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Purgatory by Mary Anne Madden Sadlier

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refrain from crying out, with the Prophet Isaias: "Who can dwell with
such devouring fire, and unquenchable burnings?" Heavens! what a
lamentable case is this! Those miserable souls, who of late, when they
were wedded to their bodies, were so nice and dainty, forsooth, that
they durst scarce venture to enjoy the comfortable heat of a fire, but
under the protection of their screens and their fans, for fear of
spoiling their complexions, and if, by chance, a spark had been so rude
as to light upon them, or a little smoke, it was not to be endured:...
--Alas! how will it fare with them, when they shall see themselves tied
to unmerciful firebrands, or imbodied, as it were, with flames of fire,
surrounded with frightful darkness, broiled and consumed without
intermission, and perhaps condemned to the same fire with which the
devils are unspeakably tormented? (Pages 4-7.)

* * * * *

Good God! how the great Saints and Doctors astonish me when they treat
of this fire, and of the pain of sense, as they call it! For they
peremptorily pronounce that the fire that purges those souls, those
both happy and unhappy souls, surpasses all the torments that are to be
found in this miserable life of man, or are possible to be invented,
for so far they go... Thus they discourse: The fire and the pains of
the other world are of another nature from those of this life, because
God elevates them above their nature to be instruments of His severity.
Now, say they, things of an inferior degree can never reach the power
of such things as are of a higher rank. For example, the air, let it be
ever so inflated, unless it be converted into fire, can never be so hot
as fire. Besides, God bridles His rigor in this world; but, in the
next, He lets the reins loose and punishes almost equally to the
desert. And, since those souls have preferred creatures before their
Creator, He seems to be put upon a necessity of punishing them beyond
the ordinary strength of creatures; and hence it is that the fire of
Purgatory burns more, torments and inflicts more, than all the
creatures of this life are able to do. But is it really true that the
least pain in Purgatory exceeds the greatest here upon earth? O God!
the very statement makes me tremble for fear, and my very heart freezes
into ice with astonishment. And yet, who dare oppose St. Augustine, St.
Thomas, St. Anselm, St. Gregory the Great? Is there any hope of
carrying the negative assertion against such a stream of Doctors, who
all maintain the affirmative, and bring so strong reasons for it?...

* * * * *

But for Thy comfort, there are Doctors in the Catholic Church that
cannot agree with so much severity; and, namely, St. Bonaventure, who
is very peremptory in denying it. "For, what way is there," says this
holy Doctor, "to verify so great a paradox, without sounding reason,
and destroying the infinite mercy of God? I am easily persuaded there
are torments in Purgatory far exceeding any in this mortal life; this
is most certain, and it is but reasonable it should be so; but that the
least there should be more terrible than the most terrible in the world
cannot enter into my belief. May it not often fall out that a man comes
to die in a most eminent state of perfection, save only, that in his
last agony, out of mere frailty, he commits a venial sin, or carries
along with him some relic of his former failings, which might have been
easily blotted out with a _Pater Noster_, or washed away with a
little holy water; for I am supposing it to be some very small matter.
Now, what likelihood is there, I will not say, that the infinite mercy
of God, but that the very rigor of His justice, though you conceive it
to be ever so severe, should inflict so horrible a punishment upon this
holy soul, as not to be equalled by the greatest torments in this life;
and all this for some petty fault scarce worth the speaking of? How!
would you have God, for a kind of trifle, to punish a soul full of
grace and virtue, and so severely to punish her as to exceed all the
racks, cauldrons, furnaces, and other hellish inventions, which are
scarce inflicted upon the most execrable criminals in the world?" (Pp.

* * * * *

It is not the fire, nor all the brimstone and tortures they endure,
which murders them alive. No, no; it is the domestical cause of all
these mischiefs that racks their consciences and is their crudest
executioner. This, this is the greatest of their evils; for a soul that
has shaken off the fetters of flesh and blood, and is full of the love
of God, no more disordered with unruly passions, nor blinded with the
night of ignorance, sees clearly the vast injury she has done to
herself to have offended so good a God, and to have deserved to be thus
banished out of His sight and deprived of that Divine fruition. She
sees how easily she might have flown up straight to heaven at her first
parting with her body, and what trifle it was that impeded her. A
moment lost of those inebriating joys, seems to her now worthy to be
redeemed with an eternity of pains. Then, reflecting with herself that
she was created only for God, and cannot be truly satisfied but by
enjoying God, and that, out of Him, all this goodly machine of the
world is no better than a direct hell and an abyss of evils. Alas! what
worms, what martyrdoms, and what nipping pincers are such pinching
thoughts as these. The fire is to her but as smoke in comparison to
this vexing remembrance of her own follies, which betrayed her to this
disgraceful and unavoidable misfortune. There was a king who, in a
humor gave away his crown and his whole estate, for the present
refreshment of a cup of cold water; but, returning a little to himself
and soberly reflecting what he had done, had like to have run stark mad
to see the strange, irreparable folly he had committed. To lose a year,
or two years (to say no more), of the beatifical vision for a glass of
water, for a handful of earth, for the love of a fading beauty, for a
little air of worldly praise, a mere puff of honor--ah! it is the hell
of Purgatory to a soul that truly loves God and frames a right conceit
of things. (Pp. 14, 15.)

* * * * *

Confusion is one of the most intolerable evils that can befall a soul;
and, therefore, St. Paul, speaking of Our blessed Saviour, insists much
upon this, that He had the courage and the love for us all to overcome
the pain of a horrible confusion, which doubtless is an insupportable
evil to a man of intelligence and courage. Tell me, then, if you can,
what a burning shame and what a terrible confusion it must be to those
noble and generous souls, to behold themselves overwhelmed with a
confused chaos of fire, and such a base fire which affords no other
light but a sullen glimmering, choked up with a sulphureous and
stinking smoke; and in the interim to know that the souls of many
country clowns, mere idiots, poor women and simple religious persons,
go straight up to heaven, whilst they lie there burning--they that were
so knowing, so rich and so wise; they that were counsellors to kings,
eminent preachers of God's word, and renowned oracles in the world;
they that were so great divines, so great statesmen, so capable of high
employments. This confusion is much heightened by their further knowing
how easily they might have avoided all this and would not. Sometimes
they would have given whole mountains of gold to be rid of a stone in
the kidneys or a fit of the gout, colic or burning fever, and for a
handful of silver they might have redeemed many years' torments in that
fiery furnace; and, alas! they chose rather to give it to their dogs
and their horses, and sometimes to men more beasts than they and much
more unworthy. Methinks this thought must be more vexing than the fire
itself, though never so grievous.

And yet there remains one thought more, which certainly has a great
share in completing their martyrdom; and that is the remembrance of
their children or heirs which they left behind them; who swim in nectar
and live jollily on the goods which they purchased with the sweat of
their brows, and yet are so ungrateful, so brutish, and so barbarous
that they will scarce vouchsafe to say a Pater Noster in a whole month
for their souls who brought them into the world, and who, to place them
in a terrestrial paradise of all worldly delights, made a hard venture
of their own souls and had like to have exchanged a temporal punishment
for an eternal. The leavings and superfluities of their lackeys, a
throw of dice, and yet less than that, might have set them free from
these hellish torments; and these wicked, ungrateful wretches would not
so much as think on it. (Pp. 31-33.)

* * * * *

Before I leave off finishing this picture, or put a period to the
representation of the pains of Purgatory, I cannot but relate a very
remarkable history which will be as a living picture before your eyes.
But be sure you take it not to be of the number of those idle stories
which pass for old wives' tales, or mere imaginations of cracked brains
and simple souls. No; I will tell you nothing but what Venerable Bede,
so grave an author, witnesses to have happened in his time, and to have
been generally believed all over England without contradiction, and to
have been the cause of wonderful effects; and which is so authenticated
that Cardinal Bellarmine, a man of such judgment as the world knows,
having related it himself, concludes thus: "For my part I firmly
believe this history, as very conformable to the Holy Scripture, and
whereof I can have no doubt without wronging truth and wounding my own
conscience, which ought readily to yield assent unto that which is
attested by so many and so credible witnesses and confirmed by such
holy and admirable events."

About the year of our Lord 690, a certain Englishman, in the county of
Northumberland, by name Brithelmus, being dead for a time, was
conducted to the place of Purgatory by a guide, whose countenance and
apparel was full of light; you may imagine it was his good Angel. Here
he was shown two broad valleys of a vast and infinite length, one full
of glowing firebrands and terrible flames, the other as full of hail,
ice, and snow; and in both these were innumerable souls, who, as with a
whirlwind, were tossed up and down out of the intolerable scorching
flames, into the insufferable rigors of cold, and out of these into
those again, without a moment of repose or respite. This he took to be
hell, so frightful were those torments; but his good Angel told him no,
it was Purgatory, where the souls did penance for their sins, and
especially such as had deferred their conversion until the hour of
death; and that many of them were set free before the Day of Judgment
for the good prayers, alms, and fasts of the living, and chiefly by the
holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Now this holy man, being raised again from
death to life by the power of God, first made a faithful relation of
all that he had seen, to the great amazement of the hearers, then
retired him self into the church and spent the whole night in prayer;
and soon after, gave away his whole estate, partly to his wife and
children, partly to the poor, and taking upon him the habit and
profession of a monk, led so austere a life that even if his tongue had
been silent, yet his life and conversation spake aloud what wonders he
had seen in the other world. Sometimes they would see him, old as he
was, in freezing water up to his ears, praying and singing with much
sweetness and incredible fervor; and if they asked him, "Brother, alas!
how can you suffer such sharp and biting cold?" "O my friends," would
he say, "I have seen other manner of cold than this." Thus, when he
even groaned under the voluntary burden of a world of most cruel
mortifications, and was questioned how it was possible for a weak and
broken body like his to undergo such austerities, "Alas! my dear
brethren," would he still say, "I have seen far greater austerities
than these: they are but roses and perfumes in comparison of what I
have seen in the subterraneous lakes of Purgatory." And in these kinds
of austerities he spent the remainder of his life and made a holy end,
and purchased an eternal paradise, for having had but a sight of the
pains of Purgatory. And we, dear Christians, if we believed in good
earnest, or could but once procure to have a true sight or apprehension
of them, should certainly have other thoughts and live in another
fashion than we do. (Pp. 44-46.)

* * * * *

Now, would you clearly see how the souls can at the same instant swim
in a paradise of delights and yet be overwhelmed with the hellish
torments of Purgatory? Cast your eyes upon the holy martyrs of God's
Church, and observe their behavior. They were torn, mangled,
dismembered, flayed alive, racked, broiled, burnt--and tell me, was not
this to live in a kind of hell? And yet, in the very height of their
torments their hearts and souls were ready to leap for joy; you would
have taken them to be already transported into heaven. Hear them but
speak for themselves. "O lovely cross," cried out St. Andrew, "made
beautiful by the precious Body of Christ, how long have I desired thee,
and with what care have I sought thee! and now, that I have found thee,
receive me into thine arms, and lift me up to my dear Redeemer! O
death, [1] how amiable art thou in my eyes, and how sweet is thy
cruelty!" "Your coals," said St. Cecily, "your flaming firebrands, and
all the terrors of death, are to me but as so many fragrant roses and
lilies, sent from heaven." "Shower down upon me," cried St. Stephen,
"whole deluges of stones, whilst I see the heavens open and Jesus
Christ standing at the right side of His Eternal Father, to behold the
fidelity of His champion." "Turn," exclaimed St. Lawrence, "oh! turn,
the other side, thou cruel tyrant, this is already broiled, and cooked
fit for thy palate. Oh, how well am I pleased to suffer this little
Purgatory for the love of my Saviour!" "Make haste, O my soul," cried
St. Agnes, "to cast thyself upon the bed of flames which thy dear
Spouse has prepared for thee!" "Oh," cried St. Felicitas, and the
mother of the Machabees, "Oh, that I had a thousand children, or a
thousand lives, to sacrifice them all to my God. What a pleasure it is
to suffer for so good a cause!" "Welcome tyrants, tigers, lions,"
writes St. Ignatius the Martyr; "let all the torments that the devils
can invent come upon me, so I may enjoy my Saviour. I am the wheat of
Christ; oh, let me be ground with the lions' teeth. Now I begin indeed
to be the disciple of Christ." "Oh, the happy stroke of a sword," might
St. Paul well exclaim, "that no sooner cuts off my head, but it makes a
breach for my soul to enter into heaven. Let it be far from me to glory
in anything, but in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let all evils
band against me, and let my body be never so overloaded with
afflictions, the joy of my heart will be sure to have the mastery, and
my soul will be still replenished with such heavenly consolations that
no words, nor even thoughts, are able to express it."

