§ 53. Motives Relating to God.
319. One man has a strong affection for another. How will he show it? He will strive always and everywhere to please his friend, to gladden his friend's heart; he will endeavor to influence others that they also may love, praise and honor the person whom he himself loves. The same may be said as regards our love for God. If we truly love God, we will prove our love by being eager to do whatever we know is pleasing to Him; we will strive to promote His glory to the best of our ability. It was thus our Divine Savior Himself manifested His infinite love for His Heavenly Father; for He said, "I do always the things that please Him." (John viii. 29.) And again, "The works that I do in the name of My Father, they give testimony for Me." (John x. 55.)—The purpose for which man was created is this : "Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole soul." (Matth. xxvii. 17.)—In the Book of Proverbs we read, "The Lord hath made all things for Himself." (Prov. xvi. 4.) The Lord Himself, through His prophet, says of man, "I have created him for My glory." (Isai. xliii. 7.) Man was therefore created for this sole end—to love, to serve, to honor and adore God.
320. "The greater glory of God"—this was the controlling motive of the saints in all their actions. Our Lord Himself taught us to pray, "Hallowed be Thy name." And in the Gloria of the Mass the Church says, "We thank Thee for Thy great glory." Finally, to praise and glorify God is the chief occupation of the saints in heaven. The glory of God must therefore be the chief motive also in our works of charity for the Suffering Souls. And in fact we do promote His glory in a most efficient manner by hastening their entrance into heaven, because there alone God is truly known, loved and glorified.—A saintly servant of God was so affected by this consideration that he exclaimed, "I urge everybody who is zealous for the glory of God and strives to attain His pure love, to meditate on this truth. If St. Theresa and other servants of God declared themselves willing to suffer every possible pain to increase God's glory one degree, what should we not do and suffer for the release of the souls from Purgatory, when God's glory is thereby increased in millions of degrees?"
321. St. Anthony declares that the world is like a beautiful large book, in which the glory of God is inscribed with flaming letters; for even inanimate creation contributes to His glory. But of what use is a book if nobody reads it? Man alone can read in this book of nature. For a man religiously inclined the whole world is animate; everything speaks to him, everything impresses his intellect and heart. To him "the heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of His hands. (Ps. xviii. 2.) Every succession of day and night is a manifestation of God's wisdom and providence; every new year is an instance of His loving care for man. God, the invisible Lord of the universe, becomes visible to us in the greatness of His creation. His light shines in the stars of the firmament, His goodness grants us the splendor of the sun's rays; His bounty covers the earth with verdure and nourishing products, which He teaches us to gather and use. Who is it that instructs the bee to collect for us the sweetness of its honey, who covers the sheep with their fleece to provide clothing for us, who ordains that the cow shall produce milk for our nourishment? It is God. "And He said, Let us make man to our image and likeness; and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts and the whole earth." (Gen. i. 26.) For man therefore were all things created; to his heart all things should speak of the Omnipotence, bounty and goodness of God.
322. While thus contemplating the -beauties of God's creation, we are filled with gratitude; and we feel ourselves moved to exclaim, "How beautiful, O God, how full of perfection is Thy creation! How great is Thy bounty, how wonderful Thy providence regarding man! If even the contemplation of Thy works fills us with ineffable rapture, what must it be to behold Thee unveiled and in the splendor of Thy glory! Then we shall express our gratitude in hymns of thanksgiving, in which we shall be joined by all creation."—St. Magdalen of Pazzis one day received an apple; and she was transported with joy at the thought that God had decreed from all eternity to let this fruit grow for her special delectation.—Of St. Francis of Assisi it is related that one day, while taking his mendicant's meal of hard crust at a spring by the roadside, he wept for joy and gratitude to God. His companion could not understand how he could thus rejoice over their poor fare of bread and water ; and he told him so. The saint replied, "It is the love that God shows for us for which I am so grateful. From all eternity He has decreed that we should here receive this nourishment." Thus did the saints recognize God's bounty in the least of His gifts; and thus did they thank Him for it. And we—where is our gratitude ?—
323. Oh, let us acknowledge the Lord's bounty ! Let us unite in praising the Most High ! But how dare we do so—we who are still slaves of the flesh, of our lusts, of our concupiscence and evil inclinations ? —And even if the fetters of this our bondage were broken, "How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?" (Ps. cxxxvi. ,1.) How shall we worthily know, praise and love God, as long as we are exiled in this vale of tears ?—There is a means fully adapted to the attainment of our purpose. When the chief executive of a country comes to visit a place subject to his authority, the local magistrates engage artists to contribute by their services to give him a worthy reception; and though the magistrates do not personally conduct the celebrations, yet they receive the credit for them, since it was by their order that the celebrations took place.
