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The Mother of God has a definite love for poor sinners – which, of course, includes every single one of us.

At Her appearances at Lourdes in 1858, sinners were on Her mind – “Pray for poor sinners”, She told Bernadette. In the course of focussing on Lourdes as a place for the sick and for healing, we have perhaps lost sight of this particular message to some degree.

And again at Fatima, there was a very explicit focus on praying for sinners – indeed, it was to save them, She told the children, that God wished to establish the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

So why this focus on sinners? Why not the Holy Souls in Purgatory?

There is no doubt the Holy Souls are in need of our prayers in order to lessen their sufferings and to facilitate their entry into Heaven as soon as possible. But there is one crucial difference between the the Holy Souls and sinners; the eternal salvation of the Holy Souls is already assured – it is a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ they will reach Heaven. Sinners, on the other hand, have no such assurance – their ultimate end is not yet certain.

And this applies to all of us – for every one of us is a sinner in some way or another, and in need of prayer.

Our own prayer is necessary – prayer is the air that lets the souls breathe, and without which it will suffocate; but we also need the prayers of others, for these prayers draw down a torrent of divine graces. And in this way, we can be both the subject and the object of such prayers. Further, it is a work of mercy to pray for sinners – so long, of course, as we do so in humility and always with the reaslisation that we, too, are sinners and in need.

At some point today, may all of us offer even a brief prayer for a sinner somewhere. And somewhere, may a kind soul be offering a prayer for us.