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of every dead body." [2] Here, again, we have both the belief in the
existence of a middle state and of the assistance afforded to those
detained there.

[Footnote 1: Mind]

[Footnote 2: "The Gentile and the Jew," Vol. II., p. 146.]

The religion of the Druids is so wrapped in mystery that it is
difficult to determine what they believed on any point, and much more
on that of the future lot of the soul; but as they held the doctrine of
metempsychosis, it is fair to class them among the adherents to the
notion of a period of purgation between death and the soul's entrance
into its final rest. Of the views of the sturdy Norsemen, on the
contrary, there can be no two opinions; in their mythology the idea of
a middle state is expressed in the clearest language. The following
passage from Mr. Anderson, places the matter beyond question. I may
first remark, for the information of the general reader, that by Gimle
is meant the abode of the righteous after the day of judgment; by
Naastrand, the place of punishment after the same dread sentence; by
Ragnarok, the last day; Valhal, the temporary place of happiness to
which the god Odin invites those who have been slain in battle; and
Hel, the goddess of death, whose abode is termed Helheim. With these
explanations the reader will be able to understand the subjoined
passage, which expresses the Norse idea of the future purgation of the

After speaking of the lot of the departed, the writer says: "But it
must be remembered that Gimle and Naastrand have reference to the state
of things after Ragnarok, the Twilight of the gods; while Valhal and
Hel have reference to the state of things between death and Ragnarok; -
a time of existence corresponding somewhat to what is called
_Purgatory_ by the Catholic Church." [1]

[Footnote 1: "Norse Mythology," p. 393.]

It would appear to be no exaggeration to claim the same belief in a
middle state for the American Indians, in as far as it is possible for
us to draw anything definite from their crude notions of religion. A
good authority on subjects connected with Indian customs and beliefs
says: "The belief respecting the land of souls varied greatly in
different tribes and different individuals." And, again: "An endless
variety of incoherent fancies is connected with the Indian idea of a
future life.... At intervals of ten or twelve years, the Hurons, the
Neutrals, and other kindred tribes, were accustomed to collect the
bones of their dead, and deposit them, with great ceremony, in a common
place of burial. The whole nation was sometimes assembled at this
solemnity; and hundreds of corpses, brought from their temporary
resting-places, were inhumed in one common pit. From this hour the
immortality of their souls began." This evidently implies a period
during which the souls were wandering at a distance from the place of
their eternal repose. Does the following passage throw any light upon
it? The reader must decide the point for himself. "Most of the
traditions," continues the same writer, "agree, however, that the
spirits, on their journey heavenward, were beset with difficulties and
perils. There was a swift river which must be crossed on a log that
shook beneath their feet, while a ferocious dog opposed their passage,
and drove many into the abyss. This river was full of sturgeons and
other fish, which the ghosts speared for their subsistence. Beyond was
a narrow path between moving rocks which each instant crushed together,
grinding to atoms the less nimble of the pilgrims who essayed to pass."
[1] A vestige of the same belief seems to crop out in a custom of some
of the tribes of Central Africa, as appears from the remarks of a
recent traveller. "When a death occurs," says Major Serpa Pinto, "the
body is shrouded in a white cloth, and, being covered with an ox-hide,
is carried to the grave, dug in a place selected for the purpose. The
days following on an interment are days of high festival in the hut of
the deceased. The native kings are buried with some ceremony, and their
bodies, being arrayed in their best clothes, are conveyed to the tomb
in a dressed hide. There is a great feasting on these occasions, and an
enormous sacrifice of cattle; for the heir of the deceased is bound to
sacrifice his whole herd in order to regale his people, and give peace
to the soul of the departed." [2]

[Footnote 1: "The Jesuits in North America," Francis Parkman.
Introduction, pp. 81, 92.]

[Footnote 2: "How I Crossed Africa," Vol. I., p. 63.]