324. The relation between God and ourselves is similar. The learned Bellarmine maintains, that what we do through another is regarded as done by ourselves. We have the privilege of engaging others to praise God in our name—namely, the souls in Purgatory. If then there is a question of glorifying God, of co-operating in causing His infinite Majesty to be worthily honored—is there a more appropriate and efficient means for the attainment of that end than to assist in populating heaven with just souls? If we do the least for the release of a soul from Purgatory, we thereby augment God's ineffable glory ; for a soul admitted to God's beatific vision becomes fully and clearly cognizant of His divine* attributes—and instantly the soul is inflamed with a perfect, seraphic love of God, in which it will persevere throughout all eternity.
325. Let us imagine we saw a soul ascending from Purgatory to heaven: who can describe the joy and exultation into which it will immediately break forth, how humbly prostrated it will adore God's supreme majesty and perfections ? Who can depict the ardor with which it will join in the incessant hymn of the elect, "Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts! The earth is full of His glory" (Isai. vi. 3.) ; "to whom be honor and glory for ever and ever." (Rom. xvi. 27.) Unspeakably great then is the work performed by him who aided the soul in its release and hastened its entrance into heaven. He caused all these transports of love, gratitude, praise and glory to be offered so much the earlier to God's majesty by the soul whom he helped to ransom. The souls released through our charitable suffrages are now enjoying the eternal bliss of heaven; they will be our protectors, patrons and intercessors at the throne of Cod, where they join the heavenly host of angels and saints in unceasing adoration of the Most High—and this happiness they gained through our help. Must this our help therefore not be an object of infinite divine complacency ?
326. Of course we do not refer here to that essential glory which is an attribute of divinity, and which God receives from His own infinite perfections; but to the accidental glory which He deigns to receive from His creatures. This glory, of which He is so jealous—"I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous" (Exod. xx. 5.)—by what means can we better promote it than by opening heaven through our prayers for the admission of innumerable souls now suffering in Purgatory, souls who will praise and glorify His mercy throughout all eternity?—He loves these souls, and they love Him; He ardently wishes to unite them with Himself; His Heart is moved with compassion by reason of their banishment, but His justice—for as God He must be and is equally just and merciful— detains them in their prison until they shall have paid "the last farthing." He is like unto a father who declines the caresses of his son and banishes him from his presence until he shall have amended his ways by repentance and tears. The Suffering Souls are even now disciples of Christ yearning for the presence of their Master; but in His stern justice- He repels them saying, "Nothing defiled is admitted into My presence." They are children of God seeking their Redeemer, but they can find Him only if the loving hand of Mother Church leads them to Him. They are famishing for His heavenly banquet, longing to partake in the Holy Sacrifice of His Sacred Body and Precious Blood; but the sacramental species are no longer their spiritual nourishment.
327. What a joy for our Father in heaven, what a delight for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, when a friend, a mediator, equalizes by his atoning suffrages the faults and punishment of a soul in Purgatory, and thereby effects a reconciliation ! It is in our power to be such friends, such mediators. We can obtain pardon for the Suffering Souls. Though suffering the wrath of divine justice, they are nevertheless our brethren in Christ; and God delights to hear our prayers for them. During His sojourn on earth our Divine Savior wept repeatedly. We have the authority of Holy Scripture for it, that He wept at least three times—at the tomb of Lazarus, over Jerusalem, and during His passion. Oh, what a most heart-rending sight, to see the tears coursing down His sacred countenance! And yet the persons for whom He wept were sinful men ; on the two occasions mentioned last they were His enemies and tormentors. How great then must be our Lord's compassion for the Suffering Souls in Purgatory, who are confirmed in His grace and love f And He is compelled to make them suffer in their place of torment for weeks, months and years, perhaps for centuries ! How He must yearn for mediators, who by their suffrages for these poor, beloved souls enable Him to temper His justice with mercy! For this purpose He places the full measure of His atoning merits at our disposal; and He Himself encourages us by His example.
