Monday, 27 April 2015
The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. On the Motives for Helping the Suffering Souls. part 3b.
354. Or perhaps it is the soul of your pastor and spiritual guide that appeals to you for help. During life he conscientiously followed the advice of St. Paul, "Preach the word, be instant in and out of season; reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine." (II Tim. iv. 2.) But because greater perfection is demanded of the priest than of the rest of the faithful, and because neglect of duty is more reprehensible in him than in others, he is sentenced to purification in the fiery furnace; and because the faithful had so high a regard for his virtue, they neglect to pray for him . his chances of relief and deliverance are the smaller, the greater the esteem in which he was held. He helped so many others in life and in death, but was perhaps remiss in his duty towards the dead. And now, alas, he joins the mournful chorus, "I have none to help me!"
Perhaps your brothers and sisters, so dear to you in life, one heart and one soul with you in consequence of the same training, the same bent of mind, are in that fiery furnace; or it is your teacher who spent himself for your mental and moral improvement, sowing the good seed of religion and virtue into your heart; or they are relatives and friends, who with you bore the burden and heat of the day, taking upon themselves a great part of your share, ever ready to help, console and encourage you. Alas, you give them cause to join in the mournful plaint, "I have no one to help me!"
355. Or perhaps it is the soul of one, who in the opening bloom of life was most dear to you and was about to become one with you for life in the sacred bond of matrimony; but the grim reaper Death suddenly swung his scythe—the blooming flower drooped and withered and was laid away to await the angel's call to resurrection; and the soul which you so often tried to fathom to its depth, in whose love you found the supreme joy and happiness of your life—where is it now? Your own wealth of affection was too sensual, it called forth a like sentiment in your beloved, and your affianced's soul is undergoing punishment for a fault for which you are to blame. You cover the grave with flowers, you rear a splendid monument—and that is all! Listen, hear the mournful cry, "I have no one to help me!"
Or the soul is that of a faithful servant, who spent his best years and gave his sincerest efforts in serving you, even so far as to neglect the service of God.—It is a soldier who laid down his life in defence of his country, in consequence of which you enjoy the blessings of peace. They also swell the mournful dirge, "I have no one to help me !"
How can you, how dare you neglect these and all the other Suffering Souls not mentioned in this hasty sketch? Their plaintive cry is voiced by holy Job, whose sufferings were nothing in comparison to theirs: "Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you my friends; for the hand of the Lord hath touched me." (Job, xix. 21.)
356. Oh, that we could see our suffering friends atoning for their faults in the deep abyss and fiery furnace into which Divine Justice has cast them ! Oh, that we could hear their plaintive cries for help, their mournful reproaches of our neglect and hardness of heart! Children would hear their parents cry to them in the words of the prophet, "I have brought up children and exalted them, and they have despised me." (Isai. 1. 2.) —Hence St. Leonard of Port Maurice justly censures all hard-hearted Christians as follows: "What are you about? Are you children or are you brutes and monsters of cruelty to remain unmoved at the bitter plaints of your father, of your mother ? There are instances of tigers exposing themselves to certain death in defence of their young, of reptiles casting themselves into the flames to save their brood from burning: and you will not descend into Purgatory to save your poor father, your suffering mother from its painful flames ? You are so hard of heart as to refuse to lend them a helping hand by the performance of a good work for their relief? Go, then, if this be so, go and tear down from your walls the pictures of your parents and cast them into the fire, rejoicing that while the originals are burning in Purgatory through your fault, their pictures may share their lot."
357. Heartless child, your parents have reason indeed to address you thus, "I loved my children so dearly; I ever had their welfare at heart, and they so soon forgot me ! They still eat my bread; they owe to me whatever they possess, and yet it no longer reminds them of me !"—And the forgotten friend exclaims with David, "If my enemy had reviled me, I would have verily borne with it. And if he that hated me had spoken great things against me, I would perhaps have hid myself from him: but thou, a man of one mind, my guide and my familiar, who didst take sweet meats together with me!" (Ps. LIV.) "You, my friend, who promised me on my death-bed to remember me, have so soon forgotten me! You feel compassion for malefactors suffering for their crimes, but for the soul of your friend you feel no pity! Unfaithful friend, mercy shall not be shown to you, because you showed none to me !"
