Category Archives: All Souls Day

Never forget the Holy Souls in Purgatory

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On this All Souls Day, let us not forget to assist the suffering souls in Purgatory, lest we endure the just judgement on the friend of St. Antoninus:

“ST. ANTONINUS AND HIS FRIEND Here is a narrative of a different kind, but not less instructive. St. Antoninus, the illustrious Archbishop of Florence, relates that a pious gentleman had died, who was a great friend of the Dominican Convent in which the Saint resided. Many Masses and suffrages were offered for his soul. The Saint was very much afflicted when, after the lapse of a long time, the soul of the poor gentleman appeared to him, suffering excruciating pains. “Oh, my Dear Friend, ” exclaimed the Archbishop, “are you still in Purgatory, you who led such a pious and devout life?” “Yes, and I shall remain there still for a long time, ” replied the poor sufferer, “for when on Earth I neglected to offer suffrages for the souls in Purgatory. Now, God by a just judgment has applied the suffrages which have been offered for me to those souls for whom I should have prayed. ” “But God, too, in His Justice, will give me all the merits of my good works when I enter Heaven; but first of all, I have to expiate my grave neglect in regard to others. ” So true are the words of Our Lord: “By that measure with which you measure, it will be measured to you again. ” Remember, you who read these lines, that the terrible fate of this pious gentleman will be the fate of all those who neglect to pray for and refuse to help the Holy Souls.”

The above selection is from Read Me or Rue It by Fr. Paul O’Sullivan, a most wonderful work on the Poor Souls, which can be read in its entirety here:

https://www.ewtn.com/library/SPIRIT/READRUE.TXT

From today until November 9, one can gain rich indulgences for poor souls, especially our loved ones, by visiting a graveyard and offering prayers for the souls (in addition to the other requirements for a plenary indulgence if one is sought).The SSPX U.S. District is accepting for this month the names of departed loved ones to be prayed for at Holy Mass. No stipend is at all required, but donations are welcomed. All you must do is fill out a form or email the names of the persons you wish to be prayed for.

http://sspx.org/en/news-events/news/great-charity-prayer-poor-souls

I now provide for the edification of our readers this meditation from Fr. Leonard Goffine:

Instruction On The Feast Of All Souls
[November 2]

What is All Souls’ Day?

It is the day set apart by the Catholic Church for the special devout commemoration of all those souls who have departed this life in the grace and friendship of God, for whom we pray, that they may soon be released by God from the prison of purgatory.

What is purgatory?

Purgatory is a middle state of souls, suffering for a time on account of their sins. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: And the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide, which he hath built there upon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. (i. Cor. in. 13-15.) “And when St. Paul,” says St. Ambrose (Serm. 20. in Ps. cxviii.) “says, yet so as by fire, he shows that such a man indeed becomes happy, having suffered the punishment of fire, but not, like the wicked, continually tormented in eternal fire.” St. Paul’s words, then, can only be understood to refer to the fire of purification, as the infallible Church has always explained them.

Are the heretics right in denying that there is such a place of purification as purgatory?

By no means, for by such denial they oppose the holy Scriptures, tradition and reason. The holy Scriptures teach that there is a purgatory: it is related in the Second Book of Machabees, that Judas Machabeus sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem, to be used in the temple, to obtain prayers for those who fell in battle, for he believed it a good and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins. But for what dead shall we pray? Those in heaven do not require our prayers; to those in hell they are of no avail; we must then pray for those who are in the place of purification. Christ speaks of a prison in the future life, from which no man comes out until he has paid the last farthing. (Matt. v. 25, 26.) This prison cannot be hell, because from hell there is never any release; it must be then a place of purification. Again Christ speaks of sin which shall be forgiven neither in this world nor in the next, (Matt. xii. 32.) from which it follows that there is a remittance of some sins in the next world; but this can be neither in heaven nor in hell, consequently in purgatory. As the council of Trent says, (Sess. 6. c. 30.) the Church has always taught, according to the old tradition of the Fathers, in all her councils, that there is a purgatory, and every century gives proofs of the continual belief of all true Christians in a purgatory. Finally, man’s unblinded reason must accept a purgatory; for how many depart this earth before having accomplished the great work of their own purification? They cannot enter heaven, for St. John tells us: There shall not enter into it any thing defiled. (Apoc. xxi. 27.) The simple separation of the soul from the body does not make it pure, yet God cannot reject it as He does the soul of the hardened sinner in hell; there must then be a middle place, a purgatory, where those who have departed not free from stain, must be purified. See how the doctrine of the Church, reason and the holy Scriptures all agree, and do not let yourself be led away by false arguments from those who not only believe in no purgatory, but even in no hell, so that they may sin with so much more impunity.

For what, how much, and for how long must -we suffer in purgatory?

Concerning this the Church has made no decision, though much has been written by the Fathers of the Church on the subject. Concerning the severity of the punishment in purgatory, St. Augustine writes: “This fire is more painful than any that man can suffer in this life.” This should urge us to continual sanctification and atonement, so that we may escape the fearful judgment of God.

