§ 9. The Spiritual Condition of the Suffering Souls.
30. There is a middle state—a state of purification —after this life: this is a natural claim of the human heart's affection, acknowledged unanimously by all nations, but of which we receive certainty and a complete and correct conception only by revealed religion. The souls of those who died in the state of grace, but were not found sufficiently pure to enter the heavenly Jerusalem, are sentenced to .this state. The most dreaded time for man, dreaded even by saintly servants of God, is the hour of death, that decisive hour on which depends heaven or hell. At this dangerous hour our guardian angels are a most potent help for us. These spirits, endowed with supernatural intelligence and privileges, servants of God and protectors of man, assist and encourage us. They put to flight the evil spirits, and are the first to receive the parting soul and conduct it to God. Therefore the Church in her recommendation of a departing soul says, "Go forth, Christian soul, from this* world, in the name of the angels and archangels.'' The holy angels are invited to receive the departing soul and to conduct it before the throne of God. This is also expressed in the prayer of the Church: "Let St. Michael, the archangel, prince of heavenly hosts, receive him. Let the holy angels of God come forth to meet him and conduct him to the city of the heavenly Jerusalem." After the soul has appeared before the tribunal of God, sentence is passed, and then it goes to the abode decreed by divine justice. St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure say that it is probable that the souls sentenced to temporal punishment are conducted to the place of punishment by good angels, and there begin a new and abstergent life. We add, in a few general sentences, a description of this spiritual life of the souls in Purgatory, as well as it can be given.
31. The prerogatives and dignity of man in this world are founded in his spiritual being, in his immortal soul. By this his ennobled, rational arid free nature man is endowed with the faculty of thought, of judgment, of liberty and will. Is it, then, not apparent at first view, that amongst all beings of visible creation man predominates and is the most prominent, that everything else is created for his service? All things must bow before man's power, because reason elevates him above the whole material world, if he knows how to bring it under his dominion. The soul's power of cognition at the time of its departure from the body remains its property also in Purgatory, but a new degree of cognition is, generally speaking, not added, for the aspect of visible creation with its manifold wonders is shut off from it." The soul is in prison, under punishment. The learned Bautz writes : "With St. Augustine theological writers are of the opinion, that the Suffering Souls have cognisance of many things that specially interest them. As the holy doctor remarks, the souls of the deceased are beyond the reach of earthly influences, and as a rule remain so, although their affection for us is not diminished. Whatever of mundane affairs interests them can be brought to their notice in various ways. They are informed of it partly by other souls who depart this life at a later period, partly through the intervention of angels, partly by special divine revelation, partly also by being permitted to re-appear among us." The natural perceptive powers of a soul are, therefore, as a rule restricted to its place of captivity. It has a direct cognition of itself, and of the other spirits into whose company it was transferred. According to Bautz the soul, at its separation from the body, is endowed with all the faculties corresponding to its new phase of existence, and is thus enabled to communicate with the other souls and with the heavenly spirits that appear in the abode of torment.
32. Even during mortal life the soul of man is capable of elevating itself into the realm of the supernatural; it is impressed with ideas imperceptible to the bodily senses so as even to entertain a conception of the infinite. Instructed by revelation, it becomes enthusiastic in the service of the true, the « beautiful, the good, and the divine ; it finds a pleasure in Christian virtue in comparison with which all other enjoyments become insipid. The souls in Purgatory retain possession of this supernatural cognition. It is not an intuition, Uut essentially a species of faith that has become part of their existence. Some points of doctrine which are articles of faith in the Church militant are such no longer for the Church suffering, because to the latter they have become matters of cognition, intuition or experience. Particular judgment, Purgatory, the guardian angels, perhaps also satan and hell, are part of their experience. Other mysteries of faith, however, are veiled to the Suffering Souls the same as to us.
The Creator endowed human nature with such glorious prerogatives and revealed His paternal Providence to man so manifestly, that he will be the most blessed creature for all eternity, provided he attains his final destiny. The Suffering Souls in Purgatory have as yet not attained it, hence they yearn for it, full of hope and confidence. They feel the pangs of an insatiable hunger and thirst, and are consumed by a longing for essential life, beauty and truth, for imperishable greatness, for eternal happiness and glory in God. Like faith and hope, the Suffering Souls also possess charity. As Suarez remarks, the Suffering Soul, though not yet enjoying the contemplation of God, is nevertheless possessed of a fixed measure of infused divine love, corresponding to its merit, which latter can longer be increased.
