Saint’s Prayers for Souls in Purgatory

Do also the saints in heaven pray for the souls in purgatory as we ourselves do? Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
by Father Edward McNamara, LC | Source:
Q: The Church is often called the communion of saints, the militant Church, the purgative Church and the Church triumphant. We living here on earth are urged to pray for the souls in purgatory to help them purify themselves from their sins in order to enjoy the beatific vision. My question is: Do also the saints in heaven pray for the souls in purgatory as we ourselves do? -- S.B., San Gwann, Malta

A: The question is more theological than liturgical and very speculative theology at that, but is also very intriguing. The crux of the question revolves around the way that the saints in heaven can know the realities that occur on earth and in purgatory.

In general most theologians hold that once a person enters into the realm of the beatific vision, they do not have universal access to our thoughts or to earthly reality.

Any knowledge they gain is received directly from God, and God most certainly makes them aware of requests for their intercession in a way that we can only imagine but never fully grasp while remaining here below.

Therefore I believe we can confidently affirm that the saints intercede for the souls in purgatory in those cases when someone on earth requests that saint's intercession for a particular soul.

The Church itself invokes the saints in this way, albeit in a universal manner, during the rite of final commendation at the graveside at the prayer of the faithful:

"V. Saints of God come to his/her aid! Come to meet him/her angels of the Lord!"
"R. Receive his/her soul and present him/her to God the Most High."

If the Church proposes a prayer to implore that the saints come to the aid of the dead, then it clearly believes this aid is possible.

From a theological standpoint it is very difficult to be able to affirm that saints intercede, on their own initiative, so to speak, for the souls in purgatory without some form of earthly intercession.

It does not mean it does not happen; it is just that we have no way of knowing.

It is also possible that in a general way the saint's participation in the heavenly liturgy continually glorifying God is also of benefit to the souls in purgatory, but once more we are ignorant of the precise manner in which this might come about.

As the poet Thomas Grey said: "Where ignorance is bliss, 'Tis folly to be wise."

If we were sure that the saints of heaven were independently praying for the souls in purgatory, perhaps many would defer the act of spiritual charity of praying for the deceased to the saint's powerful intercession.

The blessing of ignorance obliges us to continue exercising this intercession on our own, in the hope that others will do likewise for us when we are gone.



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