How can -we aid the suffering souls in purgatory?

St. Augustine writes: “It is not to be doubted that we can aid the souls of the departed by the prayers of the Church, by the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and by the alms which we offer for them.” The Church has always taught-that prayers for the faithful departed are useful and good, and she has always offered Masses for them.

What should urge us to aid the suffering souls in purgatory?

1. The consideration of the belief of the Church in the communion of saints, by which all the members of the Church upon earth, in heaven, and in purgatory are united by the bonds of love, like the members of one body, and as the healthy members of a body sympathize with the suffering members, seeking to aid them, so should we assist our suffering brethren in purgatory. 2. The remembrance that it is God’s will that we should practice charity towards one another, and that fearful judgments are threatened those who show no charity to a brother in need, together with the recollection, of God’s love which desires that all men should be happy in heaven. 3. We should be urged to it by love for ourselves, for if we should be condemned to the pains of purification, we would assuredly desire our living brethren to pray for us and perform good works for our sake, while the souls who have found redemption, perhaps through our prayers, will not fail to reward us by interceding for us.

Can we aid the souls in purgatory by gaining indulgences?

Yes, for indulgences, (as explained in the Instruction on the eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost,) are a complete or a partial remittance of the temporal punishment due to sin, bestowed by the Church to penitent sinners from the treasury of the merits of Christ and His saints. If we gain such a remittance, we can apply it to the souls in purgatory. Such an indulgence, however, can be transferred only to one soul.

For which souls should we pray?

We should, on this day especially, offer prayers and good works for all the faithful departed, but particularly for our parents, relations, friends and benefactors; for those who are most acceptable to God; for those who have suffered the longest, or who have the longest yet to suffer; for those who are most painfully tormented; for those who are the most forsaken; for those who are nearest redemption ; for those who are suffering on our account; for those who hope in our prayers; for those who during life have injured us, or been injured by us; and for our spiritual brethren.

When and by what means was this yearly commemoration of the departed introduced into the Church?

The precise time of its introduction is not known. Tertullian (A. D. 160) writes that the early Christians held a yearly commemoration of the faithful departed. Towards the end of the 10th century St. Odilo, Abbot of the Benedictines at Cluny, directed that the yearly commemoration of the faithful departed should be observed on the 2nd of November with prayers, alms and the Sacrifice of the Mass, which time and manner of celebration spread through various dioceses, and was officially confirmed by Pope John XIX. This day was- appointed that, having the day previously rejoiced at the glory of the saints in heaven, we might on this day most properly pray for those who are yet doing penance for their sins and sigh in purgatory for their redemption.

The Introit of this day’s Mass as of all Masses for the dead reads: Eternal rest give to them, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon them. A hymn, O God, becometh Thee in Sion; and a vow shall be paid to Thee in Jerusalem: hear my prayer; all flesh shall come to Thee. Eternal rest give to them, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon them.

COLLECT O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of Thy servants departed the remission of all their sins: that through pious supplications they may i obtain the pardon which they have always desired. ! Who, livest &c.
EPISTLE (i. Cor. xv. 51-57.) BRETHREN, behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall all indeed rise again, but we shall not all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible: and , we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? Now the sting of death is sin: and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

GOSPEL (John v. 25-29.) At that time, Jesus said to the multitudes of the Jews: Amen, amen, I say unto you, that the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself, so he hath given to the Son also to have life in himself: and he hath given him power to do judgment, because he is the Son of man. Wonder not at this, for the hour cometh wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that have done good things shall come forth unto the resurrection of life: but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.

The Epistle and Gospel of this day speak of the resurrection of all men and of the judgment, when every one according as he has lived, sinful and impenitent, or pure and innocent, will receive an eternally miserable or an eternally happy life. Purgatory will then end and there will be only heaven and hell. It remains with us to choose which of these two we shall possess.

At the Offertory of the Mass the priest prays:

O Lord Jesus Christ, King of Glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell and from the deep pit: deliver them from the mouth of the lion, that hell may not swallow them up, and they may not fall into darkness: but may the holy standard-bearer, Michael, introduce them to the holy light: which Thou didst promise of old to Abraham and to his seed. We offer to Thee, O Lord, sacrifices and prayers: do Thou receive them in behalf of those souls whom we commemorate this day. Grant them, O Lord, to pass from death to that life which Thou didst promise of old to Abraham and to his seed.

We may profitably and devoutly repeat the following as often as we pass a graveyard.

V. From the gates of hell,
R. Deliver their souls, O Lord.
V. Eternal rest give to them, O Lord,
R. And let perpetual light shine upon them.
V. May they rest in peace,
R. Amen.
V. May the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace,
R. Amen.