[Footnote 1: From the author's text, it seems doubtful whether this
sentence is to be attributed to St. Andrew or St. Cecilia.]

You may imagine, then, that the souls, once unfettered from the body,
may, together with their torments, be capable of great comforts and
divine favors, and break forth into resolute, heroical, and even
supercelestial acts.

* * * * *

But there is yet something of a higher nature to be said.... We have
all the reason in the world to believe that God, of His infinite
goodness, inspires these holy souls with a thousand heavenly lights,
and such ravishing thoughts, that they cannot but take themselves to be
extremely happy: so happy that St. Catherine of Genoa professed she had
learnt of Almighty God that, excepting only the blessed Saints in
heaven, there were no joys comparable to those of the souls in
Purgatory. "For," said she, "when they consider that they are in the
hands of God, in a place deputed for them by His holy providence, and
just where God would have them, it is not to be expressed what a
sweetness they find in so loving a thought: and certainly they had
infinitely rather be in Purgatory, to comply with His divine pleasure,
than be in Paradise, with violence to His justice, and a manifest
breach of the ordinary laws of the house of God. I will say more,"
continued she: "it cannot so much as steal into their thoughts to
desire to be anywhere else than where they are. Seeing that God has so
placed them, they are not at all troubled that others get out before
them; and they are so absorbed in this profound meditation, of being at
God's disposal, in the bosom of His sweet providence, that they cannot
so much as dream of being anywhere else. So that, methinks, those kind
expressions of Almighty God, by His prophets, to His chosen people, may
be fitly applied to the unhappy and yet happy condition of these holy
souls. 'Rejoice, my people,' says the loving God; 'for I swear unto you
by Myself, that when you shall pass through flames of fire, they shall
not hurt you: I shall be there with you; I shall take off the edge, and
blunt the points, of those piercing flames. I will raise the bright
Aurora in your darkness; and the darkness of your nights shall outshine
the midday. I will pour out My peace into the midst of your hearts, and
replenish your souls with the bright shining lights of heaven. You
shall be as a paradise of delights, bedewed with a living fountain of
heavenly waters. You shall rejoice in your Creator, and I will raise
you above the height of mountains, and nourish you with manna and the
sweet inheritance of Jacob; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it:
and it cannot fail, but shall be sure to fall out so, because He hath
spoken it'" (Pp. 61, 62).

* * * * *

But let not this discourse cool your charity; lest, seeing the souls
enjoy so much comfort in Purgatory, your compassion for them grow
slack, and so continue not equal to their desert. Remember, then, that
notwithstanding all these comforts here rehearsed, the poor creatures
cease not to be grievously tormented; and consequently have extreme
need of all your favorable assistance and pious endeavors. When Christ
Jesus was in His bitter agony, sweating blood and water, the superior
part of His soul enjoyed God and His glory, and yet His body was so
oppressed with sorrow, that He was ready to die, and was content to be
comforted by an Angel. In like manner, these holy souls have indeed
great joys; but feel withal such bitter torments, that they stand in
great need of our help. So that you will much wrong them, and me, too,
to stand musing so long upon their joys, as not to afford them succor.
(P. 80.)

* * * * *

In the history of the incomparable order of the great St. Dominic, it
is authentically related that one of the first of those holy, religious
men was wont to say, that he found himself not so much concerned to
pray for the souls in Purgatory, because they are certain of their
salvation; and that, upon this account, we ought not, in his judgment,
to be very solicitous for them, but ought rather to bend our whole care
to help sinner, to convert the wicked, and to secure such souls as are
uncertain of their salvation, and probably certain of their damnation,
as leading very evil lives. Here it is, said he, that I willingly
employ my whole endeavors. It is upon these that I bestow my Masses and
prayers, and all that little that is at my disposal; and thus I take it
to be well bestowed. But upon souls that have an assurance of eternal
happiness, and can never more lose God or offend Him, I believe not,
said he, that one ought to be so solicitous. This certainly was but a
poor and weak discourse, to give it no severer a censure; and the
consequence of it was this, that the good man did not only himself
forbear to help these poor souls, but, which was worse, dissuaded
others from doing it; and, under color of a greater charity, withdrew
that succor which, otherwise, good people would liberally have afforded
them. But God took their cause in hand; for, permitting the souls to
appear and show themselves in frightful shapes, and to haunt the good
man by night and day without respite, still filling his fancy with
dreadful imaginations, and his eyes with terrible spectacles, and
withal letting him know who they were, and why, with God's permission,
they so importuned him with their troublesome visits, you may believe
the good Father became so affectionately kind to the souls in
Purgatory, bestowed so many Masses and prayers upon them, preached so
fervently in their behalf, stirred up so many to the same devotion,
that it is a thing incredible to believe, and not to be expressed with
eloquence. Never did you see so many and so clear and convincing
reasons as he alleged, to demonstrate that it is the most eminent piece
of fraternal charity in this life to pray for the souls departed. Love
and fear are the two most excellent orators in the world; they can
teach all rhetoric in a moment, and infuse a most miraculous eloquence.
This good Father, who thought he should have been frightened to death,
was grown so fearful of a second assault, that he bent his whole
understanding to invent the most pressing and convincing arguments to
stir up the world both to pity and to piety, and so persuade souls to
help souls; and it is incredible what good ensued thereupon. (Pp. 82-

* * * * *

Is there anything within the whole circumference of the universe so
worthy of compassion, and that may so deservedly claim the greatest
share in all your devotions and charities, as to see our fathers, our
mothers, our nearest and dearest relations, to lie broiling in cruel
flames, and to cry to us for help with tears that are able to move
cruelty itself? Whence I conclude there is not upon the earth any
object that deserves more commiseration than this, nor where fraternal
charity can better employ all her forces. (P. 86.)

* * * * *

St. Thomas tells us there is an order to be observed in our works of
charity to our neighbor; that is, we are to see where there is a
greater obligation, a greater necessity, a greater merit, and the like
circumstances. Now, where is there more necessity, or more obligation,
than to run to the fire, and to help those that lie there, and are not
able to get out? Where can you have more merit, than to have a hand in
raising up Saints and servants of God? Where have you more assurance
than where you are sure to lose nothing? Where can you find an object
of more compassion, than where there is the greatest misery in the
world? Where is there seen more of God's glory, than to send new Saints
into heaven to praise God eternally? Lastly, where can you show more
charity, and more of the love of God, than to employ your tears, your
sighs, your goods, your hands, your heart, your life, and all your
devotion, to procure a good that surpasses all other goods; I mean, to
make souls happy for all eternity, by translating them into heavenly
joys, out of insupportable torments? That glorious Apostle of the
Indies, St. Francis Xavier, could run from one end of the world to the
other, to convert a soul, and think it no long journey. The dangers by
sea and land seemed sweet, the tempests pleasing, the labor easy, and
his whole time well employed. Good God! what an advantage have we, that
with so little trouble and few prayers, may send a thousand beautiful
souls into heaven, without the least hazard of losing anything? St.
Francis Xavier could not be certain that the Japanese, for example,
whom he baptized, would persevere in their faith; and, though they
should persevere in it, he could have as little certainty of their
salvation. Now, it is an article of our faith, that the holy souls in
Purgatory are in grace, and shall assuredly one day enter into the
Kingdom of Heaven. (Pp. 91, 92.)

* * * * *

We read in the life of St. Catherine of Bologna, ... that she had not
only a strange tenderness for the souls, but a singular devotion to
them, and was wont to recommend herself to them in all her necessities.
The reason she alleged for it was this: that she had learned of
Almighty God how she had frequently obtained far greater favors by
their intercession than by any other means. And the story adds this:
that it often happened that what she begged of God, at the intercession
of the Saints in heaven, she could never obtain of Him; and yet, as
soon as she addressed herself to the souls in Purgatory she had her
suit instantly granted. Can there be any question but there are souls
in that purging fire who are of a higher pitch of sanctity, and of far
greater merit in the sight of God, than a thousand and a thousand
Saints who are already glorious in the Court of Heaven. (P. 102.)

* * * * *

Cardinal Baronius, a man of credit beyond exception, relates, in his
Ecclesiastical Annals, how a person of rare virtue found himself
dangerously assaulted at the hour of his death; and that, in this
agony, he saw the heavens open and about eight thousand champions, all
covered with white armor, descend, who fell instantly to encourage him
by giving him this assurance: that they were come to fight for him and
to disengage him from that doubtful combat. And when, with infinite
comfort, and tears in his eyes, he besought them to do him the favor to
let him know who they were that had so highly obliged him: "We are,"
said they, "the souls whom you have saved and delivered out of
Purgatory; and now, to requite the favor, we are come down to convey
you instantly to heaven." And with that, he died.

We read another such story of St. Gertrude; how she was troubled at her
death to think what must become of her, since she had given away all
the rich treasure of her satisfactions to redeem other poor souls,
without reserving anything to herself; but that Our Blessed Saviour
gave her the comfort to know that she was not only to have the like
favor of being immediately conducted into heaven out of this world, by
those innumerable souls whom she had sent thither before her by her
fervent prayers, but was there also to receive a hundred-fold of
eternal glory in reward of her charity. By which examples we may learn
that we cannot make better use of our devotion and charity than this
way. (Pp. 104, 105.)

* * * * *

The Church Triumphant, to speak properly, cannot satisfy, because there
is no place for penal works in the Court of Heaven, whence all grief
and pain are eternally banished.

Wherefore, the Saints may well proceed by way of impetration and
prayers; or, at most, represent their former satisfactions, which are
carefully laid up in the treasury of the Church, in lieu of those which
are due from others; but, as for any new satisfaction or payment
derived from any penal act of their own, it is not to be looked for in
those happy mansions of eternal glory.

The Church Militant may do either; as having this advantage over the
Church Triumphant, that she can help the souls in Purgatory by her
prayers and satisfactory works, and by offering up her charitable
suffrages, wherewith to pay the debts of those poor souls who are run
in arrear in point of satisfaction due for their sins. Had they but
fasted, prayed, labored, or suffered a little more in this life, they
had gone directly into heaven; what they unhappily neglected we may
supply for them, and it will be accepted for good payment, as from
their bails and sureties. You know, he that stands surety for another
takes the whole debt upon himself. This is our case; for, the living,
as it were, entering bond for the dead, become responsible for their
debts, and offer up fasts for fasts, tears for tears, in the same
measure and proportion as they were liable to them, and so defray the
debt of their friends at their own charge, and make all clear. (Pp.
117, 118.)

* * * * *

I am in love with that religious practice of Bologna, where, upon
funeral days, they cause hundreds and thousands of Masses to be said
for the soul departed, in lieu of other superfluous and vain
ostentations. They stay not for the anniversary, nor for any other set
day; but instantly do their best to release the poor soul from her
torments, who must needs think the year long, if she must stay for help
till her anniversary day appears. They do not, for all this, despise
the laudable customs of the Church; they bury their friends with honor;
they clothe great numbers of poor people; they give liberal alms; but,
as there is nothing so certain, nothing so efficacious, nothing so
divine, as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, they fix their whole
affection there, and strive all they can to relieve the souls this way;
and are by no means so lavish, as the fashion is, in other idle
expenses and inopportune feastings, which are often more troublesome to
the living than comfortable to the dead.

