§ 30. Offering Holy Communion for the Suffering Souls is Most Beneficial to Them.
150. We read in the Book of Esther that Aman had planned the destruction of the entire Jewish people. Queen Esther bethought herself of a means to placate the king and to save her people. "And on the third day Esther put on her royal apparel and stood in the inner court of the king's house, over against the king's hall. Now he sat upon the throne in the hall of the palace, over against the door of the house. And when he saw Esther the queen standing, she pleased his eyes, and he held out toward her the golden scepter which he held in his hand. And she drew near and kissed the top of the scepter. And the king said: What wilt thou, Queen Esther? what is thy request? If thou shouldst even ask one-half of the kingdom, it shall be given thee. And Esther answered: If I have found favor in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king to give me my life for which I ask, and my people for which I request." (Esth. vii. 3.; She then recounted to the king the danger which threatened her people, the Jews, and implored his help, which was granted at once. The same may be done by every compassionate soul for the souls in Purgatory. When the Christian, with sentiments of profound humility and ardent devotion, approaches the Lord's table, there to renew the divine espousal by receiving Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist—then is his most favorable opportunity to appease His justice and to come to the aid of the Suffering Souls. It is almost impossible that our Lord in holy communion should refuse our petitions for the Sufferers in Purgatory.
151. A pious couple at Straubing, Bavaria, proposed to receive holy communion together on a certain Sunday and to offer it up for the souls in Purgatory. Whilst they were talking over their pious resolve they heard a knock at the door, and a pitiful voice cried out, saying: "Remember me at the banquet." It was a soul from Purgatory who thus begged a share in the spiritual profit of holy communion. St. Gertrude experienced great happiness in being able to release so many souls from Purgatory; but her happiness was at its greatest height on communion days. One day she asked our Lord for the reason. He replied, ' 'It is unseemly that I should refuse your prayer for the souls in Purgatory on those days when you are espoused to Me in communion."
Can you doubt, Christian soul, that the frequent and worthy reception of holy communion is a most excellent means whereby you can pay off all your own indebtedness, and that thereby you can also most effectually help the Suffering Souls? Take heed, however, to observe that we do not refer merely to frequent communion, but to frequent communion after a good preparation. Beware of deceiving yourself; there is an immense difference between the two.
152. By frequent communion is understood its reception three or four times a week, or even every day, or nearly every day. The receiving of holy communion on all Sundays and feasts of obligation, recommended by the Council of Trent to all the faithful, cannot be called frequent communion when reference is made to priests, religious, seminarians and such as devote themselves zealously to perfection ; but regarding those who can devote only a small part of their time to exercises of piety, it is regarded as frequent communion. On the other hand, the custom of receiving holy communion every month, and on all the higher feasts, is not frequent communion. To be Christians, to remain united with God, we must receive holy communion. In this respect the soul is similar to the body. In order to live we must take food, but it is not the food that gives us life; it only nourishes the body, giving it that strength which we possess when we are in health. We eat not because we are strong, but to remain or become so. Now mark well: Holy communion is not a reward for holiness already acquired, but a means for acquiring it. Therefore the Council of Trent expressly declares that "the faithful ought to receive holy communion not only spiritually, but sacramentally, as often as they assist at Mass, in order that they may more abundantly receive the fruit of this Holy Sacrifice." —How dear to our Savior must those souls become who receive Him often and worthily in holy communion! And how numerous are the favors to be gained thereby for the benefit of the Suffering Souls!
153. In Luxemburg, on the feast of All Saints, the departed Soul of a pious lady appeared to a devout girl to implore her aid. The girl was in the habit of receiving holy communion frequently, and as often as she did so this soul from Purgatory accompanied her. When asked for the reason, the reply was, "Oh, you do not know what a torment it is to be separated from God! It is impossible to describe it. I feel myself drawn irresistibly to God, but I must remain separated from Him in punishment for my sins. This is so painful to me, that I scarcely feel the fire by which I am surrounded. To relieve the intensity of my torments, God permitted me to come to this church to adore Him at least in His house on earth, until I shall be found worthy to possess Him in heaven." She then ardently implored the girl to receive holy communion frequently, and to remember her every time. The girl did so and was privileged after a time to see this soul, resplendent as the sun, entering heaven.
