Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Purgatory, By The Rev. M. Canty, P.P., Part 39.



II. The souls in Purgatory have no doubt of their salvation, because they have the conscience that they are not numbered among the reprobate.

^They clearly see that they are separated from these; that, in fact, a deep chaos intervenes between them. They know that they do not blaspheme the holy name of God ; that they are not penetrated with undying, or any, hatred against Him ; and that they are guilty of no grievous or unredeemable sins, like the reprobate. For these reasons, if there were no others, they should see that their salvation is secure—that they are saved for ever.

III. Another argument to show that those souls are certain of salvation, is found in the condemnation by Pope Leo X. of the contrary opinion.

Among the false propositions of Luther, condemned by Pope Leo, was one which asserted that the souls in Purgatory were not certain of salvation. The whole Church of God heard the condemnation of Luther's opinion by the Pontiff with applause, and re-echoed the reprobation of a novel doctrine. Since that day the Church has ever reprobated the false proposition condemned by Leo X. Not only is the opinion of Luther, and of those who thought with him, without foundation, but even it has the taste of innovation. Hence it was likewise proscribed by Pius V. and Gregory XIII. among the propositions of Baius.

Our adversaries urge in opposition to the persuasion and belief of the Church, that if the souls in Purgatory were certain of their salvation, the reason of this would be, that they know they possess charity —they love God; but that this reason does not hold, because we, too, can possess charity, without being sure of our salvation.

I would answer this objection by drawing a distinction. I would grant that the souls in Purgatory know they are saved because they possess charity; which charity, however, they know to be unalterable, or incapable of being lost. But it is quite different with us. Though we may be persuaded that we possess charity—of which, however, we are not certain— we know, too, that we are capable of losing it; and on this account we cannot be certain of our salvation. Hence there is a great distinction between our case and that of the souls in Purgatory. These have a more intuitive knowledge of their charity than we can have. They see that they neither blaspheme God, nor commit sin of any kind, nor are associated in any way with those who commit these evils— which are evident marks of justice, and evident signs of salvation. Again, it is not expedient that these souls should be in any doubt or anxiety about their salvation. The injunction of the Apostle, that we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling, has no application to them. Add to this, that being freed from the phantasms of the body, they know full well that God has endowed them with good, unchangeable habits, and confirmed them in His grace and friendship.

They raise another objection from the fact of the Church praying for the souls in Purgatory, that they may be delivered " from the pains of hell, and from the deep pool:  So supplicates the Church for the faithful departed, in the Offertory of the different Masses for the Dead. But they say, she would not so supplicate if these souls were sure of their salvation.

This objection may be thus solved. When the Church prays to deliver souls from the pains of hell, and from the deep pit or pool, she prays to deliver them either from the fire of Purgatory, or from that of hell. If she be understood as praying that they may be delivered from the fire and pains of Purgatory, the objection offers no difficulty. But if she be understood as praying to God, that they may be delivered from the fire and other torments of hell, then her intention would be to pray for those souls who have arrived at the supreme and decisive moment of death, when they are taking leave of the body. Thus the Church would pray that God, at that awful moment when eternity is in the balance, would, by the grace of true repentance and final per severance, deliver those poor souls from the pains of hell.

They object against us again, that in supplicating Divine mercy on the dead, the Church applies to them the words of the Psalmist: (Psalm vi. 3, 4.) " My bones are troubled, and my soul is troubled exceedingly; " and also those other words: (Psalm cxiv. 3.) "The sorrows of death have compassed, and the perils of hell have found me." This anxiety and confusion of mind in the dead does not arise from their punishments alone. Punishments of themselves would not disturb or sadden the just, according to the expression of the Book of Proverbs : (xii. 21.) "Whatsoever shall befall the just man, it shall not make him sad." Then (so they argue), the just are anxious and troubled principally on account of their uncertainty as to salvation, and their want of charity.

In solving this objection, it may be said that though the Church uses the above-mentioned Psalms in their Office, it does not follow from this that all, or even the greater number of verses in these Psalms, are applicable to the dead, or have any reference to them. For example, in the sixth Psalm, which is quoted against us, is found this verse : "Every night I will wash my bed ; I will water my couch with my tears ; " which can have no application to the dead. It is a well-known fact that the Church is accustomed to adopt some considerable portion, or even a whole chapter, of Scripture, on account of one verse or phrase which may have application to the subject of her praise or commendation; whilst not alone the greater part, but even all the rest of the chapter, may refer to a different subject. We have a case to the point in the sixth Psalm, to which reference has been made above. This Psalm is read by the Church in the Office for the Dead solely on account of these words: " Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak ; " which are applicable to the condition of the departed faithful who are in affliction. She also reads for the dead the hundred and fourteenth Psalm, on account of this verse, which is appropriate to them: "I will please the Lord in the land of the living; " the rest of the Psalm having reference to another subject. In the Mass of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on the 15th of August, the Church reads the Gospel of St. Luke, which de tails the conduct of Martha and Mary Magdalene, and our Lord's observation on it. This Gospel contains no reference to the Blessed Virgin. However, one sentence in it—" Mary hath chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away from her,"—is highly applicable to the Blessed Mother of God, and for this reason alone the Church reads the whole portion of the Gospel which relates the visit of Jesus Christ to Martha and Mary. On the feast of the dedication of a Church, the Gospel used is taken from the nineteenth chapter of St. Luke, where he speaks of the eagerness of Zacheus to hear the words of our Lord, and of his hospitality to Him. Now the only portion of that Gospel which is applicable, or has any reference, to the festival of the dedication of a Church, is the last, where it is written: "This day is salvation come to this house." Therefore, though the verses of the Psalms quoted against us are found in the Office of the Dead, it does not follow that the Church believes them to have any application to the faithful departed.