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Kathy wrote:

Hi, guys —

For several years now I have been asking all the Holy Souls in Purgatory to offer me their prayers and, when I receive Jesus personally in Holy Communion, I offer all their prayers through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and her most chaste Spouse, St. Joseph.

I do this and seem to feel the graces. Someone told me this is too easy.

  • Can the Holy Souls in Purgatory offer me their prayers?

Thank you.


  { Can the Holy Souls in Purgatory pray for me or offer me their prayers? }

Eric replied:

Hi Kathy,

Yes, because the souls in Purgatory are part of the Communion of Saints, they can offer us their prayers. In addition, the Church strongly encourages us to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory on a regular basis. We may privately ask them to pray for us, as the Saints encourage us to do, keeping in mind that none of us can say, one way or the other:

— what specific souls are in Purgatory or
— what specific souls are in Hell.

We may not, however, ask them for prayers in a formal or public way, say in the context of a church service.

Eric Ewanco

Mike replied:

Hi Kathy,

In all likelihood, Yes, they can, though there appears to be a difference of opinion among saintly scholars on this question. A web page on New Advent: Purgatory: Invocation of souls:

states that:

  • the Church has made no decision on this question and
  • St. Thomas (II-II:83:11) denies that the souls in Purgatory pray for the living and states they are not in a position to pray for us rather we must make intercession for them but
  • Despite the authority of St. Thomas, many renowned theologians hold that the souls in Purgatory really pray for us, and that we may invoke their aid. These include St. Robert Bellarmine and St. Alphonsus Liguori, also Doctors of the Church.

Bellarmine says the reason alleged by St. Thomas is not at all convincing, and holds that in virtue of their greater love of God and their union with Him, their prayers may have great intercessory power, for they are really superior to us in love of God, and in intimacy of union with Him. (De Purgatorio, lib. II, xv,)

One of my colleagues Brian discovered new saintly sources that affirm the Holy Souls can and do pray for us in Purgatory.

He showed me this quote from a 1923 book by Right Rev. PW Keppler D.D. called The Poor Souls in Purgatory, A Homiletic Treatise with some specimen sermons only 5 years after the above mentioned Catholic Encyclopedia was published:

Chapter XII

The Poor Souls And We

Life in Purgatory, to our mind, must be a time continual prayer, uninterrupted even by pain and grief. It is a life of love, of spiritual, though not yet beatific, union with God. We can scarcely assume that the love which those Holy Souls have for God is weaker than ours, or that they are condemned to silence and inertia. God certainly did not deprive them of the language of prayer, or of the possibility of holding converse with Him, even though their prayer, as we saw, is not meritorious, no matter how strong or fervent it may be.

  • Can the Poor Souls pray for the living on earth, and is their prayer efficacious?

Those who answer this question in the negative quote St. Thomas in their favor.

In dealing with the objection:

"The Poor Souls are above us, like the Saints; but the former do not pray for us, so neither do the Saints" (S. Th., 2a 2ae, quo 83, a. 11)

the Angelic Doctor refutes only the deduction, not the premise. From the fact that the Poor Souls do not pray for us, he says, it can not be inferred that the saints do not pray for us either, because they [the Poor Souls] are in an altogether different state, and even though they are above us on account of their freedom from sin, they are below us on account of their penal suffering.

This argument, it is true, presupposes that the Poor Souls do not pray for us. But St. Thomas does not examine this statement here; he merely touches upon it in passing. In another passage he admits that the departed sympathize with the lot of their friends on earth, even though they have no detailed knowledge of them, just as we intercede for them although we do not know their exact condition in the beyond. (S. Tk., la, quo 89, a. 8).

Suarez and Bellarmine who closely studied this question, arrived at the conclusion that the Poor Souls can and do pray for the living. Most modern theologians agree with them. The reasons are convincing. Charity towards others can not have ceased in these souls at their entrance into Purgatory, nor can it have been condemned to complete impotence and silence. Their own penal state does not necessarily prevent from lending assistance to others. The Poor Souls enjoy divine grace and are God's friends, and hence their intercession is pleasing to Him and certain to be heard, because and in as far as they correspond with the divine plan of salvation.

Another question presents itself here: Have the Poor Souls in Purgatory that knowledge of our circumstances and necessities seems to be a necessary condition for effective help. They do not, like the Saints, participate in the vision and knowledge of God. But, on the other hand, they are disembodied spirits whom we must not imagine as being hermetically locked up or secluded.

