The Suffering Souls in Purgatory
A True Story About Purgatory
Involving One of Our Priests
This true story involves one of our Priests.
Here, quickly, is what happened a number of years ago.
After getting the necessary details, the Pastor went to the hospital. During this visit, the Grace of God touched the heart and Soul of the Father of this Lady and he asked to go to Confession and to receive the Last Rites of the Catholic Church from which he had been away for over 50 years! Of course, the Pastor was more than happy to comply with the wishes of this very sick man.
A few days later, the Mother of the Pastor called him to tell him she had just become very ill and, with no one else to take care of her, she was hoping he could get permission from his Bishop to leave the Parish and to take care of her during her illness. She lived about a thousand miles away. The necessary arrangements were made, the Pastor left, and was temporarily replaced by another Priest.
Within several days after arriving at his Mother's home, the Pastor received an emergency call from the Lady to whose Father he had given the Last Rites only about a week earlier.
She explained to her Pastor that her Father had just died a few hours before that and that he was in desperate need of having her Pastor offer a Requiem Mass for him as soon as possible.
Why was she in such a great hurry?
In her great sorrow and deep grief, she explained to her Pastor, that her Father had just appeared to her!
She and her young Daughter were kneeling on the floor of their living room, saying the Rosary for the happy repose of his immortal Soul, when the floor beneath them opened up, as it were, and she could see her Father in a sea of huge flames! She could also hear him screaming from the horrible pain of the agony of the never-consuming fires of Purgatory!
Yes, her Father told her, he was in Purgatory, although he had been destined to go to Hell.
Her Father explained to his Daughter that because of the Last Rites which he had received from her Pastor, that he was able to escape going to Hell for all eternity!
He also told his grieving Daughter that although God had spared his Soul from going to Hell, there was no way he could go to Heaven without first going to Purgatory because between the time that the Pastor had left him in his hospital room, and the time he died, due to a bad habit, he had committed a few venial sins.
Now this Father begged his Daughter to call her Pastor immediately in order to request that he immediately Offer a Catholic Requiem Mass for him.
He was very insistent that it had to be her Pastor who was the one to Offer this Catholic Requiem Mass because he knew her Pastor was a validly Ordained Catholic Priest and that her Pastor would use his Requiem Missal with which to Offer the much needed Requiem Mass for him.
He told his Daughter that if her Pastor would offer this one Mass for his Soul, before the conclusion of this one Catholic Requiem Mass, he would be released from Purgatory and go straight to Heaven!
Who could be so heartless, so lacking in true, Christian Charity, not to offer a Requiem Mass for such a suffering Soul, irregardless whether or not one would want to believe in the authenticity of this reported vision?
Of course, the Pastor, who had, about a week before that, administered the Last Rites to this elderly man in the hospital, now immediately after this frantic telephone call from his agonizing Parishioner, Offered the requested, and even required, Catholic Requiem Mass.
This Soul obviously wanted to get out of Purgatory
as fast as possible and he knew what he needed to do in order both to get
out of Purgatory and to get to Heaven super quick! So this is why
he insisted that his Daughter's Pastor Offer this Catholic
For example, ask yourself when was the last time YOU gave a Stipend to have the required Catholic Requiem Mass Offered for the happy repose of the Soul of someone YOU know who is deceased, whether it might be a Parent, or Grandparent, or a relative, or even a close friend?
But don't limit yourself in the practice of the Theological Virtue of Charity!
Perhaps the Priest who Baptized you, or maybe the Bishop who Confirmed you, or perhaps some of the Priests at whose Masses you assisted years ago are deceased? Such Bishops and Priests need Masses, too!
Think of all of the terrible, horrible sufferings YOU will spare a Soul that is in Purgatory!
"Blessed are the Merciful: for they shall obtain
Remember, IF you should have the misfortune to find yourself in Purgatory, would you not want someone in this life to request at least one Catholic Requiem Mass to be Offered for Your Soul in order to lessen the intensity of your sufferings and perhaps be sufficient to even release you from Purgatory and to go to Heaven much, much sooner?
According to one book on Purgatory, the intensity of the pain in Purgatory is so terrible that one hour in Purgatory seems like it is ten years in earth time!!!
Please understand that those who ignore helping the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory, most especially by not sending us one or more Stipends requesting that Catholic Requiem Masses be Offered for the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory, if, after they die, end up having the misfortune to find themselves in Purgatory, very quickly will discovered that then it will be their turn to be ignored, not just for a few hours or days or months, just like they did to those Souls they could have helped who were in Purgatory when they were yet in this life, but for the entire time they are supposed to be in Purgatory which, in some cases, could be hundreds of years, or maybe even longer - and, yes, one hour in Purgatory seems like ten years of earth time?!!!
Brief Excerpts from
Illustrated by the Lives and
Legends of the Saints
Means of Assisting the Souls in Purgatory - Holy
The Religious of Citeaitx delivered by the Sacred Host - Blessed Henry Suzo.
No; of all that we can do in favour of the souls in Purgatory, there is nothing more precious than the immolation of our Divine Saviour upon the altar. Besides being the express doctrine of the Church, manifested in her Councils, many miraculous facts, properly authenticated, leave no room for doubt in regard to this point.
We have already spoken of the Religious who was delivered from Purgatory by the prayers of St. Bernard and his community. This Religious, whose regularity was not all that could be desired, had appeared after his death to ask the assistance of St. Bernard. The holy Abbot, with all his fervent disciples, hastened to offer prayers, fasts, and Masses for the poor departed brother.
The latter was speedily delivered, and appeared, full of gratitude, to an aged Religious of the community who had specially interested himself in his behalf. Questioned as to the suffrage which had been most profitable to him, instead of replying, he took the old man by the hand, and, conducting him to the church where Mass was being celebrated, “Behold”, said he, pointing to the altar, “the great redeeming power which has broken my chains; behold the price of my ransom: it is the Saving Host, which takes away the sins of the world”! (Footnote # 1. L’Abbé Postel, “Le Purgatoire”, chap. v.; cf. Rossign., “Merv.”, 47.)
Here is another incident, related by the historian Ferdinand of Castile, and quoted by Father Rossignoli. There was at Cologne, among the students in the higher
page 156 - The Dogma of Purgatory.
classes of the university, two Dominican Religious of distinguished talent, one of whom was Blessed Henry Suzo. (Footnote # 1. Jan. 25 [This is the Feast Day of Blessed Henry Suzo in the Dominican Calendar]).
The same studies, the same kind of life, and above all the same relish for sanctity, had caused them to contract an intimate friendship, and they mutually imparted the favours which they received from Heaven.
When they had finished their studies, seeing that they were about to be separated, to return each one to his own convent, they agreed and promised one another that the first of the two who should die should be assisted by the other for a whole year by the celebration of two Masses each week – on Monday a Mass of Requiem, as was customary, and on Friday that of the Passion, in so far as the Rubrics would permit. They engaged to do this, gave each other the kiss of peace, and left Cologne.
For several years they both continued to serve God with the most edifying fervour. The brother whose name is not mentioned was the first to be called away, and Suzo received the tidings with the most perfect sentiments of resignation to the Divine will. As to the contract they had made, time had caused him to forget it. He prayed much for his friend, imposing new penances upon himself, and many other good works, but he did not think of offering the Masses which he had promised.
One morning, whilst meditating in retirement in the
chapel, he suddenly saw appear before him the soul of his departed friend,
who, regarding him with tenderness, reproached him with having been unfaithful
to his word, given and accepted, and which he had a perfect right to rely
upon with confidence. Blessed Suzo, surprised, excused his forgetfulness
by enumerating the prayers and mortifications which he had offered, and
still continued to offer, for his friend, whose salvation was as dear to
him as his own. “Is it possible, my dear brother,” he added, “that so many
prayers and good works which I have offered
to God do not suffice for you?” “Oh ! no, dear brother”, replied the suffering soul, “that is not sufficient. It is the Blood of Jesus Christ that is needed to extinguish the flames by which I am consumed; it is the August Sacrifice which will deliver me from these frightful torments. I implore you to keep your word, and refuse me not that which in justice you owe me.”
Blessed Suzo hastened to respond to the appeal of the suffering soul; and, to repair his fault, he celebrated, and caused to be celebrated, more Masses than he had promised.
On the following day several priests, at the request of Suzo, united with him in offering the Holy Sacrifice for the deceased, and continued this act of charity for several days.