But you may not only comfort the afflicted souls by procuring Masses
for them, nor yet only by offering up your prayers, fasts, alms-deeds,
and such other works of piety; but you may bestow upon them all the
good you do, and all the evil you suffer, in this world.... If you
offer up unto God all that causes you any grief or affliction, for the
present relief of the poor languishing souls, you cannot believe what
ease and comfort they will find by it. (Pp. 123-125).

* * * * *

The world has generally a great esteem of Monsieur d'Argenton, Philip
Commines; and many worthily admire him for the great wisdom and
sincerity he has labored to express in his whole history. But, for my
part, I commend him for nothing more than for the prudent care he took
here for the welfare of his own soul in the other world. For, having
built a goodly chapel at the Augustinians in Paris, and left them a
good foundation, he tied them to this perpetual obligation, that they
should no sooner rise from table, but they should be sure to pray for
the rest of this precious soul. And he ordered it thus, by his express
will, that one of the religious should first say aloud: "Let us pray
for the soul of Monsieur d'Argenton;" and then all should instantly say
the psalm _De Profundis_. Gerson lost not his labor when he took
such pains to teach little children to repeat often these words: "My
God, my Creator, have pity on Thy poor servant, John Gerson." For these
innocent souls, all the while the good man was dying, and after he was
dead, went up and down the town with a mournful voice, singing the
short lesson he had taught them, and comforting his dear soul with
their innocent prayers.

Now, as I must commend their prudence who thus wisely cast about how to
provide for their own souls, against they come into Purgatory, so I
cannot but more highly magnify their charity, who, less solicitous for
themselves, employ their whole care to save others out of that dreadful
fire. And sure I am, they can lose nothing by the bargain, who dare
thus trust God with their own souls, while they do their uttermost to
help others; nay, though they should follow that unparalleled example
of Father Hernando de Monsoy, of the Society of Jesus, who, not content
to give away all he could from himself to the poor souls, while he
lived, made them his heirs after death; and, by express will,
bequeathed them all the Masses, rosaries, and whatsoever else should be
offered for him by his friends upon earth. (Pp. 131-132.)

* * * * *

It will not be amiss here to resolve you certain pertinent questions.
Whether the suffrages we offer up unto God shall really avail them for
whom we offer them; and whether they alone, or others also, may receive
benefit by them? Whether it be better to pray for a few at once, or for
many, or for all the souls together, and for what souls in particular?

To the first I answer: if your intention be to help any one in
particular who is really in Purgatory, so your work be good, it is
infallibly applied to the person upon whom you bestow it. For, as
divines teach, it is the intention of the offerer which governs all;
and God, of His infinite goodness, accommodates Himself to the
petitioner's request, applying unto each one what has been offered for
its relief. If you have nobody in your thoughts for whom you offer up
your prayers, they are only beneficial to yourself; and what would be
thus lost for want of application, God lays up in the treasury of the
Church, as being a kind of spiritual waif or stray, to which nobody can
lay any just claim. And, since it is the intention which entitles one
to what is offered before all others, what right can others pretend to
it; or with what justice can it be parted or divided amongst others,
who were never thought of?

And hence I take my starting-point to resolve your other question--that
if you regard their best advantage whom you have a mind to favor, you
had better pray for a few than for many together; for, since the merit
of your devotions is but limited, and often in a very small proportion,
the more you divide and subdivide it amongst many, the lesser share
comes to every one in particular. As if you should distribute a crown
or an angel [1] amongst a thousand poor people, you easily see your
alms would be so inconsiderable, they would be little better for it;
whereas, if it were all bestowed upon one or two, it were enough to
make them think themselves rich.

[Footnote 1: A gold coin of that period so called because it was
stamped with the image of an angel.]

Now, to define precisely, whether it be always better done, to help one
or two souls efficaciously, than to yield a little comfort to a great
many, is a question I leave for you to exercise your wits in. I could
fancy it to be your best course to do both; that is, sometimes to
single out some particular soul, and to use all your powers to lift her
up to heaven; sometimes, again, to parcel out your favors upon many;
and, now and then, also to deal out a general alms upon all Purgatory.
And you need not fear exceeding in this way of charity, whatsoever you
bestow; for you may be sure nothing will be lost by it. And St. Thomas
will tell you, for your comfort, that since all the souls in Purgatory
are perfectly united in charity, they rejoice exceedingly when they see
any of their whole number receive such powerful helps as to dispose her
for heaven. They every one take it as done to themselves, whatsoever is
bestowed upon any of their fellows, whom they love as themselves; and,
out of a heavenly kind of courtesy, and singular love, they joy in her
happiness, as if it were their own. So that it may be truly said, that
you never pray for one or more of them, but they are all partakers, and
receive a particular comfort and satisfaction by it. (Pp. 132-134.)

* * * * *

It would go hard with many, were it true that a person who neglected to
make restitution in his life-time, and only charged his heirs to do it
for him in his last will and testament, shall not stir out of Purgatory
till restitution be really made; let there be never so many Masses
said, and never so many satisfactory works offered up for him. And yet
St. Bridget, whose revelations are, for the most part, approved by the
Church, hesitates not to set this down for a truth which God had
revealed unto her. Nor are there wanting grave divines that countenance
this rigorous position, and bring for it many strong reasons and
examples, which they take to be authentical: and the law itself, which
says that if a man do not restore another's goods, there will always
stick upon the soul a kind of blemish, or obligation of justice. And
since the fault lies wholly at his door, he cannot, say they, have the
least reason to complain of the severity of God's justice, but must
accuse his own coldness and extreme neglect of his own welfare. Nay,
even those that are of the contrary persuasion, yet maintain that it is
not only much more secure, but far more meritorious, to satisfy such
obligations while we live, than to trust others with it, let them be
never so near and dear to us.... (Pp. 140, 141.)

* * * * *

... I have just cause to fear that all I can say to you will hardly
suffice to mollify that hard heart of yours; and, therefore, my last
refuge shall be to set others on, though I call them out of the other

And first, let a damned soul read you a lecture, and teach you the
compassion you ought to bear to your afflicted brethren. Remember how
the rich glutton in the Gospel, although he was buried in hell-fire,
took care for his brothers who survived him; and besought Abraham to
send Lazarus back into the world, to preach and convert them, lest they
should be so miserable as to come into that place of torments. A
strange request for a damned soul! and which may shame you, that are so
little concerned for the souls of your brethren, who are in so restless
a condition.

In the next place, I will bring in the soul of your dear father, or
mother, to make her own just complaints against you. Lend her, then, a
dutiful and attentive ear; and let none of her words be lost; for she
deserves to be heard out, while she sets forth the state of her most
lamentable condition. Peace! it is a holy soul, though clothed in
flames, that directs her speech to you after this manner:

"Am I not the most unfortunate and wretched parent that ever lived? I
that was so silly as to presume that having ventured my life, and my
very soul also, to leave my children at their ease, they would at least
have had some pity on me, and endeavor to procure for me some ease and
comfort in my torments. Alas! I burn insufferably, I suffer infinitely,
and have done so, I know not how long; and yet this is not the only
thing that grieves me. Alas, no! it is a greater vexation to me to see
myself so soon forgotten by my own children, and so slighted by them,
for whom I have in vain taken so much care and pains. Ah, dost thou
grudge thy poor mother a Mass, a slight alms, a sigh, or a tear? Thy
mother, I say, who would most willingly have kept bread from her own
mouth, to make thee swim in an ocean of delights, and to abound with
plenty of all worldly goods? ... Who will not refuse me comfort, when
my own children, my very bowels, do their best to forget me? What a
vexation is it to me, when my companions in misery ask me whether I
left no children behind me, and why they are so hard-hearted as to
neglect me?.... I was willing to forget my own concerns to be careful
of theirs; and those ungrateful ones have now buried me in an eternal
oblivion, and clearly left me to shift for myself in these dread
tortures, without giving me the least ease or comfort. Oh, what a fool
was I! had I given to the poor the thousandth part of those goods which
I left these miserable children, I had long before this been joyfully
singing the praises of my Creator, in the choir of Angels; whereas now
I lie panting and groaning under excessive torments, and am like still
to lie, for any relief that is to be looked for from these undutiful,
ungracious children whom I made my sole heirs.... But am I not all this
while strangely transported, miserable that I am, thus to amuse myself
with unprofitable complaints against my children; whereas, indeed, I
have but small reason to blame any but myself? since it is I, and only
I, that am the cause of all this mischief. For did not I know that in
the grand business of saving my soul, I was to have trusted none but
myself? did I not know that with the sight of their friends, at their
departure, men used to lose all the memory and friendship they had for
them?.... Did I not know that God Himself had foretold us, that the
only ready way to build ourselves eternal tabernacles in the next
world, is not to give all to our children, but to be liberal to the
poor?.... I cannot deny, then, but the fault lies at my door, and that
I am deservedly thus neglected by my children.... The only comfort I
have left me in all my afflictions, is, that others will learn at my
cost this clear maxim: not to leave to others a matter of such near
concern as the ease and repose of their own souls; but to provide for
them carefully themselves. O God! how dearly have I bought this
experience; to see my fault irreparable, and my misery without
redress!" (Pp. 146-149.)

* * * * *

One must have a heart of steel, or no heart at all, to hear these sad
regrets, and not feel some tenderness for the poor souls, and as great
an indignation against those who are so little concerned for the souls
of their parents and other near relations. I wish, with all my soul,
that all those who shall light upon this passage, and hear the soul so
bitterly deplore her misfortune, may but benefit themselves half as
much by it as a good prelate did when the soul of Pope Benedict VIII,
by God's permission, revealed unto him her lamentable state in
Purgatory. [1] For so the story goes, which is not to be questioned:
This Pope Benedict appears to the Bishop of Capua, and conjures him to
go to his brother, Pope John, who succeeded him in the Chair of St.
Peter, and to beseech him, for God's sake, to give great store of alms
to poor people, to allay the fury of the fire of Purgatory, with which
he found himself highly tormented. He further charges him to let the
Pope know withal, that he did acknowledge liberal alms had already been
distributed for that purpose; but had found no ease at all by it
because all the money that had been then bestowed was acquired
unjustly, and so had no power to prevail before the just tribunal of
God for the obtaining of the least mercy. The good Bishop, upon this,
makes haste to the Pope, and faithfully relates the whole conference
that had passed between him and the soul of his predecessor; and with a
grave voice and lively accent enforces the necessity and importance of
the business; that, in truth, when a soul lies a burning, it is in vain
to dispute idle questions; the best course, then, is to run instantly
for water, and to throw it on with both hands, calling for all the help
and assistance we can, to relieve her; and that His Holiness should
soon see the truth of the vision by the wonderful effects which were
like to follow. All this he delivers so gravely, and so to the purpose,
that the Pope resolves out of hand to give in charity vast sums out of
his own certain and unquestionable revenue; whereby the soul of Pope
Benedict was not only wonderfully comforted, but, questionless, soon
released of her torments. In conclusion, the good Bishop, having well
reflected with himself in what a miserable condition he had seen the
soul of a Pope who had the repute of a Saint, and was really so, worked
so powerfully with him, that, quitting his mitre, crosier, bishopric,
and all worldly greatness, he shut himself up in a monastery, and there
made a holy end; choosing rather to have his Purgatory in the austerity
of a cloister than in the flames of the Church suffering. (Pp. 150,

[Footnote 1: Baronius, _An._ 1024.]

* * * * *

I wish, again, they would in this but follow the example of King Louis
of France, who was son to Louis the Emperor, surnamed the Pious. For
they tell us [1] that this Emperor, after he had been thirty-three
years in Purgatory, not so much for any personal crimes or misdemeanors
of his own as for permitting certain disorders in his empire, which he
ought to have prevented, was at length permitted to show himself to
King Louis, his son, and to beg his favorable assistance; and that the
king did not only most readily grant him his request, procuring Masses
to be said in all the monasteries of his realm for the soul of his
deceased father, but drew thence many good reflections and profitable
instructions, which served him all his life-time after. Do you the
same; and believe it, though Purgatory fire is a kind of baptism, and
is so styled by some of the holy Fathers, because it cleanses a soul
from all the dross of sin, and makes it worthy to see God, yet is it
your sweetest course, here to baptize yourself frequently in the tears
of contrition, which have a mighty power to cleanse away all the
blemishes of sin; and so prevent in your own person, and extinguish in
others, those baptismal flames of Purgatory fire, which are so
dreadful. (Pp. 151, 152.)

