Friday, 12 June 2015

The Heroic Act of Charity for the Suffering Souls. § 64. Motives for Makinging the Heroic Act of Charity. Part 1.

517. Christian soul! Considering the extent of this offering you are perhaps in doubt as to the advisability of thus renouncing even the little good that you can call your own. If you were a St. Aloysius, a St. Stanislas Kostka, a St. Theresa, you would feel more encouraged to perform this act of charity ; but then—! To appear before the all-searching eye of God to receive from Him the sentence of judgment that is to decide our eternal destiny is an event of so serious import that language has no adequate expression for it. And there we are to appear without fruits!—O terrible thought! "We must all be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ," says St. Paul, "that everyone may receive . . . according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil." (II Cor. v. 10.) How well it will be for us then, if we have always lived in the fear of our Judge, if we have sent before us good works, and have gained friends to receive us in the eternal mansions.—Terrible judgment, how it causes us to tremble !—We acknowledge our deficiency in merit; we discern that we have done scarcely anything for God and for eternity ! And this being the case, we are invited to give up that little to others?—"Charity begins at home."

518. The soul of a Christian who has yielded all the atoning merit of his good works to the Suffering Souls is about to appear before its Judge, before Him who judges all in rigorous justice. Soon the records will be searched. Suppose this Christian's life has been a sinful one. His conscience, even now, begins its incriminations : "Where is your faith and where are your works? Have they always corresponded?— What did you believe? You believed that everything in the world is vain and unworthy of your attention ; that only such things as are worthy of God and profitable for eternity are deserving of regard. This was your faith : and yet you lived for the world. You devoted yourself to things temporal; you were poor in heavenly treasures, and yet your sole aim was to amass earthly wealth, to surpass others, to make your fortune.—These are your works.—You believed it to be your first and most important duty to love God above all things and with your whole heart, and to love everything else only in and for God: and yet you loved everything except God. You had to force yourself to think of Him. But to offend Him cost you no effort. What a discrepancy between your faith and your works!"—Oh, sad reflections of a dying man who abandoned himself to his evil inclinations !

519. But the light of faith illuminates the darkness of despair for the dying Christian.—True, he has sinned often; but his confessions were always contrite and sincere and so frequent, his penance so well-meant, that he may confidently hope to have cleansed his soul in the Most Precious Blood of the Son of God. Wherever he found himself deficient—in the observance of the -commandments, in his duties and obligations—all this he repaired to the full extent of his ability. Now God's minister approaches to bring him the consolations of religion. He receives Extreme Unction. "By this holy unction," says the priest, "and by His benign mercy, may God forgive thee what thou hast sinned with thy senses." He is now wholly cleansed, and peacefully he expects the summons of the Lord.—But still a doubt disquiets him. True, his sins are forgiven; heaven will be his reward after atoning in Purgatory. When, oh, when will he get to heaven ? He gave all his good works to the Suffering Souls by the heroic act of charity. He was charitable towards others, but forgot himself! He is harassed with doubt and inclines to the belief that his Purgatory will be of long duration.—And now death claims him.

520. Scarcely has he expired, when he hears the dreadful words of Christ, "With what judgment you judge, you shall be judged; and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again." (Matth. vii. 2.) And solemn silence follows these words— when, behold, the Judge appears bearing the imprint of His five wounds. He addresses the soul, "Welcome, my beloved brother! Thou hast devoted all thy works and prayers to the release of the souls suffering in Purgatory. Thy charity was great; it impelled thee to forget thyself in the desire to help them. Receive now for thyself what thou didst so ardently implore for others—the full remission of thy temporal punishment and immediate admission to heaven."

521. To St. Gertrude, who had made this heroic act of charity, and who was therefore greatly in fear of Purgatory, our Lord appeared and said, "That thou mayest know how pleasing to Me was thy charity towards the Suffering Souls, I remit to thee the entire punishment that had been decreed for thee. And having promised a hundred-fold, I will greatly increase thy glory in heaven."—To St. Bridget also, who was troubled by the same thought, He appeared, saying, "My daughter! that thou mayest know how pleasing thy charity was to Me, I remit to thee all the punishment which thou otherwise shouldst have had to suffer in Purgatory. And as I have promised to reward a hundred-fold all who renounce their own for love of Me, I will moreover increase thy reward above thy merits and add to thy glory in heaven. Besides I will permit all the souls whom thou hast released to meet thee at thy death,, and to conduct thy soul triumphantly to heaven."