After some time the friend of Suzo again appeared to him, but now in a very different condition; his countenance was joyful, and surrounded with beautiful light. “Oh! thanks, my faithful friend,” said he; “behold, by the Blood of my Saviour I am delivered from my sufferings. I am now going to Heaven to contemplate Him whom we so often adored together under the Eucharistic veil.” Suzo prostrated himself to thank the God of all mercy, and understood more than ever the inestimable value of the August Sacrifice of the Altar. (Footnote # 1. Rossignoli, “Merv.” 34, and Ferdinand de Castile.)
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Relief of the Souls - Holy Mass - St. Elizabeth
Queen Constance - St. Nicholas of Tolentino and Pellegrino d’Osima.
WE read in the Life of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Footnote # 1. July 8 [This is the Feast Day of Saint Elizabeth of Portugal]). that after the death of her daughter Constance she learned the pitiful state of the deceased in Purgatory and the price which God exacted for her ransom. The young princess had been married but a short time previous to the King of Castile, when she was snatched away by sudden death from the affection of her family and her subjects. Elizabeth had just received these tidings, and set out with the King, her husband, for the city of Santarem, when a hermit, coming forth from his solitude, ran after the royal cortege, crying that he wished to speak to the Queen. The guards repulsed him, but the saint, seeing that he persisted, gave orders that the servant of God should be brought to her.
As soon as he came into her presence, he related that more than once whilst he was praying in his hermitage Queen Constance had appeared to him, urgently entreating him to make known to her mother that she was languishing in the .depths of Purgatory, that she was condemned to long and terrible suffering, but that she would be delivered if for the space of a year the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated for her every day. The courtiers who heard this communication ridiculed him aloud, and treated the hermit as a visionary, an impostor, or a fool.
As to Elizabeth, she turned towards the King and asked him what he thought of it? “I believe,” replied the
At the end of the year Constance appeared to St. Elizabeth, clad in a brilliant white robe. “Today, dear mother,” said she, “I am delivered from the pains of Purgatory, and am about to enter Heaven.” Filled with consolation and joy, the saint went to the church to return thanks to God. There she found the priest Mendez, who assured her that on the previous day he had finished the celebration of the three hundred and sixty-five Masses with which he had been charged. The Queen then understood that God had kept the promise which He had made to the pious hermit, and she testified her gratitude by distributing abundant alms to the poor.
“But thou hast saved us from them that afflict us, and thou hast put them to shame that hate us” (Ps. xliii [Psalm 43:8].). Such were the words addressed to the illustrious St. Nicholas of Tolentino by the souls that he had delivered in offering for them the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. One of the greatest virtues of that admirable servant of God, says Father Rossignoli (Footnote # 1. “Merv.”, 21. “Vie de St. Nic. de Tolentino”, Sept, 10 [Feast Day is September 10]) was his charity, his devotion to the Church Suffering.
For her he frequently fasted on bread and water, inflicted cruel disciplines upon himself, and wore about his loins a chain of sharp-pointed iron. When the sanctuary was thrown open to him, and his superiors wished to confer the priesthood upon him, he hesitated a long time before that sublime dignity, and nothing could make him decide to receive holy orders but the thought that by daily celebrating the Holy Sacrifice he could most efficaciously assist the suffering souls in Purgatory. On their part, the souls whom he relieved by so many suffrages
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appeared to him several times to thank him or to recom mend themselves to his charity.
He lived near Pisa, entirely occupied with his spiritual exercises, when one Saturday during the night he saw in a dream a soul in pain, who besought him to celebrate Holy Mass on the following morning for her and several other souls that suffered most terribly in Purgatory. Nicholas recognised the voice, but could distinctly call to mind the person who spoke to him. “I am,” said the apparition, “your deceased friend Pellegrino d Osimo. By the Divine Mercy I have escaped eternal chastisement by repentance; not so the temporal punishment due to my sins. I come in the name of many souls as unfortunate as myself to entreat you to offer Holy Mass for us tomorrow; from it we expect our deliverance, or at least great alleviation.”
The saint replied, with his usual kindness, “May our Lord deign to relieve you by the merits of His precious Blood! But this Mass for the dead I cannot say tomorrow; I must sing the Conventual Mass in choir.” “Ah! at least come with me,” cried the departed soul, amid sighs and tears; “I conjure you, for the love of God, come and behold our sufferings, and you will no longer refuse; you are too good to leave us in such frightful agonies.”
Then it seemed to him that he was transported into Purgatory. He saw an immense plain, where a vast multitude of souls, of all ages and conditions, were a prey to divers tortures most horrible to behold. By gestures and by words they implored most piteously his assistance.
“Behold,” said Pellegrino, “the state of those who sent me to you. Since you are agreeable in the sight of God, we have confidence that He will refuse nothing to the oblation of the Sacrifice offered by you, and that His Divine Mercy will deliver us.”
At this pitiful sight the saint could not repress his tears. He immediately betook himself to prayer, to console them
Delighted with this permission, Nicholas went to the church and celebrated Holy Mass with extraordinary fervour. During the entire week he continued to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice for the same intention, besides offering day and night prayers, disciplines, and all sorts of good works.
At the end of the week, Pellegrino again appeared, but no longer in a state of suffering; he was clad in a white garment and surrounded with a celestial light, in which he pointed out a large number of happy souls. They all thanked him, calling him their liberator; then rising towards heaven, they chanted these words of the Psalmist, “Salvasti nos de affligentibus nos, et odientes nos confudisti” - Thou hast saved us from them that afflict us, and thou hast put them to shame that hate us”. (Ps. xliii [Psalm 43:8].) The enemies here spoken of are sins, and the demons who are their instigators.
Catholic Teaching on Purgatory
|Part 1. Catholic Doctrine|
Purgatory (Latin, "purgare", to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching, is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's Grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.
The faith of the Church concerning Purgatory is clearly expressed in the Decree of Union drawn up by the Roman Catholic Council of Florence (Mansi, t. XXXI, col. 1031), and in the decree of the Roman Catholic Council of Trent:
Further than this the definitions of the Church do not go, but the tradition of the Fathers and the Scholastics must be consulted to explain the teachings of the Councils, and to make clear the belief and the practices of the Faithful."Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, from the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers [of the Catholic Church], taught, in sacred councils, and very recently in this OEcumenical Synod, that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the Faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar [i.e., the Mass]..." (Roman Catholic Council of Trent, Decree Concerning Purgatory, Session 25, Wednesday, December 4, 1563).
That temporal punishment is due to sin, even after the sin itself has been pardoned by God, is clearly the teaching of Scripture. God indeed brought man out of his first disobedience and gave him power to govern all things (Wisdom 10:2), but still condemned him "to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow" until he returned unto dust. God forgave the incredulity of Moses and Aaron, but in punishment kept them from the "land of promise" (Numbers 20:12). The Lord took away the sin of David, but the life of the child was forfeited because David had made God's enemies blaspheme His Holy Name (2 Kings 12:13-14).
In the New Testament as well as in the Old, almsgiving and fasting, and in general penitential acts are the real fruits of repentance (Matthew 3:8. Luke 3:3; 17:3).
The whole penitential system of the Church testifies that the voluntary assumption of penitential works has always been part of true repentance and the Roman Catholic Council of Trent (Session 24, Canon 11) reminds the faithful that God does not always remit the whole punishment due to sin together with the guilt. God requires satisfaction, and will punish sin, and this doctrine involves as its necessary consequence a belief that the sinner failing to do penance in this life may be punished in another world, and so not be cast off eternally from God.
All sins are not equal before God, nor dare anyone assert that the daily faults of human frailty will be punished with the same severity that is meted out to serious violation of God's law. On the other hand whosoever comes into God's presence must be perfectly perfectly pure for in the strictest sense His "eyes are too pure, to behold evil" (Hab., 1:13). For unrepented venial faults for the payment of temporal punishment due to sin at time of death, the Church has always taught the doctrine of purgatory.
So deep was this belief ingrained in our common humanity that it was accepted by the Jews, and in at least a shadowy way by the pagans, long before the coming of Christ. (Aeneid, VI, 735 sq.; Sophocles, Antigone, 450 sq.).
Epiphanius (haer., lxxv, P.G., XLII, col. 513) complains that Acrius (fourth cent.) taught that prayers for the dead were of no avail.
In the Middle Ages, history repeated itself in the
sects known as the dualist Cathars and the
dualist Albigensians, and also the Waldenses, and Hussites, each of which rejected the actual existence of Purgatory.
Saint Bernard (Sermon 66 On the Canticles, P. L. CLXXXIII, col. 1098) states that the so-called Apostolici denied Purgatory and the utility of prayers for the departed.
