St Josemaría and the Holy Souls

St Josemaría had a special friendship with the Holy Souls, and used to say, “The Holy Souls in Purgatory are my good friends.”

The Holy Souls in Purgatory. Out of charity, out of justice, and out of excusable selfishness — they have such power with God! — remember them often in your sacrifices and in your prayers. May you be able to say when you speak of them, “My good friends the souls in purgatory.”
The Way, 571

Purgatory shows God’s great mercy and washes away the defects of those who long to become one with Him.
Furrow, 889

If you live the “life of childhood”, you should have the sweet tooth of a child, a “spiritual sweet tooth!” Like those “of your age”, think of the good things your Mother keeps. And do so many times a day. It just takes a moment… Mary… Jesus… the Tabernacle… Communion… Love… suffering… the Holy Souls in Purgatory… those who are fighting: the Pope, the priests… the faithful… your soul… the souls of people in your family… the Guardian Angels… sinners…
The Way, 898

You shouldn’t want to do things to gain merit, nor out of fear of the punishments of purgatory. From now on, and always, you should make the effort to do everything, even the smallest things, to please Jesus.
The Forge, 1041

In the face of suffering and persecution, a certain soul with supernatural sense said, “I prefer to take a beating down here rather than get it in Purgatory.”
The Forge, 1046

With thanks to


Powerful Intercession of the Holy Souls

Besides being a spiritual work of mercy and a powerful reminder of the afterlife, devotion to souls in Purgatory also affords us invaluable intercession as demonstrated by Church Tradition.

According to the dogma of the Communion of Saints, they form a part of the Church (called the Church Suffering) and are therefore united to us, and can intercede for us.

Prayer to overcome temptation

Examples of this abound in Church History and many readers have undoubtedly experienced such intercession. We will relate a few examples below.

The Countess of Stratford, an English protestant, having doubts about the existence of Purgatory, consulted the Bishop of Amiens, France. Hearing her objection, he answered, “Tell the Bishop of London (an Anglican) that I will leave the Faith and become an Anglican if he can prove that Saint Augustine never celebrated Mass or prayed for the dead, especially his mother.”

The Vision of Purgotory
Gustave Dore

Following his advice, the Countess wrote the Anglican bishop of London. Seeing that he did not respond, she converted.

At a certain point during her reform of the Carmelites, Saint Teresa was in need of a convent. A noble named Bernadine of Toledo responded to her need and donated a place for the convent. He died shortly afterwards. Saint Theresa received the revelation that he would remain in Purgatory until the first Mass was celebrated in the convent he had donated. She thus hastened to establish its foundation. During communion of this first Mass, she saw his soul radiant with splendor at the side of the priest. Thanks to that Mass which had been said for him, he was freed from Purgatory.

Whenever Saint Catherine of Bologna’s prayers seemed unanswered, she would call upon the intercession of the souls in Purgatory. She affirmed that these prayers were always answered.

Padre Pio’s Encounters With the Holy Souls

God chose Saint Pio of Pietrelcina to reveal the supernatural life to our tepid era. His supernatural interior life was made visible through his immense suffering and his well-known stigmata. As we move into November and pray for the Poor Souls in Purgatory, we do well to recall a few encounters of Padre Pio with the souls of Purgatory.