154. When St. John the Baptist, "greater than whom none hath risen among them that are born of woman," was about to baptize the same Divine Savior who is present in the Blessed Sacrament, he trembled and said, "I ought to be baptized by Thee, and comest Thou to me?" (Matth. iii. 13.) After the miraculous draught of fishes Peter deemed himself unworthy of the presence of our Lord, and exclaimed, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" (Luke v. 8.) The centurion imploring our Lord to heal his sick servant, said, "Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed." (Matth. viii. 8.)—And we, poor sinners, should we deem ourselves worthy of receiving in our heart this Supreme Lord of heaven and earth ? But though we are infinitely more unworthy than St. John, who dared not touch Him, than St. Peter, who deemed himself unworthy of His presence, than the centurion, who trembled to receive Him under his roof—it is nevertheless our Savior's desire that we should receive Him, and often too, in holy communion. It is entirely within our power to attain that sanctity which He requires for the reception of holy communion: the state of grace, together with the sincere will to avoid sin and to serve God faithfully. "Mortal sin alone," says St. Thomas, "is an obstacle to the reception of holy communion." And Suarez remarks, "It is not taught by a single holy Father that it is necessary to be in the state of perfection in order to receive holy communion worthily and with profit." Most assuredly we must strive to receive our God, the most pure and the most holy, as worthily as possible; and therefore we must prepare ourselves with the utmost zeal and conscientiousness for the reception of this sacrament. Hence St. Bernard observes, "Take notice how prudent the serpent is. Before drinking it relieves itself of all poison. Follow its example: before you come to the fountain of life, that is, before you approach to be nourished with the flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, relieve yourself from all venom of sin, especially of hatred, anger, envy, lust and sinful thoughts."—Favored souls, after receiving holy communion for the relief of the souls in Purgatory, often beheld these happy spouses of Christ go forth into glory.
155. St. Bonaventure observes: "Let charity and compassion for your neighbors urge you on to approach the sacred table; for nothing is so effectual as holy communion to obtain relief for the Suffering Souls." Our propensity to sin ought not to deter us from partaking of this sacred banquet, which is the true preservative against Purgatory. If we have the misfortune of often falling into sin, let us frequently take the strongest antidote against this deadly venom; that is, let us often approach the holy table to obtain favors for the Suffering Souls. St. Augustine remarks, "You sin daily; then receive holy communion daily.'' The Suffering Souls are famished with desire for holy communion, and by receiving it for them we can refresh them, as the following example will show.
The Venerable Louis Blosius, this pious and learned writer, relates the following: A servant of God was favored with the apparition of a soul enveloped in flames and suffering great torments for lukewarmness at the reception of holy communion. These soul addressed the servant of God as follows: "I beseech you for the sake of the love we bore to each other, to have the charity to receive holy communion once in my favor; but do it with devout preparation and great fervor. For then I confidently hope to be released from the terrible torments to which I was sentenced because of my tepidity towards the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist." The saintly man complied with this request, and soon after saw the soul admitted to the beatific vision of the King of glory.
156. According to the doctrine of the Council of Trent holy communion may be received in a twofold manner; first, sacramentally, by receiving the sacred species in the Holy Eucharist; secondly, spiritually, by exciting in ourselves a true sorrow for our sins, and an ardent desire for holy communion, thus uniting ourselves in a spiritual manner with our Divine Savior.
The holy Fathers say of the exercise of spiritual communion, that if well made, it will benefit our souls almost as much as sacramental communion. Hence we ought to be very solicitous to make the acts of spiritual communion often, particularly :
a) When assisting at Mass at the communion of the priest.—If we are unable to assist at Mass, let us include ourselves at morning prayers in all the Masses of the whole world, and offer them up to God for His honor, at the same time communicating spiritually.
b) When visiting the Blessed Sacrament. Had we been with the shepherds at Bethlehem, knowing that the child in the manger was our Infinite and Almighty God dwelling amongst us in poverty and lowliness, we would have fallen on our knees to adore our Lord and God. The same Redeemer who was laid in the manger is present day and night in the Blessed Sacrament enclosed in the tabernacle. Oh, let us not be remiss in visiting Him and receiving Him spiritually : we will thereby enrich ourselves and the Suffering Souls with abundant grace, help and joy.
c) In the evening, before retiring, we ought to examine our conscience, make an act of contrition for our sins, and again excite in us the desire of receiving our Lord, recommending to His mercy the Suffering Souls.
157. God Himself deigned to indicate to pious souls how pleasing the practice of spiritual communion is to Him. Appearing to the Venerable Joanna of the Cross, our Lord said to her, that as often as she made the act of spiritual communion, He favored her with grace similar to that she received in sacramental communion.—Blessed Angela was wont to say, "I could not have borne the trials of life if my confessor had not instructed me concerning spiritual communion." She made the act of spiritual communion one hundred times every day.—Once, when St. Raymond celebrated Mass, and had proceeded as far as. the communion, St. Catherine of Siena, who was present, felt an ardent desire of receiving the Holy Eucharist. And behold! when St. Raymond broke the sacred host into three parts, the small particle, which the rubrics direct to be placed into the chalice, all of a sudden vanished to the great consternation of the holy man. He diligently sought for it, and not finding it, he was overcome with a great fear of having offended God. St. Catherine observing this informed him that she had miraculously received the missing particle in response to her ardent desire of receiving our Lord.—A pious religious, who on account of illness was not permitted to receive holy communion, begged so persistently that the Blessed Sacrament, enveloped in the corporate, might be placed on his breast, that it was finally done. This ardent desire so pleased our Lord, that He permitted the sacred host to penetrate to his heart, and the good religious thus received sacramental communion in a miraculous manner.
Considering all this, should you not, Christian soul, often approach the holy table to receive worthily the flesh and blood of our Lord ? or at least should you not often make the acts of spiritual communion ? This is the will of God, the desire of the Church. By so doing you will greatly benefit your own soul and bring consolation to the Sufferers in Purgatory.