Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Purgatory, By The Rev. M. Canty, P.P., Part 41.

We do not know, however, whether the soul, while being judged, sees Jesus Christ. It is very probable that it does. Innocent III., (L. 2 de Contemptu mundi, cap. 43.) writing again as a private theologian, thinks so. It is very probable that his opinion is correct. It is only meet that the soul should behold the Judge, for its consolation, if it be just, and for its terror, if it be in sin. As soon as sentence is pronounced, if the soul be free from sin, and every punishment due to it, it is carried by angels into heaven, where it is admitted into the beatific vision of God. That it is so carried by angels, we infer from that place in St. Luke (Ch. xvi.) where the soul of Lazarus is said to have been borne by their agency " into the bosom of Abraham." It is only natural to infer from this, that the soul of every similarly just person is, at the hour of death, in like manner borne by angels to its future abode. If the soul, though just, has not yet made sufficient atonement to the justice of God, it is probable that it is borne into Purgatory by angels, or at least by its guardian angel, who assuages its grief and com forts it. Or it may be that, having learned the sentence pronounced on it, the soul goes of itself into Purgatory, knowing that God so wills it. But if the soul, alas! be in mortal sin, how is it transferred to the place of punishment to which it is condemned ?

It is dragged by demons into the everlasting fire of hell. These opinions, which are commonly held by theologians, receive much confirmation from certain visions which are related by Venerable Bede.

The second reason—that the particular judgment is opposed to historical facts—which our adversaries put forth to sustain their objection to the doctrine that the souls in Purgatory enjoy the knowledge of their salvation, is of little moment. These persons raised to life, of whom mention is made in history, were exempted from the ordinary rule of Providence as to immediate judgment after death ; and therefore no argument can be drawn against us from the special manner in which God dealt with them. There is no cause for wonder, if God suspended particular judgment on these souls whom He was so soon to restore to life from the dead.

The remarkable vision, which they cite, of St. Bruno, regarding the Parisian doctor, is denied by some, but admitted by others. They who deny it say that there is no trace of it in coeval writers. Others, however, receive it as authentic. If it be authentic, theologians, with Bellarmine, explain it thus. Either, in the judgment of this doctor, there was a departure from the ordinary law, or he was, like all others, at once accused, judged, and condemned. In the latter alternative, God would so ordain that he should announce the one judgment or sentence by parts, in order to strike greater terror into the hearts of those who heard it. But in either alternative—whichever way we interpret the vision, if we admit it to be authentic—it contains no argument against the reader's belief and mine.

Finally, the case of Chrysarius and others, of whom mention is made by Yen. Bede, does not contain much difficulty after those we have already solved. These persons were not judged before death. They were still in the enjoyment of this life, and could at any moment become converted to God. But either they were driven to despair by the gravity of their sins, and the wickedness of their life, to such an extent that it would seem to them as if they were already damned, so certain did they foresee their damnation ; or they were accused and reproached by the very demons themselves with their crimes. Perhaps, also, the reason of their disquietude and consternation may be, that by the example of just and pious persons there should be afforded us a specimen of what a fearful thing it is, to borrow the words of St. Paul, "to fall into the hands of the living God." We learn from the life of St. Martin, that the devil, who always, as St. Peter (I. Peter i, v. 8.) would express it, " as a roaring lion goeth about," exerts himself with double energy and malice at the hour of death, and even endeavours to devour the very saints themselves.