328. From the blessed moment that "the Word was made flesh" the most Sacred Heart of Jesus began to pulsate in charity. Every one of these pulsations was an act of homage to God, more pleasing in His sight than all the worship offered by the creatures of His omnipotence in heaven and on earth. And all these acts were offered up in favor of mankind. Whatever Jesus did on earth through the impulsive love of His Sacred Heart, whether manifesting His powers by miracles or giving an example of humility, teaching His saving doctrine or suffering for our redemption—He did it all for our salvation. His every act was a new proof of His infinite love for us, a fruit of the tree of life, full of life-giving sweetness and nourishing sustenance. The ecclesiastical year presents to our view step for step the various manifestations of His love for mankind. At first we behold this love taking to itself the form of an infant, appealing to our affections, enchanting, ravishing us with sweetness— a love, which as yet appears to be lying dormant, "The goodness and kindness of our Savior appeared" (Tit. iii. 4.); and though He came amongst us a child,. helpless and dependent, His condition is an earnest of the great work He came to achieve for us.
329. Next we behold Him in His wanderings, labors and sufferings for mankind: His hands made callous by work, His brow streaming from exertion, His frame attenuated by the long fast in the desert, His sacred feet worn and stained with travel, His divine head with no place to rest upon, no house for a shelter. And now the plan of redemption is more and more developed. He no longer suffers for the love of us by His own divine action, but from ill treatment at the hands of others, borne willingly, yea, rejoicingly for our sake. Now we behold torments, agony and death; the cords of life, strong yet tender, are ruthlessly severed; His filial devotion, His fraternal charity, His fatherly kindness—all these affections of His Divine Heart are wantonly assailed; the gratitude and veneration of an admiring populace are turned into bitter hatred. Contemplating His Sacred Body we see His head crowned with thorns, His hands and feet pierced with nails, streams of blood drawn forth by cruel scourging, His whole frame writhing in torments without number. And thus we behold Him commending His spirit into the hands of His Father.
"It is consummated!" Our redemption is accomplished. We see Him rise in splendor from the tomb, appearing to His disciples, instructing and consoling them, promising them to send the Paraclete; and then, taking leave from the scene of His labors and sufferings, He ascends into heaven where the celestial spirits rejoicingly receive Him. Finally we are invited to celebrate in joyful gratitude, with all the pomp of ecclesiastical ceremony, that miracle of ineffable love, in which are centered all the wonderful achievements of His life, from His appearance on earth as a helpless Infant to His atoning death as the Victim of our redemption—namely that mystery of divine love, the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Altar.
330. In unceasing love, gently but powerfully, mildly but irresistibly, did the Divine Heart of our Savior pulsate from the first moment of His earthly life; it pulsated lovingly in the Child and in the Man, in the manger and on the cross, when Mary nestled Him in her chaste bosom, and when the Beloved Disciple rested on His Divine Breast. For every motion of human affection His Divine Heart found an expression: it was the source of the tears He wept over unrepentant Jerusalem, of the drops of blood that exuded from His pores during His agony in the Garden, of the streams of blood that gushed forth from His four great wounds on Calvary, of that blessed fountain of regeneration which was opened in His sacred side by the soldier's spear. His very death— what was it but the offering of His last remaining drop of blood for the redemption of mankind ? And He did and suffered all this for love of you, for love of me, for love of us all! We were captive in the bonds of God's enemy, and He released us. But He released us in a manner that necessitates our co-operation. We must follow His example. "For unto this you are called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow His steps." (I Pet. ii. 21.) And as we were captive and helpless before the advent of Christ, thus also shall we again be captive and helpless in Purgatory, unless the Church militant comes to our relief and assistance.
