Prayers to Purgatory

Thirty-Day Devotions for the Holy Souls

by Susan Tassone

OSV, 2004

159 pages, $6.95

To order: (800) 348-2440


Susan Tassone, tireless champion of the temporary citizens of purgatory, has given Catholics another great tool — one that's sure to help many holy souls toward the completion of their journey.

She's getting to be quite the authority on the subject, having spoken widely and penned three previous books with the words “holy souls” in the title. This time around Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, sets the tone in a foreword that concisely synopsizes the “why” of this category of prayer.

“Susan Tassone reminds us of those linked to us by faith and grace who now, after their death, await the vision of God in the purifying situation of purgatory,” he writes. “They have died in God's grace and friendship, and are indeed assured of eternal salvation but at death were not fully aligned with God's will for their purification.”

“Purgatory is a topic that cannot be evaded if we are serious about the afterlife,” he adds, “which is integral to Christian teaching and which confronts us with a future that depends on our relationship with God in the moment of our death.”

Who among us couldn't use a resource that shows how to pray with special fervor for those we love who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith? It only seems right to me since I, myself, am not perfect. One day I, too, will be grateful for the prayers of the mystical body of Christ as I “cross over” from this life to the next.

Tassone reminds us that our prayers and sacrifices can shorten our loved ones’ time in purgatory, just as good behavior can shorten a prisoner's sentence. What a beautiful thought — not to mention a great privilege and an awesome responsibility.

Especially helpful are specific prayers that will console the person praying as they aid the soul being prayed for. These are supported by scriptural passages, reflections from saints and answers to the most commonly asked questions about purgatory.

Perhaps most useful, though, is the month-long program of prayer Tassone suggests. As if to keep us motivated to stick with it, she reminds us that, from the earliest days of the Church, the faithful have been encouraged to pray for the dead. “This pious practice was preached with great zeal by all the great Church Fathers and Doctors,” she writes.

We even get a quick history lesson as we consider the origins of the practice of celebrating Mass on 30 consecutive days for the faithful departed. It turns out Pope St. Gregory the Great began the custom; hence the moniker “Gregorian Masses.”

Later Tassone shares a memorable quote from St. Augustine on the holy souls:

“We have loved them dearly in life, so let us not abandon them until we have conducted them by our prayers into the house of the Lord.”

This treasury of prayers and meditations is a gift to share with those who've lost someone close, whether the loss happened recently or some time ago. For everyone else, I offer this thought: The day will come for each of us when we'll either turn to a resource like this one — or wish we knew where to turn.

Bill Zalot writes from Levittown, Pennsylvania.