.- Though purgatory can be considered strictly a place of punishment, author Susan Tassone describes it as a âmasterpiece of Godâs mercy.â
âItâs not punishmentâitâs a loving purgatory,â explained Tassone, who has written six books on the subject including, âPraying With the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatoryâ (Our Sunday Visitor, $10).
â(God) gives us this chance to cleanse â¦ to purify our souls with his own attributes.â
On All Soulsâ Day, Nov. 2, Catholics pray for the poor souls in purgatoryâthose believed to be completing their journey to heaven. In accordance with Church teaching, purgatory is a place for those who departed life in Godâs grace, ânot entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.â
From the earliest days of Christianity, the Church taught that praying for the dead was an obligation, an act of charity believed to help souls enter into the fullness of heaven more quickly.
âTheyâre called âpoorâ (souls) because they can no longer merit,â said Tassone. âThey rely totally on us. Theyâre called poor because they donât know when they will reach heaven â¦ the soul cries out: âGod! God! I must be with God!ââ
âThe best devotion to help the holy souls is the holy sacrifice of the Mass,â said Tassone, who herself has led efforts to raise more than $2 million for stipends for some 400,000 Masses for the dead worldwide. âItâs the most efficacious means to relieve and release these suffering souls.â
âOffer Gregorian Masses for them,â Tassone suggested. âPut them in your will!â
Along with the Mass; the rosary, Stations of the Cross, eucharistic adoration and the Divine Mercy Chaplet are very powerful devotions because of the indulgences attached to them that can be offered for deceased loved ones.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 958), the souls in purgatory can intercede on behalf of the living: âOur prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.â
âThe more you pray for them, the more effective their intercession is for you,â said Tassone âYouâve got to remember who they are: our aunts, uncles, mothers, brothers, sisters, our lawyers, our priests â¦ people that have been entwined in the fabric of our lives.
âPray especially for priests and consecrated religious because we tend to 'canonize' them and leave off too soon our prayers for them. They are some of the most abandoned souls.â
While the Church devotes the entire month of November to pray for the souls in purgatory, Tassone stressed the importance of praying for them throughout the year.
âRemember the holy souls all year-round,â she said. âThey suffer day and night without any repose.â
âNever stop praying for the dead even if they are already in heaven,â she added. âThomas Aquinas tells us that if a soul is already in heaven and we continue to pray for them, they receive âaccidental glory,â an increase in its intimacy with God and an increase in its intercessory power.â
Tassone also urged establishing a commitment to pray for those near death. She encouraged membership in the Pious Union of St. Joseph, a ministry founded by newly-canonized St. Louis Guanella.
Tassone will be Father Mitch Pacwaâs guest on EWTN Live Nov. 2.