~Steven C., “Knight of Tradition”

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The reality of Purgatory

During this Month of the Holy Souls, I offer a sermon from Archbishop Lefebvre, given on November 1, 1978 in Econe, Switerzerland:

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

My dear friends and my dear brethren: The Church has the custom of associating the souls in Purgatory with the Feast of All Saints. In fact, from this evening (Vespers of All Souls Day), the Church asks us to pray for the souls in Purgatory and tomorrow the entire day is consecrated to them. The priests who will celebrate three Masses tomorrow, to beseech Our Lord to deliver the souls from Purgatory, may apply to each of their Masses a plenary indulgence for the souls in Purgatory. This is why, during these few moments, I would like to draw your attention to, and have you reflect upon, the reality of Purgatory and upon the devotion, which we should have for the souls who are suffering in this place of purification.

First of all, does Purgatory exist? If one were to believe all that is written today, even by members of the Catholic Church, one would be tempted to believe that Purgatory is a medieval fable! No! Purgatory is a dogma – a dogma of our Faith. Whoever refuses to believe in Purgatory is a heretic. In fact, already in the thirteenth century, the Second Council of Lyons solemnly affirmed the existence of Purgatory. Then, in the sixteenth century, the Council of Trent in particular, solemnly affirmed against the negations of the Protestants, the necessity in preserving the Faith, of believing in the existence of Purgatory. It is therefore certain that this is a dogma of our Faith, which is especially affirmed and supported by Tradition – more than by Sacred Scripture. Sacred Scripture does, however, offer passages, which make allusion, as clearly as possible, to the existence of Purgatory. We have, moreover, in an epistle which is used by the Church in Masses offered for the intention of the souls in Purgatory, the account of the “Machabees” where Judas Machabee sent a sum of twelve thousand talents to Jerusalem asking the priests of offer a sacrifice for the intention of the soldiers who had died in combat in order that they might be delivered from their afflictions and enter heaven. Sacred Scripture adds: “It is a salutary thought to pray for our dead.” Saint Paul also makes allusion to the souls in Purgatory when he says that certain souls enter heaven immediately and others quasi per ignem; that is, who enter heaven as well but by fire, making allusion certainly to the purification necessary for these souls who would not be perfectly prepared to enter heaven. It is by these allusions and particularly by Tradition, which is transmitted to us by the Apostles and by the Fathers of the Church, that the Church has founded her Faith in the existence and in the reality of Purgatory.

Why does Purgatory exist? It exists because we must obviously enter heaven in the most perfect purity. It is inconceivable that souls may enter the vision of God, enter into union with God, a union which surpasses all that our mind is able to imagine, all that we am able to conceive, enter into Divinity Itself, to participate in the light of God – with any dispositions which would be contrary to this light, contrary to the glory of God, to the purity of God, to the sanctity of God?it is inconceivable! This why those who have died in the state of grace but are not perfectly purified from the penalty which is due to sin after the sin has been pardoned, and also those who die with venial sins, must pass through this place of purification which renders them worthy to be present before God in the Blessed Trinity. It is then something, which is entirely normal, for we must not forget that even if the sin is pardoned, there remains in us a disorder, which was established by the sin. Without a doubt, the moral fault no longer exists because it has been pardoned by the Sacrament of Penance; however, it remains that our soul has been wounded; our soul has suffered a disorder, which must be repaired. This may be compared in a certain way to the penitent who has sinned by stealing from his neighbor. Not only must be accuse himself to Our Lord in the sacrament of Penance and receive absolution, but he must also reimburse the sum which is stolen. One may compare this, I would say, to all sins, which we have committed. We have created a disorder, we have created an injustice, and we must repair this injustice even after the sin has been pardoned. This is why the souls in Purgatory remain there until the moment when they are perfectly purified from the penalties due to their sins, which have been forgiven.

What is the state of the souls in Purgatory? Are the souls in Purgatory able to acquire merit for themselves by which they might abridge their time of purification? No, henceforth the souls in Purgatory are not able to gain merit for themselves. Why? Since they are no longer here upon earth, they are no longer like us – in the state in which one is able to gain merit. We have the choice to make, and by the fact that we choose good in place of evil we merit a recompense. The souls in Purgatory no longer have this choice to make. They are definitively fixed in their grace, in sanctifying grace. They have the certitude of being among the elect, and this causes a profound joy, and unalterable joy. They know that henceforth they are destined for heaven. But they suffer as well from an indescribable suffering because they know much better than we what God is and what He has promised us by grace, the glory that is waiting for us in heaven. They suffer severely front the thought that they are not yet able to approach God and to live with Him for eternity. They are also tormented by remorse at the thought of the goodness of God and of the charity of God of which they are witnesses. They understand well the charity which God has had for them: for they had sinned and separated themselves from God and it is for this that they stiffer. They know that they suffer justly for the sins, which they had committed, and to be purified in order to arrive in the glory of the Lord.

“The Church has a treasury of merits which she is able to place at the disposal of souls who truly wish to employ these merits for the souls in Purgatory “

Thus, as a consequence, the souls in Purgatory are not able to abridge their sufferings.

