Have you ever heard of the Church’s treasury? It’s not money or the precious artwork in the Vatican museums. No, the Church’s treasury is of infinite value because it contains all the spiritual goods and grace that Jesus himself merited for us. And we can draw from this treasure to help the holy souls! But how?
First let’s look at a couple key ideas from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
- As members of the Church we belong to the communion of saints. We profess this in the Creed we pray each Sunday at Mass. The communion of saints is the union of everyone in the Church, which includes all those in heaven, ourselves on earth, and the souls in purgatory. This is a great thing because we are all united in the Church, no matter what stage we’re at. That’s why we who are still on earth can help the souls in purgatory. We can offer prayers and works of mercy for them, and God uses those things to help the holy souls.
- “We also call these spiritual goods of the communion of saints the Church’s treasury.” First of all this treasury “is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ’s merits have before God. (…) This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary (…) [and] the prayers and good works of all the saints.” (CCC, nos. 1476-77). The word “saints” here includes us too, who are following Jesus in our earthly journey.
We ourselves draw from this treasury whenever we pray, receive the sacraments, or exercise our faith in any way. We contribute to it with whatever good we do. Our efforts might seem paltry compared to the infinite merits of Christ. But God doesn’t overlook our efforts! No, he blesses us and he blesses those we pray for. Every time we pray, work with dedication and love, or help someone, we are adding our own small part to the great spiritual treasury of the Church. God freely bestows grace on all those we pray for, including the holy souls in purgatory. When we ask him, God draws from the Church’s treasury to help the holy souls, because prayer has the power to obtain God’s blessings.
Jesus said in the Gospel, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be” (Mt 6:21). If our heart is in the right place, we will think about our dear loved ones who have already passed into eternal life. Certainly we hope they are already in heaven enjoying their eternal reward. But it’s best to pray for them anyway, in case they are still being purified. Our prayers won’t go to waste for God will use them to benefit somebody. With that in mind, here are three easy ways to help the holy souls.
- Have Masses offered for the deceased, and also pray for them by participating in Mass. The Mass is the greatest means to help the holy souls because in the Mass, Jesus himself renews the sacrifice he made for us on Calvary and offers it again to the Father. Jesus “is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25). Unfortunately, it seems that today more Catholics are getting buried without a funeral Mass. But the Mass is the greatest way to help them, so we should never neglect this important matter when a loved one dies.
- Obtain indulgences for the deceased. By an indulgence God grants some remission of the effects of sin to the holy souls, which means they are purified more quickly. Many ordinary Catholic practices have indulgences, like reading the Bible, making the Stations of the Cross, and even offering our daily duties to God.
- Practice Marian devotion and ask Our Lady to help the holy souls. Blessed James Alberione writes: “The Blessed Mother relieves, consoles, and comforts the souls in purgatory.” Among all Marian prayers and devotions, the Rosary has a special place. It is a very simple and effective way to pray for the holy souls
by Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouvé, FSP
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