[Footnote 1: Baronius, _An_. 874.]

* * * * *

What shall I say of those other nations, whose natural piety led them
to place burning lamps at the sepulchres of the dead, and strew them
over with sweet flowers and odoriferous perfumes. [1] Do they not put
Christians in mind to remember the dead, and to cast after them the
sweet incense of their devout sighs and prayers, and the perfumes of
their alms-deeds, and other good works?

[Footnote 1: Herod lib. 2.]

It was very usual with the old Romans to shed whole floods of tears, to
reserve them in phial-glasses, and to bury them with the urns, in which
the ashes of their dead friends were carefully laid up; and by them to
set lamps, so artificially composed as to burn without end. By which
symbols they would give us to understand, that neither their love nor
their grief should ever die; but that they would always be sure to
have tears in their eyes, love in their hearts, and a constant memory
in their souls for their deceased friends....

They had another custom, not only in Rome but elsewhere, to walk about
the burning pile where the corpse lay, and, with their mournful
lamentations, to keep time with the doleful sound of their trumpets;
and still, every turn, to cast into the fire some precious pledge of
their friendship. The women themselves would not stick to throw in
their rings, bracelets, and other costly attires, nay, their very hair
also, the chief ornament of their sex; and they would have been
sometimes willing to have thrown in both their eyes, and their hearts
too. Nor were there some wanting, that in earnest threw themselves into
the fire, to be consumed with their dear spouses; so that it was found
necessary to make a severe law against it; such was the tenderness that
they had for their deceased friends, such was the excess of a mere
natural affection. Now, our love is infused from Heaven; it is
supernatural, and consequently ought to be more active and powerful to
stir up our compassion for the souls departed; and yet we see the
coldness of Christians in this particular; how few there are who make
it their business to help poor souls out of their tormenting flames. It
is not necessary to make laws to hinder any excess in this article; it
were rather to be wished that a law were provided to punish all such
ungrateful persons as forgot the duty they owe to their dead parents,
and all the obligations they have to the rest of their friends. (Pp.

* * * * *

It is a pleasure to observe the constant devotion of the Church of
Christ in all ages, to pray for the dead. And first, to take my rise
from the Apostles' time, there are many learned interpreters, who hold
that baptism for the dead, of which the Apostle speaks, [1] to be meant
only of the much fasting, prayer, alms-deeds, and other voluntary
afflictions, which the first Christians undertook for the relief of
their deceased friends. But I need not fetch in obscure places to prove
so clear an Apostolical and early custom in God's Church.

[Footnote 1: Cor. xv 29.]

You may see a set form of prayer for the dead prescribed in all the
ancient liturgies of the Apostles. [1] Besides, St. Clement [2] tells
us, it was one of the chief heads of St. Peter's sermons, to be daily
inculcating to the people this devotion of praying for the dead; and
St. Denis [3] sets down at large the solemn ceremonies and prayers,
which were then used at funerals; and receives them no otherwise than
as Apostolical traditions, grounded upon the Word of God. And
certainly, it would have done you good to have seen with what gravity
and devotion that venerable prelate performed the divine office and
prayer for the dead, and what an ocean of tears he drew from the eyes
of all that were present.

[Footnote 1: Liturgia utrinque, S. Jacobi, S. Math., S. Marci, S. Clem.]

[Footnote 2: Epist. I.]

[Footnote 3: S Dion. _Eccles. Hier_. C. 7.]

Let Tertullian [1] speak for the next age. He tells us how carefully
devout people in his time kept the anniversaries of the dead, and made
their constant oblations for the sweet rest of their souls. "Here it
is," says this grave author, "that the widow makes it appear whether or
no she had any true love for her husband; if she continue yearly to do
her best for the comfort of his soul." ... Let your first care be, to
ransom him out of Purgatory, and when you have once placed him in the
empyrean heaven, he will be sure to take care for you and yours. I know
your excuse is, that having procured for him the accustomed services of
the Church, you need do no more for him; for you verily believe he is
already in a blessed state. But this is rather a poor shift to excuse
your own sloth and laziness, than that you believe it to be so in good
earnest. For there is no man, says Origen, but the Son of God, can
guess how long, or how many ages, a soul may stand in need of the
purgation of fire. Mark the word _ages_; he seems to believe that
a soul may, for whole ages--that is, for so many hundred years--be
confined to this fiery lake, if she be wholly left to herself and her
own sufferings.

[Footnote 1: Tertull. _De cor. mil. c 3; _De monogam, c. 10.]

It was not without confidence, says Eusebius, of reaping more fruit
from the prayers of the faithful, that the honor of our nation, and the
first Christian Emperor, Constantine the Great, took such care to be
buried in the Church of the Apostles, whither all sorts of devout
people resorting to perform their devotions to God and His Saints,
would be sure to remember so good an emperor. Nor did he fail of his
expectation; for it is incredible, as the same author observes, what a
world of sighs and prayers were offered up for him upon this occasion.

St. Athanasius [1] brings an elegant comparison to express the
incomparable benefit which accrues to the souls in Purgatory by our
prayers. As the wine, says he, which is locked up in the cellar, yet is
so recreated with the sweet odor of the flourishing vines which are
growing in the fields, as to flower afresh, and leap, as it were, for
joy, so the souls that are shut up in the centre of the earth feel the
sweet incense of our prayers, and are exceedingly comforted and
refreshed by it.

[Footnote 1: St. Augustine's views on this subject may be seen from the
extract elsewhere given, from his "Confessions," on the occasion of the
death of his mother, St. Monica.]

We do not busy ourselves, says St. Cyril, with placing crowns or
strewing flowers at the sepulchres of the dead; but we lay hold on
Christ, the very Son of God, who was sacrificed upon the Cross for our
sins: and we offer Him up again to His Eternal Father in the dread
Sacrifice of the Mass, as the most efficacious means to reconcile Him,
not only to ourselves, but to them also.

St. Epiphanius stuck not to condemn Arius for this damnable heresy
amongst others, that he held it in vain to pray for the dead: as if our
prayers could not avail them.

St. Ambrose prayed heartily for the good Emperor Theodosius as soon as
he was dead, and made open profession that he would never give over
praying for him till he had, by his prayers and tears, conveyed him
safe to the holy mountain of Our Lord, whither he was called by his
merits, and where there is true life everlasting. He had the same
kindness for the soul of the Emperor Valentinian, the same for Gratian,
the same for his brother Satyrus and others. He promised them Masses,
tears, prayers, and that he would never forget them, never give over
doing charitable offices for them.

"Will you honor your dead?" says St. John Chrysostom; "do not spend
yourselves in unprofitable lamentations; choose rather to sing psalms,
to give alms, and to lead holy lives. Do for them that which they would
willingly do for themselves, were they to return again into the world,
and God will accept it at your hands, as if it came from them." (Pp.

St. Paulinus, that charitable prelate who sold himself to redeem
others, could not but have a great proportion of charity for captive
souls in the other world. No; he was not only ready to become a slave
himself to purchase their freedom, but he became an earnest solicitor
to others in their behalf; for, in a letter to Delphinus, alluding to
the story of Lazarus, he beseeches him to have at least so much
compassion as to convey, now and then, a drop of water wherewith to
cool the tongues of poor souls that lie burning in the Church which is
all a-fire.

I am astonished when I call to mind the sad regrets of the people of
Africa when they saw some of their priests dragged away to martyrdom.
The author says they flocked about them in great numbers and cried out:
"Alas! if you leave us so, what will become of us? Who must give us
absolution for our sins? Who must bury us with the wonted ceremonies of
the Church when we are dead? and who will take care to pray for our
souls?" Such a general belief they had in those days, that nothing is
more to be desired in this world than to leave those behind us who will
do their best to help us out of our torments. (Pp. 167-8.)

* * * * *

Almighty God has often miraculously made it appear how well He is
pleased to be importuned by us in the souls' behalf, and what comfort
they receive by our prayers. St. John Climacus writes, [1] that while
the monks were at service, praying for their good father, Mennas, the
third day after his departure, they felt a marvellous sweet smell to
rise out of his grave, which they took for a good omen that his sweet
soul, after three days' purgation, had taken her flight into heaven.
For what else could be meant by that sweet perfume but the odor of his
holy and innocent conversation, or the incense of their sacrifices and
prayers, or the primitial fruits of his happy soul, which was now flown
up to the holy mountain of eternal glory, there enjoying the
odoriferous and never-fading delights of Paradise?

[Footnote 1: In 4, gradu scalae.]

Not unlike unto this is that story which the great St. Gregory relates
of one Justus, a monk. [1] He had given him up at first for a lost
creature; but, upon second thoughts, having ordered Mass to be said for
him for thirty days together, the last day he appeared to his brother
and assured him of the happy exchange he was now going to make of his
torments for the joys of heaven.

[Footnote 1: Dial. c. 55, lib. 4.]

Pope Symmachus and his Council [1] had reason to thunder out anathemas
against those sacrilegious persons who were so frontless as to turn
pious legacies into profane uses, to the great prejudice of the souls
for whose repose they were particularly deputed by the founders. And,
certainly, it is a much fouler crime to defraud souls of their due
relief than to disturb dead men's ashes and to plunder their graves.
(Pp. 168-9.)

[Footnote 1: 6 Synod., Rom.]

St. Isidore delivers it as an apostolic tradition and general practice
of the Catholic Church in his time, to offer up sacrifices and prayers,
and to distribute alms for the dead; and this, not for any increase of
their merit, but either to mitigate their pains or to shorten the time
of their durance.

Venerable Bede is a sure witness for the following century; whose
learned works are full of wonderful stories, which he brings in
confirmation of this Catholic doctrine and practice.

St. John Damascene made an elegant oration on purpose to stir up this
devotion; where, amongst other things, he says it is impossible to
number up all the stories in this kind which bear witness that the
souls departed are relieved by our prayers; and that, otherwise, God
would not have appointed a commemoration of the dead to be daily made
in the unbloody Sacrifice of the Mass, nor would the Church have so
religiously observed anniversaries and other days set apart for the
service of the dead.

Were it but a dog, says Simon Metaphrastes, that by chance were fallen
into the fire, we should have so much compassion for him as to help him
out; and what shall we do for souls who are fallen into Purgatory fire?
I say, souls of our parents and dearest friends; souls that are
predestinate to eternal glory, and extremely precious in the sight of
God? And what did not the Saints of God's Church for them in those
days? Some armed themselves from head to foot in coarse hair-cloth;
others tore off their flesh with chains and rude disciplines; some,
again, pined themselves with rigorous fasts; others dissolved
themselves into tears; some passed whole nights in contemplation;
others gave liberal alms or procured great store of Masses; in fine,
they did what they were able, and were not well pleased that they were
able to do no more, to relieve the poor souls in Purgatory. Amongst
others, Queen Melchtild [1] is reported to have purchased immortal fame
for her discreet behavior at the death of the king, her husband; for
whose soul she caused a world of Masses to be said, and a world of alms
to be distributed, in lieu of other idle expenses and fruitless

[Footnote 1: Luitprand, c. 4, c. 7.]

There is one in the world, to whom I bear an immortal envy, and such an
envy as I never mean to repent of. It is the holy Abbot Odilo, who was
the author of an invention which I would wittingly have found out,
though with the loss of my very heart's blood.

Reader, take the story as it passed, thus: [1] A devout religious man,
in his return from Jerusalem, meets with a holy hermit in Sicily; he
assures him that he often heard the devils complain that souls were so
soon discharged of their torments by the devout prayers of the monks of
Cluny, who never ceased to pour out their prayers for them. This the
good man carries to Odilo, then Abbot of Cluny; he praises God for His
great mercy in vouchsafing to hear the innocent prayers of his monks;
and presently takes occasion to command all the monasteries of his
Order, to keep yearly the commemoration of All Souls, next after the
feast of All Saints, a custom which, by degrees, grew into such credit,
that the Catholic Church thought fit to establish it all over the
Christian world; to the incredible benefit of poor souls, and singular
increase of God's glory. For who can sum up the infinite number of
souls who have been freed out of Purgatory by this invention? or who
can express the glory which accrued to this good Abbot, who thus
fortunately made himself procurator-general of the suffering Church,
and furnished her people with such a considerable supply of necessary
relief, to alleviate the insupportable burthen of their sufferings?