Such a unity of sentiment on the part of so many nations differing in
every other respect can only be attributed either to a natural feeling
inherent in man, or to a primitive revelation, which, amid the
vicissitudes of time, has left its impress on the minds of all nations.
That the doctrine of a middle state of purification was a part of the
primitive revelation cannot, I think, admit of reasonable doubt. To the
true servant of God, this unanimity is another proof of the faith once
revealed to the Saints, and, at the same time, an additional motive for
thanking God for the light vouchsafed him, while so many others are
left to grope in the darkness of error. - _Ave Maria,_ Nov. 17,


In the "_Rélations des Jésuites_," on their early missions in New
France, now Canada, we find many examples, told in the quaint old
French of the seventeenth century, and with true apostolic simplicity,
of the tender devotion for the souls in Purgatory cherished by all the
Indians of every tribe who had embraced Christianity from the teaching
of those zealous missionaries. The few extracts we give below from the
"_Rélations_" will serve to show how deeply this touching devotion
to the departed is implanted in our nature, seeing that the doctrine of
a place of purgation in the after life finds so ready a response in the
heart and soul of the untutored children of the forest:

"The devotion which they have for the souls of the departed is another
mark of their faith. Not far from this assembly there is a cemetery, in
the midst of which is seen a fine cross; sepulchres four or five feet
wide and six or seven feet long, rise about four feet from the ground,
carefully covered with bark. At the head and feet of the dead are two
crosses, and on one side a sword, if the dead were a man, or some
domestic article, if a woman. Having arrived there, I was asked to pray
to God for the souls of those who were buried in that place. A good
Christian gave me a beaver skin by the hands of her daughter, about
seven years of age, and said to me, when her daughter presented it:
'Father, this present is to ask you to pray to God for the souls of her
sister and her grandmother.' Many others made the same request; I
promised to comply with their wishes, but, as for their presents, I
could not accept them.

"Some time ago, when the Christians of this place died, their beads
were buried with them; this custom was last year changed for a holier
one, by means of a good Christian who, when dying, gave her chaplet to
another, begging her to keep it and say it for her, at least on feast
days. This charity was done to her, and the custom was introduced from
that time: so it was that when any one died, his or her rosary was
given, with a little present, to some one chosen from the company
present, who is bound to take it, and say it for the departed soul, at
least on Sundays and Festivals." - _Journal of Father Jacques Buteux
in "Rélations," Vol. II_.

* * * * *

In one of the Huron missions, an Indian named Joachim Annicouton,
converted after many years of evil courses and, later, of hypocritical
pretense of conversion, was murdered by three drunken savages of his
own tribe, but lived long enough to edify all around him by his pious
resignation, his admirable patience in the most cruel sufferings, and
his generous forgiveness of his enemies. Having given a touching
account of his death, the good Father Claude Dablon goes on to say:

"A very singular circumstance took place at his burial, which was
attended by all the families of the village, with many of the French
residents of the neighborhood. Before the body was laid in the earth,
the widow inquired if the authors of his death were present; being told
that they were not, she begged that they might be sent for. These poor
creatures having come, they drew near to the corpse, with downcast
eyes, sorrow and confusion in their faces. The widow, looking upon
them, said: 'Well! behold poor Joachim Annicouton, you know what
brought him to the state in which you now see him; I ask of you no
other satisfaction but that you pray to God for the repose of his
soul.' ..."

* * * * *

"It is customary amongst the Indians to give all the goods of the dead
to their relatives and friends, to mourn their death; but the husband
of Catherine, in his quality of first captain, assembled the Council of
the Ancients, and told them that they must no longer keep to their
former customs, which profited nothing to the dead; that, as for him,
his thought was to dress up the body of the deceased in her best
garments, as she might rise some day, - and to employ the rest of what
belonged to her in giving alms to the poor. This thought was approved
of by all, and it became a law which was ever after strictly observed.

"The body of his wife was then arrayed in her best clothes, and he
distributed amongst the poor all that remained of her little furniture,
charging them to pray for the dead. The whole might have amounted to
three hundred francs, which is a great deal for an Indian." -
_Rélations_, 1673-4.

