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An Interview with Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC

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Father Dan Cambra, MIC, has had a life-long devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. He recently shared with us his thoughts about this devotion:

Father Dan, when did you first learn about the Holy Souls in Purgatory?

When I was, oh, maybe 5 or 6 years old, I remember I would sometimes hear somebody either knocking at my bedroom door or even calling my name. I'd get up, and I'd go look to see who was calling my name. I wouldn't find anyone, and I wouldn't see anybody who had knocked at my door. At that particular point in my life, my great grandmother was my babysitter because both of my parents worked and all four of my grandparents worked. I asked her if she had knocked, and she said "no" and if she had called my name, and "no," she hadn't called my name. She said to me, "That's probably the poor souls in Purgatory who want you to say a prayer for them, so say three Hail Marys for them and go back to sleep." So, whenever I heard this knock that would wake me up, or think that someone was calling my name to wake me up, I assumed it was the poor souls in Purgatory asking for my prayers. So I'd say three Hail Marys and go back to sleep.

Did the Marian Fathers' devotion to the Holy Souls lead you to them?

When I was looking at religious communities, I looked at more than 45 religious communities. And ultimately, it came down to a choice between two. At the last minute, I made a retreat with the Marians, and for the first time in my life, I discovered a religious community that had daily prayers for the poor souls in Purgatory. I found out that it was part of the spirituality of Father Founder, Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski, to pray for the souls in Purgatory, especially those for whom no one ever prayed. And that was part of my great grandmother's spirituality, and it was part of my childhood spirituality. So, when I encountered that in the Marians, it really struck me rather strongly. It was the main reason, or at least one of the reasons, why I decided to become a Marian. It was foundational to my choice of vocation.

Do you have any suggestions for those who want to help the Holy Souls?

Even the busiest of people can say three Hail Marys each day. (See the pamphlet Practice of The Three Hail Marys and Efficacious Novena.) The Marians used to pass out a little leaflet called "The Three Hail Marys That Opened Heaven." It was a story about somebody who, for whatever reason, felt they didn't have time to pray the Rosary every day or couldn't go to Mass every day, but they at least found the time to say three Hail Marys for the suffering souls in Purgatory every day. And when this particular person died and came before the gates of eternity, he found out that the only thing that kept him out of hell was his charity to the poor suffering souls in Purgatory.

Do you have any particular prayers that you devote to the Holy Souls?

It's kind of funny. I met Immaculee Ilibagiza years ago, and since then I now say the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary every Friday for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. I also said the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary every day during Lent. It just became a rather particularly touching devotion for me. Immaculee was the one who had recommended it to me. I've re-read her book Our Lady of Kibeho: Mary Speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa about five times now. The devotion to the suffering souls, which has been promoted by the Church-approved apparitions of Mary at Kibeho, has really had an effect on my more recent spirituality.

Do you still hear the voices and the knocks?

At this particular point in my life, I don't often hear voices calling me in the night, nor do I hear knocks on the doors, but instead God has blessed me with other reasons that a middle-aged man needs to get up a couple times a night. So I still have opportunities to say those three Hail Marys for the poor souls before I fall back into bed.

Father Dan Cambra, MIC, is director of the Marian Evangelization Team and the Holy Souls Sodality. He lives in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

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Sonia Lemke - Nov 6, 2015

Wow! This is very inspiring. I am really learning a lot about these poor souls this year. I never thought of saying three Hail Mary's for them. That is something I can easily do, and I will! This past weekend for the first time ever I submitted my aunt and uncle's names to two churches to be prayed for on All Souls Day and during the month of November. They lived in a small town 1500 km away from here and my aunt passed away last fall but my uncle passed away in 1982 when I was only 13 years old. I had only met him a few times and remember him as being a really nice man. As he was my dad's sister's husband I never knew anything about his family. Well, this past Tuesday, the day after All Souls Day, I met his sister -- here -- 1500 km away from where they lived! Apparently she lives here now (Edmonton). Like I said, I didn't even know he had a sister! What's more, in her purse she had a small photo album, which she showed me, of her visit this past September to their hometown and one of the pictures was of my aunt and uncle's grave, 1500 km away from here! The last time I saw it, which was last fall at my aunt's funeral, it was open with her coffin waiting to be lowered. In the picture from this past September, taken on a lovely sunny day, the grave looked beautiful and peaceful with the lovely headstone with Jesus on it (which my aunt had picked out all those years ago) with both their names now on it. I took this as a message of thanks from my aunt and uncle for putting their names down at the two churches.

Angela M. - Nov 9, 2015

The Lord has also blessed me with reasons to get up once or twice a night (oh how I laughed when I read that Father!) and I will now use this opportunity to say 3 Hail Marys for the souls in purgatory. All for Jesus!

Ann from Ottawa - Dec 6, 2015

I have a question. I pray for a lot of friends, family and colleagues who have passed. Do I need to say a formal prayer for each person? I ask God to give them all the graces needed for salvation, ask that their time in Purgatory be short, ask that He comfort and strengthen those who mourn for them, and finally ask that he count their good deeds more heavily than their bad. Then I say a decade of the rosary and some other prayers. But there must be 50-100 people who are encompassed by those prayers. Is that "enough"? Should I be saying 50-100 prayers each time?