Today, 16 November, is the feast day of St Gertrude the Great. St Gertrude was devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, prayer, meditation, and a mystic’s life. She was a well-educated author and is perhaps best-known for the ‘Prayer of St Gertrude the Great’. It is said that Christ promised to release a thousand souls from purgatory each time this prayer is recited:
Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, for those in my own home and in my family. Amen.
St Gertrude had a great desire to help the souls in purgatory. While it is important that we spend time praying for all who have died, particularly during this month of November, it is the souls in purgatory who need our urgent help and attention because they are not yet in a position to see God and enjoy the glories of Heaven until their souls have been purified and their sins expiated. They suffer greatly.
Firstly, what is purgatory and why is it important to pray for the souls who go there?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. (CCC 1030)
The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned… (CCC 1031)
It is worth spending some time revisiting Catholic teaching about why purgatory is necessary and what we believe.
The first good news for those who are in purgatory (and for their mourning relatives left behind) is that they are called ‘holy souls’ because they have died in God’s mercy. They are assured that they will not suffer the same fate as the damned; however, they still require further spiritual detachment from sin before they are able to partake in the beatific vision of God forever. The other good news is that because they are saved they know that they will eventually be with God in heaven, but must spend time in purgatory to attain pure and holy souls (something we must all strive for while we have the chance here on earth).
Although they can no longer pray for help themselves, we can and must pray and make sacrifices for them, and they in turn will pray for us in heaven. There are many resources we can turn to for further advice regarding how we can help these poor souls – an excellent start is 20 Ways to Pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.
Let us stop and think about this carefully. Our ancestors, the rich, the poor, the powerful, and the simple – everyone before us from all walks of life have died. Every human being alive now will die. There will come a time when we will face the end of our lives and, please God, it will be a good death and we would hope to go directly to heaven or purgatory if God wills it. Would we not want people to pray for us and not be forgotten? Let us also use our time wisely and pray to make every effort to purify our souls and hearts now.
The dead may be out of sight, but they are not out of mind. They still need us. Pray for the souls in purgatory, say St Gertrude’s prayers, say a Rosary for the holy souls. Remember and pray for your family members. Remember and pray for your friends. Remember and pray for the innocent victims of violence and war. Remember and pray for those who died alone. Remember and pray for the stillborn and the deaths of the unborn. Think of and pray for those who are about to die.
We miss them. We mourn for them. We can no longer see their faces or hear their voices, but they need you. While we have time here, let us help them, for one day we will be them.
See Also: Prayer for the Dead
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