Monday, 25 May 2015
The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. § 57. The Suffering Souls Show Their Gratitude by Praying for Their Benefactors. Part 3.
433. St. Thomas also maintains that the souls in Purgatory are not aware of our thoughts, desires and prayers, because as yet they do not enjoy the beatific vision of God; hence we can not effectually address our prayers to them.—True, the Church does not address official prayers to the Suffering Souls for the very reason adduced by the Angelic Doctor. Besides it would be against the general rule of divine order, if God were to grant special revelations to the Suffering Souls during their term of punishment. Granted moreover that they cannot, without God's special permission, have a full and clear knowledge of all particular circumstances and occurrences of our lives, at all events they know as much of us as we do of them. We know that they are in a state of suffering, that they are in need of our help, and that we can help them. This is sufficient to induce us to pray for them. They know of us, by their own experience, that we on earth are exposed to many trials, combats, temptations and dangers; they know—better than we—the efficacy and necessity of divine grace: hence they feel impelled to pray for all wayfarers on earth, especially for their relations and benefactors; The learned Suarez doubts not that the Suffering Souls pray for us effectively, because they are in the friendship and love of God, and united with us in holy charity. They remember us, he says; they know our needs at least in a general way, and are probably informed of our special wants by the angels or by various other means. He even goes further and adds, that they are continually informed concerning us by such souls as come to them from this world, and according to St. Augustine by special revelations of God. At all events, whenever God permits them to experience our aid, He can also reveal to them from whom they have received it, and what return their benefactors expect.
434. The following lucid explanation why the Church does not address the Holy Souls officially in prayer is given by the learned Scheeben: "The Church, at least in her official prayers, views the saints of heaven as being the persons who are specially and properly called and empowered by God to be the true mediators for mankind on earth. Enjoying the beatific vision of God and participating in His heavenly glory, they are themselves not in need of intercession. The Church therefore practices invocation of the saints reigning with Christ as an act of veneration due to them. The souls in Purgatory on the other hand are themselves still in need of the intercession of others, the same as are the faithful living on earth; and hence their intercession can naturally be implored only in the manner in which we implore the intercession of holy persons during their earthly life. The invocation of the Poor Souls is therefore a private act of the faithful ; and the Church has no occasion, and in fact no commission, to approve or authorize this act or practice of her children by officially addressing her own prayers to the Holy Souls. To draw an adverse conclusion from this act of the Church would be permissible only in case that she reproved or prohibited this invocation when publicly practiced. As a matter of fact however, this practice is tolerated not only in Bavaria, but also in Italy, under the very eyes of the Supreme Pontiff"
435. The Holy Souls are not invoked by the Church in her official prayers, they are not recognized officially by her as intercessors, because public invocation, as officially addressed to the saints by the Church, is at the same time an act of veneration—an honor reserved soley for those who are in the state of glory, and not accorded to saints on earth nor to the souls in Purgatory. True, here on earth we may privately ask saintly servants of God, and even our relatives and friends, for their prayer; and we do so often, saying, "Pray for me," or, "Let us remember one another in prayer." This is not, nor can it be, offensive to anyone. But the Church cannot officially accord this honor to any mortal, since it is reserved by God to the sharers of His eternal bliss. Hence she does not officially invoke the intercession of living servants of God, nor of any living person whatsoever. Thus also the invocation of the Holy Souls must be left to private devotion; and the confidence in the power of their intercession will increase in the hearts of the faithful in the same measure as they multiply their suffrages for them.
436. This private invocation of the Holy Souls is not only permitted in the same way in which we invoke the prayers of saintly persons, good friends, or the poor to whom we give alms asking their prayers in return; it is moreover very commendable to invoke them with particular confidence, because the Holy Souls being most grateful will show their gratitude by their intercession, which easily finds favor with God on account of their sanctity. God will then grant our requests not simply in reward for our charity, but also to prove thereby that the intercession of the Holy Souls is very efficacious. When Onias and Jeremias prayed for Israel, were they not heard ? St. Thomas teaches that the Holy Souls, with God's permission, can leave their place of confinement and appear visibly in this world, both for the purpose of exhorting and warning the faithful, as also to obtain help for themselves. He adds that God also employs them sometimes as His messengers instead of the angels. St. Gregory relates that God wrought miracles through St. Paschasius even while the saint was still detained in Purgatory. The same is related by St. Peter Damian of St. Engelhart, archbishop of Cologne.
Hence we conclude with Suarez and many other learned and holy theologians, that the devotion to the Holy Souls and the invocation of their intercession are both lawful and profitable.