One accepted view about purgatory is that it will end at the final judgment of all mankind. Any holy soul there will then be ushered into heaven to enjoy the beatific vision of God for all eternity; i.e., all such persons will be saints. Perhaps some holy souls will leave purgatory before the Final Judgment, beginning their eternity with God sooner than those who remain there.
Catholics Believe In Purgatory
Now, this is not an article about whether or not purgatory exists. No comment is needed below proving that there is no purgatory, or vice-versa. There are many, many discussions of the non-Catholic no-purgatory view in numerous articles and books. This article proceeds with this premise:
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 (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030). . . . “purgatory … which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned”(Id., 1031).
One Can Pray For the Holy Souls
There is a related truth about purgatory that is also not debated here. It is that we can pray to God for the holy souls in purgatory. The Council of Trent (Fifth Session, 1563) made clear the Church’s doctrine on purgatory – in reaction to some protesters who had created their own religions in which the existence of purgatory was denied, or which denied its necessity for the salvation of some who died:
Therefore this holy Council commands the bishops to strive diligently that the sound doctrine of purgatory, handed down by the Holy Fathers and the sacred Councils, be believed by the faithful and that it be adhered to, taught and preached everywhere.
Holy Souls Prayed For at Holy Mass
In words of the ‘Sacrifice of the Altar,’ the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in any translation of them from the Latin into English (or any other language,) or in any new order prayers for the Mass, there are several references to, and prayers for, the holy souls in purgatory. This has been so since the first Mass liturgies of the Church. Tertullian, an early Father of the Church, said:
We celebrate the anniversary of the triumph of the martyrs, and, according to the tradition of our fathers, we offer the Holy Sacrifice for the departed on the anniversary of their death.
St. Augustine agreed with Tertullian:
It cannot be denied … that the prayers of the Church, the Holy Sacrifice, and alms distributed for the departed, relieve those holy souls, and move God to treat them with more clemency than their sins deserve. It is a universal practice of the Church, a practice which she observes as having received from her forefathers — that is to say, the Holy Apostles.
There are many prayers, in addition to those of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that are said by Catholic Christians around the world for the holy souls in purgatory. A popular one is the “St. Gertrude Prayer”:
Eternal Father I offer you the most precious blood of your divine son Jesus, in union with all the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, sinners in the Universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.
I have recently noticed another prayer, actually a set of prayers, for the holy souls in the Pieta Prayer Book. Initially, I did not want to say this set of prayers because it included five (yes, 5) recitations of the Apostles Creed. (5 creeds, 5 Hail Marys; 5 Our Fathers; 5 Glory Be prayers; and the short “requiem”: Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, let perpetual light shine upon them, and may they rest in peace, Amen.)
Since becoming aware of this set of prayers for the holy souls, I have changed my mind and have realized I could say these prayers, including five Apostle Creeds, for all the Holy Souls and, if it be God’s will, for five souls, (or more)- one for each of the creeds-of God’s choosing. ( I know-don’t try to tempt God, no deals with God). I have, however, sometimes mentioned some people I have known over my life by name and said the prayers especially for them if needed. (Note: I do not think a discussion of the alleged source for saying these prayers is pertinent here, and I believe this a good set of prayers to say for the holy souls whatever the source).
On Behalf Of, For, or With?
I do not know if the Holy Souls can “join” us here now living on earth in prayer, but I do say these prayers to God “for, on behalf of, and, if possible with” the Holy Souls. Thinking in these terms, I say the prayers better than many prayers when I pray for myself or for loved ones when I let my mind wander, or find myself simply reciting prayers like a parrot.
I have also come to realize that much of what is said in the creed we now say here on earth is no longer part of the holy souls’ hope and faith, including those in purgatory because they now know that many of the statements in the creed are true. They no longer need faith as “evidence of things unseen.” I also can see why they would earnestly and vigorously assent to statements in the creed about:
Communion of saints
Forgiveness of sins
Resurrection of the body, and
I try to make a point of implicitly including all the holy souls in any of the plural pronouns in any of the prayers when it makes sense, “our,” “us,” “them,” “they,” and “we.” For example, when I say “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners… “
I will confess to a selfish motive for praying for all the holy souls. Blessed Solanus Casey put it this way:
If we, by our prayers and sacrifices, freed a soul from purgatory, we would then have another intercessor for us in heaven.
I simply ask God if He will let those for whom I pray who preceded me into heaven know and remember my name.