As we begin the month of November, the month dedicated to praying for the souls in purgatory, let us remember to pray for the souls of priests. Although many priests are holy, they are still human and imperfect, and as we cannot know for certain who is in Heaven, it is an act of charity and mercy to pray for everyone who has died. We can also hope that people who have not been holy—whether priests or laity—may have repented of their sins before they died, and be with God after a time of purification.
As priests are our spiritual fathers and part of our family in the Church, we should pray for their souls, just as we pray for our relatives who have died. Priests have dedicated their lives to serving God and the Church. Even priests we have never met have helped us through their prayers and the sacrifice of the Mass, which is offered for the whole Church. We have all been helped in some way by priests. Praying for priests after they have died is one way we can thank them.
I came to realize the importance of praying for the souls of priests because of my close friendships with priests who have died. These priests became like fathers to me and it was very difficult when I learned that they would soon die. I promised each priest that I would pray for him after he died, every day for the rest of my life; they seemed happy to know I would continue to remember them in my prayers. In the months after they died, it brought me great consolation to know that my prayers could help them, and I believe they know I am praying for them. Even if they are already in Heaven, God can use my prayers for a good purpose—maybe to help the souls of other priests.
My experience of praying for my spiritual fathers led me to pray for the souls of priests I don’t know as well. At the Franciscan friary chapel, where I often attend weekday Mass, there is a book which contains short biographies of the friars of that province on the dates of their deaths. It has become my practice to pray for the souls of these friars on their anniversaries whenever I go to Mass at the friary.
Last January, a priest I am friends with gave me an Ordo (guidelines for the Liturgy of the Hours and the Mass) for the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Albany so I could pray for the souls of the priests whose names are listed each day. I also pray for the souls of all the priests in purgatory, of every diocese and order.
For the past three years, the organization I started, which has a ministry to senior priests, has offered a Mass in November for the souls of all priests. It is my hope that Catholics in every diocese would also offer a memorial Mass for the souls of priests and remember them in their daily prayers.
Some Suggestions for Praying for the Souls of Priests
- Have Masses offered for any priests you knew who have died.
- Arrange for a Mass to be offered in your diocese every November for the souls of priests.
- Offer indulgences for the souls of priests in purgatory.
- Pray daily for the souls of priests, both by name and for all deceased priests. You can offer the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for them.
- Purchase the Ordo for your diocese and pray for the souls of all the priests listed in it.