Purgatory by Mary Anne Madden Sadlier

This E-text was prepared by Juliet Sutherland, Joshua Hutchinson, Charles Franks, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. PURGATORY: Doctrinal, Historical and Poetical, BY MRS. J. SADLIER LO! PURGATORY! DOCTRINE BLEST, ENGARLANDED WITH LEGENDS WILD, HISTORIC LORE AND POETRY’S FAIR FLOWERS! _”Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the just wait
This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
  • 1885
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days

This E-text was prepared by Juliet Sutherland, Joshua Hutchinson, Charles Franks, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.


Doctrinal, Historical and Poetical,




_”Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the just wait for me, until thou reward me.”_

Ps. CXLI 8.



R. I. P.


I have written many books and translated many more on a great variety of subjects, nearly all of which, I thank God now with all my heart, were more or less religious, at least in their tendency; but the circle of these my life-long labors seems to me incomplete. One link is wanting to the chain, and that is a work specially devoted to the souls in Purgatory. This omission I am anxious to supply while the working days of my life are still with me, for, a few more years, at most, and for me “the night cometh when no man can work.”

As we advance into the vale of years and journey on the downward slope, we are happily drawn more and more towards the eternal truths of the great untried world beyond the grave. Foremost amongst these stands out more and still more clearly, in all its awful reality, the dread but consoling doctrine of Purgatory. When we have seen many of our best beloved relatives, many of our dearest and most devoted friends–those who started with us in “the freshness of morning” on the road of life, which then lay so deceitfully fair and bright before them and us–they who shared our early hopes and aspirations, and whose words and smiles were the best encouragement of our feeble efforts–when we have seen them sink, one by one, into the darkness of the grave, leaving the earth more bleak and dreary year by year for those who remain–then do we naturally follow them in spirit to those gloomy regions where one or all may be undergoing that blessed purification which prepares them for the eternal repose of Heaven.

Of all the divine truths which the Catholic Church proposes to her children, assuredly none is more acceptable to the pilgrim race of Adam than that of Purgatory. It is, beyond conception, dear and precious as one of the links that connect the living with the vanished dead, and which keeps them fresh in the memory of those who loved them on earth, and whose dearest joy it is to be able to help them in that shadowy border-land through which, in pain and sorrow, they must journey before entering the Land of Promise, which is the City of God, seated on the everlasting hills.

When I decided on adding yet another to the many books on Purgatory already existing even in our own language, I, at the same time, resolved to make it as different as possible from all the others, and thus fill up a void of which I have long been sensible in our English Purgatorial literature. Doctrinal works, books of devotion, e have in abundance, but it is, unhappily, only the pious, the religiously- inclined who will read them. Knowing this, and still desirous to promote devotion to the Holy Souls by making Purgatory more real, more familiar to the general reader, I thought the very best means I could take for that end would be to make a book chiefly of legends and of poetry, with enough of doctrinal and devotional matter to give a substantial character to the work by placing it on the solid foundations of Catholic dogma, patristic authority, and that, at the same time, of the latest divines and theologians of the Church, by selections from their published writings.

I have divided the work into five parts, viz.: Doctrinal and Devotional, comprising extracts from Suarez, St. Catherine of Genoa, St. Augustine, St. Gertrude, St. Francis de Sales, of the earlier and middle ages; and from Archbishop Gibbons, Very Rev. Faa di Bruno, Father Faber, Father Muller, C.S.S.R., Father Binet, S.J., Rev. J. J. Moriarty, and others.

The Second Part consists of Anecdotes and Incidents relating to Purgatory, and more or less authentic. The Third Part contains historical matter bearing on the same subject, including Father Lambing’s valuable article on “The Belief in a Middle State of Souls after Death amongst Pagan Nations.” The Fourth Part is made up of “Thoughts on Purgatory, from Various Authors, Catholic and non- Catholic,” including Cardinals Newman, Wiseman, and Manning; the Anglican Bishops Jeremy Taylor and Reginald Heber, Dr. Samuel Johnson, William Hurrell Mallock, Count de Maistre, Chateaubriand.

The Fifth and last part consists of a numerous collection of legends and poems connected with Purgatory. Many of these are translated from the French, especially the _Legendes de l’Autre Monde,_ by the well-known legendist, J. Colin de Plancy. In selecting the legends and anecdotes, I have endeavored to give only those that were new to most English readers, thus leaving out many legends that would well bear reproducing, but were already too well known to excite any fresh interest.

In the poetical section I have represented as many as possible of the best-known poets, from Dante down, and some poems of rare beauty and merit were translated from French and Canadian poets by my daughter, who has also contributed some interesting articles for the historical portion of the work. As may be supposed, this book is the fruit of much research. The collection of the material has necessarily been a work of time, the field from which the gleanings were made being so vast, and the selections requiring so much care.

As regards the legendary portion of the work, whether prose or poetry, the reader will, of course, understand that I give the legends precisely for what they are worth; by no means as representing the doctrinal belief of Purgatory, but merely as some of the wild flowers of poetry and romance that have grown, in the long lapse of time, from the rich soil of faith and piety, amongst the Catholic peoples of every land–intensified, in this instance, by the natural affection of the living for their dear departed ones, and the solemn and shadowy mystery in which the dead are shrouded when once they have passed the portals of eternity and are lost to mortal sight. Some of these legends, though exceedingly beautiful, will hardly bear close examination in the light of Catholic dogma. Of this class is “The Faithful Soul,” of Adelaide Procter, which is merely given here as an old French legend, nearly connected with Purgatory, and having really nothing in it contrary to faith, though in a high degree improbable, but yet from its intrinsic beauty and dramatic character, no less than the subtle charm of Miss Procter’s verse, eminently worthy of a place in this collection. The same remark applies more or less to some of Colin de Plancy’s legends, notably that of “Robert the Devil’s Penance,” and others of a similar kind, as also T. D. McGee’s “Penance of Don Diego Rias” and Calderon’s “St. Patrick’s Purgatory”–the two last named bearing on the same subject. Nevertheless, they all come within the scope of my present work and are, therefore, presented to the reader as weird fragments of the legendary lore of Purgatory.

Taken altogether, I think this work will help to increase devotion to the Suffering Souls, and excite a more tender and more sensible feeling of sympathy for them, at least amongst Catholics, showing, as it does, the awful reality of those purgative pains awaiting all, with few or no exceptions, in the after life; the help they may and do receive from the good offices of the living, and the sacred and solemn’ duty it is for Christians in the present life to remember them and endeavor to relieve their sufferings by every means in their power. To answer this purpose I have made the dead ages unite their solemn and authoritative voice with that of the living, actual present in testimony of the truth of this great Catholic dogma. The Saints, the Fathers, the Doctors of the Church in the ages of antiquity, and the prelates and priests of our own day all speak the same language of undoubting faith, of solemn conviction regarding Purgatory,–make the same earnest and eloquent appeal to the faithful on behalf of the dear suffering souls. Even the heathen nations and tribes of both hemispheres are brought forward as witnesses to the existence of a middle state in the after life. Nor is Protestantism itself wanting in this great and overwhelming mass of evidence, as the reader will perceive that some of its most eminent divines and secular writers have joined, with no hesitating or faltering voice, in the grand _Credo_ of the nations and the ages in regard to Purgatory.

What remains for me to add except the earnest hope that this book may have the effect it is intended to produce by bringing the faithful children of the Church to think more and oftener of their departed brethren who, having passed from the Militant to the Suffering Church, are forever crying out to the living from their darksome prison–“Have pity on us, have pity on us, at least you who were our friends, have pity on us, for the hand of the Lord is heavy upon us!”





Doctrine of Suarez on Purgatory
St. Catherine of Genoa on Purgatory Extracts from the Fathers on Purgatory
Verses from the Imitation _Thomas a Kempis._ St. Augustine and his Mother, St. Monica St. Gertrude and the Holy Souls
St. Joseph’s Intercession for the Faithful Departed St. Francis de Sales on Purgatory
Cardinal Gibbons on Purgatory
Archbishop Hughes on Purgatory
Archbishop Lynch on Purgatory
Purgatory Surveyed _Father Binet, S. J._ Father Faber on Devotion to the Holy Souls Why the Souls in Purgatory are called “Poor” _Mullcr._ Appeal to all Classes for the Souls in Purgatory _By a Paulist Father._
The Souls in Purgatory _Rev. F. X. Weninger, S. J._ Popular View of Purgatory _Rev. J. J. Moriarty._ Extracts from “Catholic Belief” _Very Rev. Faa Di Bruno, D.D._ Purgatory and the Feast of All Souls _Alban Butkr._



The Fruit of a Mass _Almanac of the Souls in Purgatory_. Faith of a Pious Lady _Almanac of the Souls in Purgatory_. Pay what Thou Owest _Ave Maria_.
VIA CRUCIS _Footsteps of Spirits_. Strange Incidents _Footsteps of Spirits_. True Story of the “_De Profundis_” _Ave Maria_. Confidence Rewarded _Almanac of the Souls in Purgatory_ Anecdote of the “_De Profundis_”
Strange Occurrence in a Persian Prison _Life of St. John the Almoner_.
A Swiss Protestant Converted by the Doctrine of Purgatory _Catechism in Examples_.
The Dead Hand _Ave Maria_.
A Beautiful Example _Almanac of the Souls in Purgatory_. How to Pay One’s Debts _Almanac of the Souls in Purgatory_. Faith Rewarded _Almanac of the Souls in Purgatory_. Apparition of a Citizen of Arles _Histoire des Spectres_. Countess of Strafford _Vie de Monsgr. de la Mothe_.

Marquis de Civrac _Une Commune Vendeenne. 183 Gratitude of the Holy Souls _Ave Maria_. Strange Incident _Ave Maria_.



