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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

* * * * *

I wish, again, they would in this but follow the example of King Louis
of France, who was son to Louis the Emperor, surnamed the Pious. For
they tell us [1] that this Emperor, after he had been thirty-three
years in Purgatory, not so much for any personal crimes or misdemeanors
of his own as for permitting certain disorders in his empire, which he
ought to have prevented, was at length permitted to show himself to
King Louis, his son, and to beg his favorable assistance; and that the
king did not only most readily grant him his request, procuring Masses
to be said in all the monasteries of his realm for the soul of his
deceased father, but drew thence many good reflections and profitable

Online LibraryMrs. James SadlierPurgatory → online text (page 6 of 35)