Among my friends who have a devotion to the holy souls, we joke that we must have a reputation among them, that they know we do for them what they cannot do for themselves: pray. 

I used to think that holy souls in Purgatory only appeared to people who pray. I thought the holy souls had a vested interest in seeking out those who already ask God for their speedy passage through the furnaces or ice lakes, and then later of appearing to the same people and assuring them that their prayers had freed them. But I learned of an account in Schouppe's Purgatory, which I re-tell below in a lexicon more fitting modern times, when a holy soul appeared to someone who had not prayed for him, but whose charity by way of a financial donation meant he got out of Purgatory. 

Many ages ago, in a bygone era there was a Polish nobleman, a prince in fact, who had rejected the Catholic Faith. The prince had become an avowed materialist and had written a thesis against the immortality of the soul. He felt ready to publish his work of arrogance. One day, however, when he was out for a walk, he had a chance encounter with a grieving widow. Her face shone with tears and she sought his charity, "My good Prince, my husband has just died.  At this moment his soul is perhaps suffering in Purgatory. I am in such poverty that I have not even the small sum required to have a Mass celebrated for the dead. In your kindness come to my assistance in behalf of my poor husband."

The noble prince was convinced that the woman was in the grips of religious delusion, that it was folly for her to believe in life after death. After all, he wrote to convince others that the soul does not live forever. But he had pity on her because of her penury, and gave her a gold coin. The widow rushed to a priest and gave him the coin to offer Masses for her late husband. 

Five days later, the prince was busy working on his thesis, when there appeared before him a man dressed like a peasant who addressed him, "Prince, I come to thank you. I am the husband of that poor woman who besought you the other day to give her alms that she might have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered for the repose of my soul. Your charity was pleasing to God:it was He who permitted me to come and thank you."  The peasant wasted no time, he disappeared and took his place in Heaven. But the prince was converted, and utterly convinced of the immortality of the soul to the point that he grabbed his manuscript and threw it into the fire. 

His charitable gift of the gold coin led to his conversion. 

The great lesson for me is that we may enlist the help of lapsed Catholics for the holy souls, and even if they do not believe, we may trust that something they do for the holy souls will lead to a miracle, and the holy souls may help them save their soul.

If you would like to pray for the holy souls in union with the Masses offered all over the world, you may pray the prayer of St Gertrude the Great. 

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.