In the 16th century, Father Martin Luther, O.S.A. [Schmalcaldic Article, Pars. II. Art. II, Sec. 12-15], and Father John Calvin [Instit. III 5, 6-10], taught a predestination which denied the existence of Purgatory. This is why, today, most Protestants reject Purgatory but do accept the false predestination taught by Luther and Calvin.
The Eastern-Rite Orthodox, e.g., the Greek Orthodox, seem to have a vague and indefinite notion of Purgatory [cf. Confessio Orthodoxa of Petrus Mogilas, P.I., q. 64-66-revised by Meletios Syrigos, and the Confessio of Dositheos, Decr. 18]. In the aftermath of Synod Vatican 2, held in the early to middle 1960's, the new humanistic church which Synod Vatican 2 put together with the help of six very active Protestants, which has been called the Vatican 2 Church, by praxis-in actual practice, despite what they say and write-accepts and believes this Protestant heresy of predestination.
But for members of the Catholic Church, belief in Purgatory fosters piety among the Faithful and deters one from venial sins of commission and omission. It also begets a true spirit of penance, and gives the Faithful a solid reason of why they need to practice charity for the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory, especially for the souls of their own relatives and friends in particular and everyone else in general.
It likewise awakens within each person, especially those who are devoted to helping the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory, salutary thoughts of the life to come. Such charitable persons also realize that if they help the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory now, that after they die, if they have the misfortune to end up in Purgatory, for whatever time, God, in His Infinite Mercy and Justice, will inspire those still in this life to have Holy Masses offered for those souls who had the most compassion on the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory when they were yet still in this life.
It is therefore wise and prudent to try to outdo each other in the charity you extend to the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory by having as many Holy Requiem Masses [Masses in which black vestments are used along with the Propers for the Daily Mass for the Dead] as you can afford, to be offered for the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory by a Priest or Prelate whom you know has been validly ordained by a valid Bishop.
For your convenience, if you would like to request us to offer a Holy Requiem Mass Holy Requiem Mass for one or more deceased souls, whether it be the souls of your parents, grandparents, relatives, friends, etc., just click on this link: My Mass Intentions and follow the instructions.
God will reward you for your charity in this life and in the next! Who knows, you may, by your charity in having Requiem Masses offered for the Poor, Suffering Souls in Purgatory NOW, either greatly lessen the time you might have otherwise spent in Purgatory, or, perhaps, not be required to go to Purgatory at all AFTER you die?!
Just remember, if you do end up in Purgatory, just as all other souls there, you can not help yourself nor can you help other souls there!
Do NOW that which you will THEN wish you had done NOW!
God Bless You!
The Catholic doctrine of Purgatory supposes the fact that some die with smaller faults for which there was no true repentance, and also the fact that the temporal penalty due to sin is it times not wholly paid in this life.
The proofs for the Catholic position, both in Scripture and in Tradition, are bound up also with the practice of praying for the dead. For why pray for the dead, if there be no belief in the power of prayer to afford solace to those who as yet are excluded from the sight of God? So true is this position that prayers for the dead and the existence of a place of purgation are mentioned in conjunction in the oldest passages of the Fathers, who allege reasons for succouring departed souls.
Those who have opposed the doctrine of Purgatory have confessed that prayers for the dead would be an unanswerable argument if the modern doctrine of a "particular judgment" had been received in the early ages.
But one has only to read the testimonies below to feel sure that the Fathers speak, in the same breath, of oblations for the dead and a place of purgation. One has only to consult the evidence found in the Catacombs to feel equally sure that the Christian Catholic Faith there expressed embraced clearly a belief in judgment immediately after death.
"Intercession has been made for the Soul of the dear one departed and God has heard the prayer, and the Soul has passed into a place of light and refreshment. Surely, such intercession would have no place were there question not of the particular, but of the final judgment." (Wilpert, Roma Sotteranea, I, 441.)Some stress too has been laid upon the objection that the ancient Christian Catholics had no clear conception of Purgatory, and that they thought that the souls departed remained in uncertainity of salvation to the last day; and consequently they prayed that thoese who had gone before might in the final judgment escape even the everlasting torments of Hell.
The earliest Christian Catholic traditions are clear as to the particular judgment, and clearer still concerning a sharp distinction between Purgatory and Hell. The passages alledged as referring to relief from Hell cannot offset the evidence given below (Bellarmine, De Purgatorio, Book II, Chapter 5).
Concerning the famous case of Trajan, which vexed the Doctors of the Middle Ages, see Bellarmine, De Purgatorio, Book II, Chapter 8.
The tradition of the Jews is put forth with precision and clearness in 2 Maccabees.
Judas, the commander of the forces of Israel,
"making a gathering . . . sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead). And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins" (2 Maccabees 12:43-46).At the time of the Maccabees the leaders of the people of God had no hesitation in asserting the efficacy of prayers offered for the dead, in order that those who had departed this life might find pardon for their sins and the hope of eternal resurrection.
There are several passages in the New Testament that point to a process of purification after death. Thus, Jesus Christ declares (Matthew 12:32):
"And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come."According to Saint Isidore of Seville (Deord. creatur., c. xiv, n. 6) these words prove that in the next life
"some sins wil be forgiven and purged away by a certain purifying fire."Bishop Saint Augustine also argues
"that some sinners are not forgiven either in this world or in the next would not be truly said unless there were other [sinners] who, though not forgiven in this world, are forgiven in the world to come" (City of God, Book 21, Chapter 24).The same interpretation is given by Gregory the Great (Dial., IV, xxxix).
Saint Bede (commentary on this text).
Saint Bernard (Sermo lxvi in Cantic., n. 11); etc.
A further argument is supplied by Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:
"For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay stubble: Every man's work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire."While this passage presents considerable difficulty, it is regarded by many of the Fathers and theologians as evidence for the existence of an intermediate state in which the dross of lighter transgressions will be burnt away, and the soul thus purified will be saved. This, according to Bellarmine (On Purgatory, I, 5), is the interpretation commonly given by the Fathers and theologians; and he cites to this effect:
|* Saint Ambrose (commentary on the text, and Sermo
xx in Ps. cxvii)
* Saint Jerome, (Comm. in Amos, c. iv)
* Saint Augustine (Comm. in Ps. xxxvii)
* Saint Gregory (Dial., IV, xxxix)
* Origen (Hom. vi in Exod.).
See also Saint Thomas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, Chapter 91. For a discussion of the exegetical problem, see Atzberger, Die christliche Eschatologie, p. 275.
Purgatory is firmly established by tradition and confirmed by the constant belief of the Church in the suffrages for the dead.
Tertullian's De corona militis mentions prayers for the dead as an Apostolic ordinance, and in De Monogamia (cap. x, P. L., II, col. 912) he advises a Widow:
"To pray for the soul of her husband, begging repose for him and participation in the first resurrection".He also commands her:
"To make oblations for him on the anniversary of his demise," and charges her with infidelity if she neglect to succour his soul.This settled custom of the Church is clear from Saint Cyprian, who (P. L. IV, col. 399) forbade the customary prayers for one who had violated the ecclesiastical law.
"Our predecessors prudently advised that no brother, departing this life, should nominate any churchman as his executor; and should he do it, that no oblation should be made for him, nor sacrifice offered for his repose."Long before Saint Cyprian, Saint Clement of Alexandria had puzzled over the question of the state or condition of the man who, reconciled to God on his death-bed, had no time for the fulfilment of penance due his transgression.
His answer is:
"The believer through discipline divests himself of his passions and passes to the mansion which is better than the former one, passes to the greatest torment, taking with him the characteristic of repentance for the faults he may have committed after baptism. He is tortured then still more, not yet attaining what he sees others have acquired. The greatest torments are assigned to the believer, for God's justice is good, and His goodness righteous, and though these punishments cease in the course of the expiation and purification of each one, "yet" etc. (P. G. IX, col. 332).In Origen the doctrine of Purgatory is very clear. If a man depart this life with lighter faults, he is condemned to fire which burns away the lighter materials, and prepares the soul for the kingdom of God, where nothing defiled may enter.
"For if on the foundation of Christ you have built not only gold and silver and precious stones (1 Corinthians, 3); 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 and thus defile the kingdom of God; or on account of these hindrances would you 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 will burn the light materials; for our God to those who can comprehend heavenly things is called a cleansing fire. But this fire consumes not the creature, but what the creature has himself built, wood, and hay and stubble. It is manifest that the fire destroys the wood of our transgressions and then returns to us the reward of our great works." (P. G., XIII, col. 445, 448).The Apostolic practice of praying for the dead which passed into the liturgy of the Church, is as clear in the fourth century as it is in this century.