Doctrine of Purgatory amongst the Pagan Nations of Antiquity _Rev. A. A. Lambing_.
Devotion to the Dead amongst American Indians Superstitious Belief amongst American Indians Remembrance, of the Dead amongst the Egyptians Remembrance of the Dead throughout Europe _A. T. Sadlier_. Part I.
Remembrance of the Dead throughout Europe _A. T. Sadlier_. Part II.
Prayer for the Dead in the Anglo-Saxon Church _Dr. Lingard_ Singular French Custom _Voix de la Verite_ Devotion to the Holy Souls amongst the Early English _A. T. Sadlier_
Doctrine of Purgatory in the Early Irish Church _Walsh_ Prince Napoleon’s Prayer
Helpers of the Holy Souls _Lady G. Fullerton_ The Mass in Relation to the Dead _O’Brien_ Daniel O’Connell, Funeral Oration on _Rev. T. N. Burke, O.P._ Indulgence of the Portiuncula _Almanac of the Souls in Purgatory_.
Catherine of Cardona _Almanac of the Souls in Purgatory_. The Emperor Nicholas Praying for his Mother _Anecdotes Chretiennes_.
Pius VI., Funeral Oration on _Rev. Arthur O’Leary, O.S.F._ Rev. Arthur O’Leary, O.S.F., Funeral Oration on _Rev. M. D’Arcy_ _De Mortuis_. Our Deceased Prelates. _Archbishop Corrigan_



Purgatory _Cardinal Newman_
Our Debt to the Dead _Cardinal Manning_ Purgatory _Cardinal Wiseman_
Reply to some Misstatements about Purgatory _Archbishop Spalding_
Count de Maistre on Purgatory
What the Saints thought of Purgatory Chateaubriand on Purgatory
Mary and the Faithful Departed _Brother Azarias._ Dr. Johnson on Prayer for the Dead
The Doctrine of Purgatory _Burnett._ Mallock on Purgatory
Boileau-Despreaux and Prayer for the Dead All Saints and All Souls _Mrs. Sadlier._ Leibnitz on the Mass as a Propitiatory Sacrifice Extracts from “A Troubled Heart”
Eugenie de Guerin and her Brother Maurice Passages from the “Via Media” _Newman._ All Souls _From the French._
An Anglican Bishop Praying for the Dead “Purgatory” of Dante _Mariotti._
Month of November _Mary E. Blake._ Litany of the Departed _Acolytus._
All Souls’ Day _Mrs. Sadlier._
Opinions of Various Protestants
Some Thoughts for November



_Dies Irae_
Authorship of the _Dies Irae_
Dante’s _”Purgatorio”_
Hamlet and the Ghost _Shakespeare._ Calderon’s “Purgatory of St. Patrick”
The Brig o’ Dread _Scott._
Shelley and the Purgatory of St. Patrick On a Great Funeral _Aubrey de Vere._
_Morte d’Arthur_ _Tennyson._
Guido and his Brother _Collin de Plancy._ Berthold in Purgatory _Collin de Plancy._ Legend of St. Nicholas _Collin de Planey._ Dream of Gerontius _Newman. St. Gregory_ Releases the Soul of Trajan _Mrs. Jameson._ St. Gregory and the Monk Legend of Geoffroid d’lden The Queen of Purgatory _Faber_.
The Dead Priest before the Altar _Rev. A. J. Ryan_. Memorials of the Dead _R. R. Madden_.
A Child’s “_Requiescat in Pace_” _Eliza Allen Starr_. The Solitary Soul _Ave Maria_.
Story of the Faithful Soul _Adelaide Procter_. Generade, the Friend of St. Augustine _De Plancy_ St. Thomas Aquinas and Friar Romanus _De Plancy_. The Key that Never Turns _Eleanor C. Donnelly_. A Burial _Thomas Davis_.
Hymn for the Dead _Newman_.
The Two Students _De Plancy_.
The Penance of Don Diego Riaz _McGee_. The Day of All Souls _Eliza Allen Starr_. Message of the November Wind _Eleanor C. Donnelly_. Legend of the Time of Charlemagne
The Dead Mass
The Eve of St. John _Sir Walter Scott_. Request of a Soul in Purgatory
All Souls’ _Marion Muir_.
The Dead _Octave Cremasie_
A REQUIEM _Sir Walter Scott_.
Penance of Robert the Devil _De Plancy_. All Souls’ Eve
Commemoration of All Souls _Harriet M. Skidmore_. The Memory of the Dead _Faber_.
The Holy Souls.
Author of “Christian Schools and Scholars.” The Palmer’s Rosary _Eliza Allen Starr_. A Lyke Wake Dirge.
All Souls’ Day _Lyra Liturgica_.
The Suffering Souls. _E. M. V. Bulger._ “The Voices of the Dead.” _M. R. in “The Lamp.”_ The Convent Cemetery. _Rev. A. J. Ryan._ One Hour after Death. _Eliza Allen Starr._ A Prayer for the Dead. _T. D. McGee._
The _De Profundis Bell._ _Harriet M. Skidmore._ November. _Anna T. Sadlier._
For the Souls in Purgatory.
All Souls’ Eve.
Our Neighbor. _Eliza Allen Starr._ Old Bells.
O Holy Church. _Harriet M. Skidmore._ An Incident of the Battle of Bannockburn. _Sir Walter Scott._ Pray for the Martyred Dead.
In Winter. _Eliza Allen Starr._
_Oremus._ _Mary E. Mannix._
Funeral Hymn. _A. T. Sadlier._
_Chant Funebre._ _Nisard._
_Requiescat in Pace._ _Harriet M. Skidmore._ The Feast of All Souls in the Country. _Anna T. Sadlier._ _Requiem AEternum_ _T. D. McGee._


Association of Masses and Stations of the Cross. Extracts from _The Catholic Review_ of New York. A Duty of November. _The Texas Monitor._ Purgatorial Association. _Catholic Columbian._ The Holy Face and the Suffering Souls.
When will they Learn its Secret? _Baptist Examiner._



“But now, brethren, if I come to you, speaking with tongues: what shall I profit you, unless I speak to you either in revelation, or in knowledge, or in prophecy, or in doctrine?”





It is a certain truth of faith that after this life there is a place of Purgatory. Though the name of Purgatory may not be found in Holy Scripture, that does not matter, if we can show that the thing meant by the name can be found there; for often the Church, either because of new heresies, or that the doctrine of the faith may be set forth more clearly and shortly, gives new and simple names, in which the mysteries of the faith are summed up. This is evident in the cases of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Holy Eucharist.

The doctrine of Purgatory is proved by:–the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Councils of the Church, especially those of Florence and of Trent, the Fathers and Tradition, and by theological reasons.


Nothing is said in Holy Scripture about this place, nor is there any definition of the Church concerning it. The subject, therefore, comes within the range of theological discussion. Theologians, however, suppose Purgatory to be a certain corporeal place, in which souls are kept till they pay fully the debt which they owe. It is true that they do not in themselves need a corporeal place, since they are spirits; but yet, as they are in this world, they must, of necessity, be in some corporeal place–at any rate, with regard to substantial presence. Thus we see that God, in His providence, has made definite places for the Angels, according to the difference of their states. Gehenna is prepared for the devil and his angels, whereas the empyreal Heaven is made for the good angels. In this way, it is certain that the souls, paying their debt, are kept in a corporeal place. This place is not heaven, for nothing that is defiled enters there; nor is it hell, for in hell there is no redemption, and from that place no souls can be saved.


The pain of loss is the want of the vision of God and of the whole of our everlasting beatitude. The pain of sense is the suffering of punishment specially inflicted over and above the loss of the beatitude of Heaven.

We must assert that the souls in Purgatory suffer the pain of loss, tempered by hope, and not like the souls in hell, which have no hope.

In the pain of sense we can distinguish two things. There is the sorrow which follows closely the want or delay of the vision of God, and has that for its object. There is also another pain, as it were outward, and this is proportioned to the sensible pain which is caused in us by fire, or any like action, contrary to nature and hurtful to it. That in Purgatory this sorrow does follow the loss of God is most certain; for that loss, or delay, is truly a great evil, and is most keenly felt to be such by those souls that with all their strength love God and long to see Him. Therefore, it is impossible for them not to feel the greatest sorrow about that delay.

* * * * *

We must assert that, besides the pain of loss and the sorrow annexed to it, there is in Purgatory a proper and peculiar pain of sense. This is the more common judgment of the scholastics; and seems to be received by the common judgment and approbation of the Church. Indeed, the equity of the avenging justice of God requires this. The sinner, through inordinate delight in creatures and affection for them, deserves a punishment contrary to that delight; and if in this life he has not made full satisfaction, he must be punished and freed by some such pain as this, which we call the pain of sense. Theologians in common teach this, and distinguish a proper pain of sense from the sorrow caused by the want of the vision of God. Thus they distinguish spiritual pains, such as sorrow for the delay of the vision, and remorse of conscience, from corporeal pains, which come from the fire, or any other instrument of God. These corporeal pains we comprehend under the pain of sense.

* * * * *

Whether, besides the fire, other corporeal things, such as water and snow, are used as instruments for punishing the souls is uncertain. Bede says that souls in Purgatory were seen to pass from very great heat to very great cold, and then from cold to heat. St. Anselm mentions these punishments disjunctively. He says, “or any other kind of punishments.” We cannot, therefore, speak of this with certainty.


In this matter we may look at the pain of loss as well as the pain of sense. It is certain that the pain of loss is very sharp, because of the greatness of the good for which they wait. True, it is only for a time; yet it is rightly reckoned, as St. Thomas taught, a greater evil than any loss in this life. He and other theologians with him mean that the sorrow also which springs from the apprehension of this evil is greater than any pain or sorrow here. Hence, they conclude that the pain of loss in every way exceeds all pains of this life; for they think, as I have already noted, that this sorrow pertains to the pain of loss, and therefore they join this pain with privation, that the punishment may be greater in every way…. The vision of God and the beatitude of heaven are such that the possession of them, even for a day, could exceed all goods of this life taken together and possessed for a long time…. Therefore, even a short delay of such a good is a very heavy sorrow, far exceeding all the pains of this life. The Holy Souls well understand and weigh the greatness of this evil; and very piercing is the pain they feel, because they know that they are suffering through their own negligence and by their own fault…. There are, however, certain things which would seem to have power to lessen their pain:

1. They are certain of future glory. This hope must bring them much joy; as St. Paul says, “rejoicing in hope.” (Roms. xii. 12.)

2. There is the rightness of their will, by which they are conformed to the justice of God. Hence, it follows that, in a certain sense, their pain is voluntary, and thus not so severe.

3. By the love of God they not only bear their punishment, but rejoice in it, because they see that it is the means of satisfying God and being brought to Heaven.

4. If they choose, they can turn their thoughts from the pain of delay, and give them very attentively to the good of hope. This would bring them consolation.


