Maccab 12:46)

And while the pains endured by the Holy Souls are not those of Hell, the saints warn that they are nevertheless very real. St. Alphonsus Ligouri writes thus: “The Holy Souls in Purgatory feel no pain more acutely than that of their yearning to possess God, from Whom they remain still at a distance. And this sort of pain will afflict those especially who in their lifetime had but little desire of Paradise.”

The great saint consequently composed a novena for the Holy Souls, from which the prayer for the fourth day reads: “My God! because Thou art infinite goodness, I am sorry with my whole heart for having offended Thee. I promise to die rather than ever offend Thee more. Give me holy perseverance; have pity on me, and have pity on those holy souls that burn in the cleansing fire and love Thee with all their hearts. O Mary, Mother of God, assist them by thy powerful prayers.”

St. Alphonsus also declared that aiding the Holy Souls gives “great pleasure to God, but will acquire also great merit for ourselves. And, in return for our suffrages, these blessed souls will not neglect to obtain for us many graces from God, but particularly the grace of eternal life. I hold for certain that a soul delivered from Purgatory by the suffrages of a Christian, when she enters paradise, will not fail to say to God: ‘Lord, do not suffer to be lost that person who has liberated me from the prison of Purgatory, and has brought me to the enjoyment of Thy glory sooner than I have deserved’.”

St. Padre Pio was also keenly aware of the sufferings endured by the Holy Souls, and wrote to his spiritual director, looking to offer himself as a victim for those souls.

“Now, my dear father; I want to ask your permission for something. For some time I have felt the need to offer myself to the Lord as a victim for poor sinners and for the souls in Purgatory. The desire has been growing continually in my heart, so that it has now become what I would call a strong passion. I have, in fact, made this offering to the Lord several times, beseeching Him to pour upon me the punishment prepared for sinners and for the souls in Purgatory, even increasing them a hundredfold for me, as long as He converts and saves sinners and quickly admits to Paradise the souls in Purgatory. But I should now like to make this offering to the Lord in obedience to you. It seems to me that Jesus really wants this. I am sure that you will have no difficulty in granting me this permission.” 


The great devotion shared by these two saints for the Holy Souls, was also shared by st. Gertrude. While praying for the deliverance of the souls in Purgatory, she received tis response from Our Lord: “My love urges Me to release the Poor Souls. If a beneficent king leaves his guilty friend in prison for justice’s sake, he awaits with longing for one of his nobles to plead for the prisoner and to offer something for his release. Then the king joyfully, sets him free. Similarly, I accept with highest pleasure what is offered to Me for the Poor Souls, for I long inexpressibly to have near Me those for whom I paid so great a price. By the prayers of thy loving soul, I am induced to free a prisoner from Purgatory as often as thou dost move thy tongue to utter a word of prayer!”

The holy parish priest, St. John Vianney, urged Catholics to attend to praying for the Holy Souls, noting that they rely upon the prayers and sacrifices of the Church here on earth. “I come to tell you that they suffer in Purgatory, that they weep, and that they demand with urgent cries the help of your prayers and your good works. I seem to hear them crying from the depths of those fires which devour them: ‘Tell our loved ones, tell our children, tell all our relatives how great the evils are which they are making us suffer. We throw ourselves at their feet to implore the help of their prayers. Ah! Tell them that since we have been separated from them, we have been here burning in the flames!’


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