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechet. Mystog., V, 9, P.G., XXXIII, col. 1116) describing the liturgy, writes:
"Then we pray for the Holy Fathers and Bishops that are dead; and in short for all those who have departed this life in our communion; believing that the souls of those for whom prayers are offered receive very great relief, while this Holy and Tremendous Victim lies upon the Altar."Saint Gregory of Nyssa (P. G., XLVI, col. 524, 525) states that man's weaknesses are purged in this life by prayer and wisdom, or are expiated in the next by a cleansing fire.
"When he has quitted his body and the difference between virtue and vice is known he cannot approach God till the purging fire shall have cleansed the stains with which his soul was infested. That same fire in others will cancel the corruption of matter, and the propensity to evil."About the same time the Apostolic Constitution gives us the formularies used in succouring the dead.
"Let us pray for our brethren who sleep in Christ, that God who in his love for men has received the soul of the depart one, may forgive him every fault, and in mercy and clemency receive him into the bosom of Abraham, with those who in this life have pleased God" (P. G. I, col. 1144).Nor can we pass over the use of the diptychs where the names of the dead were inscribed; and this remembrance by name in the Sacred Mysteries. This practice came from the Apostles themselves. Patriarch Saint John Chrysostome considered this to be the best way of relieving the sufferings of the Faithful departed in Purgatory (In 1 Corinthians, Homily 41, n. 4, G., LXI, col. 361, 362).
The teaching of the Fathers, and the formularies used in the Liturgy of the Church, found expression in the early Christian monuments, particularly those contained in the Catacombs. On the tombs of the Faithful were inscribed words of hope, words of petition for peace and for rest. Their anniversaries were observed by the Faithful who gathered at the graves of the Faithful departed to make intercession for those who had gone before them. The bottom lines is that this is nothing less than the faith expressed by the Council of Trent (Session 25, On Purgatory), and to this faith the inscriptions in the Catacombs are surely witnesses.
In the fourth century in the West, Patriarch Saint Ambrose insists in his commentary on St. Paul (1 Corinthians, 3) on the existence of Purgatory, and in his masterly funeral oration (De obitu Theodosii), thus prays for the soul of the departed Emperor:
"Give, O Lord, rest to Thy servant Theodosius, that rest Thou hast prepared for Thy saints. . . . I loved him, therefore will I follow him to the land of the living; I will not leave him till by my prayers and lamentations he shall be admitted unto the holy mount of the Lord, to which his deserts call him" (P. L., XVI, col. 1397).Bishop Saint Augustine is clearer even than his master. He describes two conditions of men;
"Some there are who have departed this life, not so bad as to be deemed unworthy of mercy, nor so good as to be entitled to immediate happiness" etc., and in the resurrection he says there will be some who "have gone through these pains, to which the spirits of the dead are liable" (City of God, XXI, 24).Thus at the close of the fourth century not only:
1. Were prayers for the dead found in all the Liturgies, but the Fathers asserted that such practice was from the Apostles themselves.So clear is this Patristic Tradition that those who do not believe in Purgatory have been unable to bring any serious difficulties from the writings of the Fathers of the Church. The passages cited to the contrary either do not touch the question at all, or are so lacking in clearness that they cannot offset the perfectly open expression of the doctrine as found in the very Fathers who are quoted as holding contrary opinions (Bellarmine, On Purgatory, Book 1, Chapter 13).
2. Those who were helped by the prayers of the faithful and by the celebration of the Holy Mysteries were in a place of purgation.
3. From which when purified they "were admitted unto the Holy Mount of the Lord".
The chief punishment of Purgatory consists in being deprived of the Beatific Vision, which is the Vision of God in Heaven. This punishment is called poena damni [pain of the damned] by theologians. Besides this, there is an additional punishment, called poena sensus [pain of the senses], which, according to the common belief of the Western Church, consists in a real fire.
The souls in Purgatory are certain of their salvation, and are also confirmed in good. This means that they can not commit any sin. Because of their perfect love of God, whatever their sufferings are, they bear them with patient resignation. According to many theologians, their love of God and their patient resignation to His Holy Will, help to lessen and mitigate the severest sufferings of Purgatory. But, except for gaining and applying a plenary indulgence for a particular soul in Purgatory, the most powerful way in which you can help a Poor, Suffering Soul in Purgatory is by having a Holy Requiem Mass offered for the happy repose of his or her immortal soul!
How many Holy Masses does it take to release a soul from Purgatory? This varies with the particular circumstances of each soul. However, it has been suggested that it is better to have one Holy Mass offered for yourself in this life while you are still able to help yourself than to wait until you get to Purgatory and to then totally rely upon the charity of others.
Although the answer to the question of exactly how many Holy Masses it would actually take to release a particular soul from Purgatory is normally not disclosed, except in very rare cases of private revelation, it has been claimed that one Holy Mass offered for you BEFORE your death is worth at least 1,000 Holy Requiem Masses offered for you AFTER your death!
The very reasons assigned for the existence of Purgatory make for its passing character. We pray, we offer sacrifice for Souls therein detained that
"God in mercy may forgive every fault and receive them into the bosom of Abraham" (Apostolic Constitutions, P. G., I col. 1144).Bishop Saint Augustine (City of God, Book 21, Chapters 13-14) declares that the punishment of purgatory is temporary and will cease, at least with the Last Judgment.
"But temporary punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by others after death, by others both now and then; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment."
It is clear from the Liturgies and the Fathers above cited that the souls for whose peace sacrifice was offered were shut out for the time being from the sight of God.
They were "not so good as to be entitled to eternal happiness".
Still, for them
"Death is the termination, not of nature, but of sin" (Saint Ambrose, De obitu Theodos.).Tis inability to sin makes them secure of final happiness. This is the Catholic position proclaimed by the Roman Catholic Pope Leo X in the Bull Exurge Domine which condemned the errors of Luther.
Are the Souls detained in Purgatory conscious that their happiness is but deferred for a time, or may they still be in doubt concerning their ultimate salvation? The ancient Liturgies and the inscriptions of the catacombs speak of a "sleep of peace", which would be impossible if there was any doubt of ultimate salvation.
Saint. Bonaventure gives as the reason for the elimination of fear and of uncertainty by the Poor, Suffering Souls, the intimate conviction that they can no longer sin (lib. IV, dist. xx, p.1, a.1 q. iv):
Est evacuatio timoris propter confirniationem liberi arbitrii, qua deinceps scit se peccare non posse. (Fear is cast out because of the strengthening of the will by which the soul knows it can no longer sin).Saint Thomas (dist. xxi, q. i, a.1) says:
nisi scirent se esse liberandas suffragia non peterent (unless they knew that they are to be delivered, they would not ask for prayers).
In the Bull "Exurge Domine" the Roman Catholic Pope, Leo X, condemns the proposition (n. 38)
Nec probatum est ullis aut rationibus aut scripturis ipsas esse extra statum merendi aut augendae caritatis. (There is no proof from reason or Scripture that they [the souls in purgatory] cannot merit or increase in charity).For them "the night has come in which no man can labour", and Christian tradition has always considered that only in this life can man work unto the profit of his own soul.
The Doctors of the Middle Ages, while agreeing that this life is the time for merit and increase of Grace, still some with Saint Thomas, seemed to question whether or not there might be some non-essential reward which the Souls in Purgatory might merit (IV, dist. xxi, q. i, a. 3).
Bellarmine believes that in this matter Saint Thomas changed his opinion and refers to a statement of St. Thomas (De Malo, q. vii, a. 11). Whatever may be the mind of the Angelic Doctor, theologians agree that no merit is possible in Purgatory.
Bellarmine says that the prayers of the Poor Souls in Purgatory avail with God because of merit already acquired:
Solum impetrant ex meritis praeteritis quomodo nunc sancti orando pro nobis impetrant licet non merendo. (They avail only in virtue of past merits as those who are now saints intercede for us not by merit but by prayer). (loc. cit. II, cap. iii).
At the Council of Florence, Bessarion argued against the existence of real purgatorial fire, and the Greeks were assured that the Roman Church had never issued any dogmatic decree on this subject.
In the West the belief in the existence of real fire is common. For example, Saint Augustine in Psalm 37, n. 3, speaks of the pain which purgatorial fire causes as more severe than anything a man can suffer in this life:
gravior erit ignis quam quidquid potest homo pati in hac vita (P. L., col. 397).Saint Gregory the Great speaks of those who after this life
"will expiate their faults by purgatorial flames," and he adds "'that the pain be more intolerable than any one can suffer in this life" (Psalm 3, poenit., n. 1).Following in the footsteps of Saint Gregory, Saint Thomas teaches (IV, dist. xxi, q. i, a.1) that besides the separation of the soul from the sight of God, there is the other punishment from fire.
