How to Pray for Souls
There are many ways to pray for the souls in purgatory. In November, the Church offers a plenary indulgence that we can obtain for them, but we can pray for them in other ways throughout the year.
One simple way is to pray this version of the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on the souls in purgatory.”
Another way is to attach this prayer to grace before meals: “May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”
Or we can lift up a spontaneous prayer, in words or in silence, from the heart.
Many people also turn to this prayer of St. Gertrude, said to release 1,000 souls from purgatory for those who pray it devoutly:
I offer You the Most Precious Blood
of Thy Divine Son, Jesus,
in union with the Masses said
throughout the world today,
for all the holy souls in purgatory,
for sinners everywhere,
for sinners in the universal Church,
for those in my own home,
and in my family. Amen.
Even if we pray for a loved one and it turns out that his soul is already in heaven, those prayers will not be wasted; God will use them to help other souls who need them. And since God is outside of time, we can pray for souls who died months, years, or centuries ago, and our prayers now can assist them at the time of their death.
A Two-Way Street
The Catechism assures us that our prayers help souls in purgatory — and that it’s a two-way street: When we pray for them, these souls receive extra ability to pray for us.
“Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them,” the Catechism (958) says, “but also of making their intercession for us effective.”
I walk this two-way street, literally and spiritually, several times a week, when I visit a nearby cemetery. Over two centuries old, it has become a beloved place for me to think and pray. I read the headstones and pray for all the souls whose bodies were buried here. To keep my mortality before me, I sometimes imagine my own name on one of the headstones and hope that, when it becomes real, someone will see it and pray for my soul.
I also ask these souls to pray for me, giving them special intentions that are weighing on my heart. When I do, I feel surrounded by an invisible force field of love. Their prayers have brought tangible, powerful graces into my life, and I think of these souls as friends in the Mystical Body of Christ.
If every person reading this takes a moment to pray for the souls in purgatory, how grateful they will be for our assistance. When you pray for them, remember that you can ask them for their prayers, also. In the Mystical Body, God’s mercy enables us not only to give graces to one another, but to receive them as well.
The holy souls will not forget you when you remember them.