Imitate the Sacred Heart: Have mercy on the Holy Souls!

Prayer to the Sacred Heart  (from the Raccolta)
O MOST Sacred Heart of Jesus, pour down thy blessings abundantly upon thy Church, upon the Supreme Pontiff, and upon all the clergy; give perseverance to the just, convert sinners, enlighten unbelievers, bless our parents, friends, and benefactors, help the dying, free the souls in Purgatory, and extend over all hearts the sweet empire of thy love. Amen.

By Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC

The Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus falls on June 24 this year. As you may know, there’s a deep connection between the Sacred Heart devotions and the Divine Mercy message and devotion. It’s clear if you look at the Divine Mercy Image and see the red and pale rays radiating from underneath Christ’s garment, drawn aside to show the wound in His side where the lance pierced the Sacred Heart.

At the generalate in Rome, the mother house for my religious Congregation, there is a custom of praying the Angelus. Since the time of Pope Clement XII in 1736, it has become a practice in Rome to also pray the De profundis after the evening Angelus (either spoken in common or, if some of the men present have strong voices, chanted) for the Holy Souls in Purgatory who are dear to the Heart of Jesus.  “De profundis” is the Latin name for one of the Psalms — depending on your translation of the Bible, either Psalm 129 or Psalm 130. You’ve almost certainly heard it before, and maybe even prayed or sung it yourself. It’s truly one of the greatest prayers appealing for Divine Mercy in the tradition of the Church. It goes like this: 

Out of the depths I call to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my cry!
May your ears be attentive
    to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, keep account of sins,
    Lord, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness
    and so you are revered.

I wait for the Lord,
    my soul waits
    and I hope for his word.
My soul looks for the Lord
    more than sentinels for daybreak.
More than sentinels for daybreak,
    let Israel hope in the Lord,
For with the Lord is mercy,
    with him is plenteous redemption,
And he will redeem Israel
from all its sins.

There’s a partial indulgence attached to praying or reciting the De profundis after having made a good Examination of conscience, especially in preparation for sacramental Confession. I encourage you to consider adding this prayer to your devotions.

Speaking of Rome and the Sacred Heart, one of the most famous sites for devotees of the Holy Souls in Purgatory is the Museum of the Holy Souls in the sacristy of the parish of the Chiesa del Sacro Cuore del Suffragio (Church of the Sacred Heart of Suffrage), which we’ve featured before. In that small museum, objects that reportedly have the marks left by souls enduring the fires of Purgatory are kept. It’s a dramatic reminder of the importance of our prayers and suffrages for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

Eternal spouses
As the great Doctor of the Church, St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, reportedly said,

“The practice of recommending to God the souls in Purgatory, that He may mitigate the great pains which they suffer, and that He may soon bring them to His glory, is most pleasing to the Lord and most profitable to us. For these blessed souls are His eternal spouses, and most grateful are they to those who obtain their deliverance from prison, or even a mitigation of their torments. When, therefore, they arrive in Heaven, they will be sure to remember all who have prayed for them.”

We are given an even clearer picture of the sufferings undergone by the Holy Souls in Purgatory in the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. There, she writes:

I saw my Guardian Angel, who ordered me to follow him. 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. The flames which were burning them did not touch me at all. My Guardian Angel did not leave me for an instant. I asked these souls what their greatest suffering was. They answered me in one voice that their greatest torment was longing for God. I saw Our Lady visiting the souls in Purgatory. The souls call her “The Star of the Sea.” She brings them refreshment. I wanted to talk with them some more, but my Guardian Angel beckoned me to leave. We went out of that prison of suffering. [I heard an interior voice] which said, My mercy does not want this, but justice demands it. Since that time, I am in closer communion with the suffering souls (20).

The Merciful Heart of Jesus would prefer that all His brothers and sisters be home with the Merciful Father, living in the Love that is the Holy Spirit. But our sins have consequences on other members of the family, other children of God, and and so justice demands our souls suffer the temporal punishment due for our sins in the refiner’s fire of God’s justice and merciful love in Purgatory, where He heals us also of all remaining attachment to our sins. Either we endure Purgatory for the full duration, or the Church on earth applies graces from the treasury of merits on our behalf.

Answer the cries
So let us be merciful as God is merciful. Let us make use of the treasures we have been given, including the devotions to the Sacred Heart and the Divine Mercy message and devotion, in order to bring assistance to the souls in Purgatory. Let us help God answer the cries of the Holy Souls in Purgatory: “Out of the depths I call to you, Lord; Lord, hear my cry! May your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, Lord, keep account of sins, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness and so you are revered.”

May God bless you.

Father Dan Cambra, MIC is spiritual director of the Holy Souls Sodality.
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