Una poena damni, in quantum scilicet retardantur a divina visione; alia sensus secundum quod ab igne punientur.Saint Bonaventure not only agrees with Saint Thomas but adds (IV, dist. xx, p.1, a.1, q. ii) that this punishment by fire is more severe than any punishment which comes to men in this life; Gravior est omni temporali poena. quam modo sustinet anima carni conjuncta.
Scripture and the Fathers command prayers and oblations for the departed, and the Council of Trent (Session 25, On Purgatory) in virtue of this tradition not only asserts the existence of purgatory, but adds
"That the Souls therein detained are aided by the suffrages of the Faithful and principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar."That those on earth are still in communion with the Souls in Purgatory is the earliest Christian Catholic teaching, and that the living aid the dead by their prayers and works of satisfaction is clear from the tradition above alleged.
That the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered for the departed was received Catholic Tradition, even as far back as the days of Tertullian and Cyprian, and that the souls of the dead, were aided particularly "while the Sacred Victim lay upon the Altar" is the expression of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem quoted above.
Bishop Saint Augustine says that the "prayers and alms of the faithful, the Holy Sacrifice of the altar aid the faithful departed and move the Lord to deal with them in mercy and kindness, and, this is the practice of the universal Church handed down by the Fathers." (Sermon clxii, n. 2.)
Whether our works of satisfaction performed on behalf of the dead avail purely out of God's benevolence and mercy, or whether God obliges himself in justice to accept our vicarious atonement, is not a settled question.
Suarez thinks that the acceptance is one of justice, and alleges the common practice of the Church which joins together the living and the dead without any discrimination (De poenit., disp. xlviii, 6, n. 4).
The Council of Trent (Sesssion 25) defined that indulgences are "most salutary for Christian people" and that their "use is to be retained in the Church".
It is the common teaching of Catholic theologians that:
Indulgences may be applied to the souls detained in Purgatory; that indulgences are available for them "by way of suffrage" (per modum suffragii).(1) Bishop Saint Augustine (City of God, XX, ix) declares that the souls of the faithful departed are not separated from the Church, which is the kingdom of Christ, and for this reason the prayers and works of the living are helpful to the dead.
"If, therefore, we can offer our prayers and our satisfactions in behalf of those detained in purgatory, because we are members of the great body of Christ, why may not the Vicar of Christ apply to the same souls the superabundant satisfaction of Christ and his saints--of which he is the dispenser?" (Bellarmine, On Indulgences, xiv.)
This is the doctrine of Saint Thomas (IV, Sent., dist. xlv, q. ii, a. 3, q. 2) who asserts that indulgences avail principally for the person who performs the work for which the indulgence is given, if they but secondarily may avail even for the dead, if the form in which the indulgence is granted be so worded as to be capable of such interpretation, and he adds
"nor is there any reason why the Church may not dispose of its treasure of merits in favour of the dead, as it surely dispenses it in favour of the living".(2) St. Bonaventure (IV, Sent., dist. xx, p. 2, q. v) agrees with Saint Thomas, but adds that such "relaxation cannot be after the manner of absolution as in the case of the living but only as suffrage (Haec non tenet modum judicii, sed potius suffragii).
This opinion of St. Bonaventure, that the Church through its Supreme Pastor does not absolve juridically the Souls in Purgatory from the punishment due their sins, is the teaching of the Doctors.
They point out that in case of those who have departed this life judgment is reserved to God; they allege the authority of Gelasius (Ep. ad Fausturn; Ep. ad. Episcopos Dardaniae) in support of their contention (Gratian, 24 q. ii, 2, Canon1).
But according to the same author, the suffrages of the faithful avail at times per modum meriti congrui (by way of merit), at times per modum impetrationis (by way of supplication) at times per modum satisfactionis (by way of satisfaction); but when there is question of applying an indulgence to one in purgatory it is only per modum suffragii satisfactorii.
If the question be further asked whether such satisfaction is accepted by God out of mercy and benevolence, or "ex justitia", theologians are not in accord--some holding one opinion, others the other.
Bellarmine after canvassing both sides (pp. 137, 138) does not dare to set aside "either opinion, but is inclined to think that the former is more reasonable while he pronounces the latter in harmony with piety (admodum pia).
If the State of Grace be not among the required works, in all probability the person performing the work may gain the indulgence for the dead, even though he himself be not in friendship with God (Bellarmine, admodum pia, p. 139).
Suarez (De Poenit., disp. Iiii, s. 4, n. 5 and 6) puts this categorically when he says:
Status gratiae solum requiritur ad tollendum obicem indulgentiae (The State of Grace is required only to remove some hindrance to the indulgence), and in the case of the holy souls there can be no hindrance.This teaching is bound up with the doctrine of the Communion of Saints, and the monuments of the catacombs represent the saints and martyrs as interceding with God for the dead. The prayers too of the early liturgies speak of Mary and of the Saints interceding for those who have passed from this life.
Bishop Saint Augustine believes that burial in a basilica dedicated to a holy martyr is of value to the dead, for those who recall the memory of him who has suffered will recommend to the martyr's prayers the soul of him who has departed this life
Do the Souls in Purgatory pray for us? May we call upon them in our needs? There is no decision of the Church on this subject, nor have the theologians pronounced with definiteness concerning the invocation of the Souls in Purgatory and their intercession for the living.
In the ancient Liturgies there are no prayers of the Church directed to those who are still in Purgatory. On the tombs of the early Christian Catholics nothing is more common than a prayer or a supplication asking the departed to intercede with God for surviving friends, but these inscriptions seem always to suppose that the departed one is already with God.
Various theologians teach that the Souls in Purgatory really pray for us, and that we may invoke their aid. In virtue of their greater love of God and their union with Him their prayers the Poor Souls in Purgatory may have great intercessory power, for they are really superior to us in love of God, and in intimacy of union with Him. (Bellarmine, De Purgatorio, Book II, xv,)
"The Souls in Purgatory are holy, are dear to God, love us with a true love and are mindful of our wants; that they know in a general way our necessities and our dangers, and how great is our need of Divine help and Divine Grace". (Suarez, De poenit., disp. xlvii, s. 2, n. 9.)Scavini sees no reason why the souls detained in purgatory may not pray for us, even as we pray for one another. He asserts that this practice has become common at Rome, and that it has the great name of St. Alphonsus in its favour. (Scavini, Moral Theology, XI, n. l74.)
St. Alphonsus DeLigouri, in his work the "Great Means of Salvation", Chapter I, III, 2, after quoting Sylvius, Gotti, Lessius, and Medina as favourable to his opinion, concludes:
"So the souls in purgatory, being beloved by God and confirmed in grace, have absolutely no impediment to prevent them from praying for us. Still the Church does not invoke them or implore their intercession, because ordinarily they have no cognizance of our prayers. But we may piously believe that God makes our prayers known to them". He alleges also the authority of St. Catharine of Bologna who "whenever she desired any favour had recourse to the souls in purgatory, and was immediately heard".It is the traditional faith of Catholics that the souls in purgatory are not separated from the Church, and that the love which is the bond of union between the Church's members should embrace those who have departed this life in God's Grace.
Utility of Prayer for the Departed
Hence, since our prayers and our sacrifices can help those who are still waiting in purgatory, the saints have not hesistated to warn us that we have a real duty toward those who are still in purgatorial expiation. Holy Church through the Congregation of Indulgences, December 18, 1885, has bestowed a special blessing on the so-called "heroic act" in virtue of which
"a member of the Church militant ofters to God for the souls in purgatory all the satisfactory works which he will perform during his lifetime, and also all the suffrages which may accrue to him after his death" (Heroic Act, Volume 7, 292).The practice of devotion to the dead is also consoling to humanity and eminently worthy of a religion which seconds all the purest feelings of the human heart.
"Sweet is the consolation of the dying man, who, conscious of imperfection, believes that there are others to make intercession for him, when his own time for merit has expired; soothing to the afflicted survivors the thought that they possess powerful means of relieving their friend. In the first moments of grief, this sentiment will often overpower religious prejudice, cast down the unbeliever on his knees beside the remains of his friend and snatch from him an unconscious prayer for rest; it is an impulse of nature which for the moment, aided by the analogies of revealed truth, seizes at once upon this consoling belief. But it is only a flitting and melancholy light, while the Catholic feeling, cheering though with solemn dimness, resembles the unfailing lamp, which the piety of the ancients is said to have hung before the sepulchres of their dead" (Cardinal Wiseman, Lecture 11).
