November has traditionally been the month to pray for the dead, particularly for the holy souls in purgatory. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” states that “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal Salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven.” The state of purgatory is real and certain texts of Scripture refer to purgatory as a “cleansing fire.” In this article we will learn how our prayers to St. Joseph are indispensable for their deliverance and our sure way of preventing or shortening our own stay in purgatory.

The Church refers to the souls in purgatory as the Church Suffering. In the economy of Salvation, the Church Militant, those of us who are living and carrying our cross daily, fighting the good fight of faith as soldiers for Christ, can intercede by our prayers, sacrifices and most especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to alleviate the sufferings of the holy souls in purgatory and obtain their release. Although their final destination is Heaven after this period of purification, the holy souls can no longer do anything for themselves to alleviate their own sufferings in that place of “cleansing fire.” The holy souls depend on our charity to pray for them for their prompt release from purgatory to their final destination in Heaven, since only the pure of heart can see God. Having recourse to St. Joseph, Patron of the Dying and Patron of a Holy Death, through prayers and Masses offered in his honor, can obtain for the holy souls release from that place of intense suffering to come purified into the presence of God. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” affirms “From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God” (CCC 1032). This fact is affirmed by the “Catechism” makes clear that not everyone goes directly to Heaven. 

The blood martyrs of the faith, given the grace as we are given at Baptism to die for the faith, do go straight to Heaven. Whether we are called to a red, blood martyrdom or a white martyrdom of acceptance of our daily suffering in our conformity with Christ, we should all be striving for Heaven as our destination for we have no resting place here below.  We do this by keeping the Commandments, embracing our daily crosses in union with the cross of Christ and exercising the Christian virtues. In death, if at our judgment we have not been found worthy of going directly to Heaven, we will still be glad to go to purgatory because it is temporary and we know we will ultimately attain Heaven, rejoicing that we have escaped hell forever. However, the tremendous suffering still awaiting us in purgatory for our purification should make us desire to make greater acts of penance and prayer to God for ourselves and in charity for the holy souls of those who have gone before us so as to mitigate our punishment still due for sins forgiven but not fully expiated in this life. Therefore, it is very important not to canonize our family members and friends upon their death, but rather offer Holy Masses for them in case they are judged to go to purgatory for a time at the judgment of God. How unhappy we should be to find ourselves in purgatory and not have anyone pray for us because they have assumed that we are in Heaven. A true devotion of St. Joseph will rid us of this foolish presumption for ourselves and others. By having recourse to St. Joseph, the Patron of a Holy Death, and by offering him special prayers and acts of devotion we help secure for ourselves the grace of a holy death. When we invoke St. Joseph’s intercession for the souls in purgatory, we obtain for them his special help and powerful intercession given him by God as the foster father of Christ Our Lord and Judge.

According to Rev. Donald Calloway, MIC, in his book “Consecration to St. Joseph,” devotion to St. Joseph as a powerful intercessor for the holy souls in purgatory is an unknown treasure in the Church’s devotional life. A 19th-century religious in Paris, France, Blessed Mary of Providence, was given a special charism to help the souls in purgatory with her devotion to St. Joseph. The Lord helped her establish a religious congregation, The Helpers of the Souls in Purgatory, dedicated to this purpose which Blessed Mary placed under the patronage of St. Joseph. The saintly Cure of Ars, St. John Vianney, came to know of it and was delighted with this charism. He personally gave the congregation his entire support, often sending Blessed Mary letters with Spiritual counsel and advice. Another French religious, Servant of God Sister Mary Martha Chambon once was spoken to by St. Joseph himself, who assured her that all who were devoted to him in life would continue to receive his intercession after death. St. Joseph told her, “If the soul who prayed to me still has debts to pay to the Sovereign Judge, I shall ask for grace on its behalf.” God listens to St. Joseph’s requests and nothing is refused him because of his great dignity and mission on behalf of the Church Militant and Church Suffering.

Aside from honoring St. Joseph during the month of March, another traditional way in which the Church has honored St. Joseph has been to offer Wednesdays to St. Joseph with special prayers and to assist at Holy Mass on Wednesday in his honor. In the past priests would offer a votive Mass in honor of St. Joseph if they were not prevented by an obligatory feast. It would be encouraging to see many priests and faithful return to this practice. Another religious, St. Gertrude, was given a prayer to release 1,000 souls from purgatory each time it is prayed. We can easily make this short prayer a daily devotion to release the holy souls. We can ask St. Joseph to intercede for us with such prayers to God.

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.

Finally, another practice is to enroll oneself in the Pious Union of St. Joseph.  At the encouragement of St. Pope Pius X, St. Luigi Guanella initiated an apostolate whose members offer daily prayer for the suffering and the dying. It soon became an international association of intercession for the suffering and dying. If one is interested in enrollment in the Pious Union, the United States headquarters of the Pious Union of St. Joseph is in Grass Lake, Mich. Here is a beautiful prayer to St. Joseph for a Soul in Purgatory and for our own deliverance should we find ourselves in purgatory at the end of our earthly pilgrimage. Let us go to Joseph, now while we have time, and secure for ourselves and the Church Suffering, his consolation and prompt deliverance from purgatory.

Prayer to St. Joseph for a Soul in Purgatory

St. Joseph, reigning in Heaven with Jesus and Mary, intercede for the souls in purgatory. Hear our prayers for family, friends, parishioners, and clergy who have served you and lived out their faith in our parish family. Please turn Your gaze to the soul who is most forgotten in purgatory. From the Mist of Mercy let this holy soul journey into Heaven to see the face of God to be reunited with family and friends and to praise the Holy Trinity in the company of all the saints. St. Joseph, when it is my time to give my soul to God, I beg for your blessing and pray to you to be prompt in delivering me from purgatory so that I can see you, Jesus and Mary face to face. Amen.

Small and her husband Bill have made their solemn profession as Third Order Franciscans of the Immaculate, through the Franciscans of the Immaculate in New Bedford.