Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Purgatory, By The Rev. M. Canty, P.P., Part 8.



XIII. The doctrine of Purgatory is also openly taught by St. Augustine, who passed out of this life in 430. He introduces it in many parts of his works. He tells us that his mother St. Monica—she is called his mother in a double sense, because she brought him into the world, and afterwards brought him to heaven by her advice, example, and prayer—earnestly . begged the prayers and sacrifices of the Church after her departure; and that he warmly recommended the souls of his deceased parents to the prayers of others. (Conf. L. 9, chap, xiii., n. 36, & c.)

His mother's words to him are celebrated throughout the Church to this day. When she was near death—that time when the passions make little impression on us, and the truth alone, according to our light, is on our lips—she spoke thus to him (Conf. L. ii. n. 27.): " Place this body anywhere ; be not troubled about it: this only I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you be."

He did not forget the dying request of his holy mother, for he was accustomed to offer up " the price of our redemption for her." Similar is the teaching of the holy Doctor in many parts of his renowned works. In his book on heresy,(Chap. liii.) he numbers Aerius among the heretics, because he denied that sacrifices should be offered up for the dead. He wrote a book on concern for the dead (de Cura pro mortuis) in which we find the following passage ( Chap, i., Tome. 6.):—"We read in the book of Machabees that sacrifice was offered up for the dead ; but even if this were never read in the ancient Scriptures, the authority of the Universal Church, which is remarkable for this custom, is of great weight, according to which (custom), in the prayers of the priest, which are poured forth to The Lord God at the altar, the recommendation of the dead has also-its place." Again he says (Chap. iv.) : " We must not omit supplications for the souls of the dead, which the Church undertakes to make for all those who have died in the Christian and Catholic Society . . . under a general commemoration, so that these (supplications) may be offered by one pious common mother, for those who have not parents, or children, or any relatives, or friends." The authority of the Church, sanctioning the custom of praying for the dead, was renowned throughout the earth. But the same illustrious Doctor tells us (Epist. 54 ad Januarium) that it is sheer madness to call in question what the Universal Church practises. In expounding the words of the thirty-seventh psalm : " Neither chastise me in thy wrath," he takes them to refer to Purgatory, for he says : " That you purify me in this life, and render me such that I may not stand in need of that purging fire." This father teaches that a funeral pageant and a monument are a comfort to the living, but of no assistance to the dead; whilst prayers, alms, and sacrifices relieve these. (Serm. 182.) He often states that sacrifice is offered in thanksgiving to God for the martyrs, but never for their repose. " It is an injury," he says, (Serm 150.) " to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought to be ourselves recommended." He further says : " You know in what place (in the liturgy) the martyrs are named.. The Church prays not for them. She justly prays for other deceased persons, but prays not for the martyrs, but rather recommends herself to their prayers." He frequently repeats this in other places. In his work, titled Enchiridion, (Chap. cx.) is the following passage : " Nor is it to be denied that the souls of the departed are relieved by the piety of their living friends, when the sacrifice of the " Mediator is offered for them, or alms are given in the Church. But these things are profitable to those ' who, whilst they lived, deserved that they might avail them. There is a life so good, as not to re quire them; and there is another so wicked, that after death it can receive no benefit from them. When, therefore, the sacrifices of the altar or alms are offered for all Christians for the very good they are thanksgivings ; they are propitiations for those who are not very bad. For the very wicked, they are some kind of comfort to the living." Thus far St. Augustine, one of the most renowned and illustrious Doctors and Fathers of the Church that lived since the age of the Apostles. His teaching is clear—as clear as an Italian sky—in favour of the existence of Purgatory. It was so clear that Calvin had no way of getting over it but by saying that Monica was doting, and that Augustine, instead of acting according to the rule of Scripture, was moved by natural affection. In this manner did that evil man blaspheme against two saints together.

XIV. St. Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, the coeval of Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome, by whom he was very much esteemed, wrote an epistle to one Delphinus, to whose prayers he recommended his brother's soul. In it (Ep. 5, ad Delph.) he says : " Cause that by thy prayers pardon may be granted to thee, and that a drop of rest flowing from the smallest finger of thy sanctity may sprinkle his soul." He everywhere shows the like piety towards the dead. In his epistle to Pammachius, the same to whom St. Jerome wrote, he congratulates him on having discharged his duty to the body and soul of his wife—to her body by tears, and to her soul by alms.

XV. St. Cæsar, Archbishop of Aries, who presided over many councils in France,"bears witness to the same doctrine in the sixth, as Paulinus and Augustine and Jerome in the fourth and fifth centuries. His mind is very clear on the point. He gives us not only the substance and name, but even the very manner of Purgatory. Its pains shall be severer than the greatest torments that can be imagined in this life. No one among us knows how long he may have to endure them, whether for days or months or even years. Here are the words of St. Cæsar ;(Serm. 104, n. 4.) " If we neither return thanks to God in tribulation, nor redeem sins with good works, we shall stay in the Purgatorial fire till the above-named small sins be consumed like wood, hay, and stubble . . . But some one says : ' I don't mind how long I stay there if at length I shall arrive at eternal life.' Let no one say this, dearest brethren, because that Purgatorial fire shall be severer than any punishment, that can be either thought of, or seen, or felt in this world. How can anyone know whether he is about to pass through that fire for days and months, or perhaps even for years ?"

XVI. Pope St. Gregory the Great, whose reign fell in the seventh century, speaks thus of Purgatory: (Lib. 2, in. I.Reg., chap. 3.) " They who had the perfection of a good will in the confession of sin after death pass by Purgatorial pain to life, if they may not have a sufficient amount of love to wash away their sins: and hence St. Paul says: 'They are saved so as by fire.' But "let the sinner who has deserved to be saved by fire " there, supply by affliction of the flesh here that defect of ardent love which he knows he wants." In another place he says : (Lib. 4, Dialog, chap. 39.) " But, however, it must be believed that there is a Purgatorial fire for some light faults before judgement .... but we must believe that this can happen only in the case of small and very small sins."

Such were the opinions of the Fathers I have quoted, such were the sentiments they entertained with regard to Purgatory. To weary the reader any longer with quotations from other Fathers that may be cited as witnesses of belief in it—with quotations from an Eusebius, an Athanasius, an Ephrem, an Isidore, a Bede, a Bernard, or others, some of whom lived as early as the fourth, and more as late as the twelfth century — would be unnecessary, and would prolong the discussion of the present subject too much. Yet this dogma, so clearly put forth by the most venerable men of ancient times, by renowned Fathers and Doctors, is rejected by those sects separated from the fold of the Church, who prefer to follow the selfish lead of modern reformers rather than embrace the affectionate teaching handed down to us from of old, and hallowed by the veneration of antiquity as well as of latter ages.