331. Let us illustrate this condition by an example taken from the Gospel. At the pool of Bethsaida lay a man "that had been eight and thirty years under his infirmity." (John v. 5.) His limbs were lamed with palsy; without aid it was impossible for him to move. "And an angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond, and the water was moved. And he that went down into the pond after the motion of the water was made whole of whatsoever infirmity he lay under." And this poor, sick man, behold him so yearningly anxious to be healed, hearing the movement of the waters, seeing the angel descend—and yet he is so helpless! So many passers-by, but no one to assist him! One by one the companions of his misery have been healed: they went their way rejoicing, but him they forgot. Hear him bemoaning his sad condition: "I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pond." Alas, no pitiful heart, no ministering hand to come to his aid ! And for thirty-eight years he languished thus!—This is the picture of a soul in Purgatory.
332. Such a soul is in a helpless condition, unable to do anything for its own relief. Suffering, suffering ! Our Lord pities the miserable condition of these souls; He desires to receive them into His glory, and to reward their faithfulness in His service; but His justice demands full satisfaction, and their release must be delayed till payment of the last farthing has been made. And now, behold the mercy of our Savior: He does not send an angel to Bethsaida; He goes Himself to do for them what is in His power ; He descends upon our altars. If at this moment the Suffering Soul were to come to Him while the cleansing flood of His atoning Blood is sparkling in the consecrated chalice—truly, its release would be assured, the soul would be permitted to fly to the bosom of its loving Spouse. But, alas ! of itself it cannot come; it is captive, unable to move. Our Savior cannot loosen its bonds, because His justice demands satisfaction. To the yearning question, "How long dost Thou turn away Thy face from me?" (Ps. xii. i.) comes the sorrowful answer, "Until the last farthing shall have been paid, either by thy own suffering, or by the suffrages of thy brethren and friends."
333. Hence our Lord commissions the Church to exhort the faithful to be merciful and charitable towards the Suffering Souls. The Holy Souls behold their brethren on earth going to the fountain of salvation ; they see so many of their suffering brethren ascend to heaven, because some merciful hand has applied to them the saving flood of the Holy Sacrifice; and this or that soul — alas! — is forgotten, and- cannot leave the place of torment. Why?—Hear the mournful answer, "I have no one to come to my assistance." And sorrowfully our loving Savior inquires of mankind, "What is there that I ought to do more, and have not done?'' Forsooth, what more could He have done ? One single petition of a confident heart would suffice to lessen the distance between God and the captive soul.—St. Gertrude had prayed long and fervently for a soul that apparently had departed this world in a sad condition. At length she was permitted to see it in its torments. On imploring the Lord to grant it full pardon, He replied, "My justice would not prevent Me from releasing it immediately, if thou wouldst confidently ask Me. For by My omniscience, which penetrates the future, I invested this soul with the necessary dispositions to receive the benefit of thy charity." Accordingly even a prayer may suffice to appease divine justice and to release a soul from captivity. Wonderful love of God !
334. ''Now there was a certain man sick, named Lazarus, of Bethania, of the town of Mary, and Martha, her sister. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and Lazarus. When He had heard therefore that he was sick He still remained in the same place two days: then after that He said to His disciples: Lazarus our friend sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep. His disciples therefore said: Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. But Jesus spoke of his death, and they thought that He spoke of the repose of sleep. Then therefore Jesus said to them plainly: Lazarus is dead. Let us go to him. Jesus therefore came, and found that he had been four days already in the grave. And many of the Jews were come to Martha and Mary to comfort them concerning their brother. Martha therefore as soon as she heard that Jesus was come, went to meet Him, but Mary sat at home. Martha therefore said to Jesus : Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother would not have died; but now also I know that whatever Thou wilt ask of God, He will give it Thee. Jesus saith to her: Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith to Him : I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.- Jesus said to her: I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in Me although he be dead shall live: and every one that liveth and believeth in Me, shall not die forever. Believest thou this ? She saith to Him : Yea, Lord, I have believed that Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God, who art come into this world. And when she had said these things, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying: The Master is come and calleth for thee. She, as soon as she heard this, riseth quickly and cometh to Him. And seeing Him, she fell down at His feet, and saith to Him: Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. Jesus therefore, when He saw her weeping, and the Jews that were with her, weeping, groaned in spirit and troubled Himself and said: Where have you laid him? And Jesus wept. The Jews therefore said: Behold how He loved him. Jesus therefore, again groaning in Himself, cometh to the sepulchre. Now it was a cave: and a stone was laid over it. And He cried with a loud voice: Lazarus, come forth. And presently he that had been dead came forth. (John xi.)