How then would they be able to render their admittance into heaven more rapid? They count upon us. Yes, they count upon us. It is we who, by the unity of the Mystical Body, are able to merit for them. The union that we in the Church Militant have with the souls in Purgatory and the fact that we are able to merit for these souls are founded upon the unity of the Mystical body. The Church Suffering and the Church Militant are united in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Since we are able to merit for them, we may ask Our Lord Jesus Christ in our prayers and, in particular, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that the souls in Purgatory be more rapidly delivered from their sufferings; and, indeed, we must do so. It is a duty for us because these souls who are suffering count upon us for their deliverance. We are able to do so therefore by our prayers and, in particular, in offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We are able to do so by our penances, penances which we must do as well in order to atone for the penalty which is due to us for sins which have been pardoned, and in order to diminish our Purgatory and, if it pleases God, and if God wishes, that we not pass through Purgatory but rather go directly to heaven to join Him. We must therefore perform sacrifices for the souls in Purgatory and also profit from the treasure which the Church places at our disposal, the treasure of the merits of the saints, of all those who have lived here on earth. The Church has a treasury of merits, which she is able to place at the disposal of souls who truly wish to employ these merits for the souls in Purgatory. The Church asks us to perform certain prayers, to acquire these merits and to apply them to the souls in Purgatory. This is what we can do for them! It is a considerable encouragement for us, an encouragement to sanctify ourselves. If we truly understood what the souls in Purgatory suffer, we would do all that we possibly could for our part to deliver them and to avoid Purgatory ourselves.

Concerning the indulgences which the Church gives: it is good to know that these repose upon a perfectly known truth of the church in which we must believe, the reality of the Mystical Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Council of Trent itself requests that we avoid entering into the subtlety of the number of indulgences, of any calculation, which would be made of any estimation more or less exact. One may wonder for example, if by one Mass said at a privileged altar, one Mass consequently which is said at an altar where one receives a plenary indulgence that one may apply to the souls in Purgatory. Is it absolutely certain the soul for whom the indulgence has been applied will be immediately delivered from its penalties and go to heaven? As a rule? yes. Theoretically? yes. Why? It is because the plenary indulgence is given specifically by the Church for the complete remission of the penalties, which are due to a sin after it has been pardoned. However, as the Council of Trent well explained, it depends upon God to give this indulgence. This indulgence then depends upon God. God sees the disposition of souls and consequently it is He who is ultimately the Judge of all things and of that which these souls must suffer in Purgatory and of the penalties, which they must expiate. As a consequence, one is not able to arrive in an absolutely mathematical manner at the conclusion, that from the moment one has performed a certain act or certain prayer, the soul is necessarily and absolutely delivered from Purgatory. This depends upon Divine Justice. We should hope and we should think that God judging all the merits, which have been acquired by the Church, applies them to these indulgences and we may truly hope that these souls are delivered.

This is why we must meditate upon the reality of Purgatory, to be united to the souls of our brethren, of our parents, of our deceased friends and of the entire innumerable multitude of souls who have no one among their acquaintances who prays for them. We must then pray often for the souls in Purgatory. The magnificent liturgy of the dead thus inspires us. Unfortunately, one must say that today the manner in which the reform (of Vatican II) has touched these prayers and modified them has been a great sorrow for the Church.

In addition, I think it is good to make allusion equally to the reform of the Council (Vatican II) concerning the cremation of bodies. I think that one may make allusion to this at the moment when one is speaking of our dear deceased. It is written in Canon Law that those who, in vie manner or another, express the desire to have their bodies cremated after their death are to be deprived of ecclesiastical burial. It is the law that they are to be thus deprived. Without a doubt the Church, at the Council, has changed this law but these things are abominable! Since from the beginning of its existence the Church has willed that bodies, which are temples of the Holy Ghost, which have been sanctified by Baptism, sanctified by the Sacraments, sanctified by the presence of the Holy Ghost, sanctified by the reception of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, that these bodies be venerated. It is noted in Canon Law that even the members of a Christian, of a Catholic which are amputated in a hospital be interred and they must not be burned. See what great veneration the Church has for members, which have been sanctified by the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ! We then, absolutely, refuse this abominable custom, which is, moreover, a masonic custom. Canon Law makes allusion to the associations in which it is requested that bodies be cremated and these associations are precisely masonic associations. One truly wonders how one has been able to accept such things without having been influenced by these masonic associations. We must maintain a very great respect for the bodies of the deceased, for those who have been sanctified and we must bury them as Christians have always done. We must honor our dead and honor our cemeteries. The tombs and graves should be maintained perfectly in order to show the faith, which we have that the bodies will one day be resurrected.

