Father Alex, a recent visitor at the Pilgrim Center of Hope, advised that prayer partners are a great way to stay accountable in our spiritual life. Great advice, I thought, but how am I going to find someone willing to prayer with me at 5:30am or can be as flexible as I am called to be given my ever-changing family’s schedule?
Turns out…it’s actually quite easy.
This week, I explored more deeply the Catholic Church’s teaching on the communion of saints thanks to a free self-study I am taking from the Catholic Home Study Service. I learned the Body of Christ, our Church, is divided in three:
- The Church Triumphant is made up of saints who are united with God in Heaven.
- Those of us still living on Earth are the Church Militant.
- The Church Suffering is our brothers and sisters who have died in God’s grace but are still in need of purification. These holy souls in purgatory are assured of Heaven…just not yet.
In his general audience on August 4, 1999, Pope John Paul II stressed that the term “purgatory” does not indicate a place, but rather “a condition of existence” of “those who, after death, exist in a state of purification.” Since a saint is defined as someone who does God’s will in all things, it is reassuring to know that God’s mercy through purgatory is available for those of us who fall short of this definition.
During this state of purification, souls can pray for us, but no longer for themselves. In God’s mercy for their souls and ours, we are allowed to participate with our Blessed Mother, the saints, and angels in prayer for these holy souls to alleviate their suffering and hasten their journey to Heaven. (It’s important to note here that offering our sufferings up for the forgiveness of sins is believed to lessen our time in purgatory. So those of us who rolled our eyes every time Mom suggested we do just that should call them immediately and apologize!)
“Nothing is done alone,” writes Susan Tassone, author of Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. “The Church Militant reaches out to the Church Suffering and enjoins them with the Church Triumphant. We work as a team.” This team has become my prayer partners and they are available 24/7; so even with my crazy schedule I always have partners to pray with and to keep me accountable.
I have found that the perfect prayer for this partnership is the Rosary and in particular the Hail Mary. I begin my daily Rosary asking the heavenly hosts, my guardian angel, my favorite saints and the holy souls in purgatory to pray for me and for all of us on Earth to Jesus through our Blessed Mother.
Then, I envision them united in prayer,
“Hail Mary Full of Grace, the Lord is With Thee, Blessed Art Thou Among Women and Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb Jesus.”
I recite the second part of the prayer for all of us and for the holy souls in purgatory,
“Holy Mary Mother of God Pray for Us Sinners Now and at the Hour of our Death.”
The fruit of this prayer partnership is that I am accountable in assisting these poor souls reach Heaven, and that helps me stay focused and free of distraction. I enjoy a growing connection to my family in Eternity and assurance due to the Church’s teaching that my prayers are effective. This connection is drawing me closer to Christ through my communion with His family in prayer.
Want to participate in our prayer partnership? Just start praying the Rosary daily wherever and whenever you can and you will be a part of this perfect prayer partnership.
(To learn more about the holy souls in purgatory, view this 30-minute video with Susan Tassone on EWTN Bookmark.)
As we enter heaven, we will seem them, so many of them coming toward us and thanking us. We will ask who they are and they will tell us, ‘A poor soul you prayed for in purgatory! – Venerable Fulton J. Sheen