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An Interview with Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC
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.