Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. The Spiritual Condition of the Suffering Souls. part 3


§ 11. The Suffering Souls' Pain of Sense.

41. Another kind of punishment to which the souls in Purgatory are subjected consists in the pain of sense. We cannot doubt its reality, knowing as we do that God even in this world makes use of various kinds of sufferings in order to purify a soul pleasing to Him. Temporary deprivation of God's vision is the soul's punishment in Purgatory for having, on earth, turned away from God, its supreme good; but the soul also sinned by turning to created things and enjoying in their possession a spurious delight and satisfaction. The punishment for this illicit sensual • enjoyment is a sensible pain, by which the unlawful delectation is atoned for. According to the general opinion of theologians, the pain of sense consists in fire. In his work De Civitate Dei, Book xxi., St. Augustine says of the pain of sense in the next world: " If the fire be not immaterial like the pain of the soul, but material, causing us to smart only when we touch it, then the question may be asked: how can it constitute a punishment for spirits?" And he answers: "It is not necessary to engage in a long disputation or argument on this question. For what prohibits us to believe that spirits can be made sensitive albeit in a miraculous manner, of a material fire, when the spirit of man, which is truly immaterial, can be inclosed in the human body during natural life and after the day of judgment? The spirits, then, though having no body, will be bound to a material fire, experiencing pain from it, but giving it no nourishment. For also that other manner by which spirits are now joined to bodies, is truly wonderful and above the conception of man, and yet it is what constitutes man. I might say the spirits burn without having a body, the same as Dives burned in hell when he exclaimed, 'I am tormented in this flame'. . . . But that hell, which is called by Scripture a lake of fire and brimstone, shall be a material fire as was declared by eternal truth." Theologians, with St. Thomas, teach that by divine co-operation fire exerts its influence on the souls physically and really ; it confines the soul to a certain space, and limits its activity there in a manner most violent and unnatural. The pain of sense, then, consists principally in a purifying, material fire.^ Although the suffering souls are destined for heaven, they are nevertheless denied admission there because in the heavenly Jerusalem only the purest and finest gold is accepted. The Suffering Souls, though gold, are still defiled by the dross of the earth from which they were created. Therefore the Lord detains them in a fiery furnace, there to purify them, like unrefined gold, of all dross and spurious material. "And He shall sit refining and cleansing the silver, and He shall purify the sons of Levi and refine them as gold, and as silver." (Malach. in. 3.) This fire is a most fierce, penetrating and all-consuming flame; a fire whose power immeasurably exceeds the strength of natural fire; a fire which causes infinitely greater pain than all pains, torments and penitential works of this world; for the souls are no longer limited in their power of endurance by the body, which can suffer only to a certain degree without succumbing. The Latin Church, through Pope Eugene and the Fathers of the Council of Florence, was about to declare as a dogma that the fire of Purgatory was a material one, because this was and is the continual belief of the Church; but in order to facilitate the union between the Latin and Greek Churches, this declaration was deemed inopportune, the Greeks declaring their belief in Purgatory, "but we do not argue whether it consists in fire, darkness or tempest;" and for the sake of peace the Council was content with this declaration. At all events the discussion served to establish clearly the Church's belief in Purgatory.

42. The existence of fire in Purgatory is vouched for also by numerous apparitions and private revelations. They demonstrate to our very eyes this fire as a material one, thus indicating that the.words "fire" and "fiery torments" used by Scripture are to be taken in a literal sense. St. Bridget, of whom the Church, in her official prayer, says, "O God, who through Thy Divine Son didst reveal to blessed Bridget heavenly mysteries," was permitted in one of her ecstacies to witness how a soul was sentenced to a three-fold punishment: to an external and internal fire, an intense cold, and to furious assaults of the devil. Mechtildis of Magdeburg saw a lake of fire mixed with brimstone, in which the Suffering Souls had to bathe in order to be cleansed. According to St. Frances of Rome Purgatory consists of three apartments, one above the other, all alive with a clear, sparkling fire, unlike that of hell, which is dark and sombre. Bautz, whom we follow in the above, relates of the Venerable Mary Anna Lindmayer: "Her friend Mary Becher and her mother appeared to her, and left marks of fire on one of her feet, which she saw and felt for weeks. At one time she beheld Purgatory in the shape of a torrent of fiery water, at another, as a prison of fire. The souls themselves appeared to her as sparks of fire falling about her. The appearance of some souls caused her to shiver with frost caused by the cold proceeding from them."

With the sole exception of their duration, the torments of Purgatory are the very same as those of hell; the only difference is that the former are temporary, the latter everlasting. This is the doctrine of St. Thomas, who says: "The same fire punishes the damned in hell and the just in Purgatory, and the least pain in Purgatory exceeds the greatest we can suffer in this world." It is true, then, that our works have to undergo purification after this life. As gold and silver are refined in the crucible, so are they cleansed of the dross of earthly imperfections in the flames of divine wrath. Oh, what an indescribable sea of fire in which the Suffering Souls are immersed ! Flames encircling them, flames penetrating them, flames unceasingly tormenting them!