Padre Pio once described an encounter he had with testified the following to the Bishop of Melfi, His Excellency Alberto Costa and also the superior of the friary, Padre Lorenzo of San Marco.
Below is third person written testimony of the words of Padre Pio:
“While in the friary on a winter afternoon after a heavy snowfall, he was sitting by the fireplace one evening in the guest room, absorbed in prayer, when an old man, wearing an old-fashioned cloak still worn by southern Italian peasants at the time, sat down beside him. Concerning this man Padre Pio states: ‘I could not imagine how he could have entered the friary at this time of night since all the doors are locked. I questioned him: ‘Who are you? What do you want?’
The old man told him, “Padre Pio, I am Pietro Di Mauro, son of Nicola, nicknamed Precoco.” He went on to say, “I died in this friary on the 18th of September, 1908, in cell number four, when it was still a poorhouse. One night, while in bed, I fell asleep with a lighted cigar, which ignited the mattress and I died, suffocated and burned. I am still in Purgatory. I need a holy Mass in order to be freed. God permitted that I come and ask you for help.”
According to Padre Pio: “After listening to him, I replied, ‘Rest assured that tomorrow I will celebrate Mass for your liberation.’ I arose and accompanied him to the door of the friary, so that he could leave. I did not realize at that moment that the door was closed and locked: I opened it and bade him farewell The moon lit up the square, covered with snow. When I no longer saw him in front of me, I was taken by a sense of fear, and I closed the door, reentered the guest room, and felt faint.”
A few days later, Padre Pio also told the story to Padre Paolino, and the two decided to go to the town hall, where they looked at the vital statistics for the year I908 and found that on September 18 of that year, one Pietro Di Mauro had in fact died of burns and asphyxiation in Room Number 4 at the friary, then used as a home for the homeless.
Around the same time, Padre Pio told Fra Alberto of another apparition of a soul from Purgatory which also occurred around the same time. He said:
One evening, when I was absorbed in prayer in the choir of the little church I was shaken and disturbed by the sound of footsteps, and candles and flower vases being moved on the main altar. Thinking that someone must be there, I called out, “Who is it?”
No one answered. Returning to prayer, I was again disturbed by the same noises. In fact, this time I had the impression that one of the candles, which was in front of the statue of Our Lady of Grace, had fallen. Wanting to see what was happening on the altar, I stood up, went close to the grate and saw, in the shadow of the light of the Tabernacle lamp, a young confrere doing some cleaning. I yelled out, “What are you doing in the dark?” The little friar answered, “I am cleaning.”
“You clean in the dark?” I asked. “Who are you?”
The little friar said, ‘I am a Capuchin novice, who spends his time of Purgatory here. I am in need of prayers.’ and then he disappeared,”
Padre Pio stated that he immediately began praying for him as requested, and it is not known if he had any further dealings with this particular soul. However, in regards souls in Purgatory it is very interesting to note that later in life Padre Pio once said that ‘As many souls of the dead come up this road to the monastery as that of the souls of the living.”
Without a doubt, many souls from Purgatory visited Padre Pio seeking his prayers, sacrifices and sufferings to obtain their release.
Pray for the Poor Souls daily.
A Special thanks to for this article. God reward and bless you

November the Month of the Holy Souls

Two gravestones in Saint Mary and Saint James Cemetery in Rockford, Illinois. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)

As the weather grows colder and the leaves fall, andThanksgiving and Christmas approach, it is natural that our thoughts turn to those whom we have loved who are no longer with us.

How appropriate, then, that the Catholic Church offers us November, which begins with All Saints Day and All Souls Day, as the Month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory–those who have died in grace, yet who failed in this life to make satisfaction for all of their sins.

In recent years, perhaps no Catholic doctrine has been more misunderstood by Catholics themselves than the doctrine ofPurgatory. Consequently, we tend to downplay it, even seem a little embarrassed by it, and it is the Holy Souls who suffer because of our discomfort with the doctrine.

Purgatory is not, as many people think, one last trial; all of those who make it to Purgatory will one day be in Heaven. Purgatory is where those who have died in grace, but who have not fully atoned for the temporal punishments resulting from their sins, go to finish their atonement before entering Heaven. A soul in Purgatory may suffer, but he ultimately has the assurance that he will enter Heaven when his punishment is complete. Catholics believe Purgatory is an expression of God’s love, His desire to cleanse our souls of all that might keep us from experiencing the fullness of joy in Heaven.

As Christians, we don’t travel through this world alone. Our salvation is wrapped up with the salvation of others, and charity requires us to come to their aid. The same is true of the Holy Souls. In their time in Purgatory, they can pray for us, and we should pray for them that they may be freed from the punishment for their sins and enter into Heaven.

We should pray for the dead throughout the year, especially on the anniversary of their death, but in this Month of the Holy Souls, we should devote some time every day to prayer for the dead. We should start with those closest to us–our mother andfather, for instance–but we should also offer prayers for all the souls, and especially for those most forsaken.

We believe that those Holy Souls for whom we pray will continue to pray for us after they have been released from Purgatory. If we live Christian lives, we too will likely find ourselves in Purgatory someday, and our acts of charity toward the Holy Souls there now will ensure that they remember us before the throne of God when we are most in need of prayers. It’s a comforting thought, and one that should encourage us, especially in this month of November, to offer our prayers for the Holy Souls.

With special thanks to

How to Help The Holy Souls in Purgatory

  • Courtesy of Susan Tassone

– Courtesy of Susan Tassone

Susan Tassone won’t admit it, but she is one of the experts on the souls in purgatory.

