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Why do Catholics pray for souls in Purgatory?

jesusinmulticolorOne of the most beautiful things about the Church is that it is the Body of Christ. Whether it’s the Church on Earth, or in Heaven, or in Purgatory, it is all one Body, and it is all connected. Our very ability to intercede for one another comes through our interconnection in the Mystical Body of Christ.

Praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory is one of the beautiful ways of experiencing that reality.

Purgatory is that state in which people who have died in God’s Grace, but have not let go of some of the imperfections and attachments of sin, go through a purification before entering Heaven, where nothing unclean may enter.

Even when sins are forgiven, there remains the business of reparation for one’s wrongdoing. (For example, a convicted murder may be forgiven by God, but he must still do his time in prison.)  Prayers and offerings from us, help atone for those sins committed by those now in Purgatory.

In Purgatory, the Holy Souls are not able to actively take part as they are purified. They are receptive to God’s actions as a patient might be to a surgeon, or a precious metal that is purified by flame. Through his love, God has allowed those of us still on Earth to aid, by our prayers, the purification of the Holy Souls. Just as we can pray for our loved ones who are living, and our prayers, personal penance, and sacrifices can be channels of Grace for them, the same is true for our departed loved ones in Purgatory.

The greatest prayer is the Sacrifice of the Mass, that is why we offer funeral Masses for the deceased souls in Purgatory–to help make recompense for their sins.

How many of us have grieved at the death of a loved one over things we wish we had said, or acts of love we wish we had done? If only we had another chance, we wouldn’t miss those opportunities.

We do have another chance. We can continue acts of love for our loved ones, and offer them in place of those we didn’t do when they were with us. And whether we pray for parents or grandparents or friends, or perhaps souls we never knew in this life, when those souls stand before God in Heaven, we can be confident that they will remember us in their prayers.

Because we are all connected through the Body of Christ, we can stay connected in a very real and powerful way to those who have gone before us; we help them with our prayers, Mass offerings and sacrifices; and we prepare to enjoy Heaven with them for all eternity.