Not so fast!
The Catholic Catechism teaches that “all who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (CCC1030). This place of purification is known as Purgatory. We pray for the souls in Purgatory to assist them in this process of purification. Our goal is heaven where God resides. If there is sin in our lives at the time of our death that we have not dealt with while here on earth, then we must undergo purification so we can sustain the glory of God’s presence.
Below is a beautiful, simple prayer given to us by Saint Gertrude the Great that assists souls in Purgatory.
Eternal Father, I offer you the most Precious Blood of your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with all the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, for those in my own home, and within my family. Amen.
Tradition states that when reciting this prayer, 1,000 souls are released from Purgatory.
Where did this number come from?
Saint Gertrude the Great was born in Germany in 1256 in the same town as Martin Luther, although two centuries earlier. She is considered one of the great mystics of the 13th century. Upon entering the Benedictine order, Saint Gertrude received an education in many different subjects. She was fluent in Latin and very familiar with scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers. She wrote extensively about the Sacred Heart of Jesus and helped spread the devotion throughout the world. At the age of 25, she experienced her first series of visions. She wrote about her experiences in several documents, one of which is titled – Herald of Divine Love.
Saint Gertrude had a great devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Through her visions and writings, she shared how the Lord assured her that the reciting of her prayer in a pious manner would ease the suffering of the holy souls in Purgatory. However, nowhere in her writings does she speak of a specific number of souls that would be helped through this prayer.
False Promises and Indulgences
In the 19th century, the Holy See, under the authority of Pope Leo XIII issued a rule that prohibited prayers, holy cards, and other religious items that promised the release of a specific number of souls from Purgatory. There are many ways approved by the Church to assist the souls in Purgatory. Some of those ways include the Mass, fasting, penance, almsgiving, and a variety of prayers including the Rosary. Saint Gertrude’s prayer is one of the prayers approved to assist the Holy Souls. However, the Church does not allow us to specify how many souls will be saved by what we offer to God. That is God’s decision, not ours!
It is unknown how the specific number of 1,000 souls released from Purgatory became attached to the Saint Gertrude’s prayer, especially since it is not mentioned in any of her writings. The prayer is a beautiful, simple prayer that eases the suffering of the holy souls in Purgatory when we say the prayer with devotion and love.
More on Saint Gertrude the GREAT
Saint Gertrude was never formally canonized. However, 300 years after her death, Rome approved a liturgical office of prayer and readings in her honor. The abbess during her time as a Benedictine nun, was also named Gertrude. To differentiate the two women, Pope Benedict XIV gave Saint Gertrude the title, “the Great.” She is the only woman saint with this title.
Saint Gertrude the Great is the patroness of the West Indies. Her feast day is November 16. Peru celebrates her feast with great splendor and a town in Mexico was built in her honor and bears her name.
The Lesson Learned
It is important to help the souls in Purgatory. The Saint Gertrude prayer is one of those prayers that can assist the holy souls. What I have learned in researching this prayer is to continue to pray the Saint Gertrude prayer everyday and to let God do what He does best in deciding who and how many will be released from Purgatory. Let God, be God! Amen!
Saint Gertrude the Great, pray for us!