Her credentials speak for her. She has written six books on the subject, among them one co-written with Father Benedict Groeschel of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. Cardinal Ivan Dias, former prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, wrote the foreword to her latest book, which has an imprimatur, Praying With the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. She has recently begun her seventh book.

This week, beginning today, Monday, Oct. 24, Tassone will be Johnnette Benkovic’s guest on her EWTN television show Women of Grace. Tassone will be sharing some new insights about Pope St. Gregory the Great and his connection to the holy souls and purgatory. On Nov. 2, All Souls’ Day, she will be Father Mitch Pacwa’s guest on EWTN Live.

She recently spoke about what we can do to help the souls in purgatory.

What is the best devotion to help the souls in purgatory?

The holy sacrifice of the Mass is the chief source of devotion for the holy souls.

So, the most powerful means to relieve or release a soul from purgatory is through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. You’ll find that in the Catechism. It says it in 1032: “From the beginning, the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.”

In Praying With the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, I have Pope Benedict XVI’s writings that point to having Masses offered for the souls in purgatory. [One extensive quote is from Sacramentum Caritatis (Sacrament of Charity).]

After the Mass, the next most powerful way to help the souls is the Rosary, the most powerful Marian prayer on earth — in her approved apparitions, Mary says pray the Rosary for peace in the world, in your hearts, in your family — and the Stations of the Cross, because they’re indulgenced. You have to be in the state of grace to help the souls in purgatory. 

When we pray for the souls, we’ve got to remember we’re giving them paradise, the face of God, when we get them out sooner from purgatory. Our prayers are shortening this horrible suffering of being without God. They then show us their gratitude in the same proportion to their joy.

You recommend Gregorian Masses be offered for souls. What are they, how did they come about, and why are they important?

Gregorian Masses are absolutely the best way to help souls out of purgatory. The background behind them is a fascinating story. 
Pope St. Gregory was a sickly man and had a physician who took care of him throughout his life. The physician, named “Justus,” was also a Benedictine monk in Rome, where the Church of St. Gregory remains today. When Justus was dying, St. Gregory told Justus’ blood brother to take care of him because he also was a physician. While taking care of him, the brother found three gold coins in Justus’ cell. Benedictines took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

The brother told the monks, and they told St. Gregory. He was really upset because he expected the monks to take the vow seriously. Because Justus violated the vow of poverty, Gregory would not allow any of the monks to visit him during his last illness and console or pray with him. Justus was crushed. He wept and was repentant for keeping the coins.

Gregory knew he was in purgatory. He ordered 30 Masses to be said for the soul of Justus. Why 30? Why not 40 or 50 Masses?

The reason is: Gregory was bringing back the tradition from the Old Testament — Israelites mourning for the dead 30 days, such as for Moses and Aaron. 

After the 30th Mass, Justus appeared to his blood brother and said he was released from purgatory. The brother had no idea Masses were being said for Justus. He ran to the monastery and told the monks, who told St. Gregory, who already knew because he already had a private revelation that Justus was released from purgatory.

Word spread all over Rome. People came to the monastery to have Masses said for their loved ones — then priests from France and Spain, and then priests from all over came to Rome to offer Masses at that altar for their loved ones. That altar still exists to this day in the Church of Sts. Andrew and Gregory in Rome. These first Gregorian Masses were offered at this altar.

The altar has three panels, all in relief carvings and engraved in Latin saying St. Gregory had freed the soul of this monk by 30 Masses. The middle panel shows our suffering Lord appearing to Gregory at the altar. The third panel says, in Latin, that St. Gregory is offering Masses in this room to release souls from purgatory. It’s strikingly beautiful. I will show pictures of the altar on Father Pacwa’s show.

Is there a guarantee a soul gets released after the 30 Masses?

Although the practice is approved by the Church, there is no official guarantee. Still, it is a custom that underscores the power of the holy Mass.

A parish normally will not be able to offer 30 consecutive Masses for the same soul. Where can we get Gregorian Masses said?

You can see where on my website,

Why do we need constant reminders to have Masses said for the dead and offer prayers for them? Why pray for the holy souls?

Because God’s justice demands expiation of their sins. Christ told St. Faustina that his mercy didn’t want to send a soul to purgatory, but his justice demands it (Diary 1226, 20).