It is the common judgment of theologians, with St. Augustine, St. Thomas, and St. Bonaventure, that this pain is bitterer than all pain of this life…. Theologians, in common with St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure, teach that the pain of Purgatory is not in any way inflicted by devils. These souls are just and holy. They cannot sin any more; and, to the last, they have overcome the assaults of the devils. It would not, therefore, be fitting that such souls should be given into their power to be tormented by them. Again, when the devils tempt wayfarers, they do it because they hope to lead them into sin, however perfect they may be; but they could have no such hope about the souls in Purgatory, and so would not be likely to tempt them. Besides, they know that their temptations or harassings would have an effect not intended by them, and would bring the souls from Purgatory to Heaven more quickly.

* * * * *

It is the common law that souls in Purgatory, during the whole time that they are there, cannot come out from the prison, even if they wish; The constant closing of the prison-doors is a part of the severity of their punishment. So teach St. John Chrysostom, St. Athanasius, and St. Augustine…. The reason for this is the law of the justice of God. The souls of the lost are kept in prison by force and against their will. The souls in Purgatory stay there willingly, for they understand the just will of God and submit to it. This law, however, can be sometimes dispensed with; and so St. Augustine holds it to be probable that there are often true apparitions of the Holy Souls by the permission of God…. It is true that, as a rule, these are apparitions of souls, who, by a special decree of God, are suffering their Purgatory somewhere in this world…. One thing, however, we must note in these cases. When such a permission is given, the pain of the soul is not interrupted. This is not only seen from the visions themselves, but is what reason requires.

* * * * *

Here occurs the question whether the Holy Souls pray for us and can gain anything for us by merit of congruity, or, at least, impetrate it for us, as others prefer to say. Some have said that they do not thus pray for us, because it is not fitting to their state, in that they are debtors and, as it were, kept in prison for their debts; and also because they do not see God, and so do not know what is done here. They might know such things by special revelations, but revelations of this kind are not due to their state. But surely their penal state does not necessarily hinder the Holy Souls from praying for, and impetrating for us. They are holy and dear to God; and they love us with charity, remembering us, and knowing, at least in a general way, the dangers in which we live; they understand also how greatly we need the help of God: why, then, should they not be able to pray for us, even though in another way they are paying to God their debt of punishment? For we also in this life are debtors to God, and yet we pray for others…. Besides, we may well believe that the Holy Angels make revelations to the souls in Purgatory about their relatives or friends still living on this earth. They will do this for the consolation of the Holy Souls, or that they may know what to ask for us in particular cases, or that they may know of our prayers for them.


This Holy Soul, while still in the flesh, was placed in the purgatory of the burning love of God, in whose flames she was purified from every stain, so that when she passed from this life she might be ready to enter the presence of God, her most sweet love. By means of that flame of love she comprehended in her own soul the condition of the souls of the faithful in Purgatory, where they are purified from the rust and stain of sins, from which they have not been cleansed in this world. And as in the purgatory of that divine flame she was united with the divine love and satisfied with all that was accomplished in her, she was enabled to comprehend the state of the souls in Purgatory, and thus discoursed concerning it:

“As far as I can see, the souls in Purgatory can have no choice but be there; this God has most justly ordained by His divine decree. They cannot turn towards themselves and say, ‘I have committed such and such sins for which I deserve to remain here;’ nor can they say, ‘Would that I had refrained from them, for then I should at this moment be in Paradise;’ nor again, ‘This soul will be released before me;’ or, ‘I shall be released before her.’ They retain no memory of either good or evil respecting themselves or others which would increase their pain. They are so contented with the divine inspirations in their regard, and with doing all that is pleasing to God in that way which he chooses, that they cannot think of themselves, though they may strive to do so. They see nothing but the operation of the divine goodness which is so manifestly bringing them to God that they can reflect neither on their own profit nor on their hurt. Could they do so, they would not be in pure charity. They see not that they suffer their pains in consequence of their sins, nor can they for a moment entertain that thought, for should they do so it would be an active imperfection, and that cannot exist in a state where there is no longer the possibility of sin. At the moment of leaving this life, they see why they are sent to Purgatory, but never again; otherwise they would still retain something private, which has no place there. Being established in charity, they can never deviate therefrom by any defect, and have no will or desire save the pure will of pure love, and can swerve from it in nothing. They can neither commit sin nor merit by refraining from it.

* * * * *

“There is no peace to be compared with that of the souls in Purgatory, save that of the saints in Paradise, and this peace is ever augmented by the inflowing of God into these souls, which increases in proportion as the impediments to it are removed. The rust of sin is the impediment, and this the fire continually consumes, so that the soul in this state is continually opening itself to admit the divine communication. As a covered surface can never reflect the sun, not through any defect in that orb, but simply from the resistance offered by the covering, so, if the covering be gradually removed, the surface will by little and little be opened to the sun and will more and more reflect his light. So it is with the rust of sin, which is the covering of the soul. In Purgatory the flames incessantly consume it, and as it disappears the soul reflects more and more perfectly the true sun, who is God. Its contentment increases as this rust wears away, and the soul is laid bare to the divine ray; and thus one increases and the other decreases until the time is accomplished. The pain never diminishes, although the time does; but, as to the will, so united is it to God by pure charity, and so satisfied to be under His divine appointment, that these souls can never say their pains are pains.

“On the other hand, it is true that they suffer torments which no tongue can describe nor any intelligence comprehend, unless it be revealed by such a special grace as that which God has vouchsafed to me, but which I am unable to explain. And this vision which God revealed to me has never departed from my memory. I will describe it as far as I am able, and they whose intellects our Lord will deign to open will understand me.

* * * * *

“The source of all suffering is either original or actual sin. God created the soul pure, simple, free from every stain, and with a certain beatific instinct towards Himself. It is drawn aside from Him by original sin, and when actual sin is afterwards added this withdraws it still farther, and ever, as it removes from Him, its sinfulness increases because its communication with God grows less and less.

* * * * *

“Since the souls in Purgatory are freed from the guilt of sin, there is no barrier between them and God save only the pains they suffer, which delay the satisfaction of their desire. And when they see how serious is even the slightest hindrance, which the necessity of justice causes to check them, a vehement flame kindles within them, which is like that of hell. They feel no guilt, however, and it is guilt which is the cause of the malignant will of the condemned in hell, to whom God does not communicate His goodness; and thus they remain in despair and with a will forever opposed to the good-will of God.

* * * * *

“The souls in Purgatory are entirely conformed to the will of God; therefore, they correspond with His goodness, are contented with all that He ordains, and are entirely purified from the guilt of their sins. They are pure from sins because they have in this life abhorred them and confessed them with true contrition; and for this reason God remits their guilt, so that only the stains of sin remain, and these must be devoured by the fire. Thus freed from guilt and united to the will of God, they see Him clearly according to that degree of light which He allows them, and comprehend how great a good is the fruition of God, for which all souls were created. Moreover, these souls are in such close conformity to God and are drawn so powerfully toward Him by reason of the natural attraction between Him and the soul, that no illustration or comparison could make this impetuosity understood in the way in which my spirit conceives it by its interior sense. Nevertheless, I will use one which occurs to me.

“Let us suppose that in the whole world there were but one loaf to appease the hunger of every creature, and that the bare sight of it would satisfy them. Now man, when in health, has by nature the instinct for food, but if we can suppose him to abstain from it and neither die, nor yet lose health and strength, his hunger would clearly become increasingly urgent. In this case, if he knew that nothing but this loaf would satisfy him, and that until he reached it his hunger could not be appeased, he would suffer intolerable pain, which would increase as his distance from the loaf diminished; but if he were sure that he would never see it, his hell would be as complete as that of the damned souls, who, hungering after God, have no hope of ever seeing the bread of life. But the souls in Purgatory have an assured hope of seeing Him and of being entirely satisfied; and therefore they endure all hunger and suffer all pain until that moment when they enter into eternal possession of this bread, which is Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Saviour, and our Love.

* * * * *

“I will say, furthermore: I see that as far as God is concerned, Paradise has no gates, but he who will may enter. For God is all mercy, and His open arms are ever extended to receive us into His glory. But I see that the divine essence is so pure–purer than the imagination can conceive–that the soul, finding in itself the slightest imperfection, would rather cast itself into a thousand hells than appear, so stained, in the presence of the divine majesty. Knowing, then, that Purgatory was intended for her cleansing, she throws herself therein, and finds there that great mercy, the removal of her stains.

“The great importance of Purgatory, neither mind can conceive nor tongue describe. I see only that its pains are as great as those of hell; and yet I see that a soul, stained with the slightest fault, receiving this mercy, counts the pains as nought in comparison with this hindrance to her love. And I know that the greatest misery of the souls in Purgatory is to behold in themselves aught that displeases God, and to discover that, in spite of His goodness, they had consented to it. And this is because, being in the state of grace, they see the reality and the importance of the impediments which hinder their approach to God.

* * * * *

“From that furnace of divine love I see rays of fire dart like burning lamps towards the soul; and so violent and powerful are they that both soul and body would be utterly destroyed, if that were possible. These rays perform a double office; they purify and they annihilate.

“Consider gold: the oftener it is melted the more pure does it become; continue to melt it and every imperfection is destroyed. This is the effect of fire on all materials. The soul, however, cannot be annihilated in God, but in herself she can, and the longer her purification lasts the more perfectly does she die to herself, until at length she remains purified in God.

“When gold has been completely freed from dross, no fire, however great, has any further action on it, for nothing but its imperfections can be consumed. So it is with the divine fire in the soul. God retains her in these flames until every stain is burned away, and she is brought to the highest perfection of which she is capable, each soul in her own degree. And when this is accomplished, she rests wholly in God. Nothing of herself remains, and God is her entire being. When He has thus led her to Himself and purified her, she is no longer passible, for nothing remains to be consumed. If, when thus refined, she should again approach the fire she would feel no pain, for to her it has become the fire of divine love, which is life eternal and which nothing mars.”

* * * * *

And thus this blessed Soul, illuminated by the divine ray, said: “Would that I could utter so strong a cry that it would strike all men with terror, and say to them: O wretched beings! why are you so blinded by this world that you make, as you will find at the hour of death, no provision for the great necessity that will then come upon you?

“You shelter yourselves beneath the hope of the mercy of God, which you unceasingly exalt, not seeing that it is your resistance to His great goodness which will be your condemnation. His goodness should constrain you to His will, not encourage you to persevere in your own. Since His justice is unfailing, it must needs be in some way fully satisfied.

“Have not the boldness to say: ‘I will go to confession and gain a plenary indulgence, and thus I shall be saved?’ Remember that the full confession and entire contrition which are requisite to gain a plenary indulgence are not easily attained. Did you know how hardly they are come by, you would tremble with fear and be more sure of losing than of gaining them.”


