Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. § 58. The Gratitude of the Suffering Souls Towards Their Benefactors is Manifested Interiorly and Exteriorly.

437. The gratitude of the souls in Purgatory towards their benefactors is marvellous indeed. True gratitude manifests itself both interiorly and exteriorly—interiorly, by evoking sentiments of grateful and lasting acknowledgement; exteriorly by giving expression to these sentiments in words, and by returning the favors received from others whenever there is an opportunity of doing so. The souls in Purgatory show their gratitude to us in all these ways. Above all they acknowledge the reception of benefits. In Holy Scripture we find the following examples of gratitude : Pharaoh was grateful to Joseph, Raguel to Moses, the Israelites to Rahab, David to Abiathar, Elias to the widow of Sarepta, Saul to the Cinites, Naaman to Elias the prophet, Tobias, father and son, to the archangel Raphael, the inhabitants of Jabes to Saul, Assuerus to Mardocheus, Nabuchodonosor and Darius to Daniel, St. Paul to Phoebe, etc. It has already been demonstrated that the souls in Purgatory can show themselves grateful towards their benefactors. Why should they not do so ?

438. During the late Franco Prussian war several wounded and captive Germans, officers and privates, were quartered in the chateau of a noble French lady. She, an aged widow, not only ordered her servants to look after the welfare of her guests, but also convinced herself by her own personal observation that they were well cared for. She ministered most kindly to the wants of all. Such as understood French she encouraged with comforting words, while .on those who could not understand the language she bestowed special acts of kindness. Many a grateful prayer ascended to heaven for this humane lady. A young officer, whose wounds she bandaged personally, was deeply touched by her devotedness; and accordingly he one day addressed to her the question, "My dear madam, why are you so anxious for the welfare of the enemies of your country ?" Sorrowfully she replied, "My son is an officer in the French army. He was wounded and made a prisoner. A German mother took pity on him, received him into her house, and nursed him. He recovered, and it is to this good woman that I owe his preservation. I now imitate her example from gratitude to her and to our good God."

439. Tears glistened in the good lady's eyes. The officer was silent; his thoughts wandered to his faraway home, to his own dear mother, of whom this kind French lady reminded him so much. The lady had written several letters to her son's benefactress, but had as yet received no answer. While she was still standing at the couch of the wounded officer, a servant entered and handed her a letter. Glancing hastily at the address, she opened the envelope; and soon she exclaimed, "Thanks be to God! My benefactress, the benefactress of my son, has at last sent me her photograph." She showed the picture to the officer. Scarcely had he glanced at it, when he exclaimed, "My mother's picture!" "Your mother's?" tremblingly asked the lady; and on being assured that she had not misunderstood the officer's words, she fell on her knees and gave vent to her feelings in the following prayer : "O God, Thou bast entrusted tome the son of my benefactress. How I thank Thee from my inmost soul!" If the feeling of gratitude is so deeply rooted in the human heart here on earth,, how strong must it be with a soul in the other world, a soul unalterably confirmed in the love of God ?

440. Can there be even the smallest doubt that the Suffering Souls, these spouses of Christ, are inwardly grateful for benefits received? The souls in Purgatory become aware that their punishment has been mitigated and shortened; and immediately they ask themselves the question : "Who may the charitable person be to whom I am indebted for so great a favor ?" And the greater and more intense the torments which the souls had to endure, the greater and stronger will be their inner sentiment of gratitude. It is probable, as was already observed, that the souls are informed by special divine revelation or through their guardian angels who the persons are that come to their relief. Their gratitude towards these persons will last throughout all eternity; for such is the will of their Divine Spouse, expressed in Holy Writ, "Forget not the kindness of thy surety; for he hath given his life for thee." (Eccli. xxix. 20.) And St. Paul says, "But above all things have charity, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts, wherein also you are called in one body: and be ye thankful." (Coloss. 111. 14, 15.) "In all things give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you all." (I Thessal. v. 18.)