[Footnote 1: Sigeb. in _Chron_. An. 998.]

St. Bernard would triumph when he had to deal with heretics that denied
this privilege of communicating our suffrages and prayers to the souls
in Purgatory. And with what fervor he would apply himself to this
charitable employment of relieving poor souls, may appear by the care
he took for good Humbertus, though he knew him to have lived and died
in his monastery so like a Saint, that he could scarce find out the
fault in him which might deserve the least punishment in the other
world; unless it were to have been too rigorous to himself, and too
careless of his health: which in a less spiritual eye than that of St.
Bernard, might have passed for a great virtue. But it is worth your
hearing, that which he relates of blessed St. Malachy, who died in his
very bosom. This holy Bishop, as he lay asleep, hears a sister of his,
lately dead, making lamentable moan, that for thirty days together she
had not eaten so much as a bit of bread. He starts up out of his sleep;
and, taking it to be more than a dream, he concludes the meaning of the
vision was to tell him, that just thirty days were now past since he
had said Mass for her; as probably believing she was already where she
had no need of his prayers.... Howsoever, this worthy prelate so plied
his prayers after this, that he soon sent his sister out of Purgatory;
and it pleased God to let him see, by the daily change of her habit,
how his prayers had purged her by degrees, and made her fit company for
the Angels and Saints in heaven. For, the first day, she was covered
all over with black cypress; the next, she appeared in a mantle
something whitish, but a dusky color; but the third day, she was seen
all clad in white, which is the proper livery of the Saints....

This for St. Bernard. But I cannot let pass in silence one very
remarkable passage, which happened to these two great servants of God.
St. Malachy had passionately desired to die at Clarvallis, [1] in the
hands of the devout St. Bernard; and this, on the day immediately
before All Souls' Day; and it pleased God to grant him his request. It
fell out, then, that while St. Bernard was saying Mass for him, in the
middle of Mass it was revealed to him that St. Malachy was already
glorious in heaven; whether he had gone straight out of this world, or
whether that part of St. Bernard's Mass had freed him out of Purgatory,
is uncertain; but St. Bernard, hereupon, changed his note; for, having
begun with a Requiem, he went on with the Mass of a bishop and
confessor, to the great astonishment of all the standers-by.

[Footnote 1: Clairvaux.]

St. Thomas of Aquin, that great champion of Purgatory, gave God
particular thanks at his death, for not only delivering a soul out of
Purgatory, at the instance of his prayers, but also permitting the same
soul to be the messenger of so good news. (Pp. 169-174.)

* * * * *

And now, we are come down to the fifteenth age, where the Fathers of
the Council of Florence, both Greeks and. Latins, with one consent,
declare the same faith and constant practice of the Church, thus handed
down to them from age to age, since Christ and His Apostles' time, as
we have seen; viz., that the souls in Purgatory are not only relieved,
but translated into heaven, by the prayers, sacrifices, alms, and other
charitable works, which are offered up for them according to the custom
of the Catholic Church. Nor did their posterity degenerate, or vary the
least, from this received doctrine, until Luther's time; when the holy
Council of Trent thought fit again to lay down the sound doctrine of
the Church, in opposition to all our late sectaries. And I wish all
Catholics were but as forward to lend their helping hands to lift souls
out of Purgatory, as they are to believe they have the power to do it;
and that we had not often more reason than the Roman Emperor to
pronounce the day lost; since we let so many days pass over our heads,
and so many fair occasions slip out of our hands, without easing, or
releasing, any souls out of Purgatory, when we might do it with so much
ease. (P. 175.)



Although we are mercifully freed from the necessity of descending into
hell to seek and promote the interests of Jesus, it is far from being
so with Purgatory. If heaven and earth are full of the glory of God, so
also is that most melancholy, yet most interesting land, where the
prisoners of hope are detained by their Saviour's loving justice, from
the Beatific Vision; and if we can advance the interests of Jesus on
earth and in heaven, I may almost venture to say that we can do still
more in Purgatory. And what I am endeavoring to show you in this
treatise is, how you may help God by prayer, and the practices of
devotion, whatever your occupation and calling may be: and all these
practices apply especially to Purgatory. For although some theologians
say that in spite of the Holy Souls placing no obstacle in the way,
still the effect of prayer for them is not infallible; nevertheless, it
is much more certain than the effect of prayer for the conversion of
sinners upon earth, where it is so often frustrated by their perversity
and evil dispositions. Anyhow, what I have wanted to show has been
this: that each of us, without aiming beyond our grace, without
austerities for which we have not courage, without supernatural gifts
to which we lay no claim, may, by simple affectionateness and the
practices of sound Catholic devotion, do great things, things so great
that they seem incredible, for the glory of God, the interests of
Jesus, and the good of souls. I should, therefore, be leaving my
subject very incomplete if I did not consider at some length devotion
to the Holy Souls in Purgatory; and I will treat, not so much of
particular practices of it, which are to be found in the ordinary
manuals, as of the spirit of the devotion itself.

* * * * *

By the doctrine of the Communion of Saints and of the unity of Christ's
mystical body, we have most intimate relations both of duty and
affection with the Church Triumphant and Suffering; and Catholic
devotion furnishes us with many appointed and approved ways of
discharging these duties toward them.... For the present it is enough
to say that God has given us such power over the dead that they seem,
as I have said before, to depend almost more on earth than on heaven;
and surely that He has given us this power, and supernatural methods of
exercising it, is not the least touching proof that His Blessed Majesty
has contrived all things for love. Can we not conceive the joy of the
Blessed in Heaven, looking down from the bosom of God and the calmness
of their eternal repose upon this scene of dimness, disquietude, doubt
and fear, and rejoicing in the plenitude of their charity, in their
vast power with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to obtain grace and blessing
day and night for the poor dwellers upon earth? It does not distract
them from God, it does not interfere with the Vision, or make it waver
and grow misty; it does not trouble their glory or their peace. On the
contrary, it is with them as with our Guardian Angels--the affectionate
ministries of their charity increase their own accidental glory. The
same joy in its measure may be ours even upon earth. If we are fully
possessed with this Catholic devotion for the Holy Souls, we shall
never be without the grateful consciousness of the immense powers which
Jesus has given us on their behalf. We are never so like Him, or so
nearly imitate His tender offices, as when we are devoutly exercising
these powers.... Oh! what thoughts, what feelings, what love should be
ours, as we, like choirs of terrestrial angels, gaze down on the wide,
silent, sinless kingdom of suffering, and then with our own venturous
touch wave the sceptred hand of Jesus over its broad regions all richly
dropping with the balsam of His saving Blood!

* * * * *

Oh! how solemn and subduing is the thought of that holy kingdom, that
realm of pain! There is no cry, no murmur; all is silent, silent as
Jesus before His enemies. We shall never know how we really love Mary
till we look up to her out of those deeps, those vales of dread
mysterious fire. O beautiful region of the Church of God. O lovely
troop of the flock of Mary! What a scene is presented to our eyes when
we gaze upon that consecrated empire of sinlessness and yet of keenest
suffering! There is the beauty of those immaculate souls, and then the
loveliness, yea, the worshipfulness of their patience, the majesty of
their gifts, the dignity of their solemn and chaste sufferings, the
eloquence of their silence; the moonlight of Mary's throne lighting up
their land of pain and unspeechful expectation; the silver-winged
angels voyaging through the deeps of that mysterious realm; and above
all, that unseen Face of Jesus which is so well remembered that it
seems to be almost seen! Oh! what a sinless purity of worship is here
in this liturgy of hallowed pain! O world! O weary, clamorous, sinful
world! Who would not break away if he could, like an uncaged dove, from
thy perilous toils and unsafe pilgrimage, and fly with joy to the
lowest place in that most pure, most safe, most holy land of suffering
and of sinless love!

* * * * *

But some persons turn in anger from the thought of Purgatory, as if it
were not to be endured, that after trying all our lives long to serve
God, we should accomplish the tremendous feat of a good death, only to
pass from the agonies of the death-bed into fire--long, keen,
searching, triumphant, incomparable fire. Alas! my dear friends; your
anger will not help you nor alter facts. But have you thought
sufficiently about God? Have you tried to realize His holiness and
purity in assiduous meditation? Is there a real divorce between you and
the world, which you know is God's enemy? Do you take God's side? Have
you wedded His interests? Do you long for His glory? Have you put sin
alongside of our dear Saviour's Passion, and measured the one by the
other? Oh! if you had, Purgatory would but seem to you the last,
unexpected, and inexpressibly tender invention of an obstinate love
which was mercifully determined to save you in spite of yourself! It
would be a perpetual wonder to you, a joyous wonder, fresh every,
morning--a wonder that would be meat and drink to your soul; that you,
being what you are, what you know yourself to be, what you may conceive
God knows you to be, should be saved eternally! Remember what the
suffering soul said so simply, yet with such force, to Sister
Francesca: "Ah! those on that side the grave little reckon how dearly
they will pay on this side for the lives they live!" To be angry
because you are told you will go to Purgatory! Silly, silly people!
Most likely it is a great false flattery, and that you will never be
good enough to go there at all. Why, positively, you do not recognize
your own good fortune when you are told of it. And none but the humble
go there. I remember Maria Crocifissa was told that although many of
the Saints while on earth loved God more than some do even in heaven,
yet that the greatest saint on earth was not so _humble_ as are
the souls in Purgatory. I do not think I ever read anything in the
lives of the Saints which struck me so much as that....

But we not only learn lessons for our own good, but for the good of the
Holy Souls. We see that our charitable attentions toward them must be
far more vigorous and persevering than they have been; for that men go
to Purgatory for very little matters, and remain there an unexpectedly
long time. But their most touching appeal to us lies in their
helplessness; and our dear Lord, with His usual loving arrangement, has
made the extent of our power to help them more than commensurate with
their inability to help themselves.... St. Thomas has taught us that
prayer for the dead is more readily accepted with God than prayer for
the living. We can offer and apply for them all the satisfactions of
our Blessed Lord. We can do vicarious penance for them. We can give to
them all the satisfaction of our ordinary actions, and of our
sufferings. We can make over to them by way of suffrage, the
indulgences we gain, provided the Church has made them applicable to
the dead. We can limit and direct upon them, or any one of them, the
intention of the Adorable Sacrifice. The Church, which has no
jurisdiction over them, can yet make indulgences applicable or
inapplicable to them by way of suffrage; and by means of liturgy,
commemoration, incense, holy water, and the like, can reach
efficaciously to them, and most of all by her device of privileged
altars. .... All that I have said hitherto has been, indirectly, at
least, a plea for this devotion; but I must come now to a more direct
recommendation of it.

* * * * *

It is not saying too much to call devotion to the Holy Souls, a kind of
centre in which all Catholic devotions meet, and which satisfies more
than any other single devotion our duties in that way; because it is a
devotion all of love, and of disinterested love. If we cast an eye over
the chief Catholic devotions, we shall see the truth of this. Take the
devotion of St. Ignatius to the glory of God. This, if I may dare to
use such an expression of Him, was the special and favorite devotion of
Jesus. Now, Purgatory is simply a field white for the harvest of God's
glory. Not a prayer can be said for the Holy Souls, but God is at once
glorified, both by the faith and the charity of the mere prayer. Not an
alleviation, however trifling, can befall any one of the souls, but He
is forthwith glorified by the honor of His Son's Precious Blood, and
the approach of the soul to bliss. Not a soul is delivered from its
trial but God is immensely glorified.