[Footnote 1: These extracts are purposely different from those quoted by the learned author of “Purgatory Surveyed,” in that portion of his treatise herein comprised.]

ST. CYPRIAN [1] writes: “Our predecessors prudently advised that no brother, departing this life should nominate any churchman his executor; and should he do it, that no oblation should be made for him, nor sacrifice offered for his repose; of which we have had a late example, when no oblation was made, nor prayer, in his name, offered in the Church.” [2]

[Footnote 1: Ep., xlvi., p. 114.]

[Footnote 2: Cardinal Wiseman commenting upon this passage, says: “It was considered, therefore, a severe punishment, that prayers and sacrifices should not be offered up for those who had violated any of the ecclesiastical laws.”–_Lectures on the Catholic Church._ Lecture xi., p. 59.]

ORIGEN, who wrote in the same century as Cyprian, and some two hundred years after Christ, speaks as follows, in language the most distinct, upon our doctrine of Purgatory: “When we depart this life, if we take with us virtues or vices, shall we receive reward for our virtues, and shall those trespasses be forgiven to us which we knowingly committed; or shall we be punished for our faults, and not receive the reward of our virtues? Neither is true: because we shall suffer for our sins and receive the reward of our virtues. For if on the foundation of Christ you shall have built not only gold and silver and precious stones, but also wood and hay and stubble, what do you expect when the soul shall be separated from the body? Would you enter into Heaven with your wood, and hay, and stubble, to defile the Kingdom of God; or on account of those encumbrances remain without, and receive no reward for your gold and silver and precious stones? Neither is this just. It remains, then, that you be committed to the fire, which shall consume the light materials; for our God, to those who can comprehend heavenly things, is called a _consuming fire_. But this fire consumes not the creature, but what the creature has himself built–wood, and hay, and stubble. It is manifest that, in the first place, the fire destroys the wood of our transgressions, and then returns to us the reward of our good works.” [1]

[Footnote 1: Homil. xvi al. xii. in Jerem. T. iii. p. 231,232.]

ST. BASIL, or a contemporary author, thus writes, commenting on the words of Isaiah: “Through the wrath of the Lord is the land burned; the things which are earthly are made the food of a punishing fire; to the end, that the soul may receive favor and be benefited.” He continues: “And the people shall be as the fuel of the fire.” (_Ibid_.) This is not a threat of extermination; but it denotes expurgation, [1] according to the expression of the Apostles: “If any man’s works burn, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.” (1 Cor. iii. 15.) [2]

[Footnote 1: Cardinal Wiseman in commenting upon this passage, says: “Now, mark well the word purgation here used. For it proves that our very term of Purgatory is not modern in the Church.”–_Lectures on the Catholic Church_. Lecture xi., p. 60.]

[Footnote 2: Com. in C., ix. Isai. T. I., p. 554.]

The following is from ST. EPHREM, of Edessa: “My brethren, come to me, and prepare me for my departure, for my strength is wholly gone. Go along with me in psalms and in your prayers; and please constantly to make oblations for me. When the thirtieth day [1] shall be completed, then remember me: for the dead are helped by the offerings of the living. If also the sons of Mathathias, who celebrated their feasts in figures only, could cleanse those from guilt by their offerings who fell in battle, how much more shall the priests of Christ aid the dead by their oblations and prayers?” [2]

[Footnote 1: “The very day,” says Cardinal Wiseman, “observed by the Catholic Church with peculiar solemnity, in praying and observing Mass for the dead”. Archbishop Corrigan, of New York, in announcing to the clergy of his diocese the death of His Eminence the late Cardinal McCloskey, speaks as follows: “The reverend rectors are also requested to have solemn services for the soul of our late beloved chief pastor, on the _seventh_ and _thirtieth_ day.”]

[Footnote 2: In Testament. T. ii., p. 334. p. 371, Edit. Oxen.]

Thus speaks ST. GREGORY of Nyssa: “In the present life, God allows man to remain subject to what himself has chosen; that, having tasted of the evil which he desired, and learned by experience how bad an exchange has been made, he might feel an ardent wish to lay down the load of those vices and inclinations, which are contrary to reason; and thus, in this life, being renovated by prayers and the pursuit of wisdom, or, in the next, being expiated by the purging fire, he might recover the state of happiness which he had lost…. When he has quitted his body, and the difference between virtue and vice is known, he cannot be admitted to approach the Divinity till the purging fire shall have expiated the stains with which his soul was infected. The same fire, in others, will cancel the corruption of matter and the propensity to evil.” [1]

[Footnote 1: Orat. de Defunctis. T. ii., p. 1066, 1067, 1068.]

ST. CYRIL of Jerusalem: “Then” (in the Liturgy of the Church) “we pray for the holy Fathers and Bishops that are dead; and, in short, for all those who are departed this life in our communion; believing that the souls of those, for whom the prayers, are offered, receive very great relief while this holy and tremendous victim lies upon the altar.” [1]

[Footnote 1: Catech. Mystag., V. N., ix., x., p. 328.]

ST. EPIPHANIUS writes: “There is nothing more opportune, nothing more to be admired, than the rite which directs the names of the dead to be mentioned. They are aided by the prayer that is offered for them, though it may not cancel all their faults. We mention both the just and sinners, in order that for the latter we may obtain mercy.” [1]

[Footnote 1: Haer. IV. Lib. LXXV., T. i., p. 911.]

ST. AUGUSTINE speaks as follows: “The prayers of the Church, or of good persons, are heard in favor of those Christians who departed this life not so bad as to be deemed unworthy of mercy, nor so good as to be entitled to immediate happiness. So also, at the resurrection of the dead, there will some be found, to whom mercy will be imparted, having gone through these pains, to which the spirits of the dead are liable. Otherwise it would not have been said of some with truth, that their sin shall not be forgiven, neither in this world nor in the world to come (Matt. xii., 32) unless some sins were remitted in the next world.” [1]

[Footnote 1: De Civit. Dei., Lib. XX, c. xxiv., p. 492.]

In another passage he comments on the words of St. Paul: “If they had built _gold_ and _silver_ and _precious stones,_ they would be secure from both fires; not only from that in which the wicked shall be punished for ever, but likewise from that fire which will purify those who shall be saved by fire. But because it is said _he shall be saved,_ that fire is thought lightly of; though the suffering will be more grievous than anything man can undergo in this life.”

Let us hear ST. JEROME: [1] “As we believe the torments of the devil, and of those wicked men who said in their hearts _there is no God,_ to be eternal, so, in regard to those sinners who have not denied their faith, and whose works will be proved and purged by fire, we conclude that the sentence of the Judge will be tempered by mercy.”

[Footnote 1: Comment. in c. xv., Isai., T. ii., p. 492.]

St. Jerome thus speaks in his letter to Paula, concerning the death and burial of her mother, Eustochium: “From henceforward there were no wailings nor lamentations as are usual amongst men of this world, but the swarms of those present resounded with psalms in various tongues. And being removed by the hands of the bishops, and by those placing their shoulders under the bier, while other pontiffs were carrying lamps and wax tapers, and others led the choirs of psalmodists, she was laid in the middle of the church of the cave of the Saviour…. Psalms resounded in the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Syriac tongues, not only during the three days intervening until she was laid under the church and near the cave of the Lord, but through the entire week.”

ST. AMBROSE has many passages throughout his works, as Dr. Wiseman remarks. Thus he quotes St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (iii., 5): “‘If any man’s works burn he shall suffer loss; but he shall be saved, yet so as by fire.’ He will be saved, the Apostle said, because his substance shall remain, while his bad doctrine shall perish. Therefore, he said, yet so as by fife, in order that his salvation be not understood to be without pain. He shows that he shall be saved indeed, but he shall undergo the pain of fire, and be thus purified, not like the unbelieving and wicked man who shall be punished in everlasting fire.” [1]

[Footnote 1: Comment. in I Ep. ad Cor., T. ii.; in App, p. 122.]

The following is from his funeral oration on the Emperor Theodosius: “Lately we deplored together his death, and now, while Prince Honorius is present before our altars, we celebrate the fortieth day. Some observe the third and the thirtieth, others the seventh and the fortieth. Give, O Lord, rest to Thy servant Theodosius, that rest which Thou hast prepared for Thy Saints. May his soul thither tend, whence it came, where it cannot feel the sting of death, where it will learn that death is the termination, not of nature, but of sin. I loved him, therefore will I follow him to the land of the living; I will not leave him, till, by my prayers and lamentation, he shall be admitted to the holy mount of the Lord to which his deserts call him.” [1]

[Footnote 1: De obitu. Theodosii. Ibid., pp. 1197-8; 1207-8.]

He thus concludes his letter to ST. FAUSTINUS on the death of his sister: “Therefore I consider her not so much to be deplored as to be followed by our prayers, nor do I think that her soul should be saddened with tears, but rather commended to the Lord in oblations. For our flesh cannot be perpetual or lasting; it must necessarily fall in order that it may rise again–it must be dissolved in order that it may rest, and that there may be some end of sin.” [1]

[Footnote 1: St. Ambr., p. 39, ad Faustini, t. 2, p 944, ed. Ben.]

In his funeral oration upon his brother Satyrus, he cries out: “To Thee now, O omnipotent God, I commend this innocent soul,–to Thee I offer my victim. Accept graciously and serenely the gift of the brother–the sacrifice of the priest.”

[Footnote 1: De excessu frateris satyri, No. 80, p. 1135.]

In his discourse on the deceased Emperor Valentinian the Younger, murdered in 392: “Give the holy mysteries to the dead. Let us, with pious earnestness, beg repose for his soul. Lift up your hands with me, O people, that at least by this duty we may make some return for his benefits.” [1] Joining him with the Emperor Gratian, his brother, dead some years before, he says: “Both blessed, if my prayers can be of any force! No duty shall pass over you in silence. No prayer of mine shall ever be closed without remembering you. No night shall pass you over without some vows of my supplications. You shall have a share in all my sacrifices. If I forget you let my own right hand be forgotten.” [2]

[Footnote 1: St. Ambr. de obitu Valent, No. 56, t. 2, p 1189, ed. Bened.]

[Footnote 2: Ibid., No. 78, p. 1194.]

