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us himself in his Preface to the Life of St. Cuthbert. "This pious
anxiety," says Montalembert, "to assure himself of the help of prayer
for his soul after death is apparent at every step in his letters. It
imprints the last seal of humble and true Christianity on the character
of the great philosopher, whose life was so full of interest, and whose
last days have been revealed to us in minute detail by an eye-witness."

[Footnote 1: "Monks of the West," Vol v, p 89.]

The passionate entreaties of Anselm, another of the shining lights of
early Anglo-Saxon days, that the soul of his young disciple Osbern be
remembered in prayers and Masses, proves what value he attached to
suffrages for the departed:

"I beg of you," he writes to his friend Gondulph, "of you and of all my
friends, to pray for Osbern. His soul is my soul. All that you do for
him during my life, I shall accept as if you had done it for me after
my death. ... I conjure you for the third time, remember me, and forget
not the soul of my well-beloved Osbern. And if I ask too much of you,
then forget me and remember him.... The soul of my Osbern, ah! I
beseech thee, give it no other place than in my bosom."

And do we not read of those "prayers for souls," incessant and
obligatory, which were identified with all the monastic habits - thanks
to that devotion for the dead which received in a monastery its final
and perpetual sanction. "They were not content," says Montalembert,
"even with common and permanent prayer for the dead of each isolated
monastery. By degrees, vast spiritual associations were formed among
communities of the same order and the same country, with the aim of
relieving by their reciprocal prayers the defunct members of each
house. Rolls of parchment, transmitted by special messengers from
cloister to cloister, received the names of those who had 'emigrated,'
according to the consecrated expression, 'from this terrestrial light
to Christ,' and served the purpose of a check and register to prevent
defalcation in that voluntary impost of prayer which our fervent
cenobites solicited in advance for themselves or for their friends."
And, of course, this was many years, even centuries, before the Feast
of All Souls was instituted by the Abbot Odilo and the monks of Cluny
in 998. English history, like every other history, furnishes us,
indeed, with innumerable traits of this pious devotion to the Holy
Souls. Obviously, our space must prevent us from entering more deeply
into the subject. May the few scattered hints we have been enabled to
throw out be of interest and profit to our readers!


WALSH. [1]

[Footnote 1: "Ecclesiastical History of Ireland." Rev J. Walsh.]

Coerced by the unvarying as well as unequivocal testimony of our
writers, our liturgies, our canons, Usher was obliged to admit that the
ancient Irish had been in the constant practice of offering up the
eucharistic sacrifice, and that Masses, termed _Requiem Masses_,
used to be celebrated daily. So interwoven is the doctrine of the
eucharistic sacrifice with the records of the nation, that the
antiquarian himself should reject the antiquities of Ireland if he had
ventured on the denial of this practice .... Admitting the practice of
the ancient Irish Church, Usher strives to escape from the difficulty,
as well as attempts to deceive his readers, by pretending that it had
been only a sacrifice of thanksgiving, offered as such for those souls
who were in possession of eternal happiness, and that it had not been
believed or practiced in the ancient Irish Church as a propitiatory
sacrifice. .... The ancient canons of the Irish Church as clearly point
out as the firmament demonstrates the glory of God, the doctrine of our
Church regarding the eucharistic sacrifice, as one of thanksgiving, and
also one of propitiation. In an ancient canon contained in D'Achery's
collection (lib. 2, cap. 20), the synod says: "The Church offers for
the souls of the deceased in four ways - for the very good, the
oblations are simply thanksgiving; for the very bad, they become
consolations to the living; for such as were not very good, the
oblations are made in order to obtain full remission; and for those who
were not very bad, that their punishment may be rendered more
tolerable." Here, then, is enunciated in plain terms, the doctrine of
the eucharistic oblation being a propitiatory sacrifice. When offered
for the first class of happy souls, it is an offering of thanksgiving.
When offered for those whose lives were bad in the sight of Heaven, its
oblation is a comfort to the faithful. When offered for those who were
not very good or very bad, the object of its oblation was to render
their state more tolerable, and that full pardon would be at length
accorded. The framers of this canon give us also the doctrine of a
middle state, as a tenet also believed by the Church of Ireland.

