Saturday, 2 May 2015

The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. On the Motives for Helping the Suffering Souls.

§ 55b. Motives Relating to Ourselves.

379. Yet there are and always have been persons, even amongst those "whose lips should keep knowledge" and at whose mouth we should "seek the law" (Malach. ii. 7), who deny this and contend that in heaven everything else is forgotten in God. This is a three-fold error; as much a contradiction of truth as it is a violation of charity. That consolation which the world cannot give is praised more highly than ever at the moment when the grave closes over the mortal remains of someone dear to us. And though time heals the wound caused by death, there are often days and hours when it bleeds anew. Therefore we deem it a grateful task to adduce such testimony approved by the Church as will be sufficiently strong to remove the shadows that would fain intrude themselves between the human 'eye and the next world; and to show in the mirror of faith that there is in heaven a blissful reunion of those who loved each other on earth.

380. Life in heaven is perfect, because it embraces everything that is good. In Purgatory it is imperfect, because it is deprived of the vision v of God, the essential good. In heaven the saints see God face to face; and in this divine mirror they behold everything essential to their eternal bliss: why should they not see and know the condition and needs of those who were dear to them on earth ? Besides their supernatural, infused knowledge the souls in Purgatory possess that natural and incidental knowledge which they acquired on earth, as was demonstrated in a former chapter. Is it rational to think, that among all their natural acquisitions they should be deprived of the very one best calculated to contribute to their eternal happiness or to the mitigation of their penal state— the knowledge of their relatives and friends on earth ? "Hence," says St. Gregory Nazianzen, "it is impossible that the inhabitants of the other world, despite their intimate intercourse with God, do not converse with one another about their past. By recounting their former combats and mutually communicating various other circumstances pertaining to their earthly existence, they are enabled to recognize one another as former contemporaries, neighbors, relatives and friends."

381. In heaven and in Purgatory everything is charity. The sun's rays transmit light and warmth at the same time; and so also does charity grow with knowledge. "Charity never falleth away" (I Cor. xiii. 8.), and this unfailing charity embraces in harmonious union God, our neighbor and ourselves. Why then should a Christian, after leaving this earth, cease to love those whom he loved here below ? His love of God and of self is increased in the next world— why should this not be the case also with regard to his love for his neighbor ? St. Bernard, deploring the death of his brother, writes these tender words, "Thou hast laid aside whatever savored of weakness, but not thy sympathy and compassion, because 'charity never falleth away.' " St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that in eternity everybody will retain that particular love which he felt on earth for his relatives and friends according to the degree of kindred, friendship and association in which he was bound to them; or if the love of friends on earth resulted from benefits mutually bestowed on each other, or from the circumstance that both were of the same country and labored together in the same vocation, their love in heaven will remain the same forever as it was on earth. And mark well what more he adds, "No motive of pure love will disappear from the hearts of the Blessed. "(Summa ii. 26, 13.) The desire of enjoying the intercourse of those whom we love is so natural, that God Himself makes it a part of the reward of His faithful servants.

382. The assurance of being reunited with our dear ones in the next world is consolation so pure and sweet, that even the saints found their delight in this thought. One evening St. Theresa was suffering from an attack of illness. She had recourse to her rosary, because she thought herself unable to make her usual meditation. She herself relates what followed: "Scarcely had a few moments passed, when I was rapt in ecstasy and borne in spirit to heaven. The first persons I noticed there were my father and my mother." St. Francis of Sales once consoled a person deeply affected at the death of a friend, as follows: "Do not scruple to repeat for your consolation, 'She has not forgotten me. She watches over me ; we remain united.'" Fenelon, archbishop of Cambray, said for his own consolation and for that of others, "Because our senses have lost the object of our affection, we imagine that this object is really and forever lost to us. But this is not so. The one whom we no longer see, is with us more than ever. He sees us; he knows our infirmities better than we do ourselves, having put away his own. He implores for us their removal. He loves us and is concerned for our wants. How happy am I that I can address him and open to him my heart!" What powerful consolation is contained in these words !

383. Knowing that we can continue this loving intercourse with our dear departed ones, must this knowledge not increase our piety ? The remembrance here on earth of a distant friend is often sufficient to drive away trouble and sorrow and even temptation: how much more comforting and salutary must it be for our souls to know that we can still have intercourse with those of whom we fondly hope that they are face to face with God, or of whom we can at least be sure that this is their certain destiny even though at present they may be undergoing punishment? A pious author writes: "Have a record made of your departed ones, and read it at least once a year, or better still, once a week, in order that you may be reminded to pray for them and to commend them to God's mercy, if they should still be in need of it. You will thereby increase your desire to be reunited with them in heaven, and thus you will renew your zeal and piety." St. Francis Xavier made it a practice to invoke those of the deceased with whom he had been acquainted in life. He recommended to them his undertakings; he regarded them as protectors, and declared that he often profited by their prayers. St. Louis Bertrand invoked his deceased friends in the form of a litany.

