Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. The Spiritual Condition of the Suffering Souls. part 4.


§ 12. Other Punishments of Purgatory.

43. Although some theologians maintain that it is uncertain whether other methods of punishment are applied in Purgatory, we yet find proofs of it in Holy Scripture, in the writings of the Fathers, and in private revelations of trustworthy and saintly persons. In the Book of Wisdom we read: "And He will sharpen His severe wrath for a spear, and the whole world shall fight with Him against the unwise.'' (Wisd. vi. 21.) St. Bonaventure remarks on these words: "Therefore the damned are punished not by fire alone, but the other elements also co-operate, in order that every creature might be enkindled for the punishment of the wicked and arm itself for revenge. But if we ask what is the condition of the elements in hell, we must answer that they are not separated from one another there, nor kept in a certain order, but they are in a state of confusion and disorder." Fire being accepted by some theologians as the only means of punishment, Bautz endeavors to reconcile both opinions in the following manner: "The interior of the earth being pervaded by fire, all the elements are penetrated with it, and thus the whole creation appears armed with fire to avenge the injury done to the Creator. And because a means of punishment suited to all spirits is at hand, God, who creates no superfluities, makes use of this same means for the purification of the Suffering Souls."

44. The following examples from private revelations and apparitions had by saintly persons will explain this. Though these revelations are not dogmas of faith, it would nevertheless be temerarious to dispute or deny them; for Holy Church herself, in the acts of the saints, affirms that the latter were endowed with the gift of supernatural vision and prophecy. These miraculous revelations disclose to us not only the punishment of fire, but also other punishments in connection with it; they inform us of souls surrounded at the same time by fire, by darkness, by cold, and by evil spirits tormenting them. St. Thomas Aquinas says : "Their sufferings shall be the same as those of the damned except in their duration." The Venerable Catherine of Emmerich assures us: "There are places in Purgatory where evil spirits torment and frighten the souls. These places are the most terrible, and we would be inclined to believe them to be hell, except for the inexpressibly touching resignation of the Suffering Souls.''—Dionysius the Carthusian relates the apparition of a religious in England, who affirmed that the Souls in Purgatory are assaulted, beaten and tormented in various ways by the devils.

The Suffering Souls are not only assaulted by their enemies, but they are also afflicted in consequence of the pious and zealous aspirations they had on earth. Let us instance this by the three theological virtues. The soul was imbued with divine faith: why did it not live accordingly, thus rendering its present purification unnecessary? Why did it lose so much time in transitory things, when. it hoped to gain heaven by the grace of Jesus Christ ? Why did it profess to love God alone, when it divided its love between Him and the creatures ? Thus all the virtues combine to confound the soul most painfully. Saul, having been captured by his enemies, said in desperation: "Draw thy sword and kill me, lest these uncircumcised come and slay me, and mock at me." (I. Kings xxxi. 4.)

45. In Purgatory, as in hell, those of our senses will have to undergo particular punishment, that served us more specially in committing sin, according to the adage: "Wherein man sins, therein is he punished.' ' Thus St. Hedwig saw in a vision how the proud were plunged in mire and filth; the disobedient were burdened and bowed down as if by a heavy load; the intoxicated appeared as bereft of consciousness; the gluttons were tormented by continual hunger and thirst, the impure by fire.—The Venerable Sister Frances saw a notary handling his writing instruments ; a locksmith with a red hot hammer; a drunkard with a fiery cup; a vain woman clothed in burning rags and having a loathsome face; an immodest person inexpressibly ugly, and surrounded by fire.— Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque saw a deceased Sister lying on a fiery couch in punishment for her slothfulness, her heart plucked to pieces for her murmurings, her tongue eaten up for her uncharitable remarks.— Of the Venerable Sister Mary Ann Lindmayer we read similar visions. A negligent priest appeared to her in the shape of a miserable candlestick with the stump of a candle. Those excessively fond of certain animals were sentenced to bear them about their necks. (Bautz, page 613.)

Such and similar are the punishments to which the souls are condemned in their abode of misery, in their prison of darkness.—The Venerable Bede relates an occurrence which in his time created a great sensation in England and was readily believed. A man by the name of Drycthelm died after a severe illness. After being dead for a night, he rose again to the great terror of the bystanders. Then he related his experiences in the next world as follows: "A young guide conducted my soul into an extensive valley full of horrors and darkness, so that I was filled with terror. It was divided into two apartments, one filled with fire and flames, the other with snow, ice and frost. There I beheld a countless number of Suffering Souls, hideously disfigured and fearfully tormented, and pressing forward like a stream from one apartment into the other. They precipitated themselves from the icy lake into the flames, from the cold into the fire, finding no rest. I imagined I saw the torments of hell, so great were the sufferings I witnessed. But my guide corrected me, telling me it was only Purgatory, and in particular the abode of such souls as had delayed their repentance till on their deathbed, for which they were sentenced to Purgatory till the day of general judgment. But the prayers of the faithful, their suffrages of alms, penance and fasting, and particularly the Holy Masses offered up for them, relieve them in their torment^, abbreviate their punishment and hasten the time of their deliverance." This portrayal of the sufferings in Purgatory is far from overdrawn : it rather does not justice to the reality. Convinced of this, St. Bernard exhorts us: "Brethren, put away from you the old leaven as long as there is time. The days of probation pass away, whether we use them for our purification or not; but woe to us if they are fulfilled before our cleansing is accomplished, so that we have to be purified in that fire, than which nothing in this world can be imagined more painful, smarting and acute." The holy Fathers and theological writers in general coincide with this view.