The Sabbatine Privilege
The name Sabbatine Privilege is derived from the apocryphal Bull Sacratissimo uti culmine of John XXII, 3 March, 1322. In this Bull the pope is made to declare that the Mother of God appeared to him, and most urgently recommended to him the Carmelite Order and its confratres and consorores. The Blessed Virgin asked that John, as Christ's representative on earth, should ratify the indulgences which He had already granted in heaven (a plenary indulgence for the members of the Carmelite Order and a partial indulgence, remitting the third part of the temporal punishment due to their sins, for the members of the confraternity); she herself would graciously descend on the Saturday (Sabbath after their death and liberate and conduct to heaven all who were in purgatory. Then follow the conditions which the confratres and consorores must fulfill.
At the end of the Bull the pope declares:
Istam ergo sanctam Indulgentiam accepto, roboro et in terris confirmo, sicut, propter merita Virginis Matris, gratiose Jesus Christus concessit in coelis.
(This holy indulgence I therefore accept; I confirm and ratify it on earth, just as Jesus Christ has graciously granted it in heaven on account of the merits of the Virgin Mother).Our first information of this Bull is derived from a work of the Carmelite Balduinus Leersius (Collectaneum exemplorum et miraculorum in Bibliotheca Carmelit., I, Orleans, 1752, p. 210), who died in 1483 A.D.. The authenticity of the Bull was keenly contested especially in the seventeenth century, but was vigorously defended by the Carmelites. The chief opponents of its authenticity were Joannnes Launoy and the Bollandist, Daniel Papebroch, both of whom published works against it. Today it is universally regarded by scholars as inauthentic, even the Monumenta histor. Carmel. of the Carmelite B. Zimmerman (I, Lérins, 1907, pp. 356-63) joining in rejecting it.
In 1379, in consequence of the hostility still shown to their order and especially to its name, the Carmelites besought Urban VI to grant an indulgence of 3 years and 3 quarantines to all the faithful who designated them and their order Ordinem et Fratres B. Mariae Genetricis Dei de Monte Carmeli (Bullar. Carmelit. I, 141); this was granted by Urban on 26 April, 1379. It is difficult to understand why, instead of asking for this indulgence, they did not appeal to the old promise and the recent Bulla sabbatina, if the scapular was then known and the promise to St. Simon Stock and this Bull were genuine and incontestable.
While the Bull of John XXII was ratified by some later popes in the sixteenth century (cf. Bullar. Carmelit., II, 47, 141), neither the Bull itself in its wording nor its general contents were thereby declared authentic and genuine...
We reproduce here the whole passage dealing with the Sabbatine privilege, as it appears in the summary approved by the Congregation of Indulgences on 4 July, 1908. It is noteworthy that the Bull of John XXII, which was still mentioned in the previous summary approved on 1 December, 1866, is no longer referred to (cf. Rescript. authent. S.C. Indulg., Ratisbon, 1885, p. 475). Among the privileges, which are mentioned after the indulgences, the following occurs in the first place: "The privilege of Pope John XXII, commonly [vulgo] known as the Sabbatine, which was approved and confirmed by Clement VII (Ex clementi, 12 August 1530), St. Pius V (Superna dispositione, 18 Feb., 1566), Gregory XIII (Ut laudes, 18 Sept., 1577), and others, and also by the Holy Roman General Inquisition under Paul V on 20 January, 1613, in a Decree to the following effect:
It is permitted to the Carmelite Fathers to preach that the Christian people may piously believe in the help which the souls of brothers and members, who have departed this life in charity, have worn in life the scapular, have ever observed chastity, have recited the Little Hours [of the Blessed Virgin], or, if they cannot read, have observed the fast days of the Church, and have abstained from flesh meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays (except when Christmas falls on such days), may derive after death -- especially on Saturdays, the day consecrated by the Church to the Blessed Virgin -- through the unceasing intercession of Mary, her pious petitions, her merits, and her special protection.With this explanation and interpretation, the Sabbatine privilege no longer presents any difficulties, and Benedict XIV adds his desire that the faithful should rely on it (Opera omnia, IX, Venice, 1767, pp. 197 sqq.). Even apart from the Bull and the tradition or legend concerning the apparition and promise of the Mother of God the interpretation of the Decree cannot be contested.
The Sabbatine privilege thus consists essentially in the early liberation from purgatory, through the special intercession and petition of Mary, which she graciously exercises in favour of her devoted servants preferentially -- as we may assume -- on the day consecrated to her, Saturday.
Furthermore, the conditions for the gaining of the privilege are of such a kind as justify a special trust in the assistance of Mary. It is especially required of all who wish to share in the privilege that they faithfully preserve their chastity [according to their state in life], and recite devoutly each day the Little Hours [a.k.a. Little Office] of the Blessed Virgin.
However, all those who are bound to read their Breviary, fulfil the obligation of reciting the Little Hours by reading their Office. Persons who cannot read must (instead of reciting the Little Hours) observe all the fasts prescribed by the Church as they are kept in their home diocese or place of residence, and must in addition abstain from flesh meat on all Wednesdays and Saturdays of the year, except when Christmas falls on one of these days.
The obligation to read the Little Hours and to abstain from flesh meat on Wednesday and Saturday may on important grounds be changed for other pious works; the faculty to sanction this change *** was granted to all confessors [i.e. Priests and Bishops] by Leo XIII in the Decree of the Congregation of Indulgences of 11 June, 1901.
For the text of the Bull see Bullarium Carmelit., I (Rome, 1715), 61 sq.; for its defense cf. Carmelite authors, e.g. BROCARD, Receueil d'instructions (4th ed., Ghent, 1875); RAYNAUD, Scapulare Partheno-Carmeliticum (Cologne, 1658). For the explanation of the privilege, consult BERINGER, Die Ablasse (13th ed.), 659 sqq.
*** Editor's Note: Because some of these requirements would put a tremendous undue burden and stress upon many of the Catholic Faithful today, when just trying to get through the day itself has become for so many Catholics an extremely heavy cross, as one of the said "confessors" to whom the faculty to sanction change has been given, I hereby abolish all requirements except for the daily wearing of the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.)
Biblical References to Purgatory
"It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins" (2 Machabees 12:46).
"Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing" (Matthew 5:26).
Here, under the form of a parable, Christ warns everyone who does not fulfill the commandment of Christian brotherly love (in reality the 4th to the 10th Commandments) that they shall receive a just punishment from the Judge Judge. Tertullian understands the "last farthing" to be those petty transgressions which must be expiated in the prison of the underworld in the next world by the postponement of the resurrection to the millennial kingdom (Tertullian, De Anima 58; Saint Cyprian, Epistle 55, 20).
"And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come" (Matthew 12:32).
This leaves open the possibility that sins are forgiven not only in this world, but also in the world to come. "In this sentence it is given to understand that many sins can be remitted in this world, but also many in the world to come" (St. Gregory the Great, Dialogue IV, 39; also, Saint Augustine, City of God, XXI, 24, 2).
" If any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire" (I Corinthians 3:15).
Yes, Purgatory does exist, and the sufferings that the Poor Souls experience there are very real and very painful!!!
Since 1940 (she was then aged 25), a privileged soul, named Maria Simma, has had regular visits from the Souls in Purgatory to explain their sufferings and to ask for prayers and Masses to be released from Purgatory. Her local Bishop and parish priest told her she could make known these visitations as long as there were no theological errors.
One day, Sister Emmanuel Maillard, a French Nun known for her apostolate in favor of the Apparitions of Our Lady in Medjugorje, came across Maria Simma's book, called The Souls in Purgatory told Me... and read it with great interest:
This interview took place in 1997 at Maria's house in Sonntag, a very lovely village in the Vorarlberg Mountains in Austria. The following are excerpts from this interview of Sister Emmanuel of Medjugorje with Maria Simma, taken from a booklet entitled: The Amazing Secret of the Souls in Purgatory, published by Queenship Publishing Co., P.O. Box 220, Goleta, CA. 93116, USA (Phone 800-647-9882, Fax: 805-967-5843):“This book struck me so much because it related very recent testimonies, and also explained very well the Church's doctrine on the subject... Straight away, I wrote to the editor who told me that Maria Simma is still alive. Quickly, I contacted her, and she agreed to meet me to answer my questions, which were many!”
(Note: Maria Simma died on March 16, 2004, in Sonntag, at the age of 89.)
Sister Emmanuel with Maria Simma
Maria, can you tell us how you were visited for the first time by a soul in Purgatory?
