The Feast of All Souls: Part 1

During this month of the Holy Souls, remember to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

The Feast of All Souls: Part 1

(by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876)

“When shall I come and appear before the face of God?”–Psalms xli, 3.

On the Feast of All Souls, and whenever we are reminded of Purgatory, we can not help thinking of the dreadful pains which the souls in Purgatory have to suffer, in order to be purified from every stain of sin; of the excruciating torments they have to undergo for their faults and imperfections, and how thoroughly they have to atone for the least offenses committed against the infinite holiness and justice of God.

It is but just, therefore, that we should condole with them, and do all that we can to deliver them from the flames of Purgatory, or, at least, to soothe their pains. Sufferings, however, are not the only cause which renders the state of the poor souls deplorable in our eyes, and moves us to commiseration. There is yet another reason, which, though it occurs less frequently to our minds, yet, if duly considered, will prove a powerful incentive to charitable exertion in behalf of the souls of our departed brethren. I allude to their ardent yearning for God, and their sincere desire of being united with Him forever in heaven; a desire, which as long as it is not satisfied, will be no less painful to them than the keenest flames of their place of torture. We should, then, with the same eagerness with which we try to deliver the poor souls from the pain of fire, endeavor to obtain for them the accomplishment of their ardent longing to be united with their heavenly Spouse. I say: all that can increase the pain of desire and eager yearning in our hearts, makes the longing of the poor souls after God and heaven immeasurably great and tormenting.

Let us now reflect on this, and endeavor, if possible, to open for them today the gates of their heavenly home.

O Mary, Mother of mercy, obtain for us the grace to hasten to the relief of thy suffering children in Purgatory, and to offer them, even this day, to thy maternal embrace! I address you, dear Christians, in the name of Jesus, to the greater glory of God!

Theologians rightly maintain that the pain of the damned in hell is a twofold one–namely, that of fire and that of loss of the beatific vision or contemplation of the unveiled splendor of the Divinity and the other delights of heaven. This last pain torments the damned still more, increases their sorrow and despair to a higher degree than all the suffering which they undergo in the expiating flames. Now, in like manner is the agony of the souls in Purgatory twofold–namely: the pain of the purifying flames; and of the delay in beholding God and enjoying the other pleasures that await them in heaven. To comprehend this more clearly, we need but consider the pain which an ardent longing for that which is most dear to us produces in our hearts, as long as it is withheld from us, and then compare our state with that of the poor afflicted souls.

The first source or cause of a desire to be delivered from any state in life is, when that state is connected with great embarrassment and afflictions. Hence it is that the sick long so eagerly for the presence of the physician and for the medicine that will cure them; in like manner the starving long for bread and nourishment; the thirsty, for water; the poor, for the sentence of the judge, that will declare them heirs to riches, and save them from destitution. So also does the wayfarer upon the billows of the stormy ocean sigh for the port, yearn to reach the place where a happy future awaits him; and so does the prisoner in his dreary cell anxiously expect the hour of his delivery. How great, therefore, must not be the desire of the poor souls to be ransomed from Purgatory.

The fire of Purgatory, as the doctors of the Church declare, is as intense as that of the abode of hell; with this difference, that it has an end. Yea! it may be that today a soul in Purgatory is undergoing more agony, more excruciating suffering than a damned soul, which is tormented in hell for a few mortal sins; while the poor soul in Purgatory must satisfy for millions of venial sins.

All the pains which afflict the sick upon earth, added to all that the martyrs have ever suffered, can not be compared with those of purgatory, so great is the punishment of those poor souls. We read, how once a sick person who was very impatient in his sufferings, exclaimed: “O God, take me from this world! “Thereupon the Guardian Angel appeared to him, and told him to remember that, by patiently bearing his afflictions upon his sick-bed, he could satisfy for his sins and shorten his Purgatory. But the sick man replied that he chose rather to satisfy for his sins in Purgatory. The poor sufferer died; and, behold, his Guardian Angel appeared to him again, and asked him if he did not repent of the choice he had made of satisfying for his sins in Purgatory by tortures rather than upon earth by afflictions? Thereupon the poor soul asked of the Angel: ” How many years am I now here in these terrible flames?” The Angel replied: ” How many years? Thy body upon earth is not yet buried; nay, it is not yet cold, and still thou believest already thou art here for many years!” Oh, how that soul lamented upon hearing this. Great indeed was its grief for not having chosen patiently to undergo upon earth the sufferings of sickness, and thereby shorten its Purgatory.

