Thursday, December 9, 2010

Praying for Those Forgotten Souls in Purgatory ... No Matter Who They Are

I remember when Rose, a few years ago, suddenly had the realization in Mass (maybe during one of the Holy Week masses?) that Hitler and Stalin might have had sudden last minute realizations of the enormity of their sins ... and repented.

She was gripped with sorrow in case of that event and began praying for their souls.

This was a powerful moment for me because I'd always had a tender spot for those holy souls in Purgatory who had no one to pray for them. However, I'd always thought of them as someone much like the little match girl in Hans Christian Andersen's story. Huddled in a corner, everyone they knew was gone, and no one left to pray for them.

It hadn't occurred to me that those forgotten souls might be forgotten because it never would have occurred to anyone that someone so evil in life might have repented and now be in need of prayers while in Purgatory.

It dovetailed nicely though with one of my favorite images from Madeleine L'Engles meditations in one of her books (and I can't remember which one right now, but aren't we glad I wrote it down to remember?).
... There is an old legend that after his death Judas found himself at the bottom of a deep and slimy pit. For thousands of years he wept his repentance, and when the tears were finally spent he looked up and saw, way, way up, a tiny glimmer of light. After he had contemplated it for another thousand years or so, he began to try to climb up towards it. The walls of the pit were dank and slimy, and he kept slipping back down. Finally, after great effort, he neared the top, and then he slipped and fell all the way back down. It took him many years to recover, all the time weeping bitter tears of grief and repentance, and then he started to climb up again. After many more falls and efforts and failures he reached the top and dragged himself into an upper room with twelve people seated around a table. "We've been waiting for you, Judas," Jesus said. "We couldn't begin till you came."
Why do I bring all this up?

It came inexorably to mind when Frank at Why I Am Catholic began considering the fact that Vlad the Impaler was Catholic. You know him, right? Vlad Dracul III? Dracula? The real one.

As always Frank's cogitations are good ones. Go read. Think. And don't forget to pray for those forgotten souls. Whoever they are.


  1. Julie! This is such a powerful thought. Thank you for sharing! I remember once coming across the Balthazar book "Dare We To Hope That All Men Be Saved?"--I confess I never read the book, but that phrase haunted (blessed?) my thoughts for months.

  2. I generally ask God or my guardian angel to pick the soul I'm praying for in Purgatory. I figure that way if someone is especially in need, that person gets the help.

  3. I pray for all of the forgotten ones. :-)

  4. I'm a universalist when it comes to salvation, that's one who believes that ultimately in the course of eternity all souls will eventually get to heaven. Now this is certainly outside of Catholic doctrine but I can't help believing this. If God loves us all, and God is infinitly just, then eternal damnation is unjust and unloving. So even for the worst sinners (Hitler, Stalin, Vlad) after some long punishment, Christ's compassion will yield the punishment. This is why I have a devotion to the sacred heart of Jesus; the sacred heart encapsulates infinte love. Excuse my spiel.

  5. Awesome post, Julie. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. I am not evolved enough to pray for Hitler. I will focus my intentions on other souls. :)

    Have you seen the play, "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot?" It is really powerful: the closing image of Jesus reaching down to Judas, begging him just to ask for forgiveness so Jesus can take him out of hell.

  7. I haven't, but it sounds powerful (to take you word).

  8. Does every 12 year old girl go through a phase of praying intensely for Judas? I did, and so did my mom.

  9. For years, on every All Souls Day, I dedicated the prayer for the Soul Most Forgotten to Judas Iscariot.