441. The sentiment of gratitude felt interiorly soon finds expression in words. If this is the case even in this life—if grateful men become eloquent when thanking their benefactors; how much the more so may we expect the same of the Holy Souls in Purgatory! This was experienced by Father Conrad, a zealous servant of God in the seraphic Order of Friars Minor. One night, while praying for^the soul of a lately deceased brother, and having said only one "Our Father" with the versicle, "Eternal rest," etc., the brother appeared to him; and having reverently thanked him, he added, "O Father, if you could but know how greatly I was relieved in my torments by this short prayer, you would instantly repeat it. For the sake of God's mercy, continue in prayer!" The good priest continued his prayer, persevering in it till he saw the brother's soul gloriously ascend to heaven. St. Bristan, a holy bishop, was accustomed to pass the night in the cemetery. When closing his prayer with the words, "May they rest in peace!" he would often hear from the graves the response, "Amen ! Amen !" Father Julius Mancinelli, of the Society of Jesus, had an almost continual intercourse with the souls in Purgatory. They visited him, thanked him, and assured him that he had lessened their pain by his prayer. Blessed Frances, a Carmelite nun, was also frequently visited by souls from Purgatory. They followed her wherever she went, some thanking her, others recommending themselves to her prayer. If she said the rosary, they would devoutly touch and kiss the beads.

442. Anna Mary Taigi, a holy woman of Rome, was also privileged often to see released souls, who came to thank her. One day she intended to receive holy communion in the basilica of St. John Lateran, and to offer it for a certain deceased person. During the first Mass at which she assisted, and which was celebrated by her confessor, she was suddenly attacked with a great depression of spirit joined with severe bodily pains. Nevertheless she continued in prayer and offered up her illness in atonement to divine justice. Then Cardinal Pedicini began his Mass. At the Gloria the saintly woman "was suddenly seized with great supernatural joy and consolation. Then a soul just released from Purgatory appeared to her and said, "I thank thee, my sister, for thy compassion. I will remember thee at the throne of God; for thanks to thy prayer I .now go to enter heaven, where I shall be in bliss forever."

443. Omitting a great number of other instances that might be* cited in confirmation of the fact that the departed souls may personally express their gratitude for the least help by which we assist them, we append one related by Pere Lacordaire in his "Conferences on the Immortality of the Soul." The Polish prince X., an infidel, had just finished and was about to publish a book combating the immortality of the soul. One day, as he was walking in his park, a woman fell at his feet weeping. She addressed him sorrowfully, "Illustrious prince, my husband died a short time ago. Probably his soul is now in Purgatory, suffering greatly. I am so poor that I cannot even afford the customary alms to have a Mass celebrated for the repose of his soul. Please help me to come to the aid of my husband.'' Despite his own disbelief in the future existence, he was moved by her appeal and gave her a gold coin which he happened to have with him. The happy woman hastened to church and had a Mass said for her husband. Three days after > towards evening, the prince retired to his library, and there began to occupy himself with reading and correcting his book. Hearing a noise he looked around, and he saw before him a man dressed in the peasant's garb of the village. Astonished and angry at the disturbance, the prince arose and was about to address the intruder, when lo, he disappeared. The prince now called his servants and asked, "Why do you permit people to enter here without my leave?" "What people?" they asked in reply. "That man, that peasant, who just left this room." "Please be assured, sir, that no one has been admitted here," they all replied. "There was no stranger Here, not even in the palace." The prince silently dismissed them, but was convinced that somebody had been in the room. Next day he had forgotten the incident, when the stranger again appeared in the same place and at the same hour, not saying a word. This time the prince's anger knew no bounds; and rising to chastise the intruder, he saw him again vanishing before his eyes. He aroused the whole house to capture the man, but he was nowhere to be found. Nobody could explain the strange occurrence. The prince now anxiously awaited the next evening, resolved to have an explanation from his strange visitor. And he came. But before the prince could utter a word, the unknown man addressed him as follows: "Prince, I come to thank you. I am the husband of that poor woman to whom you gave an alms a few days ago to enable her to have a Mass said for the repose of my soul. This your charity pleased God, and He permitted me to come and thank you, and to assure you that there is a next life, that the soul is immortal. It must be your task to make good use of this favor for your own eternal welfare." After these words the Polish peasant disappeared. The prince's book against the immortality of the soul was not published.