Another canon, still more ancient, and which is reckoned among those of
St. Patrick, is entitled "Of the Oblation for the Dead." This canon is
couched in the following words: "There is a sin unto death, I do not
say that for it any do pray." This sin is final impenitence.

The ancient Irish Missal, "the _Cursus Scotorum"_ contains an
oration for the dead: "Grant, O Lord, to him, Thy servant, deceased,
the pardon of all his sins, in that secret abode where there is no
longer room for penance. Do Thou, O Christ, receive the soul of Thy
servant, which Thou hast given, and forgive him his trespasses more
abundantly than he has forgiven those who have trespassed against him."
An oration is also given for the living and the dead: "Propitiously
grant that this sacred oblation may be profitable to the dead in
obtaining pardon, and to the living, in obtaining salvation; grant to
them (living and dead) the full remission of all their sins, and that
indulgence they have always deserved."

The liturgy usually called _"Cursus Scotorum"_ was that which had
been first brought to Ireland by St,. Patrick, and was the only one
that had been used, until about the close of the sixth century. About
this period the Gallican liturgy, _"Cursus Gallorum"_ was, it is
probable, introduced into Ireland. The _"Cursus Scotorum"_ is
supposed to have been the liturgy originally drawn up and used by St.
Mark the evangelist; it was afterwards followed by St. Gregory
Nazianzen, St. Basil, and other Greek Fathers; then by Cassian,
Honoratus, St. Cassarius of Aries, St. Lupus of Troyes, and St.
Germaine of Auxerre, from whom St. Patrick received it, when setting
out on his mission to Ireland. A copy of the "_Cursus Scotorum_"
was found by Mabillon, in the ancient monastery of Bobbio, of which St.
Columbanus was founder, and which missal that learned writer believes
to have been written at least one thousand years before his time. ...
It contains two Masses for the dead; one a general Mass, and the other
"_Missa Sacerdotis defuncti_" (Mass for a deceased priest).


This prayer, in the handwriting of the Prince Imperial, was found among
the papers in his desk at Camden Palace. In publishing it the Morning
Post adds: "The elucidation of his character alone justifies the
publication of such a sacred document, which will prove to the world
how intimately he was penetrated with all the feelings which most
become a Christian, and which give higher hopes than are afforded by
the pains and merits of this transitory life." The following is a
translation: "O God, I give to Thee my heart, but give me faith.
Without faith there is no strong prayer, and to pray is a longing of my
soul. I pray, not that Thou shouldst take away the obstacles on my
path, but that Thou mayst permit me to overcome them. I pray, not that
Thou shouldst disarm my enemies, but that Thou shouldst aid me to
conquer myself. Hear, O God, my prayer. Preserve to my affection those
who are dear to me. Grant them happy days. If Thou only givest on this
earth a certain sum of joy, take, O God, my share, and bestow it on the
most worthy, and, may the most worthy be my friends. If thou seekest
vengeance on man, strike me. Misfortune is converted into happiness by
the sweet thought that those whom we love are happy. Happiness is
poisoned by the bitter thought: while I rejoice, those whom I love a
thousand times better than myself are suffering. For me, O God, no more
happiness. Take it from my path. I can only find joy in forgetting the
past. _If I forget those who are no more, I shall be forgotten in my
turn_, and how sad the thought that makes me say, 'Time effaces
all.' The only satisfaction I seek is that which lasts forever, that
which is given by a tranquil conscience. O, my God! show me where my
duty lies, and give me strength to accomplish it always. Arrived at the
term of my life, I shall turn my looks fearlessly to the past. Remember
it will not be for me a long remorse. I shall be happy. Grant, O God,
that my heart may be penetrated with the conviction that those whom I
love and who are dead shall see all my actions. My life shall be worthy
of this witness, and my innermost thoughts shall never make them

That single line, "If I forget those who are no more, I shall be
forgotten in my turn," is an epitome of what is taught us, and what our
own hearts feel in relation to the dead. May the noble young heart that
poured forth this beautiful prayer be remembered by Christian charity
now that he is amongst the departed!


