Monday, 8 June 2015
The Heroic Act of Charity for the Suffering Souls. § 62. What is the Heroic Act of Charity for the Suffering Souls? Part 2.
487. All men dying in sanctifying grace will be admitted to the beatific vision of God and to the joys of heaven; but the reward will not be alike nor equally great for all. Even in this world the laborer's hire is in proportion to the amount and quality of his work. God called all men to serve Him and thereby to gain heaven. But the Apostle says, "Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor." (I Cor. 111. 8.) The longer one has persevered in the service of God, the more good works he has performed, and the more perfect they were, the greater will be his reward, the more precious will be his crown in heaven. He is rewarded according to his merit. For this reason the Blessed Virgin Mary, being "full of grace," surpasses all others in glory. Thus also the apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins and the host of other saints, receive glory and reward in heaven in proportion to the measure of grace they attained and co-operated with, and the degree to which they increased it while living on earth. And the poorest Christian, forsaken, misjudged, reviled and persecuted here; the overworked servant, the oppressed widow, the defrauded laborer, the distressed sick—they are greater in heaven than mighty kings and queens, than renowned statesmen and scholars, greater in proportion to the superiority they attained by their good works. The good works of the Christian, made valuable through the merits of Christ, are his purchasing price of heaven; they gain for him a reward, a crown, a recompense corresponding to the merits gained by their performance. Every good work contributes to his glorification in heaven. Everything that a Christian in the state of grace does with the intention of fulfilling the holy will of God, to honor and glory his Maker—all such works, even the least, are ennobled, perfected and rendered meritorious for eternal life by sanctifying grace Hence Christ so lovingly exhorts us, "Lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven. ,, (Matth. vi. 20.)
488. Effective as our good works may be to bring about our reconciliation with God, to increase sanctifying grace in our souls, and to augment our glory in heaven, these fruits produced by them are independent of the fruit of atonement. They always remain the property of him who performed the good works in the state of grace. By every good work we can also implore of God grace for ourselves or for others, which He grants if no obstacle intervenes. These graces are given to assist us in this world. In bestowing them God wishes to make us^ more solicitous for eternity ; by means of them we are to lead more holy and meritorious lives. The supplicatory fruit of our good works therefore moves God to give us more grace in order that we may grow in perfection ; or in case we pray for such as are in the state of sin, that God may give them the grace of conversion. Good works moreover obtain for us preservation from temporal punishments; that is, God either does not visit us with the temporal punishments which we deserved, or if He does, He lessens or mitigates them. It is for this very purpose that the faithful perform so many good works of devotion, mortification and charity—that is, works of prayer, fasting and alms-giving. In the state of grace they often receive more additional grace than they have a right to expect. The faithful servant who employs his talents (the grace of God) well, receives as reward not only "the joy of his Lord," that is, eternal bliss—before he gets the reward promised he receives more talents (grace) ; "for to every one that hath, shall be given, and he shall abound" (Matth. xxv. 29) ; that is, he that co-operates with grace will receive still more grace.
489. In His foreknowledge of the prayers, sufferings, virtues and merits of His Divine Son God granted many graces to mankind even before redemption was accomplished. In like manner does He also grant many graces in the foreknowledge of our prayers, and of the prayers and sacrifices of the Church, especially to sinners that they may be saved by His grace. Masters of spiritual life ascribe these sudden effects of grace to various causes. The most Precious Blood of Christ, by which the human soul was ransomed; the inscrutable mercy of God; some good work—such as an alms-deed, a prayer, etc.—once performed or practiced, and perhaps long since forgotten; penances and intercessions by others; the invisible ministry of the guardian angel, who at the decisive moment redoubles his efforts for his ward ; above all, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and that of our patron saints, and the suffrages offered up for us after our death— these are some of the causes pointed out by spiritual writers. What a consolation lies in this doctrine of the intercessory power of every good work! In the foreknowledge of our future prayer God often grants 9 a sinner the grace of a good death; and in consideration of our actual prayer He even consents to release a soul from the expiatory flames of Purgatory. The prayers which console us at this hour have in the past assisted in releasing that soul we so dearly love.
490. The following impressive example will serve to elucidate this doctrine. St. Gertrude was once informed of the death of a man who had led a very worldly-minded life. From compassion for the sorrow of his relatives she prayed for him a long time. At last his soul appeared to her in a deformed shape, black and mournful. The saint thenceforth redoubled her prayer and implored Jesus to favor and pardon this soul. Our Lord consented and asked her, "In what manner shall I favor this man ? Shall I pardon all his sins and release him?" Gertrude feared that this might not accord with divine justice. But Jesus replied, "It would not be contrary to My justice, if thou wouldst confidently implore Me to do so, because at his death I foresaw thy prayer, and therefore I disposed him that he might receive and profit by thy charity." The saint now answered, "Then, O Lord, Thou source and cause of our salvation, I beseech Thee to complete this work of Thy mercy in the manner most acceptable to Thee, because Thy grace inspires me with full confidence in Thee." Scarcely-had she finished, when the deceased's soul appeared to her in human form, cleansed and purified.
