"A tree that is cultivated and guarded through the care of its owner produces its fruit at the expected time. "

St John of the Cross, OCD - Doctor of the Church

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"If, devout soul, it is your will to please God and live a life of serenity in this world, unite yourself always and in all things to the divine will. Reflect that all the sins of your past wicked life happened because you wandered from the path of God's will. For the future, embrace God's good pleasure and say to him in every happening: "Yea, Father, for so it hath seemed good in thy sight." "

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Every man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars."

Thomas á Kempis

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Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.  (1877 - 1964)  taught at the Angelicum in Rome from 1909 to 1960, and served for many years as a consulter to the Holy Office and other Roman Congregations.

 
  LIFE EVERLASTING
   

By Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange,OP

 

 PART 4 : PURGATORY (cont)

 

23. PURGATORY'S CHIEF PAIN

 
According to common doctrine, the chief pain is the delay of the beatific vision. This delay is sometimes called temporary pain of loss. But, in the proper sense, the pain of loss is eternal, and hence found
only in hell.

These two pains of loss differ immensely in rigor, in duration, and in consequences. The damned have lost hope and charity; they blaspheme without ceasing; they have a will obstinate in evil; they never repent; they desire