There you have, my dear brethren, our thoughts on the occasion of All Souls Day, which we will celebrate tomorrow. Let us live in union with the souls in Purgatory and let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, who assisted at the burial of her Son, to ask Him to give us the love and respect, which she had, for the Body of her Divine Son. Let us ask Him to give us also the respect for the bodies of those faithful who have died, our deceased friends and relatives.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Purgatory

During this Month of the Holy Souls, let us reflect on Purgatory and the great justice and mercy of God in providing such a place of purification for those saved:

Sermon by Fr. P.A. Sheehan D.D.:

THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS

One of the most beautiful and divine doctrines of the Catholic Church, dear brethren, is that which is professed under the title of “Communion of Saints.” It is, as it were, a loving concession on the part of Almighty God that He suffers us to think of our friends, whom He has called into their rest. He is a jealous God; one condition He is forever insisting upon as necessary to our salvation–that is, that we should give Him our whole beings, every act we perform, every thought we think. But He knows what the human heart is, He who loved so tenderly the Mother who bore Him, and He yields to our weakness, and suffers us to think of, to rejoice with, or to sympathize with, those to whom human affections attached us in this life. I have called it divine. It is nothing less. No one but a loving God could inspire us with the belief that death is in reality no separation, no fierce rending asunder of affections, no violent wrenching of heart from heart and soul from soul. Death makes a change, it is true, but what is that change? It is a change that increases, strengthens, and exalts that love which we have for one another in this world. Our love is proportioned to our veneration and respect; the more our friend is free from human infirmities, the more we are drawn toward him, and this is the blessed change that death effects. It steps in between those friends and takes one, and separates from that one all his imperfections, and changes him into a bright, pure, angelic spirit, but does not destroy him. That friend whom we loved still lives, but is more worthy than ever of our love, and we are not separated. We can reach into eternity, we can add new lustre to our sainted brethren in heaven; even the little mite of our praise and love does help to swell the eternal jubilee of the saints in heaven. And on the other hand, we can reach those saints who are in pain, those blessed souls who have got a glimpse of the spotless sanctity of God and a true idea of their own imperfections and then hurried away from the sight of God and plunged themselves in the purifying flames of purgatory that they may be able for eternity to stand unashamed in company with their brethren. Blessed be God. We can enter even that prison, and give our brethren a respite from pain, we can do, in a milder way, by our prayers, the purifying work of these awful flames, we can shorten the terms of their imprisonment, and at the same time, satisfy their sensitiveness and quiet their apprehension lest they should again carry sin into the presence of God.

There is not in this world anything so beautiful as the deathbed of a holy Catholic. Fortified by the Sacraments of the Church, serene in the consciousness of the possession of God’s grace, yet half afraid to meet that God whom its soul longs to possess, picturing to itself the happiness of heaven, it is a recompense well worthy of the repentance of a lifetime. And yet, except with the greatest saints, it clings to the memory, love, and protection of its earthly friends. Behind the veil, it knows well it will be clasped in the arms of Jesus Christ, but it clings to the warm grasp of its earthly friends even till the eyes swim and the earth is gliding from beneath its feet. And its last and best consolation as it glides into the world of spirits is that the prayers of its friends are before it, that already there are voices pleading for it at the judgment seat of the Lamb. And is it not so? Oh yes, dearly beloved. The prayers for the dying are over, the prayers for the dead begin. We intrude into the awful courts of heaven, we interrupt the process of Judgment, we silence the voice of the accuser, by speaking to Jesus the Judge and reminding Him that that soul is His, that He redeemed it, that the marks of His blood are upon it, and by conjuring Him to save that dear soul, to fit it for presence in heaven, but not to deliver it into the hand of His enemy. Even that body that is left us, do we not reverence it, do we not consecrate it? Do we not make these lifeless arms into the sign of our redemption. Do we not sprinkle that body with holy water, because it is holy? Do we not incense it, because it is worthy of all reverence? We will not even allow it to mingle with unhallowed dust, but we bless the very earth into which it will be changed, and then raise over it the sign of our redemption, that nothing unholy might come near it, that the enemy may know that there is nothing in this grave that belongs to him, but a body that was crucified and nailed to the cross with Jesus Christ.

And then we follow the souls of our friends into eternity. From the judgment seat we follow them into their prison, where their angel conducts them, and our prayers, as it were, rain down incessantly on those fires. We pray for them at our public services; we pray for them at our private devotions; we pray for them even at our meals; there is scarcely a day in which the Holy Sacrifice is not offered for these suffering souls; there are many in the Church who have given to God all the merits of their lives, their prayers, fastings, almsdeeds for the souls in purgatory; there are religious Orders in the Church who repeat frequently during the day the De Profundis for the departed. And with all this, dear brethren, if we consider how great are the sufferings of these poor souls, we shall see how really uncharitable we are and how unreasonable it is that we do so very little.