“It was not in vain,” says ST. CHRYSOSTOM, “that the apostles ordained a commemoration of the deceased in the holy and tremendous mysteries. They were sensible of the benefit and advantage which accrues to them from this practice. For, when the congregation stands with open arms as well as the priests, and the tremendous sacrifice is before them, how should our prayers for them not appease God? But this is said of such as have departed in faith.” [1]

[Footnote 1: Hom. 3 in Phil., t. n., p. 217 ed. Montfauc.]

ST. AUGUSTINE again says: “Nor is it to be denied that the souls of the departed are relieved by the piety of their living friends, when the sacrifice of the Mediator is offered for them, or alms are given in the Church. But these things are profitable to those who, while they lived, deserved that they might avail them. There is a life so good as not to require them, and there is another so wicked that after death it can receive no benefit from them. When, therefore, the sacrifices of the altar or alms are offered for all Christians, for the very good they are thanksgivings, they are propitiations for those who are not very bad. For the very wicked, they are some kind of comfort to the living.”

In another of his works he says that prayer for the dead in the holy mysteries was observed by the whole church. He expounds the thirty- seventh Psalm as having reference to Purgatory. The words: “Rebuke me not in thy fury, neither chastise me in thy wrath,” he explains as follows: “That you purify me in this life, and render me such that I may not stand in need of that purging fire.”

ARNOBIUS speaks of the public liturgies: “In which peace and pardon are begged of God for kings, magistrates, friends and enemies, both the living and those who are delivered from the body.”

To these few extracts, which space permits, might be added innumerable others from St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Athanasius, St. Paulinus, St. Eusebius, Lactantius, Tertullian, St. Caesarius of Arles, St. Bernard, Venerable Bede, St. Thomas Aquinas, and so on down to our own immediate time. Their testimony is most clear not only as regards the custom of praying for the dead, but the actual doctrine of Purgatory, as it is now understood in the Church. They are, in fact, in many cases most explicit upon this point, obviously referring to a middle state of suffering and expiation, and thus refuting by anticipation the objections of those who claim that the primitive Christians prayed indeed for the dead, but knew nothing of Purgatory: a contradiction, it would seem, as prayer for the dead, to be available, supposes a place or state of probation. But, even where the mention made by the Fathers of prayer for the dead does not refer expressly to a place of purgation, it is no more a proof that they did not hold this doctrine than that those modern Catholic authors disbelieve in it, who suppose this middle state of suffering to be admitted by their readers. Or even, which rarely happens, if they be silent altogether upon the subject, it no more infers their ignorance of such a belief than the same silence to be noted in theological and religious works of our own day. It proves no more than that they are at the time engaged in treating of some other subject. The following, which may serve as a conclusion to these extracts, is the solemn decision of the Council of Trent in regard to this doctrine: “The Church, inspired by the Holy Ghost, has always taught, according to the Holy Scriptures and apostolic tradition, that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained receive comfort from the prayers and good works of the faithful, particularly through the sacrifice of the Mass, which is so acceptable to God.”

In the thirteenth Canon of the sixth session, it decrees that, “if any one should say that a repentant sinner, after having received the grace of justification, the punishment of eternal pains being remitted, has no temporary punishment to be suffered either in this life or in the next in Purgatory, before he can enter into the Kingdom of God, let him be anathema.”

In the third Canon of the twenty-fourth session, it defines “that the sacrifice of the Mass is propitiatory both for the living and the dead for sins, punishments and satisfactions.”



Trust not in thy friends and neighbors, and put not oft thy soul’s welfare till the future; for men will forget thee sooner than thou thinkest.

It is better to provide now in time and send some good before thee than to trust to the assistance of others after death.

If thou art not solicitous for thyself now, who will be solicitous for thee hereafter.

Did’st thou also well ponder in thy heart the future pains of hell or Purgatory, methinks thou would’st bear willingly labor and sorrow and fear no kind of austerity.

Who will remember thee when thou art dead? and who will pray for thee?

Now thy labor is profitable, thy tears are acceptable, thy groans are heard, thy sorrow is satisfying and purifieth the soul.

The patient man hath a great and wholesome purgatory.

Better is it to purge away our sins, and cut off our vices now, than to keep them for purgation hereafter.

If thou shalt say thou are not able to suffer much, how then wilt thou endure the fire of Purgatory. Of two evils, one ought always to choose the less.

When a Priest celebrateth, he honoreth God, he rejoiceth the Angels, he edifieth the Church, he helpeth the living, he obtaineth rest for the departed, and maketh himself partaker of all good things.

I offer to Thee also all the pious desires of devout persons; the necessities of my parents, friends, brothers, sisters, and all those that are dear to me; … and all who have desired and besought me to offer up prayers and Masses for themselves and all theirs, whether they are still living in the flesh or are already dead to this world.


[In the beautiful account given by the great St. Augustine of the last illness and death of his holy mother, St. Monica, we find some touching proofs of the pious belief of mother and son in the existence of a middle state for souls in the after life. The holy doctor had been relating that memorable conversation on heavenly things which took place between his mother and himself on that moonlight night at the window in the inn at Ostia, immortalized by Ary Schaeffer in his beautiful picture.]

To this what answer I made her I do not well remember. But scarce five days, or not many more, had passed after this before she fell into a fever: and one day, being very sick, she swooned away, and was for a little while insensible. We ran in, but she soon came to herself again, and looking upon me and my brother (Navigius), that were standing by her, said to us like one inquiring: “Where have I been?” then, beholding us struck with grief, she said: “Here you shall bury your mother.” I held my peace and refrained weeping; but my brother said something by which he signified his wish, as of a thing more happy, that she might not die abroad but in her own country; which she hearing, with a concern in her countenance, and checking him with her eyes that he should have such notions, then looking upon me, said: “Do you hear what he says?” then to us both: “Lay this body anywhere; be not concerned about that; only this I beg of you, that wheresoever you be, you make remembrance of me at the Lord’s altar.” And when she had expressed to us this, her mind, with such words as she could, she said no more, but lay struggling with her disease that grew stronger upon her.

* * * * *

And now behold the body is carried out to be buried, and I both go and return without tears. Neither in those prayers, which we poured forth to Thee when the sacrifice of our ransom was offered to Thee for her, the body being set down by the grave before the interment of it, as custom is there, neither in those prayers, I say, did I shed any tears.

* * * * *

And now, my heart being healed of that wound in which a carnal affection might have some share, I pour out to Thee, our God, in behalf of that servant of Thine, a far different sort of tears, flowing from a spirit frighted with the consideration of the perils of every soul that dies in Adam. For, although she, being revived in Christ, even before her being set loose from the flesh and lived in such manner, as that Thy name is much praised in her faith and manners; yet I dare not say that from the time Thou didst regenerate her by baptism, no word came out of her mouth against Thy command…. I, therefore, O my Praise and my Life, the God of my heart, setting for a while aside her good deeds, for which with joy I give Thee thanks, entreat Thee at present for the sins of my mother. Hear me, I beseech Thee, through that Cure of our wounds that hung upon the tree, and that, sitting now at Thy right hand, maketh intercession to Thee for us. I know that she did mercifully, and from her heart forgive to her debtors their trespasses: do Thou likewise forgive her her debts, if she hath also contracted some in those many years she lived after the saving water…. And I believe Thou hast already done what I ask, but these free offerings of my mouth approve, O Lord.

For she, when the day of her dissolution was at hand, had no thought for the sumptuous covering of her body, or the embalming of it, nor had she any desire of a fine monument, nor was solicitous about her sepulchre in her own country: none of these things did she recommend to us; but only desired that we should make a remembrance of her at Thy altar, at which she had constantly attended without one day’s intermission, from whence she knew was dispensed that Holy Victim by which was cancelled that handwriting that was against us (Coloss. II.), by which that enemy was triumphed over who reckoneth up our sins and seeketh what he may lay to our charge, but findeth nothing in Him through whom we conquer. Who shall refund to Him that innocent blood He shed for us? Who shall repay Him the price with which He bought us, that so he may take us away from Him? To the sacrament of which price of our redemption Thy handmaid bound fast her soul by the bond of faith….

Let her, therefore, rest in peace, together with her husband, before whom and after whom she was known to no man; whom she dutifully served, bringing forth fruit to Thee, in much patience, that she might also gain him to Thee. And do Thou inspire, O Lord, my God, do Thou inspire Thy servants, my brethren, Thy children, my masters, whom I serve with my voice, and my heart, and my writings, that as many as shall read this shall remember, at Thy altar, Thy handmaid Monica with Patricius, formerly her husband. Let them remember, with a pious affection, these who were my parents in this transitory life, my brethren under Thee, our Father, in our Catholic Mother, and my fellow-citizens in the eternal Jerusalem, for which the pilgrimage of Thy people here below continually sigheth from their setting out till their return. That so what my mother made her last request to me may be more plentifully performed for her by the prayers of many, procured by these, my confessions, and my prayers. [1]

[Footnote 1: Conf. B. IX. Chs. XI.-XIII.]


[In the “Life and Revelations of St. Gertrude” we find many instances of the efficacy of prayers for the dead and how pleasing to God is devotion to the souls in Purgatory. From these we select the following.]

Our Blessed Lord once said to the Saint: “If a soul is delivered by prayer from Purgatory I accept it as if I had myself been delivered from captivity, and I will assuredly reward it according to the abundance of my mercy.” The religious also beheld many souls meeting before her to testify their gratitude for their deliverance from Purgatory, through the prayers which had been offered for her, and which she had not needed.

* * * * *

As St. Gertrude prayed fervently before matins on the blessed night of the Resurrection, the Lord Jesus appeared to her full of majesty and glory. Then she cast herself at His feet, to adore Him devoutly and humbly, saying: “O glorious Spouse, joy of the angels, Thou who hast shown me the favor of choosing me to be Thy spouse, who am the least of Thy creatures! I ardently desire Thy glory, and my only friends are those who love Thee; therefore I beseech Thee to pardon the souls of Thy special friends [1] by the virtue of Thy most glorious Resurrection. And to obtain this grace from Thy goodness, I offer Thee, in union with Thy Passion, all the sufferings which my continual infirmities have caused me.” Then Our Lord, having favored her with many caresses, showed her a great multitude of souls who were freed from their pains, saying: “Behold, I have given them to you as a recompense for your rare affection; and through all eternity they will acknowledge that they have been delivered by your prayers, and you will be honored and glorified for it.” She replied: “How many are they?” He answered: “This knowledge belongs to God alone.”

