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Prayers and Practices for the Souls in Purgatory

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Father Dan Cambra, MIC, served as master of ceremonies for the 8th Annual Mercy for Souls Conference.

It's a Matter of Life and Death

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Brother Jeff, MIC, motivated attendees to double up their efforts on behalf of the suffering souls in Purgatory.

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Many of the attendees are members of the Marians' Holy Souls Sodality, which pledges sacrifices, good works, and prayers to relieve the suffering of the Holy Souls and release them from Purgatory.

Father Dan Cambra, MIC, stood before a packed assembly on Sunday and wasted no time getting down to matters of life and death.

"We're dedicated to praying not only for the souls in Purgatory, but also about preparing people to die well," said Fr. Dan, addressing the nearly 175 attendees of the 8th Annual Mercy for Souls Conference on Sept. 9, at the St. Faustina Welcome Center, on the grounds of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

The conference theme was "St. Faustina's Mercy for Souls," and, indeed, the great Polish saint known as the Lord's "secretary of Divine Mercy" provides the blueprints for all who seek to grow in their love of God and their love for the souls of both the living and the dead.

"I'm anticipating I will be in Heaven," declared Fr. Dan, the spiritual director of the Marian Fathers' Holy Souls Sodality. "I'm hoping I can avoid Purgatory all together, and I'm hoping you can avoid Purgatory all together. You all know the thing you need to do to avoid Purgatory all together? You need to love God with your whole heart, all of your mind, and all of your strength — and love your neighbor as yourself.

"I can't imagine any of you would be here if you didn't already love God with your whole mind," Fr. Dan said. "Now we've got to work on the rest."

The "rest" comprises our relationship with our "neighbors" — both the living and the dead. To that end, Fr. Dan said the most powerful weapon in our spiritual arsenal is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, given to the world by our Lord through St. Faustina in the 1930s.

Father Dan said he's been witness to countless souls dying in peace after he prayed the chaplet for them.

Jesus makes many promises to those who pray the chaplet. At one point, He tells St. Faustina, "When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the Merciful Savior" (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 1541).

And Jesus, indeed, keeps His promises.

"We have numerous examples of St. Faustina praying for souls who were in torment in their final hours," said Fr. Dan. "It was precisely at their final hour that Jesus would have her bilocate from her cell in the convent to their bedside, and when she arrived she would see the soul was dying alone in their bed surrounded by demons who were tormenting the soul trying to convince the soul that they should despair because they were not in a state of grace. But as St. Faustina would pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the demons would put their hands over their ears and go screaming out of the room. The prayers would in turn bring peace to the dying soul."

Saint Faustina also teaches the powerful affects of our prayers for the dead. Father Dan quoted from her Diary, entry 58, in which St. Faustina writes:

One night, a sister who had died two months previously came to me. She was a sister of the first choir. I saw her in a terrible condition, all in flames with her face painfully distorted. This lasted only a short time, and then she disappeared. A shudder went through my soul because I did not know whether she was suffering in purgatory or in hell. Nevertheless, I redoubled my prayers for her. The next night she came again, but I saw her in an even more horrible state, in the midst of flames which were even more intense, and despair was written all over her face. I was astonished to see her in a worse condition after the prayers I had offered for her, and I asked, "Haven't my prayers helped you?" She answered that my prayers had not helped her and that nothing would help her. I said to her, "And the prayers which the whole community has offered for you, have they not been any help to you?" She said no, that these prayers had helped some other souls. I replied, "If my prayers are not helping you, Sister, please stop coming to me." She disappeared at once. Despite this, I kept on praying.

After some time she came back again to me during the night, but already her appearance had changed. There were no longer any flames, as there had been before, and her face was radiant, her eyes beaming with joy. She told me that I had a true love for my neighbor and that many other souls had profited from my prayers. She urged me not to cease praying for the souls in purgatory, and she added that she herself would not remain there much longer. How astounding are the decrees of God!

"It seems that sister of the first choir had neglected her duty as a religious to pray for sisters who had died," Fr. Dan explained. "Precisely due to her neglect of the souls in Purgatory, both from her own community and the souls of benefactors of the community, she had received a punishment that even she had not imagined. Sister Faustina took this as a very important and powerful sign in her life."

Father Dan said, "I do know that each one of us needs to pray every day, and we need to pray for people who are dying without comforters, without people around them who can guide them in holiness."

One suggestion Fr. Dan gave was to vow each morning to pray a chaplet for the intentions of someone who would die that day.

View Fr. Dan's full talk:

Preceding Fr. Dan's talk, Br. Jeff, MIC, a Marian seminarian, spoke about the needs of those who have already died — namely, the suffering souls in Purgatory.

First, he explained Purgatory, the state of those who die in God's friendship, assured of their eternal salvation in Heaven, but who, before they enter Heaven, have to undergo purification.

"Nothing unclean enters into Heaven," Br. Jeff said. "Purgatory is necessary. As John Paul II says, 'Every trace of attachment to evil must be eliminated, every imperfection of the soul corrected. Purification must be complete, and indeed this is precisely what is meant by the Church's teaching on purgatory'" (from John Paul II's General Audience, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 1999).

The purification process can be quite painful, Br. Jeff warned.

"I hear people talk about their relatives who have died," he said. "They'll say, 'They're in Purgatory. Why worry about it?' I think to myself that there's such a poverty in ignorance of what the souls in Purgatory go through."

So what are the souls in Purgatory experiencing?

"If we look at Scripture, tradition, papal teachings, it says that Purgatory involves a spiritual fire," said Br. Jeff. "In Hebrews 12:29, it says, 'for our God is a consuming fire' who burns for our hearts and our souls."

Saint Faustina affirms the fires of Purgatory, writing in her Diary:

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 (20).

"The common teaching of many of the saints," said Br. Jeff, "is that the souls in Purgatory are in great pain and in great love — agony and ecstasy, the cross and Resurrection. They participate in glory and the pains of hell at the same time. Great peace and great torture."

Brother Jeff quoted St. Catherine of Genoa, who wrote in her Treatise on Purgatory (chapter 3):

Since the souls in purgatory are freed from the guilt of sin, there is no barrier between them and God save only the pains they suffer, which delay the satisfaction of their desire. And when they see how serious is even the slightest hindrance, which the necessity of justice causes to check them, a vehement flame kindles within them, which is like that of hell.

"The worst pain," said Br. Jeff, "is that the soul isn't yet able to be unified with its beloved, with God."

Watch Br. Jeff's full talk, including his description of the levels of Purgatory:

Following the morning talks, the attendees were treated to lunch. The afternoon included opportunities for Confession, praying the Rosary, praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Holy Mass, and venerating relics, including those of St. Faustina and St. John Paul II.

Here's is Fr. Dan's homily:

Learn more about Holy Souls in Purgatory and join the Holy Souls Sodality.

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