It has always seemed to me a particularly interesting subject of
thought to trace as far back as possible the origin of great and good
works, - to ascertain what were the tendencies or the circumstances
which concurred in awakening the first ideas, or giving the first
impulses, which have eventually led to results the magnitude of which
was little foreseen by those destined to bring them about; how much of
natural character, and what peculiar gifts, united with God's grace in
the formation of some of those grand developments of religion which
have been the joy and the glory of the Church.

What would we not give to know, for instance, at what page, at what
sentence, of the volume of the "Lives of the Saints" which St. Ignatius
was reading on his sick couch at the Castle of Loyola, the thought came
into his mind the ultimate development of which was the foundation of
the Society of Jesus? or when the blessed Father Clavers' soul was for
the first time moved by a casual mention, perhaps, of the sufferings of
the negro race? or the particular disappointment at some Parisian lady
going out of town in the midst of her works of charity, or at another
being detained at home by the sickness of some relative, which
suggested to St. Vincent de Paul the first idea of gathering together a
few servant girls from the country, to do with greater regularity, if
not more zeal, the visiting amongst the poor which the ladies had
undertaken, and thus founding the Order of the Sisters of Charity? I
suppose that every one who has done anything worth doing in the course
of their lives could call to mind the moment when a book, a sermon, a
conversation, a casual word, perhaps, - or, if they have been so
favored, a direct inspiration from God in the hour of prayer, - has
given the impulse - set fire, as it were, to the train lying ready in
their hearts. But long before this decisive time has come, indications
have existed, thoughts have arisen, feelings have been awakened, which,
like the cloud big as a man's hand, have foreshadowed the deluge of
graces and mercies about to inundate their souls.

As an instance of these indications of a particular bias, I was struck
with the mention of a childish fancy in the early years of the
foundress of the Order of Helpers of the Souls in Purgatory, - a new
community, which has sprung up during the last ten years, and has a
history well worth relating. To many this fresh manifestation of the
spirit of the Church on earth, and of its close affinity with the
suffering Church in Purgatory, has come as a wonderful blessing and
consolation, and inspired them with a grateful regard for these new
oblates and victims of charity to the dead.

About thirty years ago a little girl in the town of N - , in France, had
been much struck with the mention of Purgatory. It made a very great
impression upon her. She used to picture it to herself as a dark
closet, in which a little friend of hers who had lately died was
perhaps shut up, whilst she herself was playing in the garden and
running after butterflies; and she kept longing to open the door and
let her out. This little girl was subsequently educated in one of the
Convents of the Sacred Heart, and learnt in that school lessons of
self-devotion and ardent zeal for souls which were hereafter to bear
fruit. She has retained to this day an enthusiastic affection for the
religious teachers of her childhood; and devotion to the Sacred Heart
of Jesus is one of the principal devotions of the order she has

The thought which had occurred to her almost in infancy continued to
haunt her in another form as she grew older. She kept asking herself,"
How could I help God? He is our helper: how can we help Him? He gives
me everything: how could I give Him everything?" And the answer which
grace put into her heart to these oft-repeated questions was always, "By
paying the debts of the souls in Purgatory."

The inevitable result of this thought was the desire to have wherewith
to pay these debts. For this object the necessity of a perfect life, of
a daily sanctification, of an ever-increasing store of merits and
satisfactions, was obvious. Hence naturally arose the idea of the
community-life, of the practice of the evangelical counsels, and of a
meritorious, arduous, self-sacrificing charity towards the poor, in
order worthily to pray, to act, and to suffer for the souls in
Purgatory - to become, as it were, a co-operator with our Lord, by
aiding His designs of mercy towards them, whilst satisfying His justice
by voluntary expiation. This lady was not led by one of those startling
bereavements which close a person's prospects of earthly happiness, and
leave them no object to live for but the hope of winning mercy at God's
hands for some dear departed one; or by the terrible anxiety about the
state of some beloved soul which forces on the survivor the practice of
a continual appeal to His compassionate goodness. Her zeal for the
souls in Purgatory was perfectly free from any earthly attachment; it
was as disinterested as possible, and sprung up in her heart before she
had known what it is to lose a friend or a relative, before she had
experienced the keen anguish of bereavement. She was a happy, contented
girl, living in a cheerful and comfortable home, beloved by her family,
enjoying all innocent pleasures, going occasionally into society, and
amusing herself like other young people; devoted, indeed, to good
works, and taking the lead in the numerous charities existing in her
native town. But this was not to be her eventual mode of life. It was
good as far as it went; but she had been chosen for the accomplishment
of a special work, and grace was continually urging her to its