33. The course of this life once finished, the time of forbearance, mercy and merit is over. Then God is no longer our Father, but our Judge, our severe Judge, who sentences us to pay the last farthing. Personally, the Suffering Souls cannot do anything to escape their wretchedness and misery. For them the time of labor, when they were able not only to increase their merit, but also to atone for their sins, is over. The darkness of that night has overtaken them, "when no man can work " (John ix. 4.) for his own profit. To them are applicable the words of Scripture: "If the tree fall to the south or to the north, in what place soever it shall fall, there it shall be. ,, (Eccli. xi. 3.) The soul's eternal destiny is not only decided, but it moreover can no longer use the time during which it is debarred from entering eternal glory to increase its own merits. The Suffering Souls no longer have time to do penance for their sins, or to increase their merit, or to pray to God for their own deliverance, or to hasten their admittance to eternal bliss. Theirs is a time of suffering, of suffering without merit, of suffering without the possibility of relieving themselves.
Just as the time of merit is over for the Suffering Souls, so also is their time of combat past. They are forever exempt from probation, temptation, and since the possibility of committing sin all who die united in charity with God have finished their course, fought the good fight and ended their pilgrimage. With St. John Damascene the holy Fathers and ecclesiastical writers say, " Death is for man what the fall was for the angels."
34. The doctrine, that the Suffering Souls can do nothing for their own relief, is certain in that sense, that they cannot acquire new merit to be applied in atonement for their sins. They cannot themselves do anything to render satisfaction to God. If these holy Souls, remarks Suarez, could obtain their release by some act of satisfaction, they would liberate themselves in a very short time simply by making an act of perfect contrition. Nevertheless, this same author concedes that they can .move God by their prayer to apply to them the intercession of the faithful on earth; that they can invoke their angels for some refreshment and mitigation of their torments; and lastly that they can entreat these heavenly spirits to incite the faithful to a greater zeal in the performance of good works in their behalf, which office these good spirits fulfil most readily and of their own accord. Bellarmine calls this opinion of Suarez not only probable, but indubitable, and argues that the Suffering Souls pray for themselves in the manner described. Gregory of Valencia, adducing the authority of the renowned Alexander of Hales, is still more positive. "I maintain,he says, "that the souls in Purgatory pray for themselves and implore God to deliver them from their torments by some means ordained by His eternal Providence, perhaps by the intercession of the faithful on earth. This is the doctrine of Alexander of Hales, who relies on the authority of Pope Gregory the Great. For if, as the latter says, the souls in Purgatory invoke the aid of the faithful, they also, presumably, implore God to impel the faithful to come to their assistance."
35. If the Suffering Souls can pray successfully for themselves; if, as we shall show later, they can intercede and obtain favors for us, as is maintained by Suarez and St. Catherine of Genoa: then it is probable that they also console and succor each other to the full extent of their charity, as far as they are permitted to do so by God. Or does it seem improbable that, impelled by an unselfish and sublime charity, they voluntarily renounce the suffrages of their relatives and friends in favor of others, thus suffering one for the other? True charity is forgetful of self, as St. Paul remarks; and this same apostle is himself an example of this charity. Like Moses he desired to become a reprobate,' if he might thereby save his brethren. Tertullian relates the same also of the early Christians. To save their brethren they exposed themselves to every danger, they suffered stripes, fire and death. If charity achieved such triumphs on earth, may we not expect the same, and more, of the charity of these just and holy souls ? Their charity is undoubtedly pure and unselfish; they love God in His creatures. The holy angels watch over us, not for the sake of adding to their merit, but for the love of God. God's own love for us is an unselfish one, proceeding from His pure; superabundant and infinite charity for us. "Indeed," says Binet, "suffering for the welfare of another is an act worthy of those magnanimous and charitable souls who are less sensitive of the purifying flames than of the fire of divine love." And Bautz concludes: "Whether such a mutual devotedness is actually permitted by the order of divine Providence in Purgatory, and to what extent, is beyond our knowledge." Certain it is, that by their own act the Suffering Souls cannot help themselves, nor assist others: we must aid them by our good works.
36. Confirmed in the grace and love of God, the souls in Purgatory are the adopted children of our heavenly Father, infinitely surer of this adoption than the most pious and saintly souls during earthly life. Though their conscience inform the latter, that they are " if sons, heirs also, heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ" (Rom. viii. 17.), they are nevertheless not sure to remain such, because they are in danger every moment of losing the grace of God by sin, and of becoming children of damnation. But a soul in Purgatory, "being out of this danger, has no longer any cause for fear. It is assured of remaining an elect child of God forever, and certain to possess the heritage of heaven. Though such an elect spouse of Christ is detained in the most terrible torments, and is not permitted to hasten to the wedding-feast, because admission thereto must be purchased by the satisfaction due to the sanctity and justice of God, she nevertheless dwells in the realms of peace, resting in Christ Our Lord, as the Church testifies in the commemoration of the dead in Holy Mass. The soul, though suffering grievously, suffers with such resignation and conformity to the will of God, that it experiences neither confusion nor terror. It is strong in patience; pain does not deaden its love of God, and therefore does not disturb its peace, which is firmly established in the hope of future glory.