He places in our hand the means to assist them. We are their only resource. We have an obligation to pray for our loved ones.

Can we say that one goes straight to heaven? Can we say that soul was totally pure and holy and in line with God’s will to go to heaven at once?

We don’t know what the state of the soul was at the hour of death, and we tend to canonize everybody. Only God knows the state of the soul, if it is totally in line with his will. He’s all-holy and majestic and pure.

But we’re given this great power and privilege to release souls from purgatory. Only we are the deliverers. Christ turns to the Church militant. Heaven encourages us. For whatever reason, we’ve been given this great honor and privilege. We’re responsible to pray for our dead.

But what happens if the soul then gets to heaven and you continue to have Masses and prayers offered?

The common answer is that God will apply those Masses to other souls in purgatory or to the most in need or souls in your family. But there’s more: If the soul is already in heaven, and you continue to have Masses said for them and continue to pray for them, what they get is a term we get from Thomas Aquinas — “accidental glory.”

The soul gets an increase in its intimacy with God and an increase in its intercessory power. So the lesson is this: Never stop praying for your dead, no matter how long they’ve been gone. You continue to push them up higher. The prayers are never wasted. God is never outdone in generosity.

Why do you often point out the importance of having Masses offered while the person is alive, including Masses for yourself?

I asked Father Edward McNamara, well-known professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum in Rome about that.

There are three main reasons why Masses should be offered for loved ones while alive. First, it’s an infinite gift. It never stops giving. A living person is still capable of growing in sanctifying grace, so the effect of this incredible grace is they may willingly receive it to be more Christ-like. You have to respond. When you have Masses offered for loved ones and you pray, they respond to the grace.

Second, if it’s offered as intercession for a person in the state of actual mortal sin, it may supply the grace necessary for conversion.

Third, it also fits in the sanctity of healing people.

Who do you miss the most? Who do you wish you could have done more for? Who helped you spiritually and temporally? Who had a major impact on your life? Your enemies or those who hurt you: Have Masses said for them. Have Masses said for yourself. Mass heals the living and deceased. Pray for the living now, for their eternity.

Purgatory points to the seriousness of sin and points out we have to pray and do penance in our own lives.

The Catechism says, in 958, “Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.” They can’t help themselves, but they can pray for us. So, the more we pray for them, the more effective their intercession is for us. 

Why are they called poor souls and holy souls?

They’re called poor because their poverty is the loss of the sight of God. They’re called poor because they can no longer merit; they can’t help themselves. They rely totally on us. We’re their only resource.

Nothing is done alone. The Church Militant reaches out to the Church Suffering and joins them to the Church Triumphant.

And they’re called the holy souls because they can no longer sin. They know they’re saved. They know heaven is awaiting them.

Can you tell us about the new book you’re working on?

This next book takes it into the deeper level mining purgatory. We will be talking about the will of God. It will be a comprehensive prayer book for souls in purgatory, along with thoughts on purgatory and nine reflections on purgatory from saints like Aquinas to Gregory to Catherine of Genoa; and it will include writings of Blessed John Paul II on purgatory.

How can we avoid purgatory?

St. John of the Cross said, “God provides.” So avoid sin. Pray the Rosary. Go to monthly confession. Accept trials. Forgive. The more you pray on earth — constant, fervent prayer throughout life — the closer you will be to getting out of purgatory if you go there.

Do the souls in purgatory help us in this regard?

Because of their great love for us, they’re not only anxious for leaving purgatory, they’re most concerned about our salvation, especially the salvation of their loved ones. They can intercede for us while in purgatory. Their prayers help us recognize our sins and help us understand the malice of sins. And so they reproach us through inspirations of the Holy Spirit. They want us to become holy and saints here. They don’t want us to go to the true purgatory.

Do you have any other advice? Perhaps for educating children that seems especially appropriate with Halloween and All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day coming up?

Pray for the dying. Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for them. Your prayer can give a soul the grace of final repentance. Join the Pious Union of St. Joseph for the Dying.

Nov. 1-8 you can receive a plenary indulgence when you visit a cemetery on those days and apply it to a soul in purgatory.

Remember the children. Teach them the meaning of All Souls’ Day. Take them to the cemeteries. Teach them to sprinkle holy water on the graves. Plant the seed of reverence for the dead, and, in due time, this will assure us of their aid.

We need to learn from purgatory, avoid purgatory and empty purgatory.

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