On the 1st of November, 1853, Mdlle. - - was hearing vespers with her
father and her mother in a church dedicated to Our Lady. Whilst the
Blessed Sacrament was being exposed on the altar, she felt a strong
internal inspiration prompting her to form an association of prayers
and offerings for the dead; but, afraid of being misled by her
imagination, she prayed earnestly that God would give her a sign that
this was indeed His will. As she was coming out of the church, a friend
of hers stopped her in the porch, and of her own accord proposed that
they should offer up jointly, during the month set apart for special
devotion to the souls in Purgatory, all their prayers and works for
their relief. This seemed to her a token that her inspiration had been
a true one, and that very evening an association was begun which by
this time numbers not less than fifteen thousand members. On the
following day, the 2d of November, during her thanksgiving after
Communion, Mdlle. - - was strongly impressed with the thought that there
existed orders intended to supply every need in the Church militant,
but none exclusively devoted to the relief of the suffering portion of
the Church, and it appeared to her that she was called upon to fill up
this void. This idea seemed at the outset too bold a one. She felt
startled, almost alarmed, at its magnitude, and earnestly entreated our
Lord to make known to her if such was indeed to be her mission. She
begged of Him, by His Five Sacred Wounds, to give her five indications
of His will in this respect. Her prayers were heard, and during the
course of the years 1854 and 1855 these tokens were successively
vouchsafed to her. What she had asked for was, 1st, that the Holy
Father should approve of in writing, and give his blessing to, the
association of prayers set on foot on All Saints' Day (on the 7th of
July, 1854, Pius IX. wrote, with his own hand, at the bottom of the
petition presented to him, "_Benedicat vos Deus benedictione
perpetua_" - may God bless you with an everlasting blessing); 2d,
that a great number of Bishops should approve of this association; 3d,
that it should extend rapidly; 4th, that a few pious persons should co-
operate in the scheme, and devote themselves to works of charity in
behalf of the souls in Purgatory; 5th, that a priest might be met with
who had previously formed a similar project.

In the month of July, 1855, Mdlle. - - thought of consulting the Curé
d'Ars, whom she had for the first time heard of a little while before.
The sanctity of this extraordinary man was beginning to be much spoken
of, not only in France, but all over Europe. Pilgrims flocked to the
insignificant little town of Ars, seeking the advice and help of the
poor _curé_ - whose ascetic mode of life, spiritual discernment,
heroic virtues, and even miraculous gifts, were gradually becoming
known, in spite of the desperate efforts he made to conceal them. We
can hardly imagine, when reading his Life, that in the neighboring
country of France, and in our own day, a man was actually living that
we might have seen and spoken and gone to confession to, the details of
whose supernatural existence are like the marvels that we read of in
the "Lives of the Saints." Mdlle. - - felt persuaded that this holy
priest was the instrument appointed by God to make her acquainted with
His will, and earnestly longed in some way or other to communicate with
him. She did not think of obtaining leave from her parents to go to
Ars. It seemed to her that his answer to her question, after he had
considered the subject before God in prayer, would be more unbiassed,
and carry greater weight with it, than if she had spoken of it to him
herself. She did not wish to be influenced by any human considerations,
or to be tempted to say more than, "Such is my thought and desire; does
it come from God?" With this view she began a novena, and on the day it
ended one of her friends called to tell her she was going to Ars, and
to inquire if she could do anything for her. On the 5th of August this
friend sent her M. Vianney's answer: "Tell her that she can establish,
as soon as she likes, an order for the souls in Purgatory."

