If there are holy priests and others we knew who seem to have lived in quiet holiness, who are almost certainly in heaven, but whose lives will probably never come to the attention of the Universal Church to make them saints or blesseds, are we allowed to presume they are in heaven and ask them to intercede for us?
Yes, you can ask prayers from anyone, either on Earth or those you suspect (or know) are in heaven.
First - we cannot presume or assume someone is in Heaven - although it is our heartfelt hope.
Second - of course, if you believe a deceased soul was so holy here on earth that you believe they have reached either (a) their Heavenly destination or (b) en route there, you should pray to them. How else are souls first noticed / acknowledged publicly by Holy Mother the Church for Beatification before Canonization? You have to have three miracles. Someone had to have begun praying to them. You might bring someone holy to people’s attention.
However, praying FOR the Poor Souls in Purgatory is a most worthy thing to do. While these souls are now assured that they are destined for Heaven, they can’t help themselves - They can, however, pray for us.
***Eternal rest grant unto them, Oh, Lord, and let Perpetual Light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. May their souls and all the souls of the Faithful Departed, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
O most sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Thy Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have Mercy on us and on the whole world.
Eternal Father, I offer The the Wounds of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, to heal the wounds of our souls. My Jesus, pardon and mercy, through the merits of Thy Sacred Wounds.***
Speaking of which, I know my following question is off-topic, but why can’t they pray for themselves exactly?
I don’t have the Church’s “textbook” answer on this. And that’s a really good question!
But when imprisoned on earth - even if innocent - a prisoner cannot get themselves out. It takes attorneys, witnesses and outsiders to do the work - even if the prisoner can do research behind bars to help in their defense.
In the case of Purgatory, a soul has had its lifetime on earth to do good and prevent itself from sin and going to Purgatory. Sadly, few do. Evenso, we’re taught that Heaven is so perfect a place that even if tainted by the least venial sin (which, thankfully, isn’t enough to condemn a soul to hell), that venial sin must be cleansed. To expiate for those venial stains of deceased souls, it now takes the prayers of others - the living.
I don’t mean to sound irreverent to God’s ways. It’s the only way I can explain it. I think the joy must be indescribable when the Poor Souls see Our Lady of Mount Carmel (as we’re told happens on Her Feast Day) come to rescue many. I know some who disagree with me on the Purgatory issue - insisting that the Poor Souls can pray for themselves…but that’s not what we were taught. I think it’s not that they can’t pray / wish to be released - but their earthly actions are being expiated. Their pleas are heard but I’m thinking it’s the prayers from living - not deceased - souls whose prayers are accepted on behalf of the Poor Souls. Wish I could give a more educated reply. I often pray for those souls dear to me - as well as those who have no one to pray for them. To me, that has to be a terrible thing - waiting - knowing you’re on your way to Heaven - but that no one is remembering or praying for you? ALWAYS - ALWAYS add what I do after praying for particular souls…“and all those souls most abandoned and forgotten”.
Yeah, like you, I think the Church does officially teach that the souls in Purgatory can’t pray for themselves. I don’t fully understand why, but of course I accept it. Just curious. Maybe one of the priests I know will have a clear answer.
Interesting thought about the prison/attorney analogy. I’ll have to think about that. It doesn’t completely explain it for me, but it sounds like a good way to think about it.