THE REASON FOR PURGATORY

For why do we not speak of purgatory? Apart from the fact that purgatory exists, a belief founded upon the teachings of Scripture and the Church, what is the reason of purgatory, its purpose, its objects? It has a twofold reason–to satisfy the justice of God and the mercy of God. In heaven there is nothing but mercy; in hell there is nothing but justice; in purgatory justice and mercy meet, and the poor souls detained there are the victims of God’s great justice and at the same time the objects of His love and clemency. They passed into eternity, faithful to God, united to God. He could not cast them out of His sight forever, but unconsciously they carried with them before the All Holy God some human weaknesses, some human infirmities, and as “nothing defiled can enter into the kingdom of heaven,” His mercy provided for them a place of purgatory, where sharp penance would expiate their faults and restore them spotless to His bosom. Heresy rushes into extremes on this as well as on all other dogmas. It condemns a soul without remorse or scruple, it saves souls easily and pleasantly without even the pretense of penance. It believes that for the slightest sin, for the half voluntary thought or the silly word, a merciful God will cast a soul into the flames of hell forever, whereas on the other hand, years of sin may be atoned for by the simple presumption that God has pardoned them. The innocent soul that has never lost the grace of Baptism, but has only yielded to those faults that the judgment angel does not care to record, if suddenly snatched from life by death, is banished from the presence of God forever, whereas the sinner who has been heaping up for himself a measure of wrath for many years is admitted at once, unshriven, impenitent, and unpurified, into the company of the angels and the elect. I do not believe in such very sudden changes. I know the power of God. I would not for the world underrate or depreciate it. But there is a saying of St. Augustine full of much wisdom: “God has created us without ourselves; God will not save us except by our cooperation,” and that cooperation, if we have sinned, is the cooperation of penance. The redemption of the world by our divine Lord has not changed the nature of sin. Sin is as hateful in the eyes of God now as it was then, and it is true now as it was when John the Baptist preached: “Except you do penance you shall all likewise perish” (Luke xiii. 5). That penance must be done either in this world or in the next. If we be guilty of mortal sin, it must be atoned for in this life by penance, or it will never be atoned for, though it will be punished in the eternal fires of hell; if it be venial sin, it can be atoned for by penance and prayer in this life, or by the sharp fires of purgatory in the next.

The late Father Faber was accustomed to say that he could never understand why we speak of the poor souls in purgatory. He thought them rich indeed, much to be envied, little to be pitied, They are indeed truly rich, because they are certain of possessing God forever. Compared with us, living as we do in dreadful uncertainty about our salvation, they are to be envied exceedingly. And yet it is also true that they are deserving of our sympathy and pity. They are poor because they are suffering, and the promise of the future scarcely relieves their anguish in the present. A man lies upon his bed, writhing and tossing in fever. His physician gives hopes of his recovery, tells him almost infallibly that he will recover. Yet with that prospect of certain recovery, is he not deserving of our pity and compassion? These poor prisoners that are cut away from all human society in the jails of the country, are they not deserving of pity, even though their term of imprisonment is not eternal, and they will enjoy their liberty all the more for having lost it for a time? So with the blessed souls in purgatory. They are truly deserving of our pity, compassion, and sympathy, because, although they belong to God, yet they are suffering now, suffering bitterly, suffering intensely in the fires of purgatory. If a child were in agony, and if the mother who could relieve it turned aside from it, consoling herself with the reflection that it wouldn’t die, would we not call her unfeeling and cruel? Yet we do the very same thing when we refuse or neglect to assist the suffering souls on the pretense that they cannot die because they are saved. Oh dearly beloved! It it very selfish and unfeeling on our parts, it is enough almost to make God abandon us, if we go through life, and never assist these blessed souls, whom we can assist so easily and who need our assistance so much. I do not think that there is one of us who does not feel remorse again and again during life for neglecting the souls in purgatory. There is not one of us who does not start from a long course of selfishness, start with the thought that all that time we were enjoying ourselves, light-hearted and careless, that dear friend, whom we loved in this world and who prized our love, has been crying to us in anguish, has been lifting up his hands to us from the flames, perhaps has long ago turned away from us in despair, and rested all its hopes on the mercy of God rather than upon the cruelty of his friends. There is not a single soul among us to whom voices are not crying every hour of the night and day, in the language of Holy Job, “Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you, my friends, for the hand of the Lord hath touched me” (Job xlx. 21). If we had faith, we would hear them. And if we had even human hearts, and not hearts icy cold through selfishness and worldliness, we would rest neither by night nor by day from relieving them.