As she feared that these souls, though freed from their pains, were not yet admitted to glory, she offered to endure whatever God might please, either in body or soul, to obtain their entrance into that beatitude; and Our Lord, won by her fervor, granted her request immediately.

[Footnote 1: “This seems to refer,” says the author of the Saint’s life, “to the souls in Purgatory.”]

Some time after, as the Saint suffered most acute pain in her side, she made an inclination before a crucifix; and Our Lord freed her from the pain, and granted the merit of it to these souls, recommending them to make her a return by their prayers.

* * * * *

On Wednesday, at the elevation of the Host, she besought Our Lord for the souls of the faithful in Purgatory, that He would free them from their pains by virtue of His, admirable Ascension; and she beheld Our Lord descending into Purgatory with a golden rod in His hand, which had as many hooks as there had been prayers for their souls; by these He appeared to draw them into a place of repose. She understood by this, that whenever any one prays generally, from a motive of charity, for the souls in Purgatory, the greater part of those who, during their lives, have exercised themselves in works of charity, are released.

* * * * *

On another occasion, as she remarked that she had offered all her merits for the dead, she said to Our Lord: “I hope, O Lord, that Thou wilt frequently cast the eyes of Thy mercy on my indigence.” He replied: “What can I do more for one who has thus deprived herself of all things through charity, than to cover her immediately with charity?” She answered: “Whatever Thou mayest do, I shall always appear before Thee destitute of all merit, for I have renounced all I have gained or may gain.” He replied: “Do you not know that a mother would allow a child who was well clothed to sit at her feet, but she would take one who was barely clad into her arms, and cover her with her own garment?” He added: “And now, what advantages have you, who are seated on the shore of an ocean, over those who sit by a little rivulet?” That is to say, those who keep their good works for themselves, have the rivulet; but those who renounce them in love and humility, possess God, who is an inexhaustible ocean of beatitude.

* * * * *

On one occasion, while Mass was being celebrated for a poor woman who had died lately, St. Gertrude recited five _Pater Nosters_, in honor of Our Lord’s five wounds, for the repose of her soul; and, moved by divine inspiration, she offered all her good works for the increase of the beatitude of this person. When she had made this offering, she immediately beheld the soul in heaven, in the place destined for her; and the throne prepared for her was elevated as far above the place where she had been, as the highest throne of the seraphim is above that of the lowest angel. The Saint then asked Our Lord how this soul had been worthy to obtain such advantage from her prayers, and He replied:

“She has merited this grace in three ways: first, because she always had a sincere will and perfect desire of serving Me in religion, if it had been possible; secondly, because she especially loved all religious and all good people; thirdly, because she was always ready to honor Me by performing any service she could for them.” He added: “You may judge, by the sublime rank to which she is elevated, how agreeable these practices are to Me.”

A certain religious died who had always been accustomed to pray very fervently for the souls of the faithful departed; but she had failed in the perfection of obedience, preferring her own will to that of her superior in her fasts and vigils. After her decease she appeared adorned with rich ornaments, but so weighed down by a heavy burden, which she was obliged to carry, that she could not approach to God, though many persons were endeavoring to lead her to Him.

As Gertrude marvelled at this vision, she was taught that the persons who endeavored to conduct the soul to God were those whom she had released by her prayers; but this heavy burden indicated the faults she had committed against obedience. Then Our Lord said: “Behold how those grateful souls endeavor to free her from the requirements of My justice, and show these ornaments; nevertheless, she must suffer for her faults of disobedience and self-will.” …

Then the Saint beheld her ornament, which appeared like a vessel of boiling water containing a hard stone, which must be completely dissolved therein before she could obtain relief from this torment; but in these sufferings she was much consoled and assisted by those souls, and by the prayers of the faithful. After this Our Lord showed St. Gertrude the path by which the souls ascend to heaven. It resembled a straight plank, a little inclined; so that those who ascended did so with difficulty. They were assisted and supported by hands on either side, which indicated the prayers offered for them.

* * * * *

One day St. Gertrude asked Our Lord how many souls were delivered from Purgatory by her prayers and those of her sisters. “The number,” replied Our Lord, “is proportioned to the zeal and fervor of those who pray for them.” He added: “My love urges me to release a great number of souls for the prayers of each religious, and at each verse of the psalms which they recite, I release many.”

* * * * *

When Mass was offered for the deceased Brother Hermann, his soul appeared to St. Gertrude all radiant with light, and transported with joy. Then Gertrude said to Our Lord: “Is this soul now entirely freed from its sufferings?” Our Lord answered: “He is already free from much suffering, and no human being can form an idea of his glory; but he is not yet so perfectly purified as to be worthy to enjoy My presence, though he is approaching nearer and nearer to this purity by the prayers which are offered for him, and is more and more consoled and relieved.”


_(From “Le Propagateur de la Devotion a Saint Joseph.”)_

ST. FRANCIS DE SALES says: “We do not often enough remember our dead, our faithful departed.” Thus the Church, like a good mother, recalls to us the thought of the dead when we have forgotten them, and therefore she consecrates the month of November to the memory of the dead. This pious and salutary practice of praying for an entire month for the dead takes its rise from the earliest ages of the Church. The custom of mourning _thirty days_ for the dead existed amongst the Jews. The practice of saying thirty Masses on thirty consecutive days was established by St. Gregory, and Innocent XI. enriched it with indulgences. “God has made known to me,” says the venerable sister Marie Denise de Martignat, “that a devotion to the death of St. Joseph obtains many graces for those who are agonizing, and that, as St. Joseph did not at once pass into heaven–because Jesus Christ had not opened its gates–but descended into Limbo, it is a most useful devotion for the agonizing, and for the souls in Purgatory, to offer to God the resignation of St. Joseph when he was dying and about to leave Jesus and Mary in this world, and to honor the holy patience of this great Saint waiting calmly in Limbo until Easter-day, when Jesus Christ, risen and glorious, released him.” And if St. Joseph consoles the souls in Purgatory, none will be so dear to him as those who were devout to him in life, and zealous in spreading a devotion to him.


[Footnote 1: Consoling Thoughts of St Francis de Sales. Arranged by Rev. Father Huguet. Pp. 336-7.]

The opinion of St. Francis de Sales was that from the thought of Purgatory we should draw more consolation than pain. The greater number of those, he said, who fear Purgatory so much, do so in consideration of their own interests and of the love they bear themselves rather than the interests of God; and this happens because those who treat of this place from the pulpit usually speak of its pains and are silent in regard to the happiness and peace which are found in it….

When any of his friends or acquaintances died, he never grew weary of speaking fondly of them and recommending them to the prayers of others.

His usual expression was: “We do not sufficiently remember our dead, our faithful departed;” and the proof of it is that we do not speak enough of them. We turn away from that discourse as from a sad subject. We leave the dead to bury their dead. Their memory perishes from us with the sound of their funeral-bell. We forget that the friendship which ends even with death, is never true, Holy Scripture assuring us that true love is stronger than death.

He was accustomed to say that in this single work of mercy the thirteen others are assembled.

Is it not, he said, in some manner, to visit the sick, to obtain by our prayers the relief of the poor suffering souls in Purgatory?

Is it not to give drink to those who thirst after the vision of God, and who are enveloped in burning flames, to share with them the dew of our prayers?

Is it not to feed the hungry, to aid in their deliverance by the means which faith suggests?

Is it not truly to ransom prisoners?

Is it not truly to clothe the naked, to procure for them a garment of light, a raiment of glory?

Is it not an admirable degree of hospitality, to procure their admission into the heavenly Jerusalem, and to make them fellow-citizens with the Saints and domestics of God?

Is it not a greater service to place souls in heaven than to bury bodies in the earth?

As to spirituals, is it not a work whose merit may be compared to that of counselling the weak, correcting the wayward, instructing the ignorant, forgiving offenses, enduring injuries? And what consolation, however great, that can be given to the afflicted of this world, is comparable with that which is brought by our prayers to those poor souls which have such bitter need of them?


The Catholic Church teaches that, besides a place of eternal torments for the wicked and of everlasting rest for the righteous, there exists in the next life a middle state of temporary punishment, allotted for those who have died in venial sin, or who have not satisfied the justice of God for sins already forgiven. She also teaches us that, although the souls consigned to this intermediate state, commonly called Purgatory, cannot help themselves, they may be aided by the suffrages of the faithful on earth. The existence of Purgatory naturally implies the correlative dogma–the utility of praying for the dead; for the souls consigned to this middle state have not reached the term of their journey. They are still exiles from heaven, and are fit subjects for divine clemency.

Is it not strange that this cherished doctrine should be called in question by the levelling innovators of the sixteenth century, when we consider that it is clearly taught in the Old Testament; that it is, at least, insinuated in the New Testament; that it is unanimously proclaimed by the Fathers of the Church; that it is embodied in all the ancient liturgies of the Oriental and Western Church; and that it is alike consonant with our reason and eminently consoling to the human heart?

* * * * *

You now perceive that this devotion is not an invention of modern times, but a doctrine universally enforced in the best and purest ages of the Church.

You see that praying for the dead was not a devotion cautiously recommended by some obscure or visionary writer, but an act of religion preached and inculcated by all the great Doctors and Fathers of the Church, who are the recognized expounders of the Christian religion.

You see them, too, inculcating this doctrine not as a cold and abstract principle, but as an imperative act of daily piety, and embodying it in their ordinary exercises of devotion.

They prayed for the dead in their morning and evening devotions. They prayed for them in their daily office, and in the sacrifice of the Mass. They asked the prayers of the congregation for the souls of the deceased, in the public services of Sunday. And on the monuments which were erected to the dead, some of which are preserved even to this day, epitaphs were inscribed, earnestly invoking for their souls the prayers of the living. How gratifying it is to our Catholic hearts, that a devotion so soothing to afflicted spirits is, at the same time, so firmly grounded on the tradition of ages.

That the practice of praying for the dead has descended from apostolic times is also evident from the _Liturgus_ of the Church. A Liturgy is the established form of public worship, containing the authorized prayers of the Church. The Missal, or Mass-book, for instance, which you see on our altars, contains a portion of the Liturgy of the Catholic Church. The principal Liturgies are: The Liturgy of St. James the Apostle, who founded the Church of Jerusalem; the Liturgy of St. Mark the Evangelist, founder of the Church of Alexandria, and the Liturgy of St. Peter, who established the Church in Rome. These Liturgies are called after the Apostles who compiled them. There are, besides, the Liturgies of St. Chrysostom and St. Basil, which are chiefly based on that of St. James.