522. Even supposing that a soul which has exercised this charitable act were sentenced to Purgatory after death because of certain faults or of punishment incurred, it would nevertheless be an object of special solicitude on the part of our Savior. Its punishment would be of short duration, for we can not doubt that God's wisdom and power have many means of coming to the aid of such a soul. We must remember in this connection that God has reserved to Himself the distribution of the fruits of intercession, of Masses and indulgences applied for the Suffering Souls. When applying these suffrages God will surely regard those with particular favor who have given all their own merits for the relief of the Suffering Souls; and so He will reward their charity a hundred-fold. We must remember that prayers for the faithful departed in general are said often and everywhere; that prayers, Masses and indulgences are offered for many who were admitted to heaven long ago; that the millions who are making the heroic act of charity, daily offer to God countless works of atonement. Verily, by relying on the mercy of God we consult our own interest better than by confiding in our personal merits.

523. It is impossible to describe the joy experienced by the departed soul of this Christian on finding that its atoning merits are not only not lost, but that they were rendered a hundred-fold more durable by this heroic act of charity. Not only does the Divine Judge remit to him all punishment, but in return for even the most insignificant work for the Suffering Souls his glory in heaven has been increased. More and more is the soul convinced of the great value God attaches to this act of charity for the Suffering Souls. St. Theresa once remarked, after God had permitted her to glance at the glory of heaven, that she would gladly suffer every torment to the end of the world in order to have her reward in heaven increased even by the smallest good work—by the devout reciting of one "Our Father", or by an ejaculation for the Suffering Souls. She well knew that one degree of heavenly glory is more valuable than all the pleasures of the world.—"One degree of heavenly glory," observes a master of spiritual life, "what does it mean ? It means, to enjoy the beatific vision of God in a greater measure, to be more intimately united with God, to enjoy a greater reward —and all this forever !"

524. Concerning this point Faber observes in his book "All for Jesus," (chap. 11. § 5.,) where he treats of the cession of indulgences in favor of the Suffering Souls: "The first fruit is the great increase of our merits by this; for, of the three things which the good works of the just include, merit, impetration and satisfaction, the greatest of all is merit; for by it we become more acceptable to God, and more His friends, receiving greater grace, and so acquiring a new title to greater glory. Doubtless, then, if a man could turn all the satisfaction of his good works into so much fresh merit, over and above the merit there was there before, he would be a gainer by it, and for this reason: —the glory of the Blessed is without comparison a greater good than the pains of Purgatory are an evil; and so the right to greater glory is a better thing than the right to less pain. H^, then, who -offers the satisfaction of his good works and his indulgences for the souls in Purgatory, does just this:—he converts his satisfaction into merit. In this charity is an heroic act of great virtue, by which he will acquire eternal life by means of that satisfaction turned into merits which is no help at all as simple satisfaction toward eternal life. As satisfaction, it would not have helped him one iota to that, but he makes it do so by turning it into merit, and at the same time helping others. Now this deserves reflection; for, besides the fact that glory is a greater good than Purgatory is an evil, we must remember that the increase of glory is a thing which is eternal, whereas the lightening of Purgatory is only temporal, for Purgatory itself is merely temporal; so that the difference between the increase of glory and the lightening of Purgatory is as good as infinite. And yet to enjoy eternal good, even in the very lowest degree, would be cheaply purchased by the endurance of the greatest temporal evils. We must add to this, that we ought in all things to do that which is most pleasing in the sight of God, not seeking our own interest and convenience, but His greater good pleasure. To please God is a better thing than to avoid suffering; yet a man who keeps his satisfaction and indulgences to himself, does so from a desire of avoiding suffering; whereas he who offers them all for the souls in Purgatory thereby makes himself dearer to God, by a refinement of love in this heroic exercise of mercy and charity, which he was not bound to, but does out of the sweet freedom of his own will."