Why Holy Souls Need Our Help

Our prayers — like St. Faustina’s — can help the souls in purgatory satisfy their longing for God alone.

by Susan Tassone with David Came

One night, Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska was visited by the soul of a fellow religious sister who had recently passed away. In her Diary, she described the poor soul as being “in a terrible condition … with her face painfully distorted.” In response, Sr. Faustina redoubled her prayers for the Sister’s soul.

The soul visited her the next night “in an even more horrible state,” which astonished Sr. Faustina. In a conversation with the soul, she learned that her prayers seem not to have helped the poor Sister. Undeterred, Sr. Faustina kept on praying for the soul.

Some time later, the soul of the Sister again visited Sr. Faustina during the night. Her face was now “radiant, her eyes beaming with joy.” She said that Sr. Faustina “had a true love for [her] neighbor and that many souls had profited from [her] prayers.” The radiant soul informed Sr. Faustina that she will not remain in purgatory much longer. Before the soul left, she urged Sr. Faustina “not to cease praying for the souls in purgatory” (Diary of St. Faustina, 58).

This is but one moving example of St. Faustina’s great love for the Holy Souls in Purgatory who yearn to be united with God in heaven.

Souls in great need
Why do the Holy Souls need our help?

First, we need to realize that these souls cannot help themselves. Once the soul leaves the body, the time of merit is ended in which one can satisfy with penance and good works the punishment due to one’s sins. As Jesus tells St. Faustina of this reality, “My mercy does not want this, but justice demands it” (Diary, 20).

Second, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (1030).

In a vision, St. Faustina describes purgatory as a “great crowd of suffering souls” undergoing this purification. Further, she says that the souls are “praying fervently, but to no avail, for themselves; only we can come to their aid” (Diary, 20).

An intense longing for God
We may wonder what exactly the souls suffer as they are purified of their sins. In the vision of purgatory, Sr. Faustina asks the Holy Souls what their “greatest suffering” is. In one voice, they answer that it is their “longing for God” (Diary, 20).

Jesus gave Sr. Faustina an intense yearning for Him in Holy Communion to help her understand “what the longing of the souls in purgatory” is like. On July 10, 1937, Sr. Faustina attended Holy Mass and experienced “such intense hunger for God” that she seemed “to be dying of the desire to become united with [Jesus].” She explains in her Diary that only the night before she had been fasting and offering all of her spiritual exercises for one of the deceased sisters (Diary, 1185-86).

This great yearning of the Holy Souls is due to their loss of God’s presence. The greatest loss most of us experience in this life is the death of a loved one. Our hearts are broken, and we are torn apart with grief. The Holy Souls’ greatest pang is the loss of the sight of God. They met Jesus at their particular judgment. Now they long to behold His face forever. They feel an inexpressible love for God alone.

As these souls draw closer to heaven, they begin to radiate the Lord’s joy. Sister Faustina perceived this reality as she prayed for particular souls. One time, a deceased sister who had already appeared to Sr. Faustina a few times, came to see her again. This time, “[The Sister] was radiant with happiness” and in heaven (Diary, 594).

Our prayers for the Holy Souls
Whenever possible, Sr. Faustina would pray for the release of the Holy Souls from purgatory. During her annual retreat on Jan. 10, 1934, she records Jesus’ desire that she use her time in saying “short indulgenced prayers for the souls in purgatory” (Diary, 274). Then, Sr. Faustina records that right before Midnight Mass in 1934, “I offered the indulgences for the souls in purgatory” (Diary, 346).

Further, on the occasion of her perpetual vows as a religious on May 1, 1933, Sr. Faustina begged Jesus “to free all souls from purgatory” (Diary, 240). Also, Jesus Himself asked her to devote the eighth day of The Divine Mercy Novena to praying for the release of the souls in purgatory. (See Diary, 1226.)

Inspired by St. Faustina, we can remember the Holy Souls through indulgenced prayers, The Divine Mercy Novena, and most especially at Holy Mass. Remembering these souls when in Eucharistic Adoration and when praying the Stations of the Cross and the Rosary are also powerful means to aiding them.

In the case of indulgences, they make up for penances omitted or poorly done. Indulgences arise from the mercy of Jesus. With them, we can satisfy our debts to God. Christ has given His Church a treasury of indulgences that we, the faithful, can draw from for the Holy Souls. These include litanies, short aspirations, and reading the Bible. The Holy Mass is our most efficacious means to helping the Holy Souls. Whom do you miss among your departed loved ones and friends? Whom do you wish you could have done more for? Who hurt you? Have Masses offered for their souls.

Blessings for us
Sister Faustina knew firsthand of the blessings that come when our prayers help release a soul from purgatory. She writes of one deceased Sister for whom she had prayed faithfully, “As a sign that [the Sister] only now was in heaven, God would bless our [religious] house.” Then she goes on to explain how this experience gave her a deeper understanding of the Communion of Saints, which includes the faithful on earth, in purgatory, and in heaven (Diary, 594).

Sister Faustina learned that, in return for our prayers, the Holy Souls can bring us countless blessings even in this life. Most importantly, once they are in heaven, these souls will faithfully pray for us until we, too, are home with God.

United with St. Faustina in heaven, let us ask the Father of Mercies to release the souls in purgatory. Let us pray as we do during the eighth day of The Divine Mercy Novena, “Eternal Father … look upon [the souls in purgatory] in no other way than through the wounds of Jesus, Your dearly beloved Son; for we firmly believe that there is no limit to Your goodness and compassion” (Diary, 1227).

Susan Tassone has long been a passionate champion for the Holy Souls. Her books include The Way of the Cross for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and Praying in the Presence of Our Lord for the Holy Souls. Dave Came is a former Executive Editor of Marian Helper magazine.