Now, all these Liturgies, without an exception, have prayers for the dead, and their providential preservation serves as another triumphant vindication of the venerable antiquity of this Catholic doctrine.

The Eastern and the Western churches were happily united until the fourth and fifth centuries, when the heresiarchs Arius, Nestorius and Eutyches withdrew millions of souls from the centre of unity. The followers of these sects were called, after their founders, Arians, Nestorians, and Eutychians, and from that day to the present the two latter bodies have formed distinct communions, being separated from the Catholic Church in the East, just as the Protestant churches are separated from her in the West.

The Greek Schismatic Church, of which the present Russo-Greek Church is the offspring, severed her connection with the See of Rome in the ninth century.

But in leaving the Catholic Church, these Eastern sects retained the old Liturgies, which they use to this day….

During my sojourn in Rome, at the Ecumenical Council, I devoted a great deal of my leisure time to the examination of the various Liturgies of the Schismatic churches of the East. I found in all of them formulas of prayers for the dead almost identical with that of the Roman Missal: “Remember, O Lord, Thy servants who are gone before us with the sign of faith, and sleep in peace. To these, O Lord, and to all who rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and peace, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Not content with studying their books, I called upon the Oriental Patriarchs and Bishops in communion with the See of Rome, who belong to the Armenian, the Chaldean, the Coptic, the Maronite, and Syriac rites. They all assured me that the Schismatic Christians of the East among whom they live have, without exception, prayers and sacrifices for the dead.

Now, I ask, when could those Eastern sects have commenced to adopt the Catholic practice of praying for the dead? They could not have received it from us since the ninth century, because the Greek Church separated from us then, and has had no communion with us since that time, except at intervals, up to the twelfth century. Nor could they have adopted the practice since the fourth or fifth century, inasmuch as the Arians, Nestorians, and Eutychians have had no religious communication with us since that period. Therefore, in common with us, they received this doctrine from the Apostles…. I have already spoken of the devotion of the ancient Jewish Church to the souls of the departed. But perhaps you are not aware that the Jews retain to this day, in their Liturgy, the pious practice of praying for the dead. Yet such in reality is the case.

Amid all their wanderings and vicissitudes of life, though dismembered and dispersed, like sheep without a shepherd, over the surface of the globe, the children of Israel have never forgotten or neglected the sacred duty of praying for their deceased brethren.

Unwilling to make this assertion without the strongest evidence, I procured from a Jewish convert an authorized Prayer-book of the Hebrew Church, from which I extract the following formula of prayers which are prescribed for funerals: “Departed brother! mayest thou find open the gates of heaven, and see the city of peace and the dwellings of safety, and meet the ministering angels hastening joyfully towards thee! And may the High Priest stand to receive thee, and go thou to the end, rest in peace, and rise again _into_ life! May the repose established in the celestial abode… be the lot, dwelling, and the resting place of the soul of our deceased brother (whom the spirit of the Lord may guide into Paradise), who departed from this world, according to the will of God, the Lord of heaven and earth. May the Supreme King of Kings, through His infinite mercy, hide him under the shadow of His wings. May He raise him at the end of his days, and cause him to drink of the stream of His delights!”

I am happy to say that the more advanced and enlightened members of the Episcopalian Church are steadily returning to the faith of their forefathers, regarding prayers for the dead. An acquaintance of mine, once a distinguished clergyman of the Episcopal communion, but now a convert, informed me that hundreds of Protestant clergymen in this country, and particularly in England, have a firm belief in the efficacy of prayers for the dead, but for well-known reasons they are reserved in the expression of their faith. He easily convinced me of the truth of his assertion, particularly as far as the Church of England is concerned, by sending me six different works published in London, all bearing on the subject of Purgatory. These books are printed under the auspices of the Protestant Episcopal Church; they all contain prayers for the dead, and prove, from Catholic grounds, the existence of a middle state after death, and the duty of praying for our deceased brethren. [1]

[Footnote 1: See “Path of Holiness,” Rivington’s, London: “Treasury of Devotion,” Ibid; “Catechism of Theology,” Masten, London.]

To sum up: we see the practice of praying for the dead enforced in the ancient Hebrew Church, and in the Jewish synagogue of to-day. We see it proclaimed age after age by all the Fathers of Christendom. We see it incorporated in every one of the ancient Liturgies of the East and of the West. We see it zealously taught by the Russian Church of to-day, and by that immense family of schismatic Christians scattered over the East. We behold it, in fine, a cherished devotion of two hundred millions of Catholics, as well as of a respectable portion of the Episcopal Church.

Would it not, my friend, be the height of rashness and presumption in you to prefer your private opinion to this immense weight of learning, sanctity, and authority? Would it not be impiety in you to stand aside with sealed lips, while the Christian world is sending up an unceasing _De profundis_ for departed brethren? Would it not be cold and heartless in you not to pray for your deceased friends, on account of prejudices which have no grounds in Scripture, tradition, or reason itself?

* * * * *

Oh! far from us a religion which would decree an eternal divorce between the living and the dead. How consoling is it to the Catholic, to think that, in praying thus for his departed friend, his prayers are not in violation of, but in accordance with, the voice of the Church; and that as, like Augustine, he watches at the pillow of a dying mother, so, like Augustine, he can continue the same office of piety for her soul after she is dead, by praying for her. How cheering the reflection that the golden link of prayer unites you still to those who “fall asleep in the Lord,” and that you can still speak to them and pray for them!….

Oh! it is this thought that robs death of its sting and makes the separation of friends endurable. And if your departed friend needs not your prayers, they are not lost, but, like the rain absorbed by the sun, and descending again in fruitful showers on our fields, they will be gathered by the Sun of Justice, and they will come down in refreshing showers of grace upon your head. “Cast thy bread upon the running waters; for, after a long time, thou shalt find it again.” [1]

[Footnote 1: Faith of our Fathers, chap. xvi.]



[Footnote 1: Answer to nine objections made.]

The Catholic Church does not believe that God created any to be damned absolutely, notwithstanding their co-operation with the means of salvation which were secured to them by the death of Jesus Christ; nor any to be saved absolutely, unless they co-operate with those means. Hence she has ever taught the doctrine which is inculcated in Scripture, that heaven may be obtained by all who shall apply the means which the Saviour of the World has left in His Church for that end: in a word, that every man shall be judged according to his works. This doctrine is consonant with the justice which must belong to the Deity. She knows God is too pure to admit anything defiled into His heavenly abode (Apoc. xxi. 27); and yet too just and merciful to punish a slight transgression with the same severity as is due to an enormous crime. Now, suppose two men to sin against God at the same time, the one by the deliberate murder of his father–for the case is possible–and the other, by a slight, almost inadvertent, falsehood; and suppose, further, that they are both to appear before God the next moment to answer for the deeds done in the flesh, I ask whether it is consistent with the idea we have of divine justice to think that both will be condemned to the same everlasting punishment? If it be, then there is no more moral turpitude in parricide than in telling a trivial falsehood, which injures no one, but still is offensive and displeasing to God. But if it be not consistent with divine justice, then you must admit the distinction of guilt, and consequently of punishment. Now, that God exacts a temporary punishment for sin, after the guilt and eternal punishment are remitted, appears from the testimony of His Sacred Word. St. Paul teaches that the death of the body is a punishment which the sin of our first parent entailed on his progeny; and yet many who have been regenerated by baptism from that original guilt, nevertheless die before they have committed any actual sin whatever. The children of Israel had to leave their bones in the wilderness, after the forty years’ sojournment, as a punishment, inflicted by the Almighty Himself, for sins which He had expressly forgiven them. Num. xiv. 20, 22. David was forgiven his sin–and yet he was punished for it, by the death of his child, whom he loved most tenderly. He sinned by numbering his people; and although it was forgiven him, he had still to choose his punishment–either war, famine, or pestilence. If such be the dispensation of God to His creatures in this world, why may it not be also after death? Will you say it is because the body is the medium of suffering in this life? This is not exactly true–the body, indeed, is the medium, in many instances, through which the soul is made to suffer. But God inflicted no corporal chastisement on David by taking his child–it was the king’s soul that was touched, and felt, and suffered. Does not the soul remain susceptible of suffering after death; and may not God, conformably with the examples here laid down, extend to it in a future state the same salutary dispensation, for His own just and merciful purposes? But you will ask what Scripture I can quote to show that He really does so. Now, suppose I were to refer you to the same rule, and demand from you the text by which you feel warranted to profane the Sabbath, and sanctify the Sunday in its stead–what will you have to answer in reply? Surely if the authority of the Catholic Church is sufficient to authorize your _practice_ in the one case, it is equally so with regard to my belief in the other. But our situations are very different; because I admit the authority of the Church in both instances, and I shall prove that her doctrine of Purgatory, so far from opposing, is grounded on Scripture. Whereas you reject the Church, you make, as you say, the Scripture the _only rule_ of your faith; and yet when the Scripture says, “Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath day,” you say I will not sanctify the Sabbath, but I will sanctify the day after…. This tenet of belief is proved by every text of Scripture in which it is implied that God will render to every man according to his works…. If the word Purgatory has anything in it peculiarly offensive, you will not be the less a Catholic for rejecting it, and using the Scriptural word _prison_, provided you admit that such a place exists; in which God after having forgiven the guilt and temporal punishment of their sins, causes the souls of the imperfect just to undergo, nevertheless, a temporary chastisement, as David did in this life, before admitting them into the realms of felicity. Now, if this be so, is it not rational to believe that the mercy of God will be moved by the prayers of His faithful servants on earth, who intercede in behalf of their departed brethren?… In a word, the economy of God to His creatures even in this life is consistent with the doctrine of Purgatory.



The infallible Church, the spouse of the Holy Ghost, the Pillar and Ground of Truth and the true teacher of the doctrine of Christ, has, in the distribution of her feasts and festivals, set apart one day in the year, the second of November, in favor of the suffering souls in Purgatory. She calls on all her children to assemble around her sacred altars, to assist and pray at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the deliverance from Purgatory of the souls of those who, whilst dying in peace with Our Lord, still had debts to pay to His infinite justice.