358. Christian soul, answer candidly; it is the Church that asks you the question, the Church whose faith you profess and whose sacraments you receive: Is it really true, have you so shamefully neglected your departed dear ones ? The souls of these departed ask this question; the souls of those that have a rightful claim on your gratitude and affection.—You are silent?—But in the depth of your heart you sigh: "Alas, it is true!" The tears start from your eyes and course down your cheeks in acknowledgment of your fault. And indeed, you have reason to weep scalding tears of repentance: it is dreadful to neglect for weeks, months and even years to say even one "Our Father" for the Suffering Souls, for those who during life were so fervent, so persevering in their prayer for us. It is awful not to have contributed even a mite of good works for the relief of those who' must languish in prison till the "last farthing is paid." O Catholics, where is your faith and your practice of the faith ? Where is your charity and its practical demonstration ? Where is your heart and its sentiment of compassion ?
359. Oh, do not, in proof that you did not forget your departed ones, call attention to the pompous funeral display you ordered, to the costly casket, the profusion of flowers, the imposing monument. Vanity of vanities! It is help, help they need, relief for which they cry in the words of Joseph in Pharaoh's prison: "Remember me when it shall be well with thee and do me this kindness to take me out of this prison." (Gen. xi,. 14.) This is the touching prayer of your father or mother, your brother or sister, your husband or wife, your friend or benefactor.
360. Pray, oh, pray for their release from the gloomy prison, that they may rejoicingly enter the heavenly court to partake of the banquet of God's elect, there to welcome us after our own death. This is our hope, our prayer, our supplication—that the greater our sorrow was at parting, the greater may be our joy at that heavenly reunion.—To meet again! What a charm this assurance has for the human heart! Witness the gloom, the sorrow cast over a home, because a dear son is about to take his leave. The father's tears start unbidden while he says the parting words; the mother's heart is rent asunder and she will not be comforted—again and again she holds her child in fond embrace; brothers and sisters repress the outburst of their sorrow to spare their parents, but their trembling lips can scarcely say the dreaded word, "Farewell!"—"Farewell, to meet again!" the answer comes. The scene is changed. A .gleam of sunshine pierces through the lowering clouds. "To meet again!" The smile of hope dispels the gloom of parting.
361. How different, how bitter, when the assurance and conviction are expressed that the parting from our dear ones is forever!—The aged father's life is fast ebbing away. "It is towards evening and the day is now far spent" (Luke xxiv. 29.) He assembles his children around his dying couch, and in a weak but most impressive voice reminds them of his instructions during life; he warns them of the dangers of disobedience and neglect of duty. Amid loud sobbing they listen to his parting words. And now his voice is hushed—is stilled in death.
The loving husband sees the wife of his bosom slowly wasting away. He does whatever is in his power to ease her pains, but physicians and their remedies avail no longer. Her earthly doom is sealed; in the strong arms of him to whom she confidently trusted her life's happiness, she yields her spirit to God.—But why prolong these heart-rending scenes? Few there are who have not experienced this sorrow. But one ordeal remains to be undergone: the mortal remains are consigned to the grave.—Farewell! Farewell!—Though lips, from sorrow, cannot say the word, 'tis indelibly engraven on the heart.
362. Farewell forever in this vale of tears!—And yet, "We mourn not as those who have no hope."— "Farewell to meet again in heaven!" O beauty of our heaven-given religion! O sweetness of its hope and consolation ! To meet again in heaven!—"And I heard a voice from heaven saying to me: Write: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord !" (Apoc. xiv. 13.)—"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." (John xi. 25. 26.) Why then mourn our dead excessively, if we have this consoling promise by the word of Divine Truth ?—You may weep at the death of your loved ones; 'tis but natural to do so, and Jesus Himself wept at the tomb of Lazarus. But why be disconsolate ? We shall meet them all again. Thus Holy Church bids us to hope and pray; thus Holy Writ assures us: "For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible.'' (I. Cor. xv. 52.)—"How do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" (I Cor. xv. 12.) To meet again: O happy thought, consoling assurance !
363. To meet again!—What ineffable joy is contained in this hope! Our Lord Himself assures us: "You now indeed have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man shall take from you." (John xvi. 22.)—When our dear ones after a long absence return home again, we ask ourselves how we can welcome them with the most pleasant surprise. And if we can do nothing in this respect, we at least remove everything that might displease them. And how well pleased is the returning member of the family at seeing that his own love him in word and deed, and that they spared no sacrifice to render the meeting a happy one.
