Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 50

statue of Saint Jean Marie Vianney, by Emilien Cabuchet, 1867; photographed in March 2009 by Andreas König; swiped off WikipediaArticle

Advantages – Prayers of the Souls for us – Suarez – Saint Bridget – Saint Catherine of Bologna – Venerable Vianney

We have just spoken of the gratitude of the holy souls. This they sometimes manifest, as we have seen, in a clearly visible manner, but most frequently they exercise it invisibly by their prayers. The souls pray for us not only when, after their deliverance, they are with God in Heaven, but even in their place of exile and in the midst of their sufferings. Although they cannot pray for themselves, yet, by their supplications, they obtain great grace for us. Such is the express doctrine of two eminent theologians, Bellarmine and Suarez. “These souls are holy,” says Suarez, “and dear to God. Charity urges them to love us, and they know, at least in a general way, to what dangers we are exposed, and what need we have of the Divine assistance. Why, then, would they not pray for their benefactors?”

Why? But it will be answered because they know them not. In that dismal abode, in the midst of their torments, how can they know who are those that assist them by their suffrages?

To this objection it may be replied, the souls feel at least the alleviation which they receive and the assistance which is given them; this suffices, even should they be ignorant of the source whence it came, to call down the benedictions of Heaven upon their benefactors, whosoever they may be, and who are known to God.

But in reality do they not know from whom they receive assistance in their sufferings? Their ignorance of this is nowise proved, and we have strong reason to believe that no such ignorance exists. Would their angel guardian, who dwells there with them to give them all the consolation in his power, deprive them of this consoling knowledge? Is this knowledge not conformable to the doctrine of the Communion of Saints? Would the intercourse which exists between us and the Church Suffering not be the more perfect for its being reciprocal, and that the souls know their benefactors better?

This doctrine is confirmed by a great number of particular revelations, and by the practice of several holy persons. We have already said that Saint Bridget, in one of her ecstasies, heard several souls cry aloud, “Lord God all- powerful, reward a hundredfold those who assist us by their prayers, and who offer to You their good works, in order that we may enjoy the light of Your Divinity.”

We read in the Life of Saint Catherine of Bologna that she had a most tender devotion towards the holy souls in Purgatory; that she prayed for them very frequently, and with the greatest fervor; that she recommended herself to them with the greatest confidence in her spiritual necessities, and advised others to do the same, saying, “When I wish to obtain any favor from our Lather in Heaven, I have recourse to the souls that are detained in Purgatory; I entreat them to present my request to the Divine Majesty in their own name, and I feel that I am heard through their intercession.” A holy priest of our own day, the cause of whose beatification has been commenced in Rome, Venerable Vianney, Cure of Ars, said to an ecclesiastic who consulted him, “Oh! if it were but known how great is the power of the good souls in Purgatory with the Heart of God, and if we knew all the graces we can obtain through their intercession, they would not be so much forgotten. We must, therefore, pray much for them, that they may pray much for us.”

These last words of Venerable Vianney indicate the true manner of having recourse to the souls in Purgatory; we must assist them, to obtain their prayers and the effects of their gratitude in return – We must pray much for them that they may pray much for us.

There is no question here of invoking them as we invoke the saints in Heaven. Such is not the spirit of the Church, which, before all else, prays for the departed, and assists them by her suffrages. But it is nowise contrary to the spirit of the Church nor to Christian piety to procure relief for the souls, with the intention of obtaining in return, through the assistance of their prayers, the favors which we desire. Thus it is a laudable and pious act to offer a Mass for the departed when we are in need of any particular grace. If, when the holy souls are still in their sufferings, their prayers are so powerful, we may easily conceive that they will be much more efficacious when, being entirely purified, these souls stand before the throne of God.

MLA Citation