The Son of God weeps with the sisters at the death of their brother, and then calls him to life again! Behold the efficacy of Martha's faith, of Mary's love ! Except for this faith and love of his sisters Lazarus would have remained in his grave till the day of general resurrection. Our Savior graciously heard the prayer of these sisters: and so also will He to-day hear our intercessions for our departed loved ones.
335. This wide earth of ours is our Savior's Bethania—an abode of sorrow and mourning, but nevertheless a place of happiness and bliss, because in it is a house in which He dwells and makes His abode, His Holy Church. There He remains, expecting our fervent prayers for the release of the Suffering Souls. "Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world." (Matth. xxviii. 8.) The members of this His Church are united in faith and charity. If one of our brethren or sisters dies, what does it avail to weep? Our Church is animated with the faith of Martha in Him who solves the bondage of death; with the love of Mary, who sheds tears at the feet of Jesus, and makes her weeping the expression of her confiding prayer. And as the sisters led our Savior to their brother's tomb, thus also does the faith, the love of the Church bring Him to the graves of our departed ones. The sisters of Lazarus prayed for their deceased brother and thereby effected his resurrection from the prison of the tomb; the grayer of the Church effects the release of our dead from the prison of Purgatory. Without Martha's faith and Mary's love Lazarus would have mouldered in his grave ; without Catholic faith and charity innumerable souls would remain in Purgatory to the end of the world. Faith and charity are combined in prayer for the Suffering Souls, and thus the glory of God is promoted.
336. Should not these motives of the glory and love of God be a mighty incentive for us to come to the relief of the Suffering Souls ? Let us remember how greatly we are indebted to God's mercy for the innumerable benefits conferred on us every moment of our life. By aiding the Suffering Souls for the love of God we can show our gratitude at least in some measure; and if we know our duty, we will surely not neglect so easy, so consoling a means to prove ourselves grateful. Sometimes, in moments of affectionate, fervent and grateful sentiment—they are, alas, so few and fleeting!—we are sorry at not being able to glorify God like those apostolic men who gained whole nations for God and the faith. To help the Suffering Souls is to exercise an apostolate, which is almost if not fully as promotive of God's glory, and nearly if not quite as fruitful for heaven, as are the most zealous labors of missionaries. Here we behold a multitude of just souls in need of spiritual aid. Their want is not that of faith, but of atonement; our object is not their conversion, but their attainment of heaven. For this purpose we are not obliged to cross oceans, to penetrate wildernesses, to learn foreign languages; a prayer, an alms, a Holy Mass may be sufficient. Moreover we need not fear for their final perseverance; by our suffrages we insure for them the everlasting enjoyment of God and heaven.
337. Consider now, Christian soul, the greatness of this work of charity and gratitude; consider how well pleased God will be with the prayers and good works of those who offer them in satisfaction, to release the Suffering Souls—how pleased He will be if the admission of such a soul to the beatific vision were thereby hastened even for one hour. Remember the words of our Lord, "Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to Me." (Matth. xxiv. 40.) Our Lord Himself revealed to St. Gertrude that these words apply in a special manner to the Suffering Souls. Dionysius the Carthusian quotes her, saying: "As often as you release a soul from Purgatory, the Lord is so pleased thereat as if He Himself had been released from prison by you ; and in due time He will reward you most graciously for this charity."—Who amongst us will refuse any longer to follow the foot-steps of our Lord who suffered for us ? The glory and love of God, and the gratitude we owe Him, are most powerful motives, which should ever impel us to devote our lives to the release of the Suffering Souls.