* * * * *

Again, what devotion is more justly dear to Christians than the
devotion to the Sacred Humanity of Jesus? It is rather a family of
various and beautiful devotions, than a devotion by itself. Yet see how
they are all, as it were, fulfilled, affectionately fulfilled, in
devotion to the Holy Souls. The quicker the souls are liberated from
Purgatory, the more is the beautiful harvest of His Blessed Passion
multiplied and accelerated. An early harvest is a blessing, as well as
a plentiful one; for all delay of a soul's ingress into the praise of
heaven is an eternal and irremediable loss of honor and glory to the
Sacred Humanity of Jesus. How strangely things sound in the language of
the Sanctuary! yet so it is. Can the Sacred Humanity be honored more
than by the Adorable Sacrifice of the Mass? And here is our chief
action upon Purgatory....

Devotion to our dearest Mother is equally comprehended in this devotion
to the Holy Souls, whether we look at her as the Mother of Jesus, and
so sharing the honors of His Sacred Humanity, or as Mother of mercy,
and so specially honored by works of mercy, or, lastly, as, in a
particular sense, the Queen of Purgatory, and so having all manner of
dear interests to be promoted in the welfare and deliverance of those
suffering souls.

Next to this we may rank devotion to the Holy Angels, and this also is
satisfied in devotion to the Holy Souls. For it keeps filling the
vacant thrones in the angelic choirs, those unsightly gaps which the
fall of Lucifer and one-third of the heavenly host occasioned. It
multiplies the companions of the blessed spirits. They may be supposed
also to look with an especial interest on that part of the Church which
lies in Purgatory, because it is already crowned with their own dear
gift and ornament of final perseverance, and yet it has not entered at
once into its inheritance as they did. Many of them also have a tender
personal interest in Purgatory. Thousands, perhaps millions of them,
are guardians to those souls, and their office is not over yet.
Thousands have clients there who were especially devoted to them in
life. Will St. Raphael, who was so faithful to Tobias, be less faithful
to his clients there? Whole choirs are interested about others, either
because they are finally to be aggregated to that choir, or because in
life-time they had a special devotion to it. Marie Denise, of the
Visitation, used to congratulate her angel every day on the grace he
had received to stand when so many around him were falling. It was the
only thing she could know for certain of his past life. Could he
neglect her, if by the will of God she went to Purgatory? Again, St.
Michael, as prince of Purgatory, and Our Lady's regent, in fulfilment
of the dear office attributed to him by the Church in the Mass for the
Dead, takes as homage to himself all charity to the Holy Souls; and if
it be true, that a zealous heart is always a proof of a grateful one,
that bold and magnificent spirit will recompense us one day in his own
princely style, and perhaps within the limits of that his special

Neither is devotion to the Saints without its interests in this
devotion for the dead. It fills them with the delights of charity as it
swells their numbers and beautifies their ranks and orders. Numberless
patron saints are personally interested in multitudes of souls. The
affectionate relation between their clients and themselves not only
subsists, but a deeper tenderness has entered into it, because of the
fearful suffering, and a livelier interest, because of the accomplished
victory. They see in the Holy Souls their own handiwork, the fruit of
their example, the answer to their prayers, the success of their
patronage, the beautiful and finished crown of their affectionate

* * * * *

Another point of view from which we may look at this devotion for the
dead, is as a specially complete and beautiful exercise of the three
theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, which are the
supernatural fountains of our whole spiritual life. It exercises faith,
because it leads men not only to dwell in the unseen world, but to work
for it with as much energy and conviction as if it was before their
very eyes. Unthoughtful or ill-read persons almost start sometimes at
the minuteness, familiarity, and assurance with which men talk of the
unseen world, as if it were the banks of the Rhine, or the olive-yards
of Provence, the Campagna of Rome, or the crescent shores of Naples,
some place which they have seen in their travels, and whose
geographical features are ever in their memory, as vividly as if before
their eyes. It all comes of faith, of prayer, of spiritual reading, of
knowledge of the lives of the Saints, and of the study of theology. It
would be strange and sad if it were not so. For, what to us, either in
interest or importance, is the world we see, to the world we do not
see? This devotion exercises our faith also in the effects of the
sacrifice and sacraments, which are things we do not see, but which we
daily talk of in reference to the dead as undoubted and accomplished
facts. It exercises our faith in the communion of Saints to a degree
which would make it seem impossible to a heretic that he ever could
believe so wild and extravagant a creed. It acts with regard to
indulgences as if they were the most inevitable material transactions
of this world. It knows of the unseen treasure out of which they come,
of the unseen keys which open the treasury, of the indefinite
jurisdiction which places them infallibly at its disposal, of God's
unrevealed acceptance of them, and of the invisible work they do, just
as it knows of trees and clouds, of streets and churches--that is, just
as certainly and undoubtingly; though it often can give others no proof
of these things, nor account for them to itself.... It exhibits the
same quiet faith in all those Catholic devotions which I mentioned
before as centering themselves in this devotion for the dead.

* * * * *

Neither is this devotion a less heroic exercise of the theological
virtue of hope, the virtue so sadly wanting in the spiritual life of
these times. For, look what a mighty edifice this devotion raises;
lofty, intricate, and of magnificent proportions, into which somehow or
other all creation is drawn, from the little headache we suffer up to
the Sacred Humanity of Jesus, and which has to do even with God
Himself. And upon what does all this rest, except on a simple, child-
like trust in God's fidelity, which is the supernatural motive of hope?
We hope for the souls we help, and unbounded are the benedictions which
we hope for in their regard. We hope to find mercy ourselves, because
of our mercy; and this hope quickens our merits without detracting from
the merit of our charity.... For the state of the dead is no dream, nor
our power to help them a dream, any more than the purity of God is a
dream, or the Precious Blood a dream.

* * * * *

As to the charity of this devotion, it dares to imitate even the
charity of God Himself. What is there in heaven or on earth which it
does not embrace, and with so much facility, with so much gracefulness,
as if there were scarcely an effort in it, or as if self was charmed
away, and might not mingle to distract it? It is an exercise of the
love of God, for it is loving those whom He loves, and loving them
because He loves them, and to augment His glory and multiply His
praise.... To ourselves also it is an exercise of charity, for it gains
us friends in heaven; it earns mercy for us when we ourselves shall be
in Purgatory, tranquil victims, yet, oh! in what distress! and it
augments our merits in the sight of God, and so, if only we persevere,
our eternal recompense hereafter. Now if this tenderness for the dead
is such an exercise of these three theological virtues, and if, again,
even heroic sanctity consists principally in their exercise, what store
ought we not to set upon this touching and beautiful devotion?

* * * * *

Look at that vast kingdom of Purgatory, with its empress-mother, Mary!
All those countless throngs of souls are the dear and faithful spouses
of Jesus. Yet in what a strange abandonment of supernatural suffering
has His love left them! He longs for their deliverance; He yearns for
them to be transferred from that land, perpetually overclouded with
pain, to the bright sunshine of their heavenly home. Yet He has tied
His own hands, or nearly so. He gives them no more grace; He allows
them no more time for penance; He prevents them from meriting; nay,
some have thought they could not pray. How, then, stands the case with
the souls in the suffering Church? Why, it is a thing to be meditated
on when we have said it--they depend almost more on earth than they do
on heaven, almost more on us than on Him; so He has willed it on whom
all depend, and without whom there is no dependence. It is clear, then,
that Jesus has His interests there. He wants His captives released.
Those whom He has redeemed He now bids us redeem, us whom, if there be
life at all in us, He has already Himself redeemed. Every satisfaction
offered up to God for these suffering souls, every oblation of the
Precious Blood to the Eternal Father, every Mass heard, every communion
received, every voluntary penance undergone; the scourge, the hair-
shirt, the prickly chain, every indulgence gained, every jubilee whose
conditions we have fulfilled, every _De Profundis_ whispered,
every little alms doled out to the poor who are poorer than ourselves,
and, if they be offered for the intention of these dear prisoners, the
interests of Jesus are hourly forwarded in Mary's Kingdom of
Purgatory.... There is no fear of overworking the glorious secretary of
that wide realm, the blessed Michael, Mary's subject. See how men work
at the pumps on ship-board when they are fighting for their lives with
an ugly leak. Oh! that we had the charity so to work, with the sweet
instrumentality of indulgence, for the Holy Souls in Purgatory! The
infinite satisfactions of Jesus are at our command, and Mary's sorrows,
and the Martyr's pangs, and the Confessor's weary perseverance in well-
doing! Jesus will not help Himself here, because He loves to see us
helping Him, and because He thinks our love will rejoice that He still
leaves us something we can do for Him. There have been Saints who have
devoted their whole lives to this one work, mining in Purgatory; and,
to those who reflect in faith, it does not seem, after all, so strange.
It is a foolish comparison, simply because it is so much below the
mark; but on all principles of reckoning, it is a much less work to
have won the battle of Waterloo, or to have invented the steam-engine,
than to have freed one soul from Purgatory.



[Footnote 1: Charity to the Holy Souls in Purgatory]

We have just seen that the Jews believed in the doctrine of Purgatory;
we have seen that their charity for the dead was so great that the Holy
Ghost could not help praising them for it. Yet for all that, we may
assert in truth that the people of God under the Old Law were not so
well instructed in this doctrine as we are, nor had they such powerful
means to relieve the souls--in Purgatory as we have. Our faith,
therefore, should be more lively, and our charity for the souls in
Purgatory more ardent and generous.

A short time ago a fervent young priest of this country had the
following conversation with a holy Bishop on his way to Rome. The
Bishop said to him: "You make mementoes now and then, for friends of
yours that are dead--do you not?" The young priest answered:
"Certainly, I do so very often." The Bishop rejoined: "So did I, when I
was a young priest. But one time I was grievously ill. I was given up
as about to die. I received Extreme Unction and the Viaticum. It was
then that my whole past life, with all its failings and all its sins,
came before me with startling vividness. I saw how much I had to atone
for; and I reflected on how few Masses would be said for me, and how
few prayers. Ever since my recovery I have most fervently offered the
Holy Sacrifice for the repose of the pious and patient souls in
Purgatory; and I am always glad when I can, as my own offering, make
the 'intention' of my Masses for the relief of their pains."

Indeed, dear reader, no one is more deserving of Christian charity and
sympathy than the poor souls in Purgatory. They are _really_ POOR
_souls_. No one is sooner forgotten than they are.

How soon their friends persuade themselves that they are in perfect
peace! How little they do for their relief when their bodies are
buried! There is a lavish expense for the funeral. A hundred dollars
are spent where the means of the family hardly justify the half of it.
Where there is more wealth, sometimes five hundred or a thousand, and
even more, dollars are expended on the poor dead body. But let me ask
you what is done for the _poor living soul_? Perhaps the poor soul
is suffering the most frightful tortures in Purgatory, whilst the
lifeless body is laid out in state, and borne pompously to the
graveyard. You must not misunderstand me: it is right and just to show
all due respect even to the body of your deceased friend, for that body
was once the dwelling-place of his soul. But tell me candidly, what joy
has the departed, and, perhaps, suffering soul, in the fine music of
the choir, even should the choir be composed of the best singers in the
country? What consolation does the poor suffering soul find in the
superb coffin, in the splendid funeral? What pleasure does the soul
derive from the costly marble monument, from all the honors that are so
freely lavished on the body? All this may satisfy, or at least seem to
satisfy, the living, but it is of no avail whatever to the dead.

Poor unhappy souls! how the diminution of true Catholic faith is
visited upon you while you suffer, and those that loved you in life
might help you, and do not, for want of knowledge or of faith!

Poor unhappy souls! your friends go to their business, to their eating
and drinking, with the foolish assurance that the case cannot be hard
on one they knew to be so good! Oh, how much and how long this _false
charity_ of your friends makes you suffer!

