LITURGY MATTERS: The oft-Forgotten Souls

By Michael McKenna, Archdiocesan Master of Ceremonies

The English martyr St Thomas More penned in 1529 a most artful defense of the Catholic dogma of Purgatory entitled The Supplication of Souls.

Like Pope Benedict XVI who will later say that if Purgatory did not exist, we would have to invent it, for More reason, not to mention God’s mercy and justice, demand that Purgatory exist.

A righteous God will not leave sin unpunished but in His goodness will not perpetually punish the sin after the person’s repentance.

He concludes “a very child, almost, can see the conclusion: that the punishment remaining due and undone at death is to be endured and sustained afterward”.

The Supplication of Souls presents as a dialogue in which the holy souls themselves address the reader, seeking devout charity and tender pity for help, comfort and relief.

No mere anonymous crowd, St Thomas More’s interlocutors identify themselves as “your late acquaintances, relatives, spouses, companions, playmates, and friends – and now your humble and out-of-touch and half-forgotten supplicants”.

The Italian Franciscan, St Leonard of Port Maurice says, “If you deliver one soul from purgatory, you can say with confidence, ‘Heaven is Mine’.”

While in Purgatory, the holy souls can’t merit any further graces for themselves, they can pray only for us.

It is for this reason St Josemaría Escrivá encourages that out of charity, justice, and an “excusable selfishness” we should remember them often in our sacrifices and in our prayers.

For Escrivá the relationship with the holy souls was living, personal and reciprocal. Entirely convinced that his “good friends” in Purgatory were actively supporting him, he would often ask for their help.

He believed the souls “have such power with God”. “May you be able to say when you speak of them, ‘My good friends the souls in purgatory’.”

St Thomas Aquinas reminds us that friendship comes about “when we so love another as to will what is good for him”.

Be they More’s interlocutors or Escrivá’s “good friends the souls in purgatory”, it should be natural to desire the very best for them – nothing less than heaven.

July is the month of the Precious Blood. St Thomas Aquinas tells us that “as the dew refreshes and raises up the withering plants and flowers, so does the Blood of Christ revive and comfort and bring renewed hope to the poor souls in purgatory.”

May we be moved to oft remember our good friends the souls in Purgatory, and offer our Communion for them, for our good and the good of all His holy Church!

Tags: Liturgy