Yes, it was in 1940. One night, around 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, I heard someone coming into my bedroom... I saw a complete stranger. He walked back and forth slowly. I said to him severely: "How did you get in here? Go away!" But he continued to walk impatiently around the bedroom as if he hadn't heard. So I asked him again: "What are you doing?" But as he still didn't answer, I jumped out of bed and tried to grab him, but I grasped only air. There was nothing there. So I went back to bed, but again I heard him pacing back and forth.
I wondered how I could see this man, but I couldn't grab him. I rose again to hold onto him and to stop him from walking around; again, I grasped only emptiness. Puzzled, I went back to bed. He didn't come back, but I couldn't get back to sleep. The next day, after Mass, I went to see my spiritual director and told him everything. He told me that if this should happen again, I shouldn't ask, "Who are you?" but "What do you want from me?"
The following night, the man returned. I asked him: "What do you want from me?" He replied: "Have three Masses celebrated for me, and I will be delivered."
So I understood that it was a soul in Purgatory. My spiritual director confirmed this. He also advised me never to turn away the poor souls, but to accept with generosity whatever they asked of me.
And afterwards, the visits continued?
Yes. For several years, there were only three or four souls, above all in November. Afterwards, there were more.
What do these souls ask of you?
In most cases, they ask to have Masses celebrated and that one be present at these Masses. They ask to have the Rosary said and also that one make the Stations of the Cross.
Maria, do the souls in Purgatory have, nevertheless, joy and hope in the midst of their suffering?
Yes. No soul would want to come back from Purgatory to the earth. They have knowledge which is infinitely beyond ours. They just could not decide to return to the darkness of the earth.
Here we see the difference from the suffering that we know on earth. In Purgatory, even if the pain of the soul is just terrible, there is the certitude of living forever with God. It's an unshakeable certitude. The joy is greater than the pain. There is nothing on earth which could make them want to live here again, where one is never sure of anything.
Maria, can you tell us now if it is God who sends a soul into Purgatory, or if the soul itself decides to go there?
It is the soul itself which wants to go to Purgatory, in order to be pure before going to Heaven.
Maria, at the moment of death, does one see God in full light or in an obscure manner?
In a manner still obscure, but, all the same, in such brightness that this is enough to cause great longing.
Maria, can you tell us what the role of Our Lady is with the souls in Purgatory?
She comes often to console them and to tell them they have done many good things. She encourages them.
Are there any days in particular on which She delivers them?
Above all, Christmas Day, All Saints Day, Good Friday, the Feast of the Assumption, and the Ascension of Jesus.
Charity covers a multitude of sins
Maria, why does one go to Purgatory? What are the sins which most lead to Purgatory?
Sins against charity, against the love of one's neighbor, hardness of heart, hostility, slandering, calumny — all these things.
Here, Maria gives us an example which really struck her which I would like to share with you. She had been asked to find out if a woman and a man were in Purgatory. To the great astonishment of those who had asked, the woman was already in Heaven and the man was in Purgatory. In fact, this woman had died while undergoing an abortion, whereas the man often went to church and apparently led a worthy, devout life.
So Maria searched for more information, thinking she'd been mistaken — but no, it was true. They had died at practically the same moment, but the woman had experienced deep repentance, and was very humble, whereas the man criticized everyone; he was always complaining and saying bad things about others. This is why his Purgatory lasted so long. And Maria concluded: "We mustn't judge on appearances."
Other sins against charity are all our rejections of certain people we do not like, our refusals to make peace, our refusals to forgive, and all the bitterness we store inside.
Maria also illustrated this point with another example which gave us food for thought. It's the story of a woman she knew very well. This lady died and was in Purgatory, in the most terrible Purgatory, with the most atrocious sufferings. And when she came to see Maria, she explained why.
She had had a female friend. Between them rose a great enmity, caused by herself. She had maintained this enmity for years and years, even though her friend had many times asked for peace, for reconciliation. But each time, she refused. When she fell gravely ill, she continued to close her heart, to refuse the reconciliation offered by her friend, right up to her deathbed.
Maria, please tell us: who are those who have the greatest chance of going straight to Heaven?
Those who have a good heart towards everyone. Love covers a multitude of sins.
What are the means which we can take on earth to avoid Purgatory and go straight to Heaven?
We must do a great deal for the souls in Purgatory, for they help us in their turn. We must have much humility. This is the greatest weapon against evil, against the Evil One. Humility drives evil away.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
Maria, can you now tell us what are the most effective means to help deliver the souls in Purgatory?
The most efficient means is the Mass.
Why the Mass?
Because it is Christ who offers Himself out of love for us. It is the offering of Christ Himself to God, the most beautiful offering. The priest is God's representative, but it is God Himself who offers Himself and sacrifices Himself for us. The efficacy of the Mass for the deceased is even greater for those who attached great value to the Mass during their lives. If they attended Mass and prayed with all their hearts, if they went to Mass on weekdays — according to their time available — they drew great profit from Masses celebrated for them. Here, too, one harvests what one has sown.
A soul in Purgatory sees very clearly on the day of his funeral if we really pray for him, or if we have simply made an act of presence to show we were there. The poor souls say that tears are no good for them: only prayer! Often they complain that people go to a funeral without addressing a single prayer to God, while shedding many tears; this is useless!
There is another means, very powerful, to help the poor souls: the offering of our sufferings, our penances, such as fasting, renunciations, etc., — and of course, involuntary suffering, like illness or mourning.
Maria, you have been invited many times to suffer for the poor souls, in order to deliver them. Can you tell us what you have experienced and undergone during these times?
The first time, a soul asked me if I wouldn't mind suffering for three hours in my body for her, and that afterwards I could resume working. I said to myself: "If it will all be over after three hours, I could accept it."
During those three hours, I had the impression that it lasted three days, it was so painful. But at the end, I looked at my watch, and I saw that it had only lasted three hours.
The soul told me that by accepting that suffering with love for three hours, I had saved her twenty years of Purgatory!
Yes, but why did you suffer for only three hours to avoid twenty years of Purgatory? What did your sufferings have that was worth more?
It is because suffering on earth does not have the same value. On earth, when we suffer, we can grow in love, we can gain merit, which is not the case with the sufferings in Purgatory. In Purgatory, the sufferings serve only to purify us from sin. On earth, we have all the Graces. We have the freedom to choose.
All of this is so encouraging because it gives an extraordinary meaning to our sufferings. The suffering which is offered, voluntary or involuntary, even the smallest sacrifices we can make, suffering or sickness, mourning, disappointments... if we live them with patience, if we welcome them in humility, these sufferings can have an unheard-of power to help souls.
The best thing to do, Maria tells us, is to unite our sufferings to those of Jesus, by placing them in the hands of Mary. She is the one who knows best how to use them, since often we ourselves do not know the most urgent needs around us. All this, of course, Mary will give back to us at the hour of our death. You see, these sufferings offered will be our most precious treasures in the other world. We must remind each other of this and encourage each other when we suffer.
Let me add something important: the souls in Purgatory can no longer do anything for themselves; they are totally helpless. If the living do not pray for them; they are totally abandoned. Therefore, it is very important to realize the immense power, the incredible power that each one of us has in our hands to relieve these souls who suffer.
We wouldn't think twice about helping a child who has fallen in front of us from a tree, and who had broken his bones. Of course, we would do everything for him! So, in the same way, we should take great care of these souls who expect everything from us, attentive to the slightest offering, hopeful for the least of our prayers, to relieve them from their pain. And it might be the finest way to practice charity.
Maria, why can one no longer gain merits in Purgatory, when one can on earth?
Because at the moment of death, the time to earn merits is over. For as long as we are living on earth, we can repair the evil we have done. The souls in Purgatory envy us of this opportunity. Even the angels are jealous of us, for we have the possibility of growing for as long as we are on earth.
But often, the suffering in our lives leads us to rebellion, and we have great difficulty in accepting and living it. How can we live suffering so that it bears fruit?
Sufferings are the greatest proof of the love of God, and if we offer them well, they can win many souls.
But how can we welcome suffering as a gift, and not as a punishment (as we often do), as a chastisement?
We must give everything to Our Lady. She is the one who knows best who needs such and such an offering in order to be saved.
We should not always consider sufferings as a punishment. It can be accepted as expiation not only for ourselves, but above all for others. Christ was innocence itself, and He suffered the most for the expiation of our sins. Only in Heaven will we know all that we have obtained by suffering with patience in union with the sufferings of Christ.
Maria, do the souls in Purgatory rebel when faced with their suffering?
No! They want to purify themselves; they understand that it is necessary.
Additional Data About Purgatory
What is the role of contrition or repentance at the moment of death?