The venerable Sister, Catherine Paluzzi, offered up, for a long time,
and with the utmost fervor, prayers and pious works for the soul of her
deceased father. At last she thought she had good reason to believe
that her father was already enjoying the bliss of Paradise. But how
great was her consternation and grief when Our Lord, in company with
St. Catherine, her patroness, led her one day, in spirit, to Purgatory.
There she beheld her father in an abyss of torments, imploring her
assistance. At the sight of the pitiful state the soul of her father
was in, she melted into tears; she cast herself at the feet of her
Heavenly Spouse, and begged Him, through His precious Blood, to free
her father from his excruciating sufferings. She also begged St.
Catherine to intercede for him, and then turning to Our Lord, she said:
"Charge me, O Lord, with my father's indebtedness to Thy justice. In
expiation of it, I am ready to take upon myself all the afflictions
Thou art pleased to bestow upon me." Our Lord graciously accepted this
act of heroic charity, and released at once her father's soul from
Purgatory. But how heavy were the crosses which she, from that time,
had to suffer, may be more easily imagined than described. This pious
sister seemed to have good reason to believe that her father's soul was
in Paradise. Yet she was mistaken. Alas! how many are there who
resemble her! How many are there whose hope as to the condition of
their deceased friends is far more vain and false than that of this
religious, because they pray much less for the souls of their departed
friends than she did for her father.

* * * * *

It is related in the life of St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, that one day
she saw the soul of one of her deceased sisters kneeling in adoration
before the Blessed Sacrament, in the church, wrapped up in a mantle of
fire, and suffering great pains, in expiation of her neglecting to go
to Holy Communion on one day, when she had her confessor's permission
to communicate.

The Venerable Bede relates that it was revealed to Drithelm, a great
servant of God, that the souls of those who spend their whole lives in
the state of mortal sin, and are converted only on their death-bed, are
doomed to suffer the pains of Purgatory to the day of the last

In the life and revelations of St. Gertrude we read that those who have
committed many grievous sins, and who die without having done due
penance, are not assisted by the ordinary suffrages of the Church until
they are partly purified by Divine Justice in Purgatory.

After St. Vincent Ferrer had learned the death of his sister Frances,
he at once began to offer up many fervent prayers and works of penance
for the repose of her soul. He also said thirty Masses for her, at the
last of which it was revealed to him that, had it not been for his
prayers and good works, the soul of his sister would have suffered in
Purgatory to the end of the world.

From these examples you may draw your own conclusion as to the state of
your deceased friends and relatives. Rest assured that the judgments of
God are very different from the judgments of men.

* * * * *

In heaven, love for God is the happiness of the elect; but in Purgatory
it is the source of the most excruciating pains. It is principally for
this reason that the souls in Purgatory are called "poor souls," they
being, as they are, in the most dreadful state of poverty--that of the
privation of the beatific vision of God.

After Anthony Corso, a Capuchin Brother, a man of great piety and
perfection, had departed this life, he appeared to one of his brethren
in religion, asking him to recommend him to the charitable prayers of
the community, in order that he might receive relief in his pains. "For
I do not know," said he, "how I can bear any longer the pain of being
deprived of the sight of my God. I shall be the most unhappy of
creatures as long as I must live in this state. Would to God that all
men might understand what it is to be without God, in order that they
might firmly resolve to suffer anything during their life on earth
rather than expose themselves to the danger of being damned, and
deprived forever of the sight of God." [1]

[Footnote 1: 1 Aunal. Pp. Capuc., A.D. 1548.]

* * * * *

The souls in Purgatory are _poor_ souls, because they suffer the
greatest pain of the senses, which is that of _fire_. Who can be
in a poorer or more pitiful condition than those who are buried in
fire? Now, this is the condition of these poor souls. They are buried
under waves of fire. It is from the smallest spark of this purgatorial
fire that they suffer more intense pains than all the fires of this
world put together could produce....

Could these poor souls leave the fire of Purgatory for the most
frightful earthly fire they would, as it were, take it for a pleasure-
garden; they would find a fifty years' stay in the hottest earthly fire
more endurable than an hour's stay in the fire of Purgatory. Our
terrestrial fire was not created by God to torment men, but rather to
benefit them; but the fire of Purgatory was created by God for no other
purpose than to be an instrument of His justice; and for this reason it
is possessed of a burning quality so intense and penetrating that it is
impossible for us to conceive even the faintest idea of it.

* * * * *

In the year 1150 it happened that, on the Vigil of St. Cecilia, a very
old monk, one hundred years of age, at Marchiennes, in Flanders, fell
asleep while sacred lessons were being read, and saw, in a dream, a
monk all clad in armor, shining like red-hot iron in a furnace. The old
man asked him who he was. He was told that he was one of the monks of
the convent; that he was in Purgatory, and had yet to endure this fiery
armor for ten years more, for having injured the reputation of another.

* * * * *

Another reason why these holy prisoners and debtors to the divine
justice are really _poor_ is because they are not able, in the
least, to assist themselves. A sick man afflicted in all his limbs, and
a beggar in the most painful and most destitute of conditions, has a
tongue left to ask for relief. At least they can implore Heaven; it is
never deaf to their prayer. But the souls in Purgatory are so poor that
they cannot even do this. Those cases in which some of them were
permitted to appear to their friends and ask assistance are but
exceptions. To whom is it they should have recourse? Is it, perhaps, to
the mercy of God? Alas! they send forth their sighs in plaintive
voices.... But the Lord does not regard their tears, nor heed their
moans and cries, but answers them that His justice must be satisfied to
the last farthing.

* * * * *

Oh, what cruelty! A sick man weeps on his bed and his friend consoles
him; a baby cries in his cradle and his mother at once caresses him; a
beggar knocks at the door for an alms and receives it; a malefactor
laments in his prison, and comfort is given him; even a dog that whines
at the door is taken in; but these poor, helpless souls cry day and
night from the depths of the fire in Purgatory: "Have pity on me, have
pity on me, at least you, my friends, because the hand of the Lord hath
smitten me;" and there is none to listen! Oh, what great cruelty, my

But it seems to me that I hear these poor souls exclaim: "Priest of the
Lord, speak no longer of our sufferings and pitiable condition. Let
your description of it be ever so touching, it will not afford us the
least relief. When a man has fallen into the fire, instead of
considering his pains, you try at once to draw him out or quench the
fire with water. This is true charity. Now, tell Christians to do the
same for us. Tell them to give us their feet, by going to hear Mass for
us; to give us their eyes, by seeking an occasion to perform a good
work for us; to give us their hands, by giving an alms for us, or by
often making an offering for the 'intention' of Masses in our behalf;
to give us their lips, by praying for us; to give us their tongue, by
requesting others to be charitable to us; to give us their memory, by
remembering us constantly in their devotions; to give us their body, by
offering up for us to the Almighty all its labors, fatigues, and

We read in the Acts of the Apostles, that the faithful prayed
unceasingly for St. Peter when he was imprisoned, and that an Angel
came and broke his chains and released him. "We, too, should be good
angels to the poor souls in Purgatory, and free them from their painful
captivity by every means in our power."

* * * * *

In the time of St. Bernard, a monk of Clairvaux appeared after his
death to his brethren in religion, to thank them for having delivered
him from Purgatory. On being asked what had most contributed to free
him from his torments, he led the inquirer to the church, where a
priest was saying Mass. "Look!" said he; "this is the means by which my
deliverance has been effected; this is the power of God's mercy; this
is the saving Sacrifice which taketh away the sins of the world."
Indeed, so great is the efficacy of this Sacrifice in obtaining relief
for the souls in Purgatory, that the application of all the good works
which have been performed from the beginning of the world, would not
afford so much assistance to one of these souls as is imparted by a
single Mass. To illustrate: The blessed Henry Suso made an agreement
with one of his brethren in religion that, as soon as either of them
died, the survivor should say two Masses every week for one year, for
the repose of his soul. It came to pass that the religious with whom
Henry had made this contract, died first. Henry prayed every day for
his deliverance from Purgatory, but forgot to say the Masses which he
had promised; whereupon the deceased religious appeared to him with a
sad countenance, and sharply rebuked him for his unfaithfulness to his
engagement. Henry excused himself by saying that he had often prayed
for him with great fervor, and had even offered up for him many
penitential works. "Oh, brother!" exclaimed the soul, "blood, blood is
necessary to give me some relief and refreshment in my excruciating
torments. Your penitential works, severe as they are, cannot deliver
me. Nothing can do this but the blood of Jesus Christ, which is offered
up in the Sacrifice of the Mass. Masses, Masses--these are what I

* * * * *

Another means to relieve the souls in Purgatory is to gain indulgences
for them. A very pious nun had just died in the convent in which St.
Mary Magdalen of Pazzi lived. Whilst her corpse was exposed in the
church, the Saint looked lovingly upon it, and prayed fervently that
the soul of her sister might soon enter into eternal rest. Whilst she
was thus wrapt in prayer her sister appeared to her, surrounded by
great splendor and radiance, in the act of ascending into heaven. The
Saint, on seeing this, could not refrain from calling out to her:
"Farewell, dear sister! When you meet your Heavenly Spouse, remember us
who are still sighing for Him in this vale of tears!" At these words
our Lord Himself appeared, and revealed to her that this sister had
entered heaven so soon on account of the indulgences gained for her.

[Footnote 1: Vita S. Magd. de Pazzi, L. I., chap, xxxix.]

Very many plenary indulgences can be gained for the souls in Purgatory,
if you make the Stations of the Cross. The merit of this exercise, if
applied to these souls, obtains great relief for them. We read in the
life of Catherine Emmerich, a very pious Augustinian nun, that the
souls in Purgatory often came to her during the night, and requested
her to rise and make the Stations for their relief. It is also related
in the life of the venerable Mary of Antigua, that a deceased sister of
her convent appeared to her and said: "Why do you not make the Stations
of the Way of the Cross for me?" Whilst the servant of the Lord felt
surprised and astonished at these words, Jesus Christ Himself spoke to
her, thus: "The exercise of the Stations is of the greatest advantage
to the souls in Purgatory; so much so that this soul has been permitted
by Me, to ask of you its performance in behalf of them all. Your
frequent performance of this exercise to procure relief for these souls
has induced them to hold intercourse with you, and you shall have them
for so many intercessors and protectors before My justice. Tell your
sisters to rejoice at these treasures, and the splendid capital which
they have in them, that they may grow rich upon it."

* * * * *

After St. Ludgarde had offered up many fervent prayers for the repose
of the soul of her deceased friend Simeon, Abbot of the monastery of
Toniac, Our Lord appeared to her, saying: "Be consoled, My daughter; on
account of thy prayers, I will soon release this soul from Purgatory."
"O Jesus, Lord and Master of my heart!" she rejoined, "I cannot feel
consoled so long as I know that the soul of my friend is suffering so
much in the Purgatorial fire. Oh! I cannot help shedding most bitter
tears until Thou hast released this soul from its sufferings." Touched
and overcome by this fervent prayer, Our Lord released the soul of
Simeon, who appeared to Ludgarde all radiant with heavenly glory, and
thanked her for the many fervent prayers which she had offered up for
his delivery. He also told the Saint that, had it not been for her
fervent prayers, he should have been obliged to stay in Purgatory for
eleven years....

Peter, the venerable Abbot of Cluny, relates an event somewhat similar.
There was a monk at Cluny, named Bernard Savinellus. One night as he
was returning to the dormitory, he met Stephen, commonly called
Blancus, Abbot of St. Giles, who had departed this life a few days
before. At first, not knowing him, he was passing on, till he spoke,
and asked him whither he was hastening. Bernard, astonished and angry
that a monk should speak, contrary to the rules, in the nocturnal
hours, and in a place where it was not permitted, made signs to him to
hold his peace; but as the dead abbot replied, and urged him to speak,
the other, raising his head, asked in amazement who he might be. He was
answered, "I am Stephen, the Abbot of St. Giles, who have formerly
committed many faults in the Abbey, for which I now suffer pains; and I
beseech you to implore the lord Abbot, and other brethren, to pray for
me, that by the ineffable mercy of God, I may be delivered." Bernard
replied that he would do so, but added that he thought no one would
believe his report; to which the dead man answered, "In order, then,
that no one may doubt, you may assure them that within eight days you
will die;" he then disappeared. The monk, returning to the church,
spent the remainder of the night in prayer and meditation. When it was
day, he related his vision to St. Hugo, who was then abbot. As is
natural, some believed his account, and others thought it was some
delusion. The next day the monk fell sick, and continued growing worse,
constantly affirming the truth of what he had related, till his death,
which occurred within the time specified.

