I’m fascinated by Catholic doctrine. As a theologian, I’m impressed by their meticulous preservation of historical records and traditions. One such tradition is Purgatory. Last year, I approached a Catechist friend and asked him to spare some time and teach me the concept of purgatory and what happens there. He took me through this topic for a month. Last week, one of my college theology students approached me and asked me whether souls in purgatory can visit us or see us. A month ago, I had tackled the topic of Purgatory and it looked like students still had more questions. I was thankful for the knowledge I had acquired on this subject and decided to create another lesson on this topic. So, can Souls in Purgatory see us?
The general belief is that Purgatory is a transitional phase where Souls focus on their own purification and remain dissociated from what’s happening on Earth. As such, we can assume that the Souls in Purgatory cannot see us. However, there are accounts of departed Souls appearing to family members and friends requesting prayers. Such apparitions cast doubt as to whether Souls in Purgatory can see us. To solve this apparent disconnect, the Church teaches that Souls can only see what God lets them see.
In this article, I’ll share some thoughts on Purgatory. I’ll focus on the experiences of the Souls in Purgatory and what Catholicism teaches we can help. I hope this article gives you a clearer understanding of this doctrine and helps you better understand and appreciate what other denominations teach.
Can Souls in Purgatory Pray for Us?
Theologians differ as to whether the Souls in Purgatory can pray for us. St. Thomas Aquinas, for instance, argued that they could not pray for us, while St. Robert Bellarmine believed they could. Most Catholics hold to St. Aquinas’ view, insisting that the Souls need our prayers more than we need theirs.
Do Souls know they are in Purgatory?
Yes. Souls know when they’re sent to Purgatory and when they get out. According to the Benedictus Deus, the Souls in Purgatory experience two kinds of pain- that of the sense and the pain of loss. The latter results from being stopped from seeing God until their purification is over. As such, we can deduce that the Souls know they’re in Purgatory and look forward to the end of their sanctification, so they can see God.
Can Souls in Purgatory pray for each other?
There isn’t anything suggesting they cannot. Souls in Purgatory undergo purification from sin and impurities caused by sin. During this process, we can assume they’re stripped of selfishness, so it makes sense for them to pray for each other. However, some argue that the Souls cannot pray for each other. Instead, they rely on the prayers of family and friends.
How can we help Souls in Purgatory?
There are several ways to help the Souls in Purgatory. November 2 is a day designated to commemorate departed Souls being purified in Purgatory. Here are some ways to help the Souls in Purgatory.
This is the best way to help Souls in Purgatory. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, holding a mass to commemorate and pray for the dead helps them in their journey to attain the beatific vision. In particular, Gregorian masses are the gold standard. Gregorian masses are a Catholic tradition instituted during the tenure of Pope Gregory (540-604), where 30 consecutive masses are held for one soul. According to tradition, the soul of a departed monk appeared to the pope and requested 30 masses. After they were done, he reappeared radiant in heaven. Gregorian masses presume the departed is in Purgatory.
Pray for the departed Souls
Another way to help those in Purgatory is to pray for them. The Church recommends the Rosary as the most powerful prayer you can offer for the dead. Invoking this prayer is believed to release an outpouring of grace to the Souls in Purgatory and ease their suffering. You aren’t limited to the Rosary; you can offer other prayers. The Church bases this tradition in 2 Maccabeus 12:46, where Judas Maccabeus offered prayers and a sin offering for his men before burial.
Alms and penance are another way to help the Souls in Purgatory, as taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Giving up something you love for a period or joyfully enduring suffering or inconvenience is believed to ease the suffering of those in Purgatory.
Do the Souls in Purgatory appear as ghosts?
Again, drawing from the writings of Thomas Aquinas, departed Souls occasionally appear to men usually to request prayer. God sometimes lets them appear to us and beg for intercession, which relieves their suffering. The Church has several writings of men who claimed visitation from departed Souls in Purgatory. One such example is Pope Gregory, whom we mentioned earlier. These Souls appear as ghosts.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.