Friday, 29 May 2015

The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. § 59. The Suffering Souls Aid Their Benefactors in Temporal Affairs. pt 1.

448. There are many examples from which we can learn to what extent the saints on earth exercised charity towards suffering humanity. St. Mary Magdalen was wont to say that she was happier serving her fellowmen than she could be by engaging in contemplation ; and she gave the following reason : "If I am engaged in contemplation, God aids me; but when I aid my neighbor, I serve God. Our Divine Savior Himself declares that we do unto Him all that we do for our neighbor." Upon the common sentiment of humanity demands that we aid one another. Henry IV. and a number of his courtiers one day engaged in hunting in the woods. A young nobleman of bis train found a poor old man, who had gathered faggots and had fallen beneath the weight of his burden. Scarcely had the young man noticed this when he sprang from his horse, went to the poor man and raised him up. Noticing that he was hurt by the fall and bled profusely, he not only gave him all the money he had about him, but also ordered his servant to place him on his horse and to conduct him to a physician. Then he rejoined the king's train. One of the courtiers reprimanded the young man for his behavior, and asked him if he was not ashamed at having left the king for a beggar. "Why should I be ashamed?" rejoined the truly noble young man. "Should I uncharitably omit a humane action which does not interfere with the service I owe to the king ? You should rather be ashamed for not being willing to do the same." The good king, who had secretly and from a distance observed the whole affair, and had also heard the young man's reply, was so well pleased that he thenceforth placed the greatest confidence in the young nobleman.

449. If a human ruler thus highly esteems a charitable action done by one of his subjects to another, what a reward may he not expect who performs charitable acts for the sake of Him who said, "Amen, I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to Me!" (Math. xxvi. 40.) God often rewards such charitable acts even here on earth. St. Elizabeth one day came down from the Wartburg castle .bearing in her "apron food for the poor, when suddenly her husband stood before her. "Let me see what you have there!" he said, drawing back her cloak. And to his astonishment he beheld the most beautiful white and red roses. To reassure his beloved wife he was about to address some words of encouragement to her, when behold, there appeared above her a shining crucifix. And greatly wondering, he took one of the miraculous roses, which he reverently preserved. In her childhood this charitable saint played at jumping-rope in the church-yard; and as often as she jumped she said, "May they rest in peace!" meaning the souls of those interred there. And her playmates had to repeat the same ejaculation.—St. Zitta, a holy servant-girl, was one day accosted by a beggar. As she had nothing else to give, she went to the well and filled a pitcher with cool, sparkling water, which she presented to the beggar to refresh him. And he found the water turned into generous wine.— At Amiens in France St. Martin met a beggar shivering in the cold from want of clothing. Taking his sword he cut in two the soldier's cloak he wore, and gave one-half to the beggar. His soldier comrades laughed at him; but during the following night our Lord appeared to him wearing that very half of his cloak; and addressing the angels that surrounded Him, He said, "Martin, still a catechumen, covered Me with this cloak.'*—St. John of God one day found a poor boy shivering with cold and walking barefoot in the street. He took him up into his arms to bring him to an asylum. At first his burden was very light, but its weight continued to increase, so that he finally fell to the ground. And the boy appeared to him as Christ, our Lord, who said to him showing him a pomegranate surmounted by a cross, "John, thou wilt find thy cross at Granada." And Jesus disappeared, leaving in the charitable man's heart that ardent desire of serving Him in His poor, by which he attained to such great sanctity.—St. Paulinus sold himself into slavery to ransom a poor widow's son. God was so well pleased with this heroic act of charity, that he inspired the Vandal king to set the holy bishop free, together with all the slaves belonging to his diocese, and he moreover presented him with several ship-loads of provisions.—St. Elizabeth, mentioned before, was moved by compassion for a poor leper to cleanse his wounds; then she anointed them with oil, and put the sufferer into her own bed. Her husband, the landgrave, when informed thereof, thought it an excess of charity, and went to see the man. On removing the coverlet, behold, before his eyes appeared the Crucified. And turning to his holy spouse he said, "Elizabeth, dear sister, such guests are ever welcome to my bed. Let no one prevent thy charitable practices."

450. If charity causes Omnipotence to perform such miracles even in this world; if we poor sinners can help one another by our prayers here below; is it probable that God will show less favor when the Suffering Souls desire to come to our aid, when they implore His mercy for us ? The thought is repugnant to a religious mind, and God Himself signifies that the idea is proved untenable ; for He graciously hears and grants in our favor the petition of the Holy Souls.— Gregory Carfora, a canon regular, writes, "At Naples a poor man, the sole support of his family, was imprisoned for debt. His wife was in great distress not only because now the burden of providing for the family rested on her, but also because she was expected to cancel her husband's debt. In this strait she had recourse to a rich man, who was noted for his charity towards the poor. She presented a well-written petition, but received only a small coin. Still more depressed by this repulse she went to the next church to pour out her heart before God, the true Father of the poor. While praying fervently before the altar a thought suddenly occurred to her mind, suggested perhaps by her guardian angel: she remembered the powerful help rendered by the Holy Souls to those who invoke their aid. Filled with great confidence she took the little money she had, and gave it to have a Mass said for them. ' On leaving the church she was met by a venerable old man, who addressed her most pleasantly and inquired for the cause of her sadness. Having told him her misfortunes, he gave her a letter which she was to deliver to a certain nobleman in the city; and then he left her. She immediately set out to fulfil the errand. The gentleman to whom the letter was addressed was greatly astonished, when on receiving it he recognized the handwriting of his deceased father; and accordingly he asked her who had given her the letter. She answered that an old venerable looking gentleman had given it to her. Glancing around the room her eyes rested on a portrait; and in great surprise she added that he looked exactly like the figure on that picture, only more cheerful. With trembling hand the man now opened the letter, which contained the following words, u My son: At this very moment thy father is leaving Purgatory to go to heaven, released by means of a Mass which this poor woman caused to be celebrated. Therefore I commend her to thee. Be grateful, and reward her well; for she is greatly in need." The gentleman repeatedly read these words, tears meanwile streaming from his eyes; and the oftener he read them, the more they consoled him. "Oh, my poor friend!" he exclaimed, "with your little alms you conferred so great a favor on my father. I will reward your charity most bountifully; henceforth neither you nor yours shall suffer from want."

451. By the command of Pope Gregory VIII. Christopher Sandoval, archbishop of Sevilla, proclaimed to the world what had occurred to him while a student at the university of Louvain. From early youth he had been accustomed to give all the money he could save in alms for the Suffering Souls. Once, when his usual allowance failed to arrive from Spain, he was in such distress that he even suffered for want of food. But what grieved him most was that he could no longer give alms. Not being able to help the Poor Souls in any other way, he one (Jay denied himself his customary meal; he went to church hungry, there at least to pray for the Suffering Souls. He had scarcely knelt, when he saw at his side a beautiful youth in traveler's costume, who courteously invited him to dine with him and to receive news from Spain. Christopher accompanied him, somewhat awed by the unusual demeanor of the stranger. At the end of their meal the visitor gave him a purse filled with gold, telling him to use it to defray his expenses. As to himself, he would apply to the student's father for the refunding of the money. And with this he took his leave. Christopher searched everywhere for the mysterious stranger; but neither in Louvain, nor later in Spain, did he ever hear of him. His father also never was asked to make good the loan. Hence the young man took it for granted that a soul from Purgatory had come to his aid in gratitude for his charity. He was still more confirmed in this view because the sum of money he had received lasted just till his usual allowance arrived, which had been delayed by an accident.

452. Sister Macrina Mieczystawska, Superioress of a convent at Minck, a victim of the persecution under Czar Nicholas, came to Rome and had an audience with Pope Pius IX. He desired her to publish a description of the sufferings endured by her and her Sisters during a period of seven years. She relates as follows: "In 1843 the apostate Simearsko had us cast into prison and restricted us for six days to a fare of salt herrings. Daily every Sister received half a herring, without bread and water, thus to force us by thirst to abjure our faith. During the first two days we were tortured fearfully by thirst, so that the skin was parched from our lips and palates. In this torment we contemplated the thirst of the Suffering Souls in Purgatory, and encouraged one another, saying, 'If our thirst is so painful, when it might be relieved by a glass of water, how great must the thirst be that consumes the Suffering Souls! They are surrounded by fire; and yet they do not yearn for earthly water, but for the fountain of living waters, God Himself, by whom alone their thirst can be quenched.' And we prostrated ourselves on the ground to pray for the Suffering Souls. God had mercy on us: thenceforth we suffered neither from hunger nor from thirst. When on the seventh day our prison was opened and we were driven to our usual hard labor, the guards imagined we would hasten to the well; but we voluntarily obtained from drink also on the seventh day in honor of the seven dolors of our Sorrowful Mother Mary. During those six days Wierowkin and two Russian popes often visited us, threatening us with new tortures if we did not apostatize. When the former saw us well and in good spirits, he angrily exclaimed, * Forsooth, it seems I cannot kill them; they do not eat, and yet they are healthy and strong. It seems every one of them is possessed by a devil that suffers for her'."

453. A poor servant girl, who had been well instructed in her religion in youth, had the pious custom of having a Mass said every month for the faithful departed. Even after she removed to the city with her employers, she never omitted it once^ Moreover she had made it her duty to attend the Mass herself, and to unite her prayer with that of the priest, particularly for that soul whose purification was nearest to completion. This was her usual prayer. God tried this poor servant girl by a tedious illness, during which she not only had to suffer great pain, but also lost her place and had to expend her last savings. On her recovery, when she was able to go out for the first time, only one franc, (equivalent to nearly twenty-five cents,) was left to her. After sending a devout appeal to heaven she looked about for a new position. She had heard of an employment office at the other end of the town, and on her way there she entered the church of St. Eustace. Seeing the priest at the altar it occurred to her that she had not ordered her usual Mass that month ; and moreover, that this was the very day on which it had been her custom to have the Mass said. What was she to do? If she parted with her last franc, she had not even wherewith to appease her hunger. She struggled between piety and human prudence, but the former triumphed. "At all events, God knows that I do it for His glory; and He will not abandon me." She resolutely entered the sacristy, made known her request, and then devoutly assisted at the Holy Sacrifice. Afterwards she proceeded on her way, not without apprehensions concerning her future. What will become of her, entirely destitute as she is, if she finds no position ? While she went her way troubled with these thoughts, a pale young man of noble bearing addressed her, "You are looking for a place, are you not?"—"Yes, sir!"—