They can, moreover, gain knowledge from the Saints, with whom they converse, from their Guardian Angels, and from new arrivals in Purgatory. That the angels have access to Purgatory may be assumed as certain. It is inconceivable that they should no longer be solicitous about their proteges, or that Purgatory should be closed against them.

"Physicians and priests are admitted even to the worst criminals."

  • But why does the Church in her liturgical prayers turn to the Saints in Heaven, and not to the souls in Purgatory, for their intercession?

The Saints, who no longer need help and prayers for themselves, but are happy in God and gloriously reign with Christ, are our principal helpers and intercessors. The Poor Souls are still in need of help. Their intercession resembles the prayers which the faithful on earth offer for one another. The Church has embodied neither the mutual prayers of her children on earth nor the prayers addressed to the Poor Souls into her liturgy, but leaves them to private devotion.

It is remarkable, however, that the early Christians, as can be seen from invocations on ancient monuments, called upon the departed for their intercession.

St. Catherine of Bologna testifies:

"Whenever I am eager to obtain a certain grace, I appeal to these suffering souls to present my prayers to our common Father, and, as a rule, I feel that I owe the granting of my petition to their intercession."

The Blessed Cure of Ars used to say:

"Oh, if all of us but knew what a wonderful influence these Holy Souls have over the heart of God, and what graces we can obtain through their intercession, they would not be so utterly forgotten; we must pray much for them, so that they may pray for us. "

Confidence in the Poor Souls and the practice of invoking them in special needs is deeply rooted in the hearts of our Catholic people. We should not prevent, but promote this practice.

We should, according to a decree of a provincial council of Vienna (1858), teach the people that the Poor Souls, even while still in Purgatory, are able to help and benefit us by their intercession. The fruit of this faith and practice is a valuable and blessed exchange of mutual giving and taking between these Holy Souls and ourselves.

"We owe unspeakable gratitude to God, therefore, for allowing us to do more for our departed friends and relatives than to merely mourn over their graves. For by helping them, we obtain for ourselves a right to the special protection of God, and the angels and the saints, who rejoice whenever they can welcome a newcomer into their midst. Most of all, however, we gain friends among the Holy Souls themselves, and when they reach heaven, they will surely remember and help us."

Eric stated:
We may not, however, ask them for prayers in a formal or public way, say in the context of a church service.

Because the Church has not said anything formally on the specific topic of whether the Holy Souls can pray for us, as Eric said, we can't ask them for their prayers in a formal church service.

As a private devotion though, I see nothing wrong with asking the Holy Souls to pray for you. Their prayers for you would be done out of pure love as, like the Saints in Heaven, their merit has been fixed at their death or particular judgment. Those in Purgatory have been saved, like the saints, by the Blood of Our Lord — they just need to be totally purified.

This shouldn't be confused with our praying for the Holy Souls on a regular basis, a practice which has sadly, fell out of practice.

The Church does celebrate the Month's Mind Masses: A special Mass offered for the faithful departed on or near the thirtieth day after the person's death or burial. If possible, the Church would also encourage the faithful to have Masses said on an annual basis for family members who have departed from this earthy life. A Mass stipend is usually around $5. to $10. but some priests may do this for free.

There are many priests who have a strong devotion to praying for the Holy Souls and have Masses said for them on a regular basis.

For any one who has faithfully departed from this earthy life, and has done the best they can to follow their God-given conscience in their life, we can have a reasonable confidence they are one with the Lord, but not an absolute confidence, until and if, the Church formally declares [him|her] a saint, which like many non-Church recognized saints, is improbable.

If you are a Catholic with a strong devotion to praying for the Holy Souls, check out my other apostolate that is dedicated to the Holy Souls: Helpers of the Holy Souls.

We are trying to find people who would be interested in starting Purgatory Prayer meetings across the United States.  You can find out more on our web site:

We have additional information on our site about Saints who were dedicated to praying for the Holy Souls on a regular basis like:

I recommend you check the site out and if you know Catholics who have a special devotion to the Holy Souls, ask them to stop by and, if they are interested, ask for a free Purgatory Prayer Program starter-kit at:

We have additional information on the site too, including:

Fr. Robert J. Levis from the EWTN answered a similar question from the EWTN Experts forum this way.

He basically agreed with me and Eric.

Hope this answers your question.


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