In that abode of sorrow the departed souls hunger after the possession of God, and with so famishing a desire that nothing on earth can be compared with it. They thirst after the fountain of eternal life with that thirst which knows no comparison in this world. They suffer; poor and destitute of all worldly goods. Yea! they are even deprived of all those consolations which at times lessen our desires, and afford us moments of repose. Here upon earth, though we long and sigh ever so much after a thing, still we can sleep; and the pains produced by our heart’s desires in our waking moments leave us, we feel them no longer. We can engage ourselves in other occupations; other cares may distract our minds. We may, at times, enjoy various pleasures, and partake of the good things of this life. Now all these things remove, or, at least, soothe the pain and care of our desires. Not so, however, is the condition of these distressed souls. They have no refreshing slumber; they are incessantly awake; they have no occupation; they can not indulge in other cares, in other distractions. They are wholly and continually absorbed with the burning desire of being liberated from their intense misery.

Again, upon earth, persons who anxiously seek another abode or another state of life, often know not whether, perhaps, they may not fall into a more wretched condition. How many have forsaken the shores of Europe, with the bright hope of a better future awaiting them in America? All has been disappointment! They have repented a thousand times of having deserted their native country. Now, does this disappointment await the souls of Purgatory upon their deliverance? Ah! by no means. They know too well that when they are released heaven will be their home. Once there, no more pains, no more fire for them; but the enjoyment of an everlasting bliss, which no eye hath seen, nor ear heard; nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. Such will be their future happy state. Oh, how great is their desire to be already there.

Another circumstance which especially intensifies hope in the breast of man, is intercourse, union with those who are near and dear to him. How many, indeed, have bid a last farewell to Europe, where they would have prospered; but oh, then there are awaiting them in another land their beloved ones,–those who are so dear, and in whose midst they long to be! Oh, what a great source of desire is not this, for the poor souls in Purgatory to go to Heaven!

In heaven they shall find again those whom they loved and cherished upon earth, but who have already preceded them on the way to the heavenly mansion. There with their friends shall they share forever untold bliss and glory. Not only will they possess this happiness, but they will, moreover, partake of the glory, blessedness, and love of all the angels and saints. Yea, even Jesus and Mary will share their blessedness with the now happy souls. There is still another feature, another circumstance which presents itself in the condition of the poor souls in Purgatory. I mean the irresistible force or tendency with which they are drawn towards God; the intense longing after Him, their last aim and end.

So long as man is burdened upon earth with his mortal body and its appetites, so long will he not feel this attraction with such intensity. But immediately upon his soul’s separation from its mortal frame does it, as the image of God, experience this incomprehensible desire for its Creator and aim.

Like the balloon that rises aloft as soon as the cords are detached, and rapidly soars higher and higher; just so the soul which leaves this world in the grace of God mounts upward with inconceivable rapidity towards God; and the more pure and spotless she is, the greater is its intensity. Hence it was that David, filled with an ardent longing after God, sighs aloud: “When, when, O Lord, shall I appear in Thy presence? ” Oh, with what intense anxiety and longing is not a poor soul in Purgatory consumed, to behold the splendor of its Lord and Creator!

But also with what marks of Gratitude does not every soul whom we have assisted to enter heaven pray for us upon its entrance. Therefore, let us hasten to the relief of the poor suffering souls in Purgatory. Let us help them to the best of our power, so that they may supplicate for us before the throne of the Most High; that they may remember us when we too shall one day be afflicted in that prison-house of suffering, and may procure for us a speedy release and an early enjoyment of a blissful eternity. Amen!


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