Q. Can the souls in Purgatory can pray for the people on earth? Can the saints in heaven, pray for souls in purgatory?
A. In the Apostles’ Creed, we profess that we believe in the Communion of Saints, which is another way to describe the Church.
Jesus established the Church as His Mystical Body, and He remains the head of this Body. Through the sacraments, the riches of Christ are given to the members of His Body, and bind them or bring them into communion with Him. Because members of the Church are bound to Christ, they are also in union with one another. This union of all the members to Christ and one another is called the Communion of Saints.
The Communion of Saints consists of three states: the pilgrim Church on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven.
The saints in heaven offer the Church the witness of their lives. Their lives demonstrate that holiness is indeed possible, and that all, with the grace of God, can be sanctified. Moreover, the saints assist the entire Church with their prayers, as they intercede on our behalf.
The souls in purgatory have passed from this world in the state of grace, but require further purification of their souls. Nothing unholy can enter the presence of God. Our Lord himself tells his disciples to “be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).
The tradition of the Church is that the souls in purgatory can pray for us, but not for themselves. Those who are members of the pilgrim Church on earth have the duty to pray for these souls in purgatory. However, if we see ourselves as part of the Communion of Saints, praying for the poor souls in purgatory should not be done merely as a duty, but done out of love for our brothers and sisters who long to be with the Lord.
We on earth may invoke the intercession of the saints in heaven to pray for those who have died. The Church asks for the intercession of the saints during the final commendation at the graveside of the deceased, saying, “Saints of God come to his/her aid! Come to meet him/her angels of the Lord!”
The 2nd Book of Maccabees tells us “It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins” (2 Maccabees 12:46). When we, the pilgrim Church on earth, pray and offer sacrifices for these souls that await the full glory in the Lord, they most certainly will never forget us.
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