Prayers for Suffering Souls

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Suicide violates the fifth commandment of God “Thou shall not kill.” To kill is a mortal sin. Life comes from God, and it is a grave act of rebellion to take one’s own life, voluntarily rejecting the very gift God gave every human person. But the mentally ill people do not have the knowledge of the significance of their actions. In most cases, the act comes out of intense desperation, not malice.

Catechism of the Catholic Church on Suicide

2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

Taking one’s own life is a mortal sin indeed. But there is not a sin that God cannot forgive. God’s Mercy is never ceasing, and without end. It is ever present, never ending, and always overflowing.

We cannot know whether the soul who has departed this life by suicide had been condemned forever. To say that the gate of heaven is closed on them forever is to limit the omnipotent mercy of God. What if the power of our prayers, intercessions, our love for those who are suffering even more in soul than they have suffered in body can help to mitigate the pains of these souls?

Catholic Church believes in the existence of purgatory. It is a place of purification where those who die in a state of grace are believed to be made ready before they are fully united with God. The final moment of the soul is only known to God, and for those who have truly repented, a pardon is given though he may not be put on the straight path to heaven. The doctrine of purgatory offers so much hope for the family and friends who have lost their loved ones by suicide. Suicide is a very tragic event that affects many people who are left to deal with the confusion and grief. It is a wide-reaching plague that causes deep sadness and devastation in many. 

My heart first believed the existence of purgatory because of my personal experiences. My Catholic readings about purgatory explained so much of my earthly sufferings. And I do believe that we could choose to go through the purification process here on earth by enduring pain and suffering. My soul tells me that the degree of pain you must endure in purgatory would be so much higher than it is here in the world. In soul, there is an incomparable depth of— everything. However, the merits are greater here on earth, because we are given our free will. God knows and understands our weaknesses and temptations. God knows more than anyone what it is like to live in this fallen world. His own Son has suffered to the point of death on the cross right here, in this very world we all live in.

I end this plea for much needed prayers for those who have died by taking their own lives with an excerpt from an interview with Maria Simma of Austria by Sister Emmanuel Maillard. Sr. Emmanuel is known for her apostolate in favor of the Apparitions of Our lady in Medjugorje. She came across a book called “The Souls in Purgatory Told me…” which greatly moved her heart. Upon finding out that Maria Simma was still alive, she conducted an interview with the author in 1997 at Maria’s house in Sonntag. Maria Simma was a Catholic with great devotion and especially cared for the suffering souls in purgatory. The souls visited this simple country woman in her little house often asking for prayers and Masses to be offered for them. She died on Mar. 16, 2004 at the age of 89.

Sr: What happens to people who have committed suicide? Have you ever been visited by these people?

Maria: Up to now, I have never encountered the case of a suicide who was lost — this doesn’t mean, of course, that that doesn’t exist — but often, the souls tell me that the most guilty were those around them, when they were negligent or spread calumny.

(Sr. reflecting) At this moment, I asked Maria if the souls regretted having committed suicide. She answered yes. Often, suicide is due to illness.

Maria: These souls do regret their act because, as they see things in the light of God, they understand instantly all the graces that were in store for them during the time remaining for them to live — and they do see this time which remained for them, sometimes months or years — and they also see all the souls they could have helped by offering the rest of their lives to God. In the end, what hurts them most is to see the good that they could have done but didn’t, because they shortened their lives. But when the cause is illness, the Lord takes this into account, of course.

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2 thoughts on “Prayers for Suffering Souls

  1. lilyboat, thanks for this post that clarifies what the Catholic Church believes about suicide. I have the book “The Souls In PUrgatory Told Me” and I think it’s fascinating and very hopeful. If you’re interested, next Tuesday my blog post on Catholic Insight and on 8kidsandabusiness is on mental illness, prompted by Matthew Warren’s suicide and personal experience.

    1. Hi Terry! I am very interested of course about your forth coming article. I do understand, though, it is very painful to write about mental illness so my prayers are with you.

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