Have Pity on Me, at Least You My Friends1 Recently, I received a letter from my pen-pal who is on death row.

In it, he notes how easy it is for people on the outside to forget those in prison, even their family. How true this is!2 Sadly, we also are prone to neglecting those in the prison of Purgatory. How many of our loved ones are in need of our prayers? How many souls have no one who even thinks of praying for them? While time in prison in this life is no small deprivation and suffering, even if it is indeed just, St. Augustine assures us that the pain of Purgatory is more severe than any pain that can be felt, seen or conceived in this world. Catholic Social Doctrine ultimately springs from the fact that we are part of the Mystical Body of Christ. We are one body in Christ: the Church Triumphant in Heaven, the Church Militant in this life on Earth, and the Church Suffering in Purgatory. Thus the works of mercy, which are done by the Church Militant are in fact actions of the Body of Christ and involve both the Church Militant as well as the Church Suffering as our beneficiaries.3 In his wonderful booklet on the Holy Souls, Read Me or Rue It, Fr. Paul O’Sullivan, OP notes that “[w]e are always bound to love and help each other, but the greater the need of our neighbor, the more stringent and the more urgent this obligation is.” With such great need, the souls in Purgatory are owed our upmost charity. When most people discuss the works of mercy as ministry to others, it is in the context of the corporal works of mercy. After all, these are the most visible acts of the apostolate. Fr. O’Sullivan notes “we find many good-hearted people who interest themselves in every other type of suffering, but alas, scarcely one who works for the Holy Souls!”4 What was true in the 1930s is perhaps even more acute problem today. By no means should anyone denigrate those who work to ease the suffering of his or her brothers and sisters in this life, but Fr. O’Sullivan raises a serious question: What place does relief for the Holy Souls find in our apostolate? Luckily, for us, we can do much for the Holy Souls without neglecting a single one of our other duties. In fact, Holy Mother the Church is so gracious as to allow our very daily activities, when done with proper intent, to aid the suffering of these souls. The current edition of the Manual of Indulgences specifies that one may gain a partial indulgence if one carries out the duties of his or her life while “raising their mind in humble trust to God”5 or when “led by the spirit of faith, give compassionately of themselves or their goods to serve their brothers in need.”6 There are of course numerous other indulgences the Church makes available to apply to those in Purgatory. Offering our actions, prayers, and sacrifices on behalf of the souls in Purgatory should be a part of our daily lives. As has been seen, it should not actually cause us much trouble. St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori teaches that “the practice of recommending to God the souls in Purgatory, that He might mitigate the great pains which they suffer, and that He may soon bring them to His glory, is most pleasing to the Lord and most profitable to us.” St. Alphonsus logically concludes that these souls, once they obtain
1 2

Job 19:21 This too is a great way for almost everyone to show others the love of Christ. There are several groups dedicated to connecting inmates with those who would like to write to them, such as the Death Row Support Project, which can be found on the internet. 3 Recall that we are to pray for the living and the dead. 4 Fr. Paul O’Sullivan, OP, Read Me or Rue It, (T AN: Rockford, IL, 1992), 18. 5 General Grant I, Manual of Indulgences, (USCCB: Washington, DC, 2006), 25. 6 Ibid.

following St. there have been groups specifically dedicated to the Holy Souls. Catherine of Bologna holds that they are. let us seek to help those in the most miserable condition one can be in: suffering the pains of Purgatory. . but a requirement. and should. have Masses said for the dead. Many of these groups have sadly been forgotten in recent decades. This is a terrible fate with such easy remedy. Amen 7 The Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (Transalpine Redemptorists) maintain the Purgatorian Archconfraternity at http://www. Henry Suso was told by a soul from Purgatory “It is the Blood of Jesus Christ that is needed to extinguish the flames by which I am consumed. St. some societies for this purpose still exist and it is a great idea to join and assist them in their goals. the saints are in agreement that the souls in Purgatory are able to come to our aid at some point or other. will remember us who helped them. While in Purgatory. Portugal. This is why charity towards our brothers and sisters is not simply a good idea. So many abandoned and in need of our assistance. Requiescant in pace. all members owe a duty to relieve that member’s suffering. What could be more useful in the apostolate than have saints on our team? Throughout the history of Christianity. Inscriptions in the catacombs bear witness to this fact as do the prayers of the liturgies of the Church. Requiem æternam dona eis Domine et lux perpetua luceat eis. it is the August Sacrifice that will deliver me from these frightful torments.com. The Mass is the sacrifice of Christ! It has such power! It is reported that Bl. Another group is the Association of the Holy Souls. in some way. 2495 Fatima. Fortunately. That is the cause of our activities in the realm of social action. able to obtain favors for us. Formerly. offering prayers to God on our behalf as part of the Church Triumphant. This is a sad situation for these are our friends and family. we have a whole large section of this Body suffering invisibly with few giving them a thought. Alphonsus.Heaven. If one member suffers.” We can. Rua do Rosario 1. the ability of the Holy Souls to help us has not been settled by the Church. Either way. there were numerous groups and associations dedicated to combining efforts and funds in order to more effectively liberate souls. Pius XII Monastery. we must not forget the immense power of the Mass in helping these souls. In addition to indulgences.7 We are one body in Christ. today. As we go through this life. Aquinas was of the opinion that they could not. Sadly. which can be contacted via the Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary. however.archconfraternity.

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