364. Now, what shall we do to render happy those of our loved ones who returned to their true home, who passed through the portals of eternity? Many of them are still undergoing punishment for their unatoned faults. Could we only see them, we could not but give them proof of our sympathy. Or would you not make use of the means of relief placed at your disposal ? Would you refuse them your help, and thereby demonstrate your disregard for them ? If so, they will not meet you in gladness when you enter the portals of the next world; they will give their welcome to those who were more charitable than you.— You often remark, "Oh, that they were still living, they to whom I owe my being! Dear mother, could I but see you once more! Dear friends, whose intercourse and loving kindness is so pleasant a remembrance, oh, that I could show how grateful I am to you! If you were still among the living, I would do everything in my power for you."—Christian soul, if these are really your sentiments, you can now show your gratitude. Faith tells you plainly and unmistakably what to do for your dear ones. If they have departed this world without having fully atoned for all their faults, they are now in torments compared with which all suffering in this world is as nothing. They call for your help. "Have pity on me!" Come to their aid, assist them to enter their heavenly home as soon as possible.
365. Faith describes to you the instinctive desire of every soul parted from its body to reach its ultimate destiny; and it shows you conclusively how this desire is the source of the most intense pain. The attainment of this their supreme good is denied by divine justice to your dear ones; they are detained in their abode of misery and separation from God, and nothing remains to them but to lament and sigh, "When shall I come and appear before the face of God?" (Ps. xu. 3.) "When will the happy hour arrive when we shall possess our supreme and infinite good, enjoying the beatific vision of our God, and with it everlasting bliss? O beautiful gates of the heavenly Jerusalem, if our present suffering is not sufficient to open you to us, let it be increased until we shall be permitted to pass through you!"—"Be ye lifted up, O eternal gates!" (Ps. xxiii. 7.)—Alas, the gates are not opened, the blessed hour is delayed, the beatific vision is denied. Hence the ceaseless yearning, the unrequited desire of love, the painful straining toward the attainment of its object, incomprehensible to us until we shall be able to comprehend its source. "Give me a loving soul," says St. Augustine, "to understand what I intend to convey."—"When shall I come and appear before the face of God?"—You must either pay "the last farthing" of your debt yourself, or payment must be made for you by your friends on earth. "Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you my friends!"
366. Now you realize to a certain degree the condition of your loved ones in eternity; and you know that you are able to assist them. Will you delay your help and retard their entrance into our heavenly home, where they will joyously receive you?— If you find a suffering stranger whose distress is relieved by no one, you have him taken care of and receive his sincere gratitude for this fulfilment of your Christian duty. But your dear ones in the other world—shall they alone be denied your aid? Oh, no ! Your meeting with them after this life is to be a joyous one; they shall conduct you into heavenly bliss!
We related in a former paragraph, that according to a private revelation of Sister Frances of the Blessed Sacrament the soul of Pope Gregory XV. was surrounded by saints at its entrance into heaven after a short Purgatory, and was principally attended by the five saints he had canonized in 1622, viz. SS. Theresa, John of the Cross, Isidore, Ignatius and Francis Xavier.—Let us do our share and have the attendance of our loved ones in the same manner. It will be granted to us, if we hasten their release by our good works. What a joy to behold those meeting us as saints, whom we so dearly loved on earth!—Or shall they go and meet other benefactors?
367. Christian soul, are these motives on the part of the Suffering Souls not sufficiently powerful to move our hearts to compassion, and to invite us to procure their speedy relief?—Their misery is beyond doubt; it is beyond our comprehension; it concerns our friends and benefactors, at all events those who are our brethren in Christ.. Oh, let us hear their pitiful cry for help ; let us renew our zeal for them from the unselfish motives of fraternal charity, of good example; let us pray for the repose of the immortal souls of the faithful departed; let us have the Holy Sacrifice of Mass, this most effectual means of speedy relief, offered for them ; let us offer for them our own devout assistance at it; let us charitably aid the poor and distressed for this intention, and deny ourselves for them by fasting and other works of penance. Let us unite these our good works with the infinite merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, humbly imploring Him to receive and offer them to His Heavenly Father for the relief and speedy release of the Suffering Souls. If we do it in this spirit and manner, we may rest assured that we shall be heard.