Praying for Holy Souls —
A charism of the Marians and Association of Marian Helpers

Fr. Founder
The foundation of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception by St. Stanislaus Papczynski had as its prime purpose the proclamation of Devotion to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This Marian life faithfully embraced the fullness of love for all the Church, the living and deceased. The Founder in his "Rule of Life" (1687 and 1694/98) defined the community's special goal, which was to animate members of the community and those associated with it a like spirit, that is, to have a firm awareness that "…to the utmost of your strength you will promote devotion to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and with utmost zeal, piety and fervor assist the souls of the faithful departed subjected to expiatory pains – especially the souls of soldiers and those who died of pestilence" (I,2).

This spirit of assisting souls was so dear to the heart of St. Stanislaus that he put it into the formula of pronouncing vows and had it second among the three aims of his order. His conviction was: "To beg God earnestly for the release of Souls who find themselves in expiatory flames or to come to their help by pious alms as well as by various other means, is to exercise the highest charity." Learn more about St. Papczyński.

As time went on, the Marian Fathers were defined as the "most zealous devotees of praying for the deceased" and even had an official title ascribed to it as: The Order "assisting the deceased and pastors." So it is that each Marian accepted the obligation of assisting the deceased during the rite of religious profession as defined in the Rituals of 1750 and 1791. The superior would ask the candidate; "Do you promise to come with all your strength to the rescue of the Poor Souls in Purgatory through fervent love and mercy?" The candidate would reply: "I promise. I will constantly endeavor for their salvation" (Ritual 1950). Sadly in the 18th century the cause of assisting the deceased slid into a low level of importance, even though an active Society for the Holy Souls was guided in Lithuania in relationship with devotion to St. Joseph, patron of the dying.

When reviving the Marian Fathers, Blessed George Matulaitis-Matuliewicz, prepared the Constitutions of 1910 and there eliminated the daily "Office of the Dead" as an obligation, the Holy See acquiesced to this omission but added a note in general terms that the Marian Fathers assist the Poor Souls in Purgatory "precibus et suffragiis" (by prayers and suffrages) in the paragraph listing the Congregation's particular devotions. The Marian Fathers included a paragraph instructing prayer for the deceased during the Octave of All Souls Day (paragraph 205, 1910). The 1988 Constitutions read, with the thought of a return to the spirit of the legacy of suffrages for the deceased –paragraph 19; "…our Congregation, from its very beginning, following the abiding faith of the Church in the communion of saints in the mystical Body of Christ, with great devotion honors the memory of the dead and offers suffrages for them. (…) Likewise, they shall not neglect to assist the dying who face the most critical moment of their lives." Today the eschatological element, along with the Marian and Christological elements, is more fully understood and embraced, thus giving more strength to the vibrant spiritual life of all who serve Christ and the Church in the Marian Family.

The Association of Marian Helpers is, as it were, the extension of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception in the heart of the Church. Persons of all walks of life can, under the patronage of Mary Immaculate, become auxiliary members of the Congregation of Marian Fathers. From the time of Blessed George and particularly from the establishment of the Marians in the United States, people from all over have become part of the Marian family sharing in its efforts and rejoicing in its successes. Those enrolled are accorded a share in the Masses, prayers, good works, sacrifices and merits of the Congregation during life and after death. Besides participating in all these benefits all Associates are asked, yes urged, to include other members in their Masses, prayers and numerous spiritual benefits.

This circle of like-minded and dedicated persons form an Association whose goal is to spread the glory of God as The Divine Mercy and devotion to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary by supporting all fields of labor of the Congregation of Marian Fathers. In doing this all carry through their own salvation and aid in the salvation of countless others including the Souls in Purgatory who rely on suffrages of the Church Militant — all here on earth.

Our times have become indifferent toward Eternal Life and a righteous Fear of God, consequently a very little awareness of the Souls in Purgatory. Ignorance of the Church as threefold — here on earth as the Church Militant, in purgatory as the Church Suffering, and in heaven as the Church Triumphant — reduces true and holy union and the help each can be for one another. Our responsibility to aid each other here on earth by living holy lives is forsaken and so, too, assistance by Masses and prayers of those suffering in purgatory. The true nature of Mass as the supreme prayer of Jesus to the Eternal Father is lost as many want to sense spiritually good without the sacrifice which makes all things holy.

Few, if any, hear teachings on this basic profession of our Christian Faith as we say – "I believe in…. the communion of saints." It is not only saying words but it is living the unity and bond given us at Baptism. The time to correct this humanistic error is now, we as a vibrant Marian family — the Marian Fathers and the Association of Marian Helpers — have a wholesome challenge as given us by Pope Paul VI in May of 1973:

"While giving help to the souls undergoing purification after completing their earthly journey, teach people that they have (here) no lasting city, but they ought to seek the one that is to come (cf. Heb 13:14). Thus your spiritual and religious life will give you strength for taking on this apostolate, so abundant in fruits, which has been entrusted to you."

We Marian Fathers wish to recommit ourselves, and you our Associate members, to praying daily for the deceased. With this in mind we set forth the Holy Souls Sodality as the fulfillment of our Constitutions #19 "following the abiding faith of the Church in the communion of saints in the mystical Body of Christ, with great devotion honors the memory of the dead and offers suffrages for them."

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