444. The Holy Souls are not content to express their gratitude in words; they return the benefits conferred on them by manifold services rendered to their benefactors. It was already explained that the Holy Souls can pray for us, and that while they are unable to do anything for themselves, they can exert themselves in their fiery prison in favor of others. They continually practice various exercises of virtue; but they cannot thereby obtain for themselves a hastening or increase of their glory, or a lessening of their punishment. They are in a state of suffering until the payment of "the last farthing" is made; for they can no longer atone. Hence they are dependent on the atonement made for them by their brethren on earth. The more strictly divine justice insists on due satisfaction, the more liberally divine mercy grants the favors which the Suffering Souls implore for their benefactors. Thus God encourages us in our charity for them, and consoles them by granting their petitions. The possibility of the intercessory power of the- Holy Souls being beyond doubt, their exercise of this power must not be questioned.

445. St. Bridget heard the souls in Purgatory call to heaven, saying in a loud voice, "O merciful God, reward a hundred-fold the charity of them that by their good works assist us to come from out of this darkness to the eternal light and to attain to Thy beatific vision." If the Holy Souls pray thus to God, whose beloved children they are: will He not hear them ? And should we therefore not be inspired with great confidence in their help ? Their aid will be for us a continual source of favors; for their prayer possesses all the qualities that render it efficient and pleasing to God : a living faith, great frequency, ardent charity, the purest of intentions. Unlike ourselves, they have not to repel the thousand distractions of a troubled imagination; their love for us is not impaired by selfish, interested motives. Even their tears, their torments and their loving resignation to the will of God are prayers—sweet incense in golden censers borne by the angels to the throne of the Lamb, there to find a gracious acceptance.

446. St. Catherine of Bologna testifies that whenever she asked a favor of God she always had recourse to the Holy Souls, and that she almost always obtained what she asked for. And she adds, that many favors which she did not obtain through the saints of heaven were granted to her through the intercession of the Suffering Souls. The Venerable Frances of the Blessed Sacrament assures us that the Holy Souls assisted her in all dangers, and disclosed to her the snares of the devil. A soul appearing to her said, "However much the evil spirits may persecute you —fear not; we will always defend you." Another soul assured her, " We pray daily for you; and as often as anyone remembers us, we also remember him and intercede for him with God! Especially do we implore for him the grace to serve God well and to die a happy death." The same was declared by a holy soul appearing in 1870. The contemplation of the faults for which the Holy Souls are suffering induced the Venerable Lindmayer to avoid these same faults herself. The Holy Souls reminded her of her spiritual exercises and warned her when she was in danger of committing a fault. Hence she remarks, "By devotion to the Holy Souls our progress in virtue and perfection is greatly hastened." The Venerable Crescentia was accustomed to invoke the aid of the Holy Souls whenever she wished to obtain special favors from God; and she assures us that as a rule she was heard immediately.

447. The same is true to-day of thousands of devout Christians who present their petitions to God through the Holy Souls: as a rule they are successful in obtaining what they desire. If the Holy Souls can and do achieve such results while still in torment, it follows that they can and do obtain still more for us after their entrance into heaven. There is every reason to believe that the very first favors they ask of God's mercy are for those to whom they owe their more speedy entrance into glory; ,and that they will continue their intercession as long as they see their benefactors in spiritual or temporal danger. St. Gregory says that there are thousands of instances from which may be learned how efficiently the Holy Souls can help in distress, illness, danger of war and death, etc., even while they are yet in torments. They obtain for us health in sickness, aid in poverty, relief in distress 3 counsel in doubt, and protection in danger ; they assist us in temporal affairs and in the affairs of our salvation, coming to our aid especially at the hour of death and before the tribunal of judgment. Even after death their benefactors experience their gratitude, for they implore for them a speedy release from Purgatory. All this will be made apparent by the following theses and examples.