491. In the life of Sister Mary Dionysia, a nun of the Visitation, we read that nine years before her death the Lord led her after communion to the confines of Purgatory. It was on the feast of our Lady of Angels. He showed her the soul of a prince in Purgatory who had been killed in a duel, but who in consideration of her future suffrages received the grace of true contrition at the very moment of his death. Our Lord exhorted her to pray for this soul with particular fervor. At the same time she saw the whole life of this prince, how he had lived according to the principles of the world; and now perhaps he would have to suffer to the day of the general judgment. She felt such compassion for him because of his torments, and at the same time she was filled with such admiration of God's mercy—the mercy of .Him who had preserved the man from hell during the perpetration of the very act whereby he had deserved it—that she thenceforth devoted her whole life, nine years and three months, to atone for him; and she even offered her life if she could but obtain for this soul a mitigation of punishment. She declared moreover that she was moved less by the contemplation of the wretched state of this soul, than by being informed how miraculously the soul was saved from perdition. It seemed to her that the grace whereby this man was saved was an emanation of the supreme love and goodness of God ; for the act by which this prince's death was caused was one deserving eternal damnation. On his part he had done absolutely nothing to which grace might attach itself. But in virtue of the communion of saints he shared in the prayers that had been said for him and were foreseen to be said for him in future; and as he had preserved the faith, he was not unlike a dry twig that easily ignites, so that when the scintillation of divine grace touched the centre of his soul, the fire of divine love was immediately enkindled in it and produced the saving effect God had made use of the instinct by which we call on His help when in immediate danger of death, thereby impelling Him to cooperate with actual grace. And this grace is more effective than we can imagine; it operates more quickly than the twinkling of an eye. It produces its effect in almost less time than is required to give it its first impulse.—We have an example of this in the conversion of St. Paul, blinded bodily and enlightened spiritually in a moment. In his last moment the prince regained consciousness, and as it were instinctively called on God for help; and this was the same moment when grace touched him. Co-operating with it and aided by it, he made an act of perfect contrition and was saved. "Since the time the devil is a devil," observed the saintly Sister, "he perhaps never experienced a greater disappointment than when he saw himself deprived of this prey. For he had no knowledge of the interior disposition of his victim during those moments of grace that had been accorded the dying man."
492. In this manner does every good act appeal to the Divine Heart of Jesus to obtain for us saving grace for time and eternity. This effective, appeal of our good works is a distinct fruit, a fruit wholly independent of the atoning value of these same works.—How bountiful is our good God who gives us for every good work so rich a harvest, a five-fold reward! Every act performed in the state of grace and from supernatural motives acquires for us the following benefits: i) it enriches us with a merit for eternal life; 2) it appeases God's anger; 3) it increases sanctifying grace; 4) it augments our heavenly reward; 5) by its intercessory power it obtains actual graces for this life. These acts most assuredly do not lose anything of their efficiency and value if God deigns to receive, them also in atonement for punishment incurred: hence the same act may be both meritorious and atoning.
493. The merit of a good work, in so far as it gives a claim for a reward in heaven, can not be ceded to someone else; for it necessarily belongs to the person who performed the work and thereby deserved the reward. In this sense nobody can yield the merits of his good works to another, because "every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor." But as to the atoning or satisfactory value of these works by which the debt of temporal punishment contracted through sin is cancelled—this can be ceded to others, and in such a manner, too, that atonement and satisfaction are really made.
Now, Christian soul, if you repeat your question, What portion of our good works do we give to the Suffering Souls by the heroic act of charity ?"—the answer is, "The atoning value only". Everything else resulting from our good works—appeasement of God's anger, increase of sanctifying grace, augmentation of our reward in heaven, acquirement of actual grace in this life—all this we retain for ourselves.
494. Oh, the precious gifts that we can obtain from the bountiful goodness of our Lord by our prayers and good works! Our most indifferent, lowly and insignificant actions, such as eating, drinking, our daily labor, our rest, everything that we do in the state of grace from a desire to fulfil the holy will of God and thereby to please our Heavenly Master—everything is ennobled, perfected and rendered meritorious for eternity by sanctifying grace. Hence the poorer a man is, the more infirm, the more despised of men, the richer he will be in the sight of heaven, if he daily offers to God his poverty, his infirmities, his misery, all his sufferings and trials, and bears them in patience for the love of God. For this reason St. Paul exhorts us, "Therefore whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all for the glory of God." (I Cor. x. 31.) And Christ our Lord Himself assures us, " Whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward." (Matth. x. 42.) —Let us therefore be more zealous in the performance of good works! Above all let us be careful not to lose the state of sanctifying grace by mortal sin ! Let us be solicitous to renew our pure intention every morning, so as not to miss these great merits!
495. By the heroic act of charity we relinquish to the souls in Purgatory the diminution and remission of our temporal punishments, whether gained by our own good works, or obtained for us through the prayers and good works of others during life and after death. Hence by this act we voluntarily cede to the Poor Souls whatever share we have in the atonement made by the celebrating of Holy Masses, by the offering of prayers, by the giving of alms, by the gaining of indulgences and by the performing of good works by and for us; so that for ourselves we rely wholly on the infinite mercy of God. In this sense we donate to the Suffering Souls our own merits and the merits of others. We bind ourselves to this by a formal promise. Hence this act is sometimes though improperly called a vow. It is simply a voluntary act not binding under pain of even venial sin. It need not be expressed in words in order to gain the indulgences and privileges granted for this act. It is not necessary to repeat it often; yet its renewal from time to time is recommended, because thereby our charity will be re-kindled, and we will devote ourselves with fresh fervor to the release of the Suffering Souls.