You Got a Friend in Purgatory

By Chris Sparks

Lord of the Rings is one of the most useful guides to the spiritual life out there, and one that's helpful to consider as we enter November, the month the Church dedicates to the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at one key act in the books, one of the greatest actions we can take in the spiritual life: rustling up some allies.

In fact, that’s really the heart of those books. Gandalf the Gray, wizard and incarnate angel, serves the forces of light by alerting the many creatures on the side of goodness that there’s an enemy, that enemy is powerful, and everyone needs to band together to defeat him. Gandalf serves as a messenger and an encourager, an angel and a Barnabas, in order to rouse up Middle-Earth against their ancient enemy and cast him back into the Shadow from whence he came.

Sound familiar? It’s the role of the Holy Father, of bishops, priests, and deacons, and indeed, of every Christian, to do the same. We are all called to first love God and neighbor. Because we love God and neighbor, we are called to oppose the wickedness and snares of the devil, and summon others to the same great combat.

We can’t fight the forces of hell on our own. No — we need God, His heavenly hosts, and the whole Mystical Body of Christ on our side. And they will only act if they are asked, if they are invited in.

One of the greatest bodies of allies we have open to us is in Purgatory. Millions of souls have passed from this life before us, and many of them do not have anyone to pray for them or use indulgences to draw upon the Church’s treasury of graces to speed them home to Heaven.

Pray for the dead this November. They will pray for us in turn, countless souls interceding with love and gratitude for those who helped them when they could not help themselves. We need their intercession more than ever.

We can count on their love and their prayers for us; after all, if we remember anyone who has died well enough and fondly enough to be worried about their swift passage to Heaven, it’s a fair bet they remember us fondly and love us enough to intercede for us in turn as much as they are able.

Remember them in your Divine Mercy Chaplet, in your prayer before the Divine Mercy Image, in the 3 o’clock Hour of Great Mercy every day. Offer the “O Blood and Water” prayer for them:

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You!

After all, praying for the dead is one of the works of mercy, one that St. Faustina practiced repeatedly throughout her lifetime, often because the souls of the dead appeared to her and asked for her prayers (see Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 21, 58, 594, 1185-1187). She even visited Purgatory:

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 (Diary, 20).

Through that communion, she was inspired to continue to offer prayers and suffrages for the Holy Souls till she herself died.

Let us do the same. Let’s pick something that worries us in the Church or the wider world. And then let’s set to work gathering indulgences, enrolling the deceased in the Association of Marian Helpers, offering prayers, joining the Holy Souls Sodality, or performing works of mercy with the intention of helping speed the Holy Souls along their path to Heaven, asking them in return to intercede for God’s will to be done in whatever situation is most concerning to us.

There’s plenty wrong in the world. Let’s gather some allies and win a victory, for Heaven’s sake!

Chris Sparks serves as senior book editor for the Marian Fathers. He is the author of the Marian Press book How Can You Still Be Catholic? 50 Answers to a Good Question.

Remember departed loved ones at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy.

(Photo by Jessica Johnston on Unsplash.)

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