THE SUFFERINGS OF PURGATORY

And let us not deceive ourselves with the delusive hope that the pains of purgatory are very short or very trifling. We do not know what sin is. But if we only look on the cross of Jesus Christ, we must acknowledge that it is of infinite malice in the sight of God. If, therefore. His justice demanded the life of His Son for a single sin, what will not His justice demand of us for our countless sins? And though His Justice saves us from the hell which we deserve. His justice demands from us some slight satisfaction at least. Again mortal sin, being of infinite malice, is punished with infinite torments; how venial sin approaches as nearly to mortal sin as finite things can approach to infinite, and, therefore, that punishment of venial sin in purgatory is everything but infinite. And the doctors of the Church teach us, and teach us with truth, that the pains of purgatory are the pains of hell, but they are not eternal. In purgatory, as in hell, there is the physical pain of fire; in purgatory, as in hell, there is the shame and remorse of sin; and above all there is that pain, infinite, unendurable, the pain of loss, the pain of being separated from God. We cannot understand that, because we have not seen God, but, dear brethren, it is for God we are made. We are in this world always fretting and chafing at our separation from God; all the sorrow of the world, if really resolved, would be found to be separation from God. At death when our souls are freed, they fly straight to the bosom of God, and what a dreadful anguish it must be to be spurned by God, to see Him and not to possess Him, to know and perceive that He is everything our souls can desire and yet be unable to possess Him. To have seen the face of Jesus Christ, to have heard His sweet voice speaking to us words of mercy, and then to be led away from Him with a barrier of fire between us, that is the greatest torture a human soul can suffer, and that is the suffering of the soul in purgatory. Do not make light of it, dear brethren. Do not think little of it. No one but a mother can understand a mother’s sorrow for her child, and no soul but that has seen God can understand what it is to lose Him even for a time. But it is a truth of divine faith, and our ignorance of the real nature of that truth, our inability to understand it, does not lessen the anguish of those souls who know it too well. And if we be wise, and wise with the wisdom of charity, we shall act on what faith teaches us, and try to help those blessed souls as if we saw with our own eyes their prison, and heard with our own ears their cries for mercy. The truths of faith are more certain than those things to which our senses testify, and it is truly a Catholic spirit to believe them as thoroughly, and act upon them as fearlessly and unhesitatingly.

EXHORTATION

O dearly beloved! if we could only behold the joy that lights up the countenances of these blessed souls, when our prayers are heard in heaven, and their angel comes and blows aside from them the flames that torment them, and tells them that years are blotted from their sentences, and that soon they will again behold the face of God, I think we should pray night and day incessantly for them. Oh, it is a truly noble work; there is no charity to be compared with it. It is good to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, but it is the highest office of charity to visit the suffering saints, and restore them to their places as princes of the court of heaven. And when we remember that amongst these suffering saints are some of our own flesh and blood, who loved us in this world, and whom we loved, the father or mother, to whom we owe whatever good we possess, the brother or sister, whose affection was the one joy and support of our youth, it is not charity alone that demands our prayers, but pity and justice and gratitude. And if we neglect them, whatever we may profess to be, we cannot free ourselves from the imputation of being uncharitable, unjust, impious, and ungrateful.

I exhort you, therefore, dear beloved, to pray for the souls in purgatory, to whose special remembrance this day is devoted. Pray for them, that through your prayers not only they may be admitted to the glory of God, but also you may share in the reward which our Lord promised in the words: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy!”

Feast of All Souls

Instruction for All Souls Day by Leonard Goffine:

What is All Souls’ day?

It is the day set apart by the Catholic Church for the special devout commemoration of those of its members, who have departed this life in the grace and friendship of God, for whom we pray, that they may soon be released by God from the prison of purgatory.

What is purgatory?

Purgatory is that place in which the souls of the deceased faithful, who though dying in the grace of God, are yet burdened with some small sins not yet atoned for, suffer temporal punishment, and become purified from all sin. It is called the place of purification or purgatory, because in it those souls, which are not perfectly unsullied, are purified by fire as gold in the furnace. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: And the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he had built thereupon, he shall receive a reward; if any man’s work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. (i. Cor.iii.23.) “And when St. Paul,” says St. Ambrose (Serm. 20. in Ps. cxviii.), “says, yet so as by fire, he shows that such a man indeed becomes happy, having suffered the punishment of fire, having been cleansed by the blessed fire, but not being, like the wicked, continually tormented in eternal fire.” St. Paul’s words, then, can only be understood to refer to the fire of purification, as the infallible Church has always explained them.

Are the heretics right in denying, that there is such a place of purification as purgatory?

By no means, for by such denial they oppose the holy Scriptures, tradition, and reason. The holy Scriptures teach, that there is a purgatory: it is related in the Second Book of the Machabees, that Judas Machabeus sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem, to be used in the temple to obtain prayers for those who fell in battle, for he believed it: a good and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins. But for what dead shall we pray? Those in heaven do not require our prayers; to those in hell they are of no avail; we must then pray for those who are in the place of purification. Christ speaks of a prison in the future life, from which no man comes out until he has paid the last farthing. (Matt. v. 25, 26.) This prison cannot be hell, because from hell there is never any release; it must be, then, a place of purification. Again Christ speaks of sin which shall be forgiven neither in this world nor in the next (Matt. xii. 32.), from which it follows, there is remittance of some sins in the next world; but this can be neither in heaven nor in hell, consequently in purgatory.

As the Consistory of Trent says (Sess. 6. c. 30.), the Church has always taught, according to the old tradition of the fathers, in all her councils, that there is a purgatory, and all centuries show proofs of the continual belief of all true Christians in a purgatory. Finally, man’s unblinded reason must accept a purgatory; for how many depart this earth before having accomplished the great work of their own purification? They cannot enter heaven; for St. John tells us: There shall not enter into it any thing defiled. (Apoc. xxi. 27.) The simple separation of the soul from the body does not make the sinful soul pure, and yet God cannot reject them as the hardened sinners in hell; there must then be a middle place, a purgatory, where those who have departed not free from stain, must be purified. See how the doctrine of the Church, reason, and the holy Scriptures all agree, and do not let yourself be led away by false arguments from those who not only believe in no purgatory, but even in no hell, so that they may sin with so much more impunity.