384. In the paragraph on the location of Purgatory we mentioned that some souls are privileged to suffer their punishment in certain places here on earth. They are often with us in our rooms, in church, on the streets; they follow us wherever we go. And even though they may not always be near us on account of being detained in the depth of Purgatory, we may be sure they are with us in thought, invoking our aid and at the same time praying for us, just as we remember our distant friends and share their joys and sorrows. Oh, let us then, in times of trial and sorrow, remember the Poor Souls in Purgatory and offer up for them our sufferings, adding some little act of self denial or mortification; thereby we shall greatly benefit both them as well as ourselves. O, yes, we gladly believe the consoling doctrine that in the next world we shall know our own. Parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters—all will there know each other again; they will be united again in mutual love as they were once united on earth. One friend will there know the other; the priest will know his former co-laborer in the priesthood; the confessor will know his former penitent and the penitent his former confessor. O, consoling thought, so strongly encouraging us to persevere in our supplications for the dead !

385. In His all-wise Providence God invested our food with certain qualities that render it pleasant to our taste, in order that we might partake of it more willingly and so receive the nourishment which 1 it is intended we should draw from it. The same is true with regard to our spiritual profit. God-engrafted the love of kindred into our hearts to the end, that by purely, justly and' truly loving one another we might draw nearer to Him, and thus make His interests identical with our own and those of our neighbor. Many a husband avoids intemperance for the sake of his wife; sometimes a person strives to lead a pure life thereby to please a friend: and in doing so they fulfil the will of God. "Owe no man anything, but to love one another, for he that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the law. For : thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness; thou shalt not covet. And if there be any other commandment it is comprised in this word: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The love of our neighbor worketh no evil. Love therefore is the fulfilling of the law." (Rom. xiii. 3—10.) "In godliness, love of brotherhood; and in love of brotherhood, charity. For if these things be with you, and abound, they will make you to be neither empty nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he that hath not these things with him is blind, and groping, having forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." (II Pet. i. 7—9.)

386. If from pute charity for the Suffering Souls we observe God's commandments, will He not reward us for this charity ? God loves these souls and has prepared for them the crown of immortality ; and He sees that we regard this charity as the summit of Christian perfection, that we have elected it as the means of serving Him better ourselves, and of promoting His glory by the release of the souls whose entrance into heaven we hasten. The souls in Purgatory are the most distressed part of the mystical body of Christ. If our Lord sees us moved with special compassion for this part of His body, have we not reason to believe that He will grant tos love and favor in return? If the lion, from whose foot a thorn was drawn, was grateful to his benefactor and followed and protected him, will not our Savior also show His gratitude to us for our devotion to the suffering members of His mystical body ? We may rest assured that if we satisfy His justice so as to make it unnecessary for Him to continue the punishment of souls so dear to Him, He will reward us for this act of charity.

387. St. Dionysius the Carthusian writes of St. Gertrude: "This holy virgin was accustomed to offer up fervently every morning all the merits she would gain during the day by her prayers, good works, penances and sufferings. To render this act still more pleasing to God, she one day implored Him to show her the souls that suffered the greatest torments in order that sne might relieve them. Her prayer was heard, and our Lord pointed out to her in their successive order the souls she wished to see. Thenceforth she redoubled her zeal and suffrages for their relief, persevering till she received the consoling intelligence of their release. Many of these souls appeared to her in glory, thanking her and promising to remember her in heaven. Finally, when after many years of this charitable practice she herself was on her death-bed, the evil spirits sought to frighten her with the thought that now, having given away all her good works and merits, she must appear empty-handed before her Eternal Judge, and that accordingly she would have to undergo a rigorous Purgatory. And she was greatly distressed at this thought. Her Divine Spouse appeared to her and asked why she was so discouraged. She answered, "Mv dear Lord, as I am about to die, I am troubled at having no good works with which to atone for my guilt, since I have offered them all for the relief of the faithful departed/ Our Lord sweetly consoled her, saying, 'Gertrude, my daughter! That thou may est know how well pleased I was at thy great love for the Suffering Souls, I grant thee in reward thereof full remission of all punishment that thou wouldst otherwise have had to suffer. And as I have promised to reward a hundredfold all good works, I will moreover reward thee far beyond thy merits, and increase thy glory in heaven. I will order the souls that thou hast released from Purgatory to meet thee at thy death, to receive thy soul, and to conduct it gratefully to heaven."

388. O salutary effects of prayer for the dead! Convinced of this, Christian soul, what is your resolution for the future ?—Let us henceforth redouble our prayers, our good works, our exercises of penance; let us increase our zeal in attending and offering up the Holy Sacrifice, in gaining indulgences—all this to open for many, many souls the gates of their fiery prison, and to facilitate their speedy entrance into heaven.—How happy we shall be! We shall populate heaven with new saints—and thereby the glory of God will be increased; we shall gain for ourselves new advocates and intercessors, and all heaven will be interested in our welfare. The holy guardian angels will thank us for releasing their clients; the Blessed Virgin, for assisting her servants to gain their heavenly glory; Jesus Christ, for applying the merits of His atoning death; our Heavenly Father, for rendering effective His plan of redemption. And having thus gained the favor of all heaven, we may confidently hope to obtain more efficient and abundant graces here below; and when we have crossed the boundary of this life, we may expect to receive, after a short and easy Purgatory, the reward prepared for us in heaven, consisting in the everlasting enjoyment of Divine Love in the beatific vision of an infinitely glorious God.

Such are the motives relating to ourselves which should induce us to practice charity for the Suffering Souls.