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A Call to Prayer

A Pastoral Note on Praying for the Souls in Purgatory

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We receive a profound comfort when we encounter God’s unending love through His Son Jesus Christ. The manifestation of this love, displayed in Jesus’ death on the Cross, opens a new path for us to know and love Him more intimately. Our journey to proclaim God’s love and to witness to its transformative power develops and matures through a life anchored in the Word made flesh and nourished through the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist.

As we read in the First Letter of St. John, our identity as God’s children encourages us to live our lives rooted in God’s love: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 Jn 4:7). An essential characteristic of the virtue of love is our devotion to Christian prayer – especially intercessory prayer for all, for the living and the dead. It is with this in mind that I present to you the Confraternity for Holy Souls, a new lay apostolate within the Archdiocese of Detroit dedicated to prayerfully interceding in love for the souls in purgatory.

The doctrine of purgatory, as set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1031), refers to the cleansing of souls in preparation for their final home in heaven. When we pass over from this life to the next, we hope that we die in grace and friendship with God. However, if we die in grace and friendship but still are imperfectly purified, we are assured salvation but must undergo a purification to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven (CCC 1030). To share in the love that unites the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit, we must be purged of anything in our hearts that would be unworthy of the Heart of Jesus.

Psalm 51:7-10 provides us an example of this purging or cleansing:

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones which you have broken rejoice. Hide my face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O, God, and put a new and right spirit within me.  

As a doctrine of the faith, the Church associates purgatory with the practice of praying for the dead, a connection we find in the Second Book of Maccabees (12:46); there atonement for the dead is made in order for them to be delivered from sin. St. John Chrysostom also reminds us about the importance of praying for the dead:

“Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died to offer our prayers for them” (Homily on Job 1:5).

The aim of the Confraternity for Holy Souls is to develop a better awareness among the faithful of our need to pray for our brothers and sisters who have passed on from this life and who need our prayers in preparation for their final journey of purification and sanctification to enter heaven. Through the formation of Confraternity chapters in Families of Parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit, I hope that the Church of Detroit will develop an active community of intercessors praying regularly for the souls in purgatory. The Confraternity will be under the spiritual direction of its Chaplain, Father Jeffrey Day, Moderator of the Curia and Vicar General, and coordinated by Dr. Marlon De La Torre, Executive Director of the Department of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship.

I ask you prayerfully to consider joining together with your fellow parishioners to form a Confraternity for Holy Souls chapter within your Family of Parishes. To learn more about the Confraternity and how to open a chapter in your community, visit aod.org/holysouls.

Be assured of my prayers for you and for all those you love, especially those “who have gone before us with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace.”

Sincerely Yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Allen. H. Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit