Tuesday, 5 May 2015
The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. § 56. Motives Relating to this Devotion Itself.
389. Devotion to the Suffering Souls is essentially the exercise of the love of God and our neighbor, sometimes in a heroic degree. Its pre-eminence over other devotions is due to the fact that it leads us to the fulfilment of our duties towards God and man. This devotion tends in many different ways to the one end, namely our reconciliation with God by contrition, confession and amendment. Consequently it will help to ground us in the fear of God; it will increase our piety; it will lead us to perform good works without number. For this reason Faber, a great promoter of charity for the Suffering Souls, calls this devotion as it were the centre in which all forms of Catholic devotion unite. He maintains that it fosters all virtues in an eminent degree, particularly the three theological virtues; that it comprises all our duties towards God, and is more conducive to our progress in spiritual life than any other devotion.—This being so, let us now consider the spirit of this devotion in its various expressions and manifestations, and thence adduce new and powerful motives in its favor.
390. The spirit of this devotion, says Faber, promotes the exercise of the theological virtues.— Faith, hope and charity are virtues upon which depends our eternal salvation; virtues without which all other virtues and good works are of no meritorious value; virtues which alone insure our perseverance in the path of justice. Hence it follows that we should often make the acts of these virtues, in order that they may be continually revived in us and exert their salutary influence on our actions. As often as we make the acts of these virtues, we so to say add fuel to the fire. As natural fire increases in strength through the adding of fuel, so also are these virtues revived and strengthened by repeated acts; and thus they incite us to walk before God in the path of virtue. Holy Church therefore makes it obligatory on us often to make the acts of faith, hope and charity. This may be done explicitly or implicitly. It is done explicitly by using a certain formula of words; it is done implicitly if we say a prayer or perform an action in which the exercise of these virtues is included. For example, if we assist at Holy Mass we implicitly make an act of faith; if we pray for a happy death, this prayer is implicitly an act of hope; if we perform good works for the love of God, we implicitly make an act of charity. By this implicit exercise of the theological virtues we sufficiently comply with our Christian duty. Devotion to the Suffering Souls continually presents opportunities for doing so.
391. In order to be saved Jews and heathens had to receive the faith of Jesus Christ. Our Lord commanded the Apostles: "Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned." (Mark xvi. 15, 16.) Hence the Apostles and their successors always preached the Gospel with the greatest zeal, despite the most cruel and bloody persecutions. Millions of martyrs sacrificed everything, even life itself, for the faith ; and the Catholic Church has continued through nineteen centuries delivering to the succeeding generations the very same faith that she originally received from her Divine Founder. This faith is exercised by the devotion to the souls in Purgatory. This devotion shows us the existence of a place of punishment and purification after death; it urges us through our belief in the communion of saints to aid these souls, in order that they may gain eternal glory through the mercy of Jesus Christ, that they may be eternally rewarded by their Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier; it fosters our belief in the efficacy of the Holy Sacrifice of Mass and of the sacraments, as also our faith in the power of the keys with which the Church is invested. This devotion therefore comprises more than any other all the articles of faith.
392. But this devotion also embraces everything that we must hope for. Christian hope is a divinely infused virtue, by which we confidently expect to receive through the merits of Christ whatever was promised us by God. Now God promised us eternal salvation and all that is necessary for its attainment, namely remission of sin and a sufficiency of grace. He also promised us temporal goods in so far as they may be necessary for us and are no obstacle to our salvation. Indispensably necessary for salvation is the remission of sin, because faith teaches us that nothing defiled can enter heaven. If it is an article of faith that God desires the salvation of all, then it logically follows that He is willing to forgive us our sins. Besides He explicitly declares and affirms that He will forgive them. Thus He says through His prophet, "And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against Me; and I will forgive all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned against Me and despised Me." (Jerem. xxx. 8.) In the Gospel we read that Jesus Christ during His life on earth repeatedly forgave sins: to Mary Magdalen, to Peter, to the Good Thief. He also instituted two sacraments, Baptism and Penance, for the remission of sins, in order that men at all times might be cleansed from both original and actual sin. We can and must therefore confidently hope for the forgiveness of our sins.
393. Even the number and grievousness of our sins must not deter us from this hope. God expressly assures us, "If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow; and if they be as crimson, they shall be white as wool." (Isai. 1. 18.)—In his "Glories of Mary," St. Alphonsus Liguori relates the following: In the place where the venerable Sister Catherine of St. Augustine dwelt there lived a woman by the name of Mary, who had led a dissolute life from youth to her old age, so that the inhabitants finally drove her out of the town. She took up her abode in a cave in the country, where she soon died without the sacraments and abandoned by all. She was buried in the open field, for she had died of a most loathsome disease. Sister Catherine, who was a fervent helper of the Suffering Souls, did not remember this poor sinner in her prayers, because like the rest she thought she was in hell. But four years later, when Catherine was one day engaged in prayer, a soul from Purgatory appeared to her, saying, 'Sister Catherine, how miserable am I! You pray for all the departed, for me alone you have no pity.' The servant of God asked, 'Who are you?' —The soul replied, 'I am the poor woman Mary, who died in the cave. Through the mercy of the Blessed Virgin I was saved. For in my last moments, when I saw myself abandoned by all the world because of my ungodly and wicked life, I said to her from all my heart: Thou refuge of the abandoned, have mercy on me. Thou art my only hope, assist me! And my prayer was not in vain: through Mary's intercession I obtained the grace of true contrition and thereby escaped hell. Even my punishment was abbreviated on condition of its greater intensity. Do have some Masses said for me; for then I shall be released from Purgatory, and I promise that I will pray for you in heaven.' Catherine had the Masses said, and a few days later the soul appeared to her in great splendor, thanking her for her release,"
Nobody should despair on account of his sins. For, "where sin abounded, grace did more abound." (Rom. v. 20.) Our prayers, exercises and good works all rest on filial confidence in God, which is the supernatural motive of Christian hope. We hope for mercy for the Suffering Souls because we pray for them; we hope for mercy for ourselves because we are merciful to them; and because we rely on the goodness of God and His promises we yield to them our merits, indulgences, etc. These are heroic acts of hope, and by hope we are saved. "Hope confoundeth not." (Rom. v. 5.)
394. Charity also is exercised in a particular manner by devotion to the souls in Purgatory, because by it we manifest our love towards those whom God loves, since we help these souls to attain their supreme good. Every soul in Purgatory is a beloved spouse of Jesus Christ to whom He was espoused by shedding His Most Precious Blood on the cross. "And I will betroth Me to thee forever" (Osee, 11. 19.), He says by His prophet to the soul of every Christian, but on condition that he remain faithful to Him till the end of his life. With the faithful departed this condition is fulfilled; the union is secured for all eternity. No earthly bridegroom can long so fervently for union with his beloved as Jesus Christ desires to be united with the souls redeemed in His Blood. But they had strayed from the right path, they had made themselves guilty of venial faults for which they have not sufficiently atoned; and therefore they fell under the ban of justice, and are now detained in prison. Their Divine Spouse hears them lamenting and sighing in their captivity, but His mercy is restrained by His justice.
395. Our love for this Divine Spouse of the Suffering Souls urges us to unite our suffrages with His merits for the release of these holy prisoners from their captivity, so that they may see Him face to face and unite their praises and thanksgivings with those of all the heavens. By thus complying with the ordinances of Jesus we honor His merits and atonements; we imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints in their ineffable love for the Suffering Souls, and in so doing we please God. It is a property of love to seek the complacency of the beloved ; hence the true servant of God knows no greater misfortune than to offend God even by the least fault or imperfection. And convinced that we can please God only by fulfilling His divine will, it is our sincere desire always to accomplish it. As often as we repeat in the "Our Father" the words—"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,'' we renew our purpose of fulfilling the will of God as perfectly and as joyously as the angels and saints in heaven fulfill it; and we express our resolution to desire only what God wills. Because God so ardently desires the deliverance of the Suffering Souls, we scrupulously observe His commandments and perform good works to the full extent of our ability; for faith teaches us that we thereby aid in releasing the Suffering Souls; and thus we prove our love of God by devotion to these souls.
396. Devotion to the Suffering Souls, however, not only incites us to make acts of faith, hope and charity, and thus to fulfil one of the first duties of religion; but it facilitates to a great extent the performance of our other duties towards God and the saints. No Suffering Soul is consoled or receives the least mitigation of punishment but the glory of God and the honor of the. Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ are increased. How great, then, this glory and honor when a soul is fully released!—Whosoever truly loves God must of necessity be filled with inexpressible sorrow that His adorable majesty receives so little glory, so little love, and is so often offended. Hence what a consolation to know that our neglect of this duty—namely that of loving and glorifying God—is repaired by other souls—pure and holy souls. While we are occupied with eating, drinking and sleeping; while we are trudging wearily under our burden of labor and trouble; and while, alas, our spiritual life is a continual changing between sin and repentance— what a comforting and reassuring thought it is to know that one or more souls in heaven owe to us the hastening of their bliss; that now they are singing in our stead the praises of God, and will continue to do so forever; and that they find their greatest happiness in the perfect accomplishment of the divine will.
397. By devotion to the Suffering Souls the glory of God is increased not only in heaven, but also on earth. The sacred humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ is particularly honored through the practice of this devotion. By His bitter passion and death Christ achieved our redemption; and it is by His merits that we desire to accomplish the deliverance of the Suffering Souls.—Our Lord one day showed to the Venerable Frances of the Blessed Sacrament a number of souls in the terrible state of mortal sin, and He said to her sorrowfully, " Behold these unfortunates! How they even now appear to the whole invisible world so horribly deformed by sin! They shall be obliged to suffer for all eternity if they are not converted. Behold them, these sinners, who do not profit by My so precious and bitter passion and death, who do not seek reconciliation in My Most Precious Blood. Pray for them, that they may learn to know their terrible and dangerous condition, that they may return to Me by true repentance. Ask Me also to favor them with additional grace."—By devotion to the Suffering Souls we do so continually; that is, we pray for this additional grace for those whose souls are in danger of being lost.
398. In the village of Amettes in France there is a plain but very neat church, in which there is a chapel dedicated to the Suffering Souls. On the altar is a picture showing how the fruits of Holy Mass are applied to the souls in Purgatory. The priest at the altar is represented in the act of elevating the Sacred Host, while at the same time the Precious Blood of our Redeemer is streaming from His five wounds on the souls suffering in the purifying flames. The holy angels receive the souls purified by the atoning Blood, and conduct them to the mansions of eternal bliss. It was about the middle of the eighteenth century that a devout boy was seen kneeling before this picture. His name is Benedict Joseph Labre. With wondering, innocent eyes he regards the pious representation ; his lips move in prayer, and his flaming cheeks are an earnest of his fervor. Every morning he may be seen serving the priest's Mass at the altar. And, oh, how that picture inspires him with pity for the Suffering Souls! How fervently he unites with the priest during consecration, offering with him the Precious Blood for the captives of Divine Justice! What the picture so often and impressively reminds him of, he now beholds accomplished in mysterious reality in Holy Mass: he sees our Savior, and he ardently implores Him to offer to His Heavenly Father in ransom for the Suffering Souls the Precious Blood that flowed from His sacred wounds.
399. A beautiful homage of an innocent child to the sacred humanity of our Lord! But thanks to God! a homage by no means singular or extraordinary. Millions of faithful Christians, saints and sinners, did the same for centuries; and there are millions who do it to-day. Do not thousands every day visit the stations of the cross, devoutly following our Divine Redeemer step for step in the path of His suffering, and offering His merits for the release of the Poor Souls ? Is His most sacred humanity not honored by the spiritual pouring-out of His Precious Blood for the relief of the Souls in Purgatory? The innocence, the infinite perfections of Jesus Christ are offered as a compensation for their sins and imperfections; His life of self-denial —a life of fasting, prayer, labor, contempt, suffering and persecution—is offered for their want of mortification; His stripes and torments, His tears and bloody sweat and agony are offered to relieve their pains; the merits of His virtues are offered as an endowment for their needful souls—all this is offered for the souls in Purgatory; and is not the sacred humanity of our Lord highly honored by this offering?
400. Our Lord appeared to Sister Mary and granted her the favor of relieving four souls from Purgatory after every holy communion. When she expressed her astonishment at so extraordinary a privilege, He replied, "Be not astonished, but know that all those who are to be released by you, when compared with the number of those who remain, are like a drop of water compared with a mighty stream." Thenceforth she was anxious to receive communion every day.—And in her fervent practice of offering holy communion for the Suffering Souls Sister Mary has thousands of followers to-day. They implore God to grant that the Most Holy Eucharist may bring comfort and deliverance to the Suffering Souls; that the Sacred Heart of Jesus mysteriously present in the Blessed Sacrament may offer for them all its aspirations, its acts of homage and supplication, all its incomprehensible mysteries. They receive holy communion sacramentally as often as possible, and spiritually whenever sacramental reception is impossible—and all these holy communions, sacramental and spiritual, are offered for the Suffering Souls. They flock to the altars to offer up or at least to assist at the Holy Sacrifice for the release of the captive souls from their fiery prison; they apply to them the privilege of the altar and innumerable other plenary and partial indulgences.—What is all this but a homage, an adoration of our Divine Lord and . Savior inspired by devotion to the Suffering Souls?
401. The full plenitude of divine grace is contained in the holy sacraments. They are the stars in this our world of darkness, the fountains in the desert of life, miracles of divine love, marvels of Christ's mercy. Their essential effect is the removal of the guilt of sin and the sanctification of the soul by grace. The sacrifice of the cross, renewed daily in Holy Mass, is the fountain-head whence the sacraments conduct to the souls of men seven powerful streams of grace; and by this same sacrifice of the cross these streams are daily replenished and placed at our disposal. The sacramentals, too, are helps to salvation, but in a less powerful and in an essentially different manner. Their object is to remove and to destroy, at least in some measure, not only the spiritual but also the physical effects of sin. Like the sacraments they are intimately connected with Christ, the fountain-head of grace, whence they receive their heeling power. Now, if we Catholics are most earnestly intent on applying to the Suffering Souls, as far as possible, the graces of the sacraments and sacramentals; if we reconcile ourselves with God in the sacrament of Penance and are thus reinstated in His grace; if we then piously make use of blessed candles, holy water, oil, etc., for the relief of the Suffering Souls—is not the sacred humanity of Christ specially honored and worshiped by this devotion to the Holy Souls ?
402. That the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, receives particular joy and honor by this devotion is evident from the three titles under which we love to invoke her, namely that of Mother of Jesus, by which she shares the honors of His sacred humanity ; that of Mother of mercy, under which she is specially honored by works of charity ; and finally that of Queen of Purgatory, under which she is invoked as the special patroness and helper of the Holy Souls. We may also regard her as the Queen of martyrs, and offer up her sorrows as such for the relief of the Suffering Souls; and as we thereby undoubtedly remind her of the greatest affliction of her maternal heart, moving it to perform wonders of pity and mercy, it will prove to be of extraordinary efficacy, if we offer the sorrows of Mary for the relief of the Suffering Souls.
403. It is this very efficacy of her intercession for the Suffering Souls which moves the faithful to have a particular devotion to Mary. In the life of St. Dominic we read: Alexandra, a young lady of noble birth, was resuscitated to life by the saint, that she might be able to receive the holy sacraments; for she had died without them. On returning to life she made known that she had died in the state of grace, but was sentenced to Purgatory; first, for two hundred years because of a sin, which through her fault had been committed by some other person; secondly, for five hundred years because of her vanity in dress, through which she often caused impure thoughts in others. However, being a member of the Confraternity of the Rosary, she hoped to be released sooner through the prayers of her associates. After this revelation she again died. St. Dominic prayed fervently and perseveringly with the members of the Rosary Confraternity, and had the consolation to see Alexandra again after fifteen days in heavenly splendor, thanking him for her release.—Therefore let us also endeavor to liberate the Suffering Souls from their torments by having recourse for this purpose to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To our daily prayers to her let us add also one or the other for the relief of the souls in Purgatory; particularly let us often say the rosary in her honor and offer it up for these souls. Thus is the honor of Mary increased by devotion to the Holy Souls.
404. The same is true of our veneration for the Holy Angels. There is no doubt that the guardian angels rejoice, and with them the whole heavenly court, if we help to increase the number of those who dwell in the heavenly Jerusalem, thereby filling the empty thrones of the fallen angels. The angels regard with particular favor the souls already assured of their salvation and confirmed in perseverance, though as yet these souls are not sufficiently purified to take possession of the blissful abode prepared for them. Many of them also have a special interest in these souls, having been their guardian angels on earth, and still exercising that office.—We read in the life of Blessed Cecilia Iyampugnana, that three days after her death she appeared and made known that she received the consolations of her guardian angel, and that he appeared to her visibly in Purgatory. She added that she intended to ask him for a particular favor; namely, that he would apply in her stead to the priest of the church of the Holy Sepulchre, and request him to say Masses for her, whereby she would be greatly relieved.—It is also related of a young man who once went to sleep without saying his usual rosary for the Suffering Souls, that he was called by his guardian angel and reminded of the omission.—St. Michael the archangel is the prince of Purgatory. He receives the suffrages of the faithful and brings them to the throne of God for the relief of the Suffering Souls, whom he conducts to the throne of God after their release—an office of which the Church makes special mention in the Offertory of the Mass for the Dead.—Thus the angels receive increased honor by this devotion.
405. The Saints also experience new joy every time their number is increased by the addition of a released soul. The saints in heaven are God's household, His family. Once they were living on earth, but after their death they were transplanted into heaven. Mary is their Mother there as she is ours here. They rejoice at our good works, the more so, if thereby their number is augmented; and this joy is doubly great if they find their clients among the new arrivals in heaven. Although the essential happiness of heaven consists in the vision and eternal possession of God, yet they receive an additional happiness from the knowledge that those who were devoted to them on earth are now united with them in heaven. If by our prayers we effect the release of the Suffering Souls, and thereby increase the number of the saints in heaven, do we not also by the same means increase their heavenly joy ? And hence is it not evident that by this devotion to the souls in Purgatory we promote the honor and glory of the saints ?
406. In heaven one class of saints—martyrs, virgins, confessors, religious, fathers, mothers, etc.—is distinct from the other, every class receiving additional joy and glory from the faithful performance of the particular duties of their state, for which they extend to one another their mutual congratulations. In the Suffering Souls, already confirmed in grace, they behold the fruit of their example, the granting of their prayers, the result of their protecting influence. Many a holy patron sees how his client is being perfected in the cleansing flames. These souls were their zealous disciples on earth ; they celebrated their feasts in holy rejoicing; they proclaimed their words and deeds to the world. Even in death they united the names of their patrons with the saving names of Jesus and Mary, to repel the attacks of the evil spirits in that all-important hour. Why then should these saints not regard with compassion their clients in the cleansing flames ? And is it not obvious that our prayers for the release of the Suffering Souls are a source of joy to the saints, redounding to their honor, because we thereby hasten their clients entrance into heaven ?
407. Hence it is not saying too much, if we call the devotion to the souls in Purgatory in a certain sense the centre of all Catholic devotions, which comprises more than any other the whole compass of our duties towards God, the angels and men. All other devotions, too, find their common centre in this one devotion, as we intend to prove.
The special devotions of all confraternities can be applied for the benefit of the Suffering Souls; hence the numerous distinct fraternities established for this one purpose—to relieve and ransom the Suffering Souls. This is the object and statutory addition to the titles of the following pious confraternities: The Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity; the Archconfraternity of the Most Precious Blood; the Confraternity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; the Archconfraternity of Perpetual Adoration of the Holy Ghost; the Archconfraternity of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament under the protection of St. Benedict ; the Association of the Communion of Reparation ; the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart; the Confraternity of the Rosary ; the Archconfraternity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the conversion of sinners; the Archconfraternity of St. Joseph; the Confraternity of St. Michael; the Confraternity of the Cord of St. Francis; the Society of St. Francis Xavier for the conversion of sinners; the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, etc., etc.
408. By the active and effective assistance of the Suffering Souls, as described in the course of these treatises, the three divisions of the kingdom of God, the Church militant, the Church triumphant and the Church suffering, are most intimately united in mutual charity. Our faith in the communion of saints is thereby increased to a degree incomprehensible to those outside the Church. This devotion leads us to the inexhaustible treasury of indulgences, and gives its key into our hands. It makes lucid the abstruse doctrine of atonement. From the treasury of atonement, we may take abundant satisfaction and thereby give consolation to innumerable Suffering Souls, thus insuring intercession and gratitude to ourselves. In heaven we increase joy at the additional conquests of the Most Precious Blood; the realm of bliss is populated with new saints confirmed in justice and joining Mary, the angels and saints in eternal thanksgiving. The Church militant rejoices at the increased number of her protectors. "Relatives" says Faber, "friends, the family, the community, the country have special cause to rejoice." Nature itself is honored, for a creature has entered the bliss of the Creator andjoins forever in His praises.
409. Devotion to the Suffering Souls is not restricted to words and sentiment, but essentially urges and demands action.—St. Benedict Joseph Labre, the holy mendicant of Amettes, though abandoning home and leading the life of a pilgrim, bears in his mind the impress of that picture in the church of his village home-before which he had so often prayed in youth, and his fervor for the release of the Suffering Souls is ever on the increase. On his weary path from sanctuary to sanctuary he thinks of their torments, compared with which his sufferings from hunger, thirst, exposure and contempt are as nothing. Remembering the yearning of these souls for spiritual refreshment in the fiery furnace, for peace and rest on the bosom of their God, he redoubles his charities and penances to satisfy Divine Justice for them. Sweet and easy are to him the rigors of austere self-denial, because he is permitted to unite them with the merits of Him whose sufferings were infinitely greater, and to offer them in suffrage for the Holy Souls.
410. The holy mendicant, however, was not content to devote himself and his whole life to the relief of the Suffering Souls. He also did his utmost to incite others to follow his example. A great lover of silence and humble reserve, St. Benedict Joseph became eloquent in defense and inculcation of his favorite devotion. One day he remarked, "We ought to have three hearts united into one; the first replete with the love of God, the second overflowing with charity towards our neighbor, the third full of rigor towards ourselves. The heart overflowing with charity-must urge us to implore Jesus and Mary to receive the Suffering Souls into the mansions of eternal bliss" Oh, that the hearts of all Christians were of this description ! But, alas, of a great many the contrary is true. Their hearts overflow with indulgence to themselves and are full of rigor towards their neighbor. But it is also true that devotion to the souls in Purgatory has wrought a change in many a heart, filling such Christians with charity towards their neighbor, and with rigor towards themselves. Hence such persons no longer decline to make sacrifices, to perform acts of self-denial and charity, and to offer prayers for the relief of the souls in Purgatory.
411. Following the example of St. Benedict Joseph, all good Catholics are fervent helpers of the souls in Purgatory, constantly eager to perform works of charity for their aid. Says Faber, "Behold how all the corporal works of mercy are practiced by devotion to the Holy Souls. It nourishes the famished souls with the Bread of Angels; it allays their thirst with the refreshing draught of our Lord's Precious Blood ; it clothes them with heavenly glory; it consoles them in their infirmities by visiting them with help; it releases the captives from bonds more galling than death and gives them the liberty of heavenly bliss ; it harbors strangers and hastens their admission to the haven of eternal rest; it buries the dead in the bosom of Jesus, their reward exceeding great. Oh, on the last day,- when those seven questions on the works of mercy will be asked by our Lord, how happy will he be, and if he were the poorest mendicant who never gave an alms because he had to beg himself, when he sees himself eloquently defended by numbers of Holy Souls to whom.he was merciful during their captivity."
412. What comfort and consolation is to be derived from this thought: I have released a soul from Purgatory; I have performed works of mercy in its favor and thereby hastened its entrance into heaven! Will the soul thus benefited not continually implore God, "Save him who released me" ? This consideration impels us to perform the spiritual and corporal works of mercy also for our fellow-men here on earth. In the ages of faith the weekly and yearly foundations of Masses, made for all times and sometimes in several churches, were joined with works of mercy, such as distributing food and giving clothes to the poor, assisting the sick and aged, etc. In addition to these corporal works of mercy, the spiritual works also were performed: sinners were corrected, the ignorant were instructed, enemies were reconciled, prayers were offered for the living and the dead. Thus devotion to the Suffering Souls embraces all good works. It does more; it redoubles our zeal, incites us to works of supererogation, and prompts us to influence others by word and example to give alms and to pray for the faithful departed.
413. A remarkable document was drawn up by William, Duke of Aquitania, and founder of the Benedictine Abbey of Clugny. After a short preamble on making good use of wealth he says, "Be it known to all Christians now living and to live in future generations, that I, Duke William, and my Consort, Duchess Engeberga, for the love of our God and Savior Jesus Christ, have donated and do donate by these presents our estate of Clugny, on the banks of the Rhone, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul. We make this gift, first, for the pure love of God; then for the repose of the soul of my father, for the repose of the souls of my mother and of my aunt Avana, by whose last will this estate was devised to me; finally for the salvation of my own and my consort's soul, for the salvation of my brothers and sisters, of my whole household, and of all my subjects. And whereas all the faithful are united by one bond of charity, we offer this estate of Clugny for all the faithful that ever lived, that now live and ever shall live to the end of the world, as an oblation to God, and hereby declare our will that a monastery of the rule of St. Benedict shall immediately be built on it." The document was written in the year 910, and is signed by Duke William and his wife, two bishops and several witnesses.—It is only one of many others on record, all of which documents are of similar import.
414. The objection that the wealthy alone are able to secure help in Purgatory for themselves and their relatives, is untenable for the reason, as was shown at length elsewhere, that confraternities and unions make it possible since the earliest times for even the poorest to give their mite for this purpose and so to secure for themselves a share of the suffrages for the deceased. In Catholic countries the records of old churches almost everywhere give evidence of the foundation of Masses and prayers for all classes: for the deceased of the various guilds, for deceased priests, for young men and maidens, for parents, for children. This securing of charity for the deceased is made so easily attainable, that it might almost seem as though individuals were relieved of their private obligations in this regard. But this is not so. For devotion to the souls in Purgatory makes personal and individual charity towards the deceased obligatory. True, others also pray for our deceased; but will they do it with the same zeal and devotion as we ourselves, who were so closely united with them and are indebted' to them for so many personal favors ? Personal obligations cannot be fulfilled by proxy. Our own prayer united with that of others—this is what is pleasing to God.
415. The devotion to the Suffering Souls enkindles our zeal for the performance of our religious duties; but more than this, it also exerts a beneficial influence on the fulfilment of the duties of our state of life. The trials and troubles inseparable from our daily labor— how insignificant will they seem to him before whose spiritual vision looms up the flame of that fiery furnace where the Suffering Souls are held captive? Faith tells him that many souls are sentenced to Purgatory for their neglect of duty. When the Venerable Frances of the Blessed Sacrament was occupied with her daily work, she would often see herself surrounded by souls from Purgatory who plaintively informed her of their sufferings and implored her help. Amongst others a Cardinal appeared to her twice; and after telling her his name and rank he asked her to pray for him; and he concluded saying, "Oh, that I had been a simple lay-brother in a convent! For the duties and responsibilities of a prince of the Church are exceedingly grave; and because I have not been as attentive to some of my duties as I might have been, I am now in the torments of expiation."—A priest, too, who had been connected with the Church of St. Andrew at Soria, appeared to her and said, "I suffer frightful torments because I sometimes offended against temperance and moderation, thus depriving myself of the means of aiding good works." And he added sorrowfully, "O Frances, people often think it all-sufficient to be a priest; but know that the priesthood is so sublime a state, a state of such responsibility, and so highly esteemed by God and heaven, that it obligates its members to the greatest purity of conscience and to great perfection. I may tell you that I scarcely succeeded in working out my salvation."
416. The motives inherent in the spirit of the devotion to the Suffering Souls are therefore so strong that they urge us to be magnanimous and constant in our efforts for the relief and deliverance of the Holy Souls. The benefits of this charity are unlimited; its effects extend not only to the souls in Purgatory, but also to heaven and earth. Those who engage in this work of charity are themselves greatly benefited by it. Hence we append in conclusion of this chapter a quotation from Faber: "Were I to demonstrate in particular how this devotion unites the three objects : promotion of the glory of God, of the interests of Jesus, and of the salvation of souls, I should only repeat what I have already said. This devotion's special character is fecundity; it is of supernatural efficacy and extends everywhere. In it we strike a secret source of greater profusion and power than we expected. It is like an instrument whose strings are attuned harmoniously to proclaim the glory of God: if one of them is touched, they all join in the melodious strain of praise that forever ascends from the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the Most Holy Trinity."
Considering all this, must our hearts not tremble with thankful emotion? Must we not wonderingly exclaim: O great and holy devotion to the Suffering Souls ! Pearls of great price are enclosed in it—pearls of living faith, of firm confidence, of love of God and neighbor. Oh, let us prove our faith by works ! "Faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself." (James ii. 7.) "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." (Matth. v. 7.)