Yesterday was a rather busy day so I didn’t get around to blogging about St. Gertrude, whose feast was yesterday. She is a favorite of mine because of her devotion to the sacred heart of Jesus and because of her persistent prayers for the souls in purgatory.
In an age when many people are confused about purgatory, it is extremely important that we pray for them. We, the Church militant, must pray for them, the Church suffering, so that they will enter into the Church triumphant.
It’s important because so few people actually seem to do it these days. Of Catholics, I wonder how many actually pray for the souls of the departed with intent. Funeral Masses become, tragically, a time to “rejoice that person X is now in heaven” while the purpose of a funeral Mass is to prayerfully bring person X to God. That means praying for the soul of person X at that moment and following.
A great book, North of Hope, profiles an elderly priest, Monsignor Lawrence, who prays faithfully for hundreds of souls a day:
I am currently praying for seven hundred and five departed souls….The list begins with my grandfather Lawrence, who died when I was seven, and it extends down through the years to Hubert Humphry. A man at my age can’t support that many faithful departed. I can’t get through the list anymore. Ever since my heart attack I get up into the four hundreds and I fall asleep. Now what I want to know is, Frank, why doesn’t the Church impose a sunset law on prayers for the dead? (451)
This is a very sincere man, a genuine priest, who does what he knows he must do in praying for those who have died. We see in him a man who recognizes the need to pray for them. Listen to this, what he says about his father: “He was a shoo-in for heaven, everybody knew that. I haven’t once skipped my daily prayer for him since his funeral, and that was sixty-four years ago.”
Along with the Monsignor here, we ought to continue in our daily practice of prayer for the dead.
St. Gertrude said that praying for the souls of the dead is perhaps the most important thing we can ever do on earth. That single act is more important than all the social justice business we could ever find (which is important, or course!)
For example, in building a house for the poor, we give shelter to someone for at least some of his/her earthly life; in praying for the dead, we bring someone to eternal life in paradise.
Again, we must respond to the commands from the Gospels and embrace the social teachings of the Church. But we must also not neglect to take to heart the commands to pray for those who have died.
The following prayer was written, under inspiration, by St. Gertrude, along with the promise that in saying this prayer, 1,000 souls from Purgatory are released each time it is said.
Eternal Father, I offer Thee 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, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.
Let’s pray it!