* * * * *

"They [1] have established amongst them a somewhat singular practice to
help the souls in Purgatory. Besides the offerings they make for that
to the Church, and the alms they give to the poor, - besides the
devotion of the four Sundays of the month, to which is attached an
indulgence for the souls in Purgatory, so great that these days are
like Easter; as soon as any one is dead, his or her nearest relations
make a spiritual collection of communions in every family, begging them
to offer all they can for the repose, of the dead." - _Rélations_,

[Footnote 1: The Hurons of Loretto, near Quebec.]



When they are asked what they think of the soul, they answer that it is
the shadow "or living image" of the body; and it is as a consequence of
this principle that they believe all animated in the universe. It is by
tradition that they suppose the soul immortal. They pretend that,
separated from the body, it retains the inclinations it had during
life; and hence comes the custom of burying with the dead all that had
served to satisfy their wants or their tastes. They are even persuaded
that the soul remains a long time near the body after their separation,
and that it afterwards passes on into a country which they know not,
or, as some will have it, transformed into a turtle. Others give all
men two souls, one such as we have mentioned, the other which never
leaves the body, and goes from one but to pass into another.

For this reason it is that they bury children on the roadside, so that
women passing by may pick up these second souls, which, not having long
enjoyed life, are more eager to begin it anew. They must also be fed;
and for that purpose it is that divers sorts of food are placed on the
graves, but that is only done for a little while, as it is supposed
that in time the souls get accustomed to fasting. The difficulty they
find in supporting the living makes them forget the care for the
nourishment of the dead. It is also customary to bury with them all
that had belonged to them, presents being even added thereto; hence it
is a grievous scandal amongst all those nations when they see Europeans
open graves to take out the beaver robes they have placed therein. The
burial-grounds are places so respected that their profanation is
accounted the most atrocious outrage that can be offered to an Indian

Is there not in all this a semblance of belief in our doctrine of


In Egypt, as all over the East, the lives of women amongst the
wealthier classes are for the most part spent within the privacy of
their homes, as it were in close confinement: they are born, live, and
die in the bosom of that impenetrable sanctuary. It is only on Thursday
that they go forth, with their slaves carrying refreshments and
followed by hired weepers. It is a sacred duty that calls them to the
public cemetery. There they have funeral hymns chanted, their own
plaintive cries mingling with the sorrowful lamentations of the
mourners. They shed tears and flowers on the graves of their kindred,
which they afterwards cover with the meats brought by their servants,
and all the crowd, after inviting the souls of the dead, partake of a
religious repast, in the persuasion that those beloved shades taste of
the same food and are present at the sympathetic banquet. Is there not
in this superstition a distorted tradition of the dogma by which we are
commanded not to forget the souls of our brethren beyond the grave? -
_Annals of the Propagation of the Faith_, Vol. XVII.




"Hark! the whirlwind is in the wood, a low murmur in the vale; it is
the mighty army of the dead returning from the air." These beautiful
words occur in one of the ancient Celtic poems quoted by Macpherson and
dating some thousand years later than Ossian. For the Celts held to the
doctrine of the immortality of souls, and believed that their ethereal
substance was wafted from place to place by the wind on the clouds of
heaven. Amongst the Highlanders a belief prevailed that there were
certain hills to which the spirits of their departed friends had a
peculiar attachment. Thus the hill of Ore was regarded by the house of
Crubin as their place of meeting in the future life, and its summit was
supposed to be supernaturally illumined when any member of the family
died. It was likewise a popular belief that the spirits of the departed
haunted places beloved in life, hovered about their friends, and
appeared at times on the occasion of any important family event. In the
calm of a new existence,

"Side by side they sit who once mixed in battle their steel."