What, how much, and for how long must we suffer in purgatory?

Concerning this the Church has made no decision, though much has been written by the fathers of the Church on the subject. Concerning the severity of the punishment in purgatory, St. Augustine writes: “This fire is more painful than any that man can suffer in this life.” This should urge us to continual sanctification and atonement, so that we may escape the fearful judgment of God.

How can we aid the suffering souls in purgatory?

Of this St. Augustine writes: “It is not to be doubted, that we can aid the souls of the departed by the prayers of the Church, by the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and by the alms which we offer for them.” The Church has always taught, that prayers for the faithful departed are useful and good, and she has always offered Masses for them.

What should urge us to aid the suffering souls in purgatory?

1. The consideration of the belief of the Church in the communion of saints, by which all the members of the Church upon earth, in heaven, and in purgatory are joined together by the bonds of love, like the members of one body, and as the healthy members of a body sympathize with the suffering members, seeking to aid them, so should we assist our suffering brothers in purgatory. 2. The remembrance that it is God’s will, that we should practise charity towards one another, and that fearful judgments are threatened those who show no charity to a brother in need, together with the recollection of God’s love which desires, that all men should be happy in heaven. 3. We should be urged to it by love for ourselves, for if we should be condemned to the pains of purification, we would assuredly desire our living brothers to pray for us and perform good works for our sake, while the souls who through our prayers have perhaps found redemption, will not fail to reward our aid by interceding for us.

Can we aid the souls in purgatory by gaining indulgences?

Yes, for as indulgences, as explained in the Instruction for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, are a complete or a partial remittance of the temporal punishment due to sin, bestowed by the Church to penitent sinners from the treasury of the merits of Christ and His saints. If we gain such a remittance, we can apply it to the souls in purgatory. But it is to be remembered, that such an indulgence can be transferred only to one soul.

For which souls should we pray?

We should certainly, especially on this day, offer prayers and good works for all the faithful departed, and since we are more under obligation to some, some are more pleasing to God, some need assistance more, some deserve it more than others, we should strive to pray most earnestly for our parents, relations, friends, and benefactors; for those who are most acceptable to God; for those who have suffered the longest, or who have the longest yet to suffer; for those who are most painfully tormented; for those who are the most forsaken; for those who are nearest redemption; for those who are suffering on account of us; for those who hope in our prayers; for those who during life have injured us, or been injured by us; for our spiritual brothers and sisters.

When and by which means was this yearly commemoration of the departed introduced into the Church?

The precise time of its introduction cannot be told. Tertullian (A. D. 160) writes, that the early Christians held a yearly commemoration of the faithful departed. Towards the end of the tenth century St. Odilo, Abbot of the Benedictines at Cluny, directed that the yearly commemoration of the faithful departed, should be observed on the Second of November with prayers, alms, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, which time and manner of celebration spread through various dioceses, and was officially, confirmed by Pope John XIX. And this day was appointed, that, having the day previously rejoiced at the glory of the saints in heaven, we might on this day most properly pray for those who are yet doing penance for their sins and sigh in purgatory for their redemption.

The Introit of this day’s Mass as for all Masses of the deads reads: Grant them eternal rest, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine on them. (Ps. lxiv.) A hymn becometh thee O God, in Sion; and a vow shall be paid to thee in Jerusalem. O hear my prayer: all flesh shall come to thee. Grant them, &c.

Prayer of the Church. O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, give to the souls of Thy servants departed the remission of their sins: that through the help of pious supplications, they may obtain the pardon they have always desired. Who livest.

The Epistle and Gospel of this day speak of the resurrection of all men and of the judgment, when every one accordingly as he has lived, sinful and impenitent, or pure and innocent, will receive an eternally miserable or an eternally happy life. Purgatory will then end and there will be only heaven and hell. It remains with us to choose by our life, which of these two we shall possess.

At the Offertory of the Mass, the priest prays: Lord Jesus Christ, King of Glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the flames of hell, and from the deep pit. Deliver them from the lion’s mouth, lest hell swallow them, lest they fall into darkness: and let the standard hearer, St. Michael, bring them into the holy light: which thou promisedst of old to Abraham and his posterity. We offer thee, O Lord, a sacrifice of praise and prayers: accept them in behalf of the souls we commemorate this day: and let them pass from death to life.

V. From the gates of hell,

R. Deliver their souls, O Lord.

V. Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord,

R. And let perpetual light shine upon them.

V. May they rest in peace,

R. Amen.

V. May the souls of all the faithful departed by the mercy of God rest in peace,

R. Amen.

[We may profitably and devoutly repeat this versicle as often as we pass a graveyard.]