Light and Life – Sept.-Oct. 2019, Vol 72, No 5 – A Publication of the Western Dominican Province
Now that we have considered the nature of Purgatory, we might ask what our Blessed Mother would say about praying for those who languish there, longing for eternal union with Her Son, Our Lord and Savior. Let us begin by considering that some of the feelings we are familiar with (e.g., our delight in food and sex) will not accompany us beyond the grave, because our appreciation of them depends upon the body. However, other feelings, such as love, joy, and sorrow will be a part of our life after death, and faith teaches these will be touched by our prayers and suffrages offered for those who have died. (“Suffrages” are intercessory prayers, indulgences, alms and other pious works, especially the sacrifice of the Mass.)
These actions avail the faithful departed in two ways. Our good works lay claim to God’s justice; our prayers appeal to God’s mercy. In the Creed, we profess our faith in the Communion of Saints, a lasting relation between members of the Church that does not end with death. This communal life is based on God’s love and can be nourished even after death.
We must remember, however, that, after death, this communal life is a state enjoyed by souls who have merited a place in Purgatory. Our prayers and good deeds have no effect on souls that have been admitted to Heaven – or upon those condemned to Hell. St. Augustine describes the purpose of suffrages very succinctly when he observes, “Suffrages profit those who are not very good or not very bad.”
Our Blessed Mother, the model for the Church on earth, is no less our model in her care for the Church’s members after their death. Our Catechism quotes the Byzantine liturgy for the August 15 feast of Mary’s Dormition (“falling asleep”):
…in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death. (CCC, 966)
This trust is echoed in the Vatican Council’s document, Lumen Gentium, which declares:
Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside her saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation….Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. (LG, 62)
We need look no further than the Rosary to embrace a suffrage extolled for centuries by the Church’s saints and devotional writers. To pray the Rosary expresses our faith in Mary’s never-failing help in this life, and trust in her assistance as we approach the life we hope to share with her in God’s kingdom.