Marian Inspirations in Bringing help to Poor Souls in Purgatory

by Fr. Janusz Kumala, MIC

Let us first examine the Church's experience in praying for the deceased to find in it Mary's presence as a mother in giving help to souls suffering in purgatory.

We find Our Lady's image in the catacombs of St. Priscilla, going back to the 2nd century. Placing Mary's image next to a tomb indicates the desire to place the deceased under Mary's intercession, as well as an appeal to the living to commend to Mary the souls of the departed.

In the 4th century, both in the Eastern and Western Churches, we see tombstone inscriptions invoking Mary's intercession for the eternal peace of the deceased.

Awareness of Mary's help for the souls of the departed begins to be completely developed in the Middle Ages. Texts of theologians and preachers appear, which attempt to explain the link between Mary and the mystery of purgatory (her motherly love, queenship, and intercession). We also have more descriptions of visions and apparitions, in which Mary is shown among the Holy Souls in Purgatory, as a mother bringing help and consolation.

We can understand Mary's concern for the souls suffering in purgatory only when we acknowledge her to be the Mother of the Church. Without a doubt, the community of the saved, who passed through the gates of death and are now undergoing purification, also belong to the mystery of the Church.

Mary enfolds with her motherly care people who are still making their earthly pilgrimage, striving for heavenly glory, as well as all those who are in purgatory preparing for heaven. Therefore, Mary's spiritual maternity concerns both people still living on earth and those who must pass through purgatory. Mary helps the former and the latter to attain the fullness of salvation or eternal happiness in heaven, since they're all her children.

Now, let us try to establish some of the most important traits of a Marian intercessor for the Poor Souls:

Longing for salvation
The one who is inspired by a longing for personal salvation and the salvation of others is helping the Holy Souls in Purgatory. To give help to the souls of the deceased, one must have the deep hunger of God, which is for the salvation of each person.

In the economy of grace, Mary's maternity "lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation." (Lumen Gentium, 62).

Is conscious of redemption
By participating in and experiencing the power of Christ's work of redemption, we also have a consciousness of being called to dedicate ourselves to Christ's work through the Sacraments of the Church, through living in faith, hope, and love. It means making spiritual sacrifices, which flow from the reality of our baptismal priesthood. Mary is the example of such an attitude; who, at the foot of the cross, suffered grievously with her only-begotten Son. We bring help to the souls in purgatory, because we believe, that Christ alone can save them being the only Redeemer of mankind.

I believe in the "Communion of Saints"
The deeper our union of love with Mary and our consciousness of her maternal mission concerning the souls dwelling in purgatory, the more fervently we will endeavor here and now to help them. Remaining with Mary and inspired by her, the wider we open our hearts to the needs of our neighbor. By giving them love, we deepen our bond with them, which will be crowned by our sharing heaven together.

Live in love
It's easy to notice that the one who loves helps others. Therefore, love alone can be the source of our zeal in bringing help to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Mary is present with every person by her active love. Mary is the personification of God's maternal love.

Longing for heaven
To long for something one must know its worth. The more a man is convinced of the value of something, the more he endeavors to obtain it and the more he longs for it. Souls who suffer in purgatory long for heaven, to see God. This is their greatest suffering.

In the Tradition of the Church, we can find the explanation of Mary's death as a gesture of mercy of the Mother toward her Son. The Mother longs for her Son and desires (like St. Paul, see Phil 1:23) to be separated from her body so that she may be with Jesus forever. Let us also beg God that He fulfills the longing of the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

Being selfless
When we bring help to the souls in purgatory, we must follow Christ's principle: "Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give" (Mt 10:8). Mary is the best example of this mind-set, for she experienced the magnanimous gift of the merciful God in her Immaculate Conception. After all, in this mystery of Mary's life, we discover the truth about the total gratuitousness of God's grace, which we cannot merit, but which we can accept. The generosity of our love for the Holy Souls in Purgatory can be nothing but magnanimous. It is the characteristic of quiet people who don't seek recognition or fame.

Being in solidarity and mercy
Praying for the souls in purgatory reveals the truth that no one can attain heaven on one's own power, without cooperating with our neighbors. Our happiness is the fruit of work and prayer not only our own but of other people, especially those closest to us. In God, we are all united as His people.

The most important part of our relations with others is our unity, inspired by magnanimous love. Mary cannot do anything physically for Jesus nailed to the cross, but she can "stand near the cross of Jesus." In this perspective, we have to see the sufferings of the Holy Souls in Purgatory as well, whom we can help only because we unite ourselves with the Sacrifice of Christ and are nailed to the cross along with Him.

Being joyful
Is it possible to talk about joy in purgatory? Certainly. The souls rejoice from the thought that their sufferings will end and that they will be saved by the power of Christ's grace and will have a sure dwelling place in heaven. Rejoicing from the grace of salvation, we open our hearts so that we may more zealously bring help to the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

Mary, our Mother and Mother of all those suffering in purgatory, occupies there the most prominent place. If we want to be her children, we cannot remain indifferent to the fate of those for whom she is the Mother. But we must also look with hope and gratitude at the grace of purgatory!

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