Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Purgatory, By The Rev. M. Canty, P.P., Part 40.



However, even though we were to grant, for the sake of argument, that the verses quoted against us in the objection are intended to apply to the condition of the faithful departed, our thesis—that those souls are sure of their salvation—would suffer no detriment. For anxiety, and trouble of mind, as our adversaries are pleased to term it, on the part of the souls in Purgatory, is quite reconcilable with the possession of the greatest charity and certainty of salvation. Jesus Christ possessed perfect charity; and, it is needless to observe, there could have been no doubt in His mind as to His salvation. Yet when in the garden of Gethsemani, He says (Matt. xxvi. 38.) of Himself: "My soul is sorrowful even unto death;'' and on another occasion : (John xii. 27.) "Now is my soul troubled."

The text which, to strengthen their objection, they cite against us from the Book of Proverbs, is not to be understood in the sense in which they would have us receive it—that is, that souls, full of charity and sure of salvation, could not be affected with sadness or disturbed with grief. The sense of that text is, that the just, no matter in what circumstances or tribulations they may be, are not affected by that sadness which the Apostle (II. Cor. vii. 10.) calls " the sorrow of the world," and which breaks out in murmurs, and causes the spiritual death of the soul. From this kind of sadness, the souls in Purgatory, who are con firmed in grace and charity,are pre-eminently exempt.

They further object, that if the souls in Purgatory be certain of their salvation, this could happen only in the supposition that they are judged immediately after death. But there is no proof of this. In the first place it is not known by whom, or where, or how they are judged. Secondly, this judgment is opposed to historical truth. It is a matter of history that some have been judged a long time after death. This is patent, they say, in the case of those who have been raised to life again ; as well as in the case of a certain Parisian doctor, who, during the celebration of his obsequies, in presence of St. Bruno, is related to have raised his head above the coffin, and to have said on the first day : " By the just judgment of God I am accused;" on the second day: "By the just judgment of G-od I am judged ; " and finally, on the third day: "By the just judgment of God I am condemned." St. Gregory the Great exhibits judgment as having sometimes taken place even be fore death. He gives us the case of a certain Chrysarius, who had heard the sentence of his condemnation at the very time that he sought a respite or truce until the following morning. Venerable Bede, (Lib. 5, Historiae cap. 14 and 15.) too, has handed down to us the case of two persons who had died in despair, because they were aware that sentence had been already pronounced against them.

To this objection Catholics say, it is not gratuitous, but quite capable of proof, to hold that souls are judged as soon as they depart from the body. Theologians also maintain that the doctrine of a particular judgment is in no way shaken by the arguments with which our adversaries try to sustain their objection. It is not shaken by their saying that we do not know by whom, where, or how, souls are judged at death. There is ample proof of the substance and fact of the particular judgment, although its circumstances may not be capable of such convincing proof.

As to the question : By whom is the soul judged at death ?—the most probable opinion is, that it is judged by Jesus Christ. Though this is not altogether certain, because those places of Sacred Writ in which He is called " Judge of the living and the dead," can be easily applied to the general judgment, and understood of it; still, it is by far the most likely opinion that the particular judgment takes place, not before God himself, in the Divine nature only, as was the case down to the Passion, but before Jesus Christ. St. Alphonsus Liguori (“Preparation for Death," Consideration XXIV.) lays it down as the common opinion of theologians, that the particular judgment takes place be fore Jesus Christ : " In the very same place where the soul is separated from the body, it is judged by Jesus Christ, who will not send, but will Himself come to judge its cause." We are led so to believe, because to Jesus Christ has been given "all power in heaven and on earth," in which power, no doubt, was included the remarkable and exalted one of presiding in judgment. As He was in mortal agony on the cross, He afforded us a notable in stance of the exercise of this power, when He promised paradise to one of the thieves who suffered with Him, whilst He allowed the other to die with a hardened heart. He would also appear to have made use of His judiciary power in leading forth from captivity the souls of the ancient Fathers. However, Bellarmine observes (De Purg. cap. IV.) that it cannot be certainly denned whether souls " may be judged immediately by Christ pronouncing sentence in human form, or only by the divine virtue, which is present everywhere, or even whether the sentence may be made manifest by angels." Bellarmine in continuation even says, that he does not consider very probable the opinion of Innocent III. who, writing as a private theologian, held that Jesus Christ shall appear in His crucified form to all who die, the good as well as the bad.

Again, they say that we do not know where the soul is judged. To this we answer that it is very probable that a man's soul is judged in the place where he dies. As Lessius (Cap. 3, sec. 29.) very properly remarks, it is not credible that the soul is conducted to heaven to be there judged by Jesus Christ, and to be more frequently cast thence into eternal torments. There will be no difficulty, and no inconvenience, in sup posing the soul to be judged wherever it dies ; for God is present everywhere by His immensity. St. Alphonsus, in the passage given above, says it is the common opinion of theologians, that " in the very same place where the soul is separated from the body, it is judged." However, Bellarmine again observes (De Burg. cap. IV.) on this point, that it cannot be defined with certainty "whether the souls may be borne to the judge, or may be judged there where they leave the body."

In answer to that reason with which they endeavour to support their objection—that we do not know how souls are judged at death—it may be said that there is no doubt but the particular judgment takes place in an instant, or, as St. Paul would ex press it, u in the twinkling of an eye." An ardent ray of divine light shall cast such an effulgence across the soul as shall make known to it at the same time, and at once, its own deeds, and the un alterable sentence of the Supreme Judge.