* * * * *

Besides prayer and other acts of devotion we can offer up for the poor
souls, we may especially reckon _alms-deeds_; for since this is a
work of mercy, it is more especially apt to obtain mercy for the poor
souls. But not the rich alone can give alms, but the poor also, since
it does not so much depend on the greatness of the gift. Of the poor
widow who gave but one penny, Our Lord said; that she had given more
than all the rich who had offered gold and silver, because these
offered only of their abundance, whilst the poor widow gave what she
saved from her daily sustenance....

The venerable servant of God, Father Clement Hoffbauer, of the
Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, who died in Vienna in the year
1820, and whose cause of beatification has already been introduced,
once assisted a man of distinction in death. A short time afterwards
the same man appeared to his wife in a dream, in a very pitiable
condition, his clothes in rags and quite haggard, and shivering with
cold. He begged her to have pity on him, because he could scarcely
endure the extreme hunger and cold which he suffered. His wife went
without delay to Father Hoffbauer, related her dream, and asked his
advice on this point. The confessor, enlightened by God, immediately
understood what this dream meant, and what kind of assistance was
especially needed and asked for by this poor soul. He accordingly
advised her to clothe a poor beggar. The woman followed the advice, and
soon after her husband again appeared to her, dressed in a white
garment, and his countenance beaming with joy, thanking her for the
help which she had given to him.

* * * * *

We can assist the poor souls not only by prayers, devotions, exterior
works of penance, alms-deeds, and other works of charity, but we can
also aid them by _interior mortifications_. Everything which
appears to us difficult, and which costs us a sacrifice, the pains of
sickness, and all the sufferings and troubles of this life, may be
offered up for these poor souls...

The only son of a rich widow of Bologna had been murdered by a
stranger. The culprit fell into her hands, but the pious widow was far
from taking revenge by delivering him up to the hands of justice. She
thought of the infinite love of our Saviour when He died for us upon
the cross, and how He prayed for His executioners when dying. She,
therefore, thought that she could in no way honor the memory of her
dear son better, and that she could do nothing more efficient for the
repose of his soul, than by granting pardon to the culprit, by
protecting him, and by even adopting him as her son and heir to all her
riches. This heroic self-denial, and the sacrifice which she thereby
offered to Our Lord in memory of His bitter Passion, was so pleasing to
God, that, in reward thereof, He remitted to her son all the pains of
Purgatory. The happy son then appeared to his mother in a glorified
state, at the very moment when he was entering heaven. He thanked her
for having thus delivered him from the sufferings of Purgatory much
sooner than any other good work could have effected it.

* * * * *

Those who give themselves up to immoderate grief at the loss of beloved
friends, should bear this in mind also: instead of injuring their
health by a grief which is of no avail to the dead, they should
endeavor to deliver their souls from Purgatory by Masses, prayers, and
good works; nay, the very thought that they thus render to the souls of
their beloved friends the greatest possible act of charity, will
console them and mitigate their sorrow. For this reason St. Paul
exhorts the Thessalonians not to be afflicted on account of the
departed, after the manner of heathens who have no hope.

* * * * *

Thomas Cantipratensis relates of a certain mother, that she wept day
and night over the death of her darling son, so much so that she forgot
to assist his soul in Purgatory. To convince her of her folly, God one
day permitted her to be rapt in spirit, and see a long procession of
youths hastening towards a city of indescribable beauty. Having looked
for her son in vain for some time, she at last discovered him walking
slowly along at the end of the procession. At once her son turned
towards her, and said: "Ah, mother, cease your useless tears! and if
you truly love me, offer up for my soul Masses, prayers, alms-deeds,
and such like good works." Then he disappeared, and his mother, instead
of any longer wasting her strength by foolish grief, began henceforth
to give her son proofs of a true Christian and motherly love, by
complying with his request. (L. II. Appar., 5, 17.)

Among the appointments to the Italian Episcopate made by our Holy
Father Pope Pius IX. was that of an humble and holy monk, hidden away
in a poor monastery of Tuscany. When he received his Bulls he was
thrown into the greatest affliction. He had gone into religion to be
done with the world outside; and here he was to be thrown again into
its whirlpool. He made a novena to Our Blessed Lady, invoking her help
to rid him of the burden and the danger. Meantime, he wrote a letter to
the See of Rome setting forth reasons why he ought not to be asked to
accept, and also sending back the Bulls, with a positive _noluit_,
but Rome would not excuse him. Then he went in person to see the Pope,
and to implore leave to decline, which he did, even with tears. Among
other reasons, the good monk said that of late he had a most miserable
memory. "That is unfortunate," said the Holy Father, "for after your
death, if you continue so, no one will ever refer to you as Monsignor
-----, _of happy memory_! but that will be no great loss to you."
Then, seeing the intense grief of the nominated Bishop, the Holy Father
changed his tone and said: "At one time of my life I, also, was
threatened with the loss of my memory. But I found a remedy, used it,
and it has not failed me. _For the special intention of preserving
this faculty of memory I have said every day a 'De Profundis' for the
souls in Purgatory_. I give you this receipt for your use; and now,
do not resist the will of him who gives you and the people of your
diocese his blessing."

It is a new revelation that our Holy Father Pius IX. was ever
threatened with loss of memory. Of all his faculties of mind there was
not one that excited such general astonishment as his wonderful memory.

* * * * *

The following incident took place at Dole, in France: One day, in the
year 1629, long after her death, Leonarda Colin, niece to Hugueta Roy,
appeared to her, and spoke as follows: "I am saved by the mercy of God.
It is now seventeen years since I was struck down by a sudden death. My
poor soul was in mortal sin, but, thanks to Mary, whose devoted servant
I had ever striven to be, I obtained grace, in the last extremity, to
make an act of perfect contrition, and thus I was rescued from hell-
fire, but by no means from Purgatory. My sufferings in those purifying
flames are beyond description. At last Almighty God has permitted my
guardian angel to conduct me to you in order that you may make three
pilgrimages to three Churches of our Blessed Lady in Burgundy. Upon the
fulfillment of said condition, my deliverance from Purgatory is
promised." Hugueta did as she was requested; whereupon the same soul
appeared in a glorified state, thanking her benefactress, and promising
to pray for her, and admonishing her always to remember the four last

The Greek Emperor Theophilus was, after his death, condemned to the
pains of Purgatory, because he had been unable to perform the penances
which, towards the end of his life, he had wished to perform. His wife,
the pious Empress Theodora, was not satisfied with pouring forth
fervent prayers and sighs for the repose of his soul, but she also had
prayers and Masses said in all the convents of the city of
Constantinople. Besides this, she besought the Patriarch St. Methodius,
that for this end he would order prayers to be said by both the clergy
and the people of the city. Divine mercy could not resist so many
fervent prayers. On a certain day, when public prayers were again
offered up in the church of St. Sophia, an Angel appeared to St.
Methodius, and said to him: "Thy prayers, O Bishop, have been heard,
and Theophilus has obtained pardon." Theodora, the Empress, had, at the
same time, a vision, in which our Lord Himself announced to her that her
husband had been delivered from Purgatory. "For your sake," He said,
"and on account of the prayers of the priests, I pardon your husband."

* * * * *

In the life of Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque it is related that the
soul of one of her departed sisters appeared to her, and said: "There
you are, lying comfortably in your bed; but think of the bed on which I
am lying, and suffering the most excruciating pains." "I saw this bed,"
says the Saint, "and I still tremble in all my limbs at the mere
thought of it. The upper and lower part of it was full of red-hot sharp
iron points, penetrating into the flesh. She told me that she had to
endure this pain for her carelessness in the observance of her rules.
'My heart is lacerated,' she added, 'and this is the hardest of my
pains. I suffer it for those fault-finding and murmuring thoughts which
I entertained in my heart against my superiors. My tongue is eaten up
by moths, and tormented, on account of uncharitable words, and for
having unnecessarily spoken in the time of silence. Would to God that
all souls consecrated to the service of the Lord could see me in these
frightful pains! Would to God I could show them what punishments are
inflicted upon those who live negligently in their vocation! They would
indeed change their manner of living, observing most punctually the
smallest point of their rules, and guarding against those faults for
which I am now so much tormented.'"



"My daughter is just now dead; but come, lay thy hand upon her, and she
shall live."--St. Matt. ix. 18.

Such was the entreaty made by the ruler to our Lord in the Gospel, and
such are the words that the Lord says to us during the month of
November, in behalf of the poor souls in Purgatory. These souls have
been saved by the Precious Blood, they have been judged by Jesus Christ
with a favorable judgment, they are His spouses, His sons and
daughters--His children. He cries to us: "My children are even now
dead; but come, lay your hands upon them, and they shall live." What
hand is that which our Lord wants us to lay upon His dead children?
Brethren, it is the hand of prayer. Now, it seems to me that there are
three classes of persons who ought to be in an especial manner the
friends of God's dead children; three classes who ought always to be
extending a helping hand to the souls in Purgatory. First, the poor,
because the holy souls are poor like yourselves. They have no work--
that is to say, the day for them is past in which they could work and
gain indulgences and merit, the money with which the debt of temporal
punishment is paid; for them the "night has come when no man can work."
They are willing to work, they are willing to pay for themselves, but
they cannot; they are out of work, they are poor, they cannot help
themselves. They are suffering, as the poor suffer in this world from
the heats of summer and the frosts of winter. They have no food; they
are hungry and thirsty; they are longing for the sweets of heaven. They
are in exile; they have no home; they know there is abundance of food
and raiment around them which they cannot themselves buy. It seems to
them that the winter will never pass, that the spring will never come;
in a word they _are poor_. They are poor as many of you are poor.
They are in worse need than the most destitute among you. Oh! then, ye
that are poor, help the holy souls by your prayers. Secondly, the rich
ought to be the special friends of those who are in Purgatory, and
among the rich we wish to include those who are what people call
"comfortably off." God has given you charge of the poor; you can help
them by your alms in this world, so you can in the next. You can have
Masses said for them; you can say lots of prayers for them, because you
have plenty of time on your hands. Again remember, many of those who
were your equals in this world, who, like yourselves, had a good supply
of this world's goods, have gone to Purgatory because those riches were
a snare to them. Riches, my dear friends, have sent many a soul to the
place of purification. Oh! then, those of you who are well off, have
pity upon the poor souls in Purgatory. Offer up a good share of your
wealth to have Masses said for them. Do some act of charity, and offer
the merit of it for some soul who was ensnared by riches, and who is
now paying the penalty in suffering; and spend some considerable
portion of your spare time in praying for the souls of the faithful

And lastly, sinners and those who have been converted from a very
sinful life ought to be the friends of God's dead children. Why?
Because, although the souls in Purgatory cannot pray for themselves,
they can pray for others, and these prayers are most acceptable to God.
Because, too, they are full of gratitude, and they will not forget
those who helped them when they shall come before the throne of God.
Because sinners, having saddened the Sacred Heart of Jesus by their
sins, cannot make a better reparation to it than to hasten the time
when He shall embrace these souls whom He loves so dearly, and has
wished for so long. Because sinners have almost always been the means
of the sins of others. They have, by their bad example, sent others to
Purgatory. Ah! then, if they have helped them in, they should help them

You, then, that are poor, you that are rich, you that have been great
sinners, listen to the voice of Jesus; listen to the plaint of Mary
during this month of November; "My children are now dead; come lay thy
prayers up for them, and they shall live." Hear Mass for the poor
souls; say your beads for them; supplicate Jesus and Mary and Joseph in
their behalf. Fly to St. Catherine of Genoa and beg her to help them,
and many and many a time during the month say with great fervor: "May
the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in
peace."--_Five-Minute Sermons for Low Masses_.


[Footnote 1: From the "Original, Short and Practical Sermons for every
Feast of the Ecclesiastical Year."]


On the Feast of All Souls, and whenever we are reminded of Purgatory,
we cannot 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
offences committed against the infinite holiness and justice of God. It
is but just, therefore, that we should condole with them, and do all

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