There is a poetic beauty in many of these ancient beliefs concerning
the dead, but they are far surpassed in grandeur and sublimity, as well
as in deep tenderness, by the Christian conception of a state of
purgation after death, when the souls of the departed are still bound
to, their dear ones upon earth by a strong spiritual bond of mutual
help. They dwell, then, in an abode of peace, although of intense
suffering, and calmly await the eternal decree which summons them to
heaven; while the time of their probation is shortened day by day,
month by month, year by year by the Masses, prayers, alms-deeds and
other suffrages of their friends who are still dwellers on earth,
living the old life; and in its rush of cares and duties, of pleasures
and of pains, forgetting them too often in all save prayer. That is the
reminder. The dead who have died in the bosom of the Holy Church can
never be quite forgotten. "The mighty army of the dead returning from
the air" might in our Catholic conception be that host of delivered
souls who, after the Feast of All Souls, or some such season of special
prayer for them, are arising upwards into everlasting bliss. But it is
our purpose in the present chapters to gather up from the byways of
history occasions when the belief in prayer for the dead is made
manifest, whether it be in some noted individual, in a people, or in a
country. It is "the low murmur of the vale" going up constantly from
all peoples, from all times, under all conditions.

In Russia not only is prayer for the dead most sedulously observed by
the Catholic Church, but also in a most particular manner by the
Schismatic Greeks. The following details under this head will be, no
doubt, of interest to our readers:

"As soon as the spirit has departed, the body is dressed and placed in
an open coffin in a room decorated for the purpose. Numerous lights are
kept burning day and night; and while the relations take turns to watch
and pray by the coffin, the friends come to pay the last visit to the
deceased.... On the decease of extraordinary persons, the Emperor and
his successor are accustomed to visit the corpse, while the poor, on
the other hand, never fail to lament at the door the loss of their
benefactor, and to be dismissed with handsome donations. Total
strangers, too, come of their own accord to offer a prayer for the
deceased; for the image of a saint hung up before the door indicates to
every passenger the house of mourning.... The time of showing the
corpse lasts in general only three or four days, and then follow the
blessing of the deceased, and the granting of the pass. The latter is
to be taken literally. The corpse is carried to the Church, and the
priest lays upon the breast a long paper, which the common people call
'a pass for heaven.' On this paper is written the Christian name of the
deceased, the date of his birth and that of his death. It then states
that he was baptized as a Christian, that he lived as such, and before
his death, received the Sacrament - in short, the whole course of life
which he led as a Greek Russian Christian.... All who meet a funeral
take off their hats, and offer a prayer to Heaven for the deceased, and
such is the outward respect paid on such occasions, that it is not
until they have entirely lost sight of the procession that they put on
their hats again. This honor is paid to every corpse, whether of the
Russian, Protestant, or Catholic Communions.... After the corpse is
duly prepared, the priests sing a funeral Mass, called in Russian
clerical language, _panichide_.... On the anniversary of the death
of a beloved relative, they assemble in the Church, and have a
_panichide_ read for his soul.... Persons of distinction found a
lamp to burn forever at the tombs of their dead, and have these
_panichides_ repeated every week, for, perhaps, a long series of
years. Lastly, every year, on a particular day, Easter Monday, a
service and a repast are held for all the dead."

The history of France, like that of all Catholic nations, abounds in
instances of public intercession for the dead, the pomp and splendor of
royal obsequies, the solemn utterances of public individuals; the
celebrations at Père la Chaise, the magnificent requiems. In a nation
so purely Catholic as it was and is, though the scum of evil men have
arisen like a foul miasma to its surface, it does not surprise us. We
shall therefore select from its history an incident or two, somewhat at
random. That beautiful one, far back at the era of the Crusades, where
St. Louis, King of France, absent in the East, received intelligence of
the death of Queen Blanche, his mother. The grief of the Papal Legate,
who had come to announce the news, was apparent in his face, and Louis,
fearing some new blow, led the prelate into his chapel, which,
according to an ancient chronicler, was "his arsenal against all the
crosses of the world." Louis, overcome with sorrow, quickly changed his
tears and lamentations into the language of resignation, and desiring
to be left alone with his confessor, Geoffrey de Beaulieu, recited the
office of the dead. "He was present every day at a funeral service
celebrated in memory of his mother; and sent into the West a great
number of jewels and precious stones to be distributed among the
principal churches of France; at the same time exhorting the clergy to
put up prayers for the repose of his mother. In proportion with his
endeavors," continues the historian, "to procure prayers for his
mother, his grief yielded to the hope of seeing her again in heaven;
and his mind, when calmed by resignation, found its most effectual
consolation in that mysterious tie which still unites us with those we
have lost, in that religious sentiment which mingles with our
affections to purify them, and with our regrets to mitigate them." [1]

[Footnote 1: "Michaud's Hist. of the Crusades," Vol. II., pp. 477-8.]