The future foundress never had any personal communication with the Curé
d'Ars, and yet he always used to say, "I know her." On the 30th of
October Mdlle. - - entreated him to pray on All Souls' Day for her
intention, and on the 11th of November the Abbé T - , his assistant in
his extensive correspondence, wrote to her as follows:

"Your edifying letter reached me at Pont d'Ain, where our worthy
Bishop, Monseigneur Chalandon, was preaching a retreat. This seemed
expressly arranged by Providence, in order that I should speak to him
of you and your pious projects. On my return to Ars, on All Souls' Day,
I mentioned your wishes to my holy _curé_, begging him to meditate
on the subject in prayer before he gave me an answer. Three or four
times since I have put to him the same question, and always received
the same answer. 'He thinks that it is God who has inspired you with
the thought of a heroic self-devotion, and that you will do well to
found an order in behalf of the souls in Purgatory.' Whether the good
_curé_ speaks in consequence of a divine enlightenment, or whether
he only expresses his own opinion and his own wishes, which his tender
devotion to the souls in Purgatory would naturally incline in favor of
your design, neither I nor any of those most intimately acquainted with
him can presume to say. But you can remain certain of two things, - that
he quite approves of your vocation to the religious life, and of the
foundation of this new order, which he thinks will increase rapidly.
This is surely enough to confirm you in your intention, which you will
carry into effect whenever and wherever it will please God to open a
way to it, and you will then be the faithful instrument of His Divine

On the 25th of the same month M. Vianney sent a message to Mdlle. - - in
answer to a letter in which she had spoken of the obstacles which she
foresaw on the part of her family. The Abbé T - - writes:

"If I have not written to you before, it is because you particularly
wished to have an answer _after special prayer_. And now here is
this much-wished-for answer. The good _curé_ has expressed himself
as explicitly as possible. I told him that you were troubled at the
thought of a separation from your family more on their account than
your own, and also at relinquishing the many charitable works which you
carry on in your parish. To my great surprise, he who generally very
strongly recommends young people not to act against their parents'
wishes, but patiently to await their consent, did not hesitate in
advising you to proceed. He says that the tears your parents are now
shedding will soon be dried up. Do not, then, be afraid to let your
heart burn with the love of Jesus. He will find a way of removing all
the obstacles in your path, and of making you an angel of consolation
to His holy spouses, the souls in Purgatory. The moon has no light in
herself, and only reflects that of the sun. This is truly my case with
regard to our saintly priest. I will constantly remind him to pray for
you, and will unite my unworthy prayers to his, that, in the terrible
struggle in your heart between nature and grace, grace may remain

When this letter reached Mdlle. - - , the principal difficulty she
foresaw was already removed. On the 21st of November, the Feast of the
Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, her mother, seeing that her heart
was ready to break with the wish and the fear of broaching the subject
so painfully interesting to them both, had the pious courage to speak
first, and to give her full consent to her child's vocation.

Both mother and daughter were struck some time afterwards at finding in
a little prayer-book they had not seen before, called "The Month of
November Consecrated to the Souls in Purgatory," the following prayer,
appointed to be said on the 21st of November, the very day on which
they had made their sacrifice, and uttered for the first time the
bitter word _separation_.

"O Holy Spirit! who at divers times has raised up religious orders for
the needs of the Church Militant; O Father of Light! full of compassion
and zeal for the dead; we implore Thee to raise up also in behalf of
the suffering Church a new order, the object of which will be to work
day and night for the relief and the deliverance of the souls in
Purgatory; whose intentions, invariably dedicated to the dead, will
apply to them the merits of all their prayers, fastings, vigils, and
good works. Thou alone, Creating Spirit, canst achieve a work which
will procure so much glory to God, and for which we shall never cease
to sigh and pray."

Other difficulties failed not to arise. Some persons were of opinion
that Mdlle. - - ought to remain in the world for the very sake of the
objects she had in view, whereas her whole heart and soul were bent on
consecrating herself without any reserve to our Lord. She was warned
that her parents, who had never been separated from their children,
would suffer terribly if she left them; and finally, her own health
began to fail. But whilst the world and the devil were multiplying the
obstacles in her way, the venerable Curé d'Ars spared neither advice

Online LibraryMrs. James SadlierPurgatory → online text (page 19 of 35)