“The Church's great liturgical tradition teaches us that fruitful participation in the liturgy requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated… Otherwise, however carefully planned and executed our liturgies may be, they would risk falling into a certain ritualism. Hence the need to provide an education in eucharistic faith capable of enabling the faithful to live personally what they celebrate.” (Pope Benedict XVI, SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS, 64)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Prayer Rationing

I haven’t quite mystagogued this one out yet. I welcome anyone’s advice. Holy Mother Church recommends that we pray for the suffering souls in Purgatory. I have taken that recommendation lightly in my own life. Our family says a quick prayer after dinner for the souls of the faithful departed. In November, we extend that prayer from one line to two! Yep, I’m sure we’re popping souls out like popcorn in an iceberg.

Still, I guess it is something. St. Catherine of Siena, one of the greatest religious mystagogues of all time (I love tossing that word in, can you tell?) says that no suffering on earth compares to what the suffering souls are undergoing in Purgatory as I type. It is of course an act of charity to relieve suffering, particularly when it is so extreme.

However, looking at this from my lazy boy seat, I think there is something more imperative that the relieve of the suffering souls. You can see where I’m going with this, I’m sure. As bad as Purgatory is, I think it is better to be in Purgatory knowing the Beatific Vision is just a few centuries away than it is to be on earth with a chance of being condemned. Would it then not be better to spend our finite time in the Church Militant with a prayer focus strictly on those who’s salvation depends on prayer?

It is so difficult to contemplate eternity. All I know is that it is a lot longer than I can put into thoughts. But Purgatory is not eternity. Hell is. Every day for eternity is a new beginning of torment. It is so terrible, I’m not going to try to put it in words. The souls of Purgatory must take great consolation in that their torments will pass and they will see God. No such consolation for the souls of Hell.

There are people out there, ones whom you know, but most whom you don’t, who may be one offering away from salvation. Why then give that offering for someone who’s already all but made it?

Just curious. I will still pray for souls since the Church instructs us to do so. But I am curious as to the logic since there is an infinite chasm between landing in Hell and landing in Purgatory.

By the way, Andy, if I pass away while this blog is still active, please erase this post. Thanks Buddy!

Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine, et lux perpétua lúceat eis – Introit, Requiem Mass, Roman Missal (1962)


  1. I think prayers for those in Purgatory is like invoking the proverbial "I scratched your back now you scratch mine". The more people that enter the church triumphant, the more "effective prayers of the righteous" we have. I'd hope that if I help a person "get righteous" then they would turn around and help me do the same, and I could completely bypass purgatory altogether.

    Also, you have to think that Mary gets a little tired with all the incessant "pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death" demands. Maybe she delegates?

    Lord, you know my tongue is in my cheek. Please forgive me if I have blasphemed.

  2. Maybe pray for those in Purgatory and mix that in with getting THEM to pray for the salvation of souls... ?

  3. A great point, both of you. The rationale for praying to souls in Purgatory is there, as I thought, but I couldn't quite work it out. Thanks!