Contrition is very important. The sins are forgiven, in any case, but there remains the consequences of sins. If one wishes to receive a full [i.e. plenary] indulgence at the moment of death — that means going straight to Heaven — the soul has to be free from all attachment [i.e. free from every sin and temporal punishment due to sin which temporal punishment is removed partially by partial indulgences and completely by a plenary indulgence].
Maria, I would like to ask you: at the moment of death, is there a time in which the soul still has the chance to turn towards God, even after a sinful life, before entering into eternity — a time, if you like, between apparent death and real death?
Yes, yes! The Lord gives several minutes to each one in order to regret his sins and to decide: I accept, or I do not accept to go and see God. Then we see a film of our lives.
I knew a man who believed in the Church's teachings, but not in eternal life. One day, he fell gravely ill and slid into a coma. He saw himself in a room with a board on which all his deeds were written, the good and the bad. Then the board disappeared as well as the walls of the room, and it was infinitely beautiful. Then he woke up from his coma, and decided to change his life.
Maria, does the devil have permission to attack us at the moment of death?
Yes, but man also has the Grace to resist him, to push him away. So, if man does not want anything to do with him, the devil can do nothing.
Maria, what advice would you give to anyone who wants to become a saint here on earth?
Be very humble. We must not be occupied with ourselves. Pride is evil's greatest trap.
Maria, please tell us: can one ask the Lord to do one's Purgatory on earth, in order not to have to do it after death?
Yes. I knew a priest and a young woman who were both ill with tuberculosis in the hospital. The young woman said to the priest: "Let's ask the Lord to be able to suffer on earth as much as necessary in order to go straight to Heaven." The priest replied that he himself didn't dare to ask for this. Nearby was a religious sister who had overheard the whole conversation. The young woman died first, the priest died later, and he appeared to the sister, saying: "If only I had had the same trust as the young woman, I too would have gone straight to Heaven."
Maria, are there different degrees in Purgatory?
Yes, there is a great difference of degree of moral suffering. Each soul has a unique suffering, particular to it; there are many degrees.
Maria, are the sufferings in Purgatory more painful than the most painful sufferings on earth?
Yes, but in a symbolic way. It hurts more in the soul.
Maria, you know, many people today believe in reincarnation. What do the souls tell you concerning this subject?
The souls say that God gives only one life.
But some would say that just one life is not enough to know God and to have the time to be really converted, that it isn't fair. What would you reply to them?[Editor's Note: God the Holy Ghost teaches all of us through the pen of Saint Paul the Apostle:
"27 And as it is appointed unto men ONCE to die, and after this the judgment:
28 So also Christ was offered ONCE to exhaust the sins of many; the second time he shall appear without sin to them that expect Him unto salvation." (Hebrews 9:27-28; emphasis added.)]
All people have an interior Faith (conscience); even if they do not practice, they recognize God implicitly. Someone who does not believe — that doesn't exist! Each soul has a conscience to recognize good and evil, a conscience given by God, an inner knowledge — in different degrees, of course, but each one knows how to discern good from evil. With this conscience, each soul can become blessed.
What happens to people who have committed suicide? Have you ever been visited by these people?
Up to now, I have never encountered the case of a suicide who was lost — this doesn't mean, of course, that that doesn't exist — but often, the souls tell me that the most guilty were those around them, when they were negligent or spread calumny.
At this moment, I asked Maria if the souls regretted having committed suicide. She answered yes. Often, suicide is due to illness. These souls do regret their act because, as they see things in the light of God, they understand instantly all the graces that were in store for them during the time remaining for them to live — and they do see this time which remained for them, sometimes months or years —– and they also see all the souls they could have helped by offering the rest of their lives to God. In the end, what hurts them most is to see the good that they could have done but didn't, because they shortened their lives. But when the cause is illness, the Lord takes this into account, of course.
Are there priests in Purgatory?
Yes, there are many. They didn't promote respect for the Eucharist. So Faith overall suffers. They are often in Purgatory for having neglected prayer — which has diminished their Faith. But there are also many who have gone straight to Heaven.
What would you say, then, to a priest who really wants to live according to the Heart of God?
I would advise him to pray much to the Holy Spirit — and to say his Rosary every day.
Have you been visited by souls who, on earth, practiced perversions? I am thinking, for example, about the sexual domain.
Yes, they are not lost, but they have much to suffer to be purified. For example: homosexuality. This truly comes from the Evil One.
What advice would you give, then, to all those people afflicted by homosexuality, with this tendency in them?
Pray a lot for the strength to turn away from it. They should above all pray to the Archangel Michael; he is the great fighter par excellence against the Evil One.
What are the attitudes of heart which can lead us to losing our soul for good, I mean going to Hell?
It is when the soul does not want to go towards God, when it actually says: "I do not want."
Jesus said that it was difficult for a rich person to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Have you seen such cases?
Yes! But if they do good works, works of charity, if they practice love, they can get there, just like the poor.
What do you think of the practices of spiritism? For example: calling up the spirits of the departed, Ouija-boards, etc.?
It is not good. It is always evil. It is the devil who makes the table move.
What is the difference between what you are living with the souls of the departed, and the practices of spiritism?
We are not supposed to summon up the souls — I don't try to get them to come. In spiritism, people try to call them forth.
This distinction is quite clear, and we must take it very seriously. If people were only to believe one thing I have said, I would like it to be this: those who engage in spiritism (moving tables and other practices of that kind) think that they are summoning up the souls of the dead. In reality, if there is some response to their call, it is always and without exception Satan and his angels who are answering. People who practice spiritism (diviners, witches, etc.) are doing something very dangerous for themselves and for those who come to them for advice. They are up to their necks in lies. It is forbidden, strictly forbidden, to call up the dead. As for me, I have never done so, l do not do so, and I never will do so. When something appears to me, God alone permits it.
(End of interview.)
This article was published in the January-February, 2004 issue of “Michael”.
ESTABLISHMENT IN HOMES OF "PURGATORY BOX"
HELPS US ATTAIN PROMISES OF HEAVEN
A Special "Thank You" to C.N. for this Submission!
Saint Philip Neri
Born in Florence, Italy, in 1515
He was one of the most memorable
of those raised to the Altar.
He came from a poor family.
He was influenced by the Dominicans.
But the point here today: this Saint was vibrant with the most tender love for the poor suffering souls in purgatory.
He prayed constantly for them, and bestowed on them the merits of his good works. He was particularly anxious to help those souls who during life had been under his spiritual care. He considered he owed more to them because, as a priest, he had labored for the salvation of their souls. He was often made aware of their release.
Many dead appeared to Father Philip in the hope that they would be delivered through his intercession from purgatory -- and indeed he never failed to pray for them. The saint was all the more anxious to pray for the dead, as they often obtained great graces for him.
One member of St. Neri's order (the Congregation of the Oratorians) pleaded unceasingly for the dead and like St. Philip Neri was often made aware of their entry into Heaven -- to the point where he kept an alms-box that he called "box of the souls."
The souls of the faithful departed were not ungrateful to him. He received numerous graces that he attributed to their intercession. He had the gift of discovering hidden sins, knowing the future, and escaping the snares of the enemy. We can do this also!
The purgatory practice of the "box of souls" was very common among religious orders. Take Padre Pio, a Franciscan. At the friary of San Giovanni Rotondo, this saint often made use of the "Purgatory Box" located on a landing in the cloister. It contained a list of one hundred sins from which souls in purgatory were being cleansed and was titled: "A Short and Easy Way to Pray for the Souls in Purgatory."
When passing by, St. Pio would select a disk and recite an "Eternal Rest" for those souls being purged of the indicated sin. How important it is to always keep them in mind!
As families, we, too, could have a place in our homes for a "Purgatory Box" to remember to pray for the souls and teach our children and grandchildren to remember the souls every day. A shoe box, perhaps, or a bowl?
Thus, parents will form kind and merciful hearts.
You will have planted seeds of reverence and in due time this will manifest itself and will assure you of their suffrages.
What joy we should feel when we think that the souls delivered by our prayers are interceding for us at the foot of God’s throne, giving Him thanks for us, praising Him, and loving Him. Their intercession is most powerful! And this is the month, especially, to do so.
If we succeed in bringing a soul into Heaven we have procured more glory to God than we could give Him ourselves.
For the love of God, for the sake of Jesus, Mary, and
the good St. Joseph, let us be generous to these suffering souls and remember
that when we obtain their deliverance it is no ordinary alms we give them,
but God Himself! Not a God hidden or seen from a distance, but God seen
face to face and possessed forever.
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“Now the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing; that you may abound in Hope, and in the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13).
“Charity is patient, is kind: Charity...beareth all things, Believeth all things, Hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7).
“Now Faith is the substance of things to be Hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not” (Hebrews 11:1).
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