These debts were contracted by the commission of mortal sin, whose grievous fault, though removed by the Sacrament of Penance, yet left on the soul a debt which was not sufficiently atoned for, or by the commission of venial sin not sufficiently repented of. Purgatory is one of the great consoling doctrines of the Church of Christ. Only the pure and perfect can enter Heaven; and how few persons leave this earth of temptation, sin, and trouble in that state of purity and perfection! If there were not a place of purification, how few could go straight to Heaven! Nearly the whole human race would be deprived forever of the beatific vision of God. God has chosen this way of exhibiting His justice and mercy: His justice, by exacting the last particle of debt; and His mercy, by saving the poor repentant sinner. God rewards every one according to his works. Some are imperfect through want of pure intention, through carelessness, vanity, or other causes, like the hay and stubble adhering to gold and precious stones which dull their lustre.

* * * * *

Oh, how few are perfect, and how few do penance in proportion to their sins! How few, in their dealing with their fellow-men, giving measure for measure, goods equal to the money paid for them, or services equal to the pay received! How many fail in charity, in words and actions! How many prayers said carelessly and without thought, even at the most solemn times! These will have to be repeated, as it were, in Purgatory. How many will suffer from their want of charity and mercy to the poor, and failing to pay their just dues to God’s Church for the spiritual favors they receive from it! “If we give you,” says St. Paul, “spiritual things, you should administer to us temporal things.”…

All spiritual writers agree that the pains of Purgatory are intense, yet the souls are satisfied to suffer till the last debt is paid. They would not wish to enter Heaven with stains on their souls. God, in His great mercy, has permitted some souls suffering in Purgatory to appear to friends on earth to solicit their prayers and Masses, and to pay their debts. This the Lives of the Saints and Ecclesiastical History at all times attest. In these days when faith is fading from some minds, even in the Church, it behooves especially the Bishops to remind the faithful of their duties and obligations to their departed friends. It is thought by some that an expensive funeral, with its many carriages, and a grand monument over the grave, will satisfy all the requirements of decency and of family love. Alas! if the dead could only speak from their graves, they would cry out and say, “All these monuments and this worldly pageantry only crush us. They only satisfy the vanity of the living, but in no way alleviate our sufferings in Purgatory.”…

But the Bishops must, from time to time, remind the people of their duty towards God’s servants suffering in Purgatory. In olden times, when faith, love, and affection were stronger than now, devotion towards the souls in Purgatory showed itself in numerous foundations in favor of the souls in Purgatory. Churches and canonries where Masses were celebrated every day by canons and monks, benefices for the education of poor students, hospitals for the care of the sick, periodical distribution of alms to the poor, to have rosaries and other prayers said and pilgrimages made for the souls in Purgatory. All these have been swept away by the ruthless hand of the civil power, wishing to reform the Church; and even at the present day, when the Christian soul is about to appear before the judgment-seat, there are legal impediments in the way of his making by will donations for prayers or Masses. Therefore, my dear people, whilst you are well make provision for your own soul. Do not entrust it to the care of others who cannot love you more than you love yourselves.

* * * * *

This doctrine of Purgatory has always been taught in the Church and handed down from bishops and priests to their successors in the sacred ministry, and by the voice of the people. “Stand fast, and hold the tradition you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle.” (II. Thess. ii. 14.) Now prayers and Masses for the dead are to be found in every ancient liturgy of the Church. There is no Oriental liturgy without prayers for those who have departed in peace. The Apostolic Constitutions–the most ancient and genuine work–speak largely of prayers for the dead, for the conversion of sinners.

There are religious congregations and pious associations specially devoted to the relief of the souls in Purgatory. St. Vincent de Paul ordered the priests of his congregation never to go to meals without first saying the _De Profundis_ for the souls in Purgatory. The Church ends all the prayers of the divine office with: “May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.” One may turn away with a sad thought from a tomb on which is not engraved: “May he rest in peace,” or on which a cross–the emblem of our hope in God and in a happy resurrection–does not figure.

We exhort you, beloved children in Christ, to entertain an earnest charity towards the souls in Purgatory. You loved them during life; do not let it be said: “Out of sight, out of mind.” Love them in death or, living, wishing earnestly to go to God. This charity will greatly help yourselves. If a cup of cold water given to a servant of God shall not go without its reward, how much more a cup of celestial grace, that will shorten the time in the flames of Purgatory of a soul that most ardently longs to see God, who desires it Himself with great love, and will reward those who shorten the exile of His dear servants. “Those,” says St. Alphonsus Liguori, “who succor the souls in Purgatory will be succored in turn by the gratitude of those whom they have relieved, and who enjoy sooner, by their prayers, the beatific vision of God.”

* * * * *

The Council of Trent, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, has made decrees on the subject which bind the consciences of the faithful. In the Thirteenth Canon of the Sixth Session it decrees “that if any one should say that a repentant sinner, after having received the grace of justification, the punishment of eternal pains being remitted, has no temporary punishment to be suffered, either in this life or in the next, in Purgatory, before he can enter into the Kingdom of God, let him be anathema.”

Though King David was assured, after his sincere repentance, that his sin was forgiven, yet the Prophet told him that he had still to suffer by the death of his child.

In the Twenty-fourth Session and Third Canon the Holy Council defines that the Sacrifice of the Mass is propitiatory, both for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and for other necessities, according to Apostolic traditions; and the Bishop, when he ordains, places the patena and chalice, with the bread and wine, in the hands of the young priest and says to him: “Receive the power to offer to God the Sacrifice of the Mass, as well for the living as for the dead, in the name of the Lord. Amen.”

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is, therefore, the most powerful means of relieving the souls in Purgatory; next is the fervent performance of the Stations of the Cross, to which so many indulgences are attached; then other indulgenced prayers; for example, the Rosary. Alms to the poor is another powerful means. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

There is another means which our ancestors loved–to educate a student for the priesthood. St. Monica rejoiced, on her death-bed, that she had a son to remember her every day at the altar. If you have not a son you can adopt one, or subscribe, according to your means, to the Students’ Fund.

It is the custom in many places–and we wish that it should be introduced where it is not–to receive the offerings of the people on All Souls’ Day, or the Sunday previous, or subsequent, and the proceeds to be computed and Masses offered up accordingly.

We attach the indulgences of the Way of the Cross to certain crucifixes, and thus enable persons who cannot conveniently visit the Church to make the Stations there, to gain the indulgences of the Stations by reciting fourteen times the “Our Father” and “Hail Mary,” with a “Glory be to the Father,” etc., for each Station, and five “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys” in honor of the five Adorable Wounds, with one for the intentions of the Pope.


[Footnote 1: Published by Burns & Oates, London.]


[The following passages are taken from a most excellent and valuable work, “Purgatory Surveyed,” edited by the late lamented Dr. Anderdon, S. J., being by him “disposed, abridged, or enlarged,” from a treatise by Father Binet, a French Jesuit, published at Paris in 1625, at Douay in 1627, and translated soon after by Father Richard Thimbleby, an English member of the Society of Jesus. Says Dr. Anderdon in his preface: “The alterations ventured upon in this reprint, consist chiefly in the mode of punctuation, which, being probably left to a French compositor, are anomalous, and often perplexing. Some expressions, so obsolete as to prevent the sense being clear, and in the same degree lessening the value of the book to the general reader, have been exchanged for others in more common use…. Let us earnestly hope that, at this moment, on the threshold of the month specially dedicated by the Church to devotion on behalf of the Holy Souls, the joint work of Fathers Binet and Thimbleby may produce an abundant harvest of intercession. If, during their own brief time of trial, they were inspired to put together and to enforce such powerful motives to stir up the faithful to this devotion, will they not now rejoice in the re-production of their act of zeal and charity? During the two hundred and fifty years which have elapsed since the first publication of the French work, many changes and revolutions have taken place in the histories of those spots of earth, known as France and England. But the History of Purgatory is ever the same; “happiness and unhappiness” combined; both unspeakably great; long detention, perhaps, or perhaps swift release, according to the degree of faith and charity animating the Church militant. May we now, and henceforth, realize in act, in habitual practice, and, all the more, from the considerations given in the following pages, the immense privilege of holding, to so great a degree, the keys of Purgatory in our hands.”]

Believe it, it is one of the first rudiments, but main principles, of a Christian, to captivate his understanding, and so regulate all his dictamens, that they be sure to run parallel with the sentiments of the Church. And this I take to be the case when the question is started about Purgatory fire, which I shall ever reckon in the class of those truths, which cannot be contradicted without manifest temerity; as being the doctrine generally preached and taught all over Christendom.

You must, then, conceive Purgatory to be a vast, darksome and hideous chaos, full of fire and flames, in which the souls are kept close prisoners, until they have fully satisfied for all their misdemeanors, according to the estimate of Divine justice. For God has made choice of this element of fire wherewith to punish souls, because it is the most active, piercing, sensible, [1] and insupportable of all others. But that which quickens it, indeed, and gives it more life, is this: that it acts as the instrument of God’s justice, who, by His omnipotent power, heightens and reinforces its activity as He pleases, and so makes it capable to act upon bodiless spirits. Do not, then, look only upon this fire, though in good earnest it be dreadful enough of itself; but consider the Arm that is stretched out, and the Hand that strikes, and the rigor of God’s infinite justice, who, through this element of fire, vents His wrath, and pours out whole tempests of His most severe and yet most just vengeance. So that the fire works as much mischief, [2] as I may say, to the souls, as God commands; and He commands as much as is due; and as much is due as the sentence bears: a sentence irrevocably pronounced at the high tribunal of the severe and rigorous justice of an angry God, and whose anger is so prevalent that the Holy Scripture styles it “a day of fury.” Now, you will easily believe that this fire is a most horrible punishment in its own nature; but you may do well to reflect also on that which I have now suggested; that the fury of Almighty God is, as it were, the fire of this fire, and the heat of its heat; and that He serves Himself of it as He pleases, by doubling and redoubling its sharp pointed forces; for this is that which makes it the more grievous and insupportable to the souls that are thus miserably confined and imprisoned.

[Footnote 1: _i.e._, apprehended by the senses]

[Footnote 2: _i.e._, Not implying injury, far less injustice; but simply punishment and suffering]

They were not much out of the way, that styled Purgatory a transitory kind of hell, because the principal pains of the damned are to be found there; with this only difference, that in hell they are eternal, and in Purgatory they are only transitory and fleeting: for, otherwise, it is probably the very same fire that burns both the Holy Souls and the damned spirits; and the pain of loss is, in both places, the chief torment…. Now, does not your hair stand on end? does not your heart tremble, when you hear that the poor souls in Purgatory are tormented with the same, or the like flames to those of the damned? Can you