In the Instructions which St. Louis addressed on his death-bed to his
son, Philip the Bold, is to be found the following paragraph:

"Dear Son, I pray thee, if it shall please our Lord that I should quit
this life before thee, that thou wilt help me with Masses and prayers,
and that thou wilt send to the congregations of the kingdom of France,
to make them put up prayers for my soul, and that thou wilt desire that
our Lord may give me part in all the good deeds thou shalt perform."

[Footnote 1: These instructions were preserved in a register of the
Chamber of Accounts. See Appendix to "Michaud's History of Crusades,"
Vol. II., p. 471.]

Philip, on the death of his father, in a letter which was read aloud in
all the churches, begs of the clergy and faithful, "to put up to the
King of kings their prayers and their offerings for that prince; with
whose zeal for religion and tender solicitude for the kingdom of
France, which he loved as the apple of his eye, they were so well
acquainted." In the Chronicles of Froissart, as well as in the Grande
Chronique of St. Denis, we read that the body of King John, who died a
prisoner in England, was brought home with great pomp and circumstance,
on the first day of May, 1364. It was at first placed in the Abbey of
St. Anthony, thence removed to Notre Dame, and finally to St. Denis,
the resting-place of royalty, where solemn Mass was said. On the day of
his interment, the Archbishop of Sens sang the requiem. Thus did Holy
Mother Church welcome the exile home.

A pretty anecdote is that of Marie Lecsinska, Queen of Louis XV., who,
on hearing of the death of Marshal Saxe, a Lutheran by profession, and
but an indifferent observer of the maxims of any creed, cried out:
"Alas! what a pity that we cannot sing a _De Profundis_ for a man
who has made us sing so many _Te Deums_."

We cannot take our leave of France, without noticing here the beautiful
prayer offered up by the saintly Princess Louise de Bourbon Condé, in
religion _Sœur Marie Joseph de la Miséricorde_, on hearing of the
death of her nephew, the Duc d'Enghien, so cruelly put to death by the
first Napoleon. Falling, face downwards, on the earth, she prayed:
"Mercy, my God, have mercy upon him! Have mercy, Lord, on the soul of
Louis Antoine! Pardon the faults of his youth, remembering the precious
Blood, which Jesus Christ shed for all men, and have regard to the
cruel manner in which his blood was shed. Glory and misfortune have
attended his life. But what we call glory, has it any claims in Thy
eyes? However, Lord, it is not a demerit before Thee, when it is based
on true honor, which is always inseparable from devotion to our duties.
Thou knowest, Lord, those that he has fulfilled, and for those in which
he has failed, let the misfortunes of which he has been at last the
victim, be a repararation and an expiation. Again, Lord, I ask for
mercy for his soul." On the death of Napoleon, the murderer of this
beloved nephew, the same holy religious wrote to the Bishop of St.
Flour: "Bonaparte is dead; he was your enemy, for he persecuted you. I
think you will say a Mass for him; I beg also that you say a Mass on my
behalf for this unfortunate man."

Turning to the History of Rome, it will be of interest to take a glance
at the pious Confraternity _della Morte_ which was instituted in
1551, and regularly established in 1560, by His Holiness, Pius IV. It
was chiefly composed of citizens of high rank. Its object was to
provide burial for the dead. Solemnly broke upon the balmy stillness of
the Roman nights, all these years and centuries since its foundation,
its chanting of holy psalmody, and its audible praying for the dead,
borne along in its religious keeping. The glare of the waxen torches
fell upon the bier, the voices of the associates joined in the
_Miserere,_ and the Church reached, the corpse was laid there,
till the fitting hour, when the Requiem Mass should be sung, and the
final absolution given, preparatory to interment.

Florence supplies us with a brilliant picture of that sixth day of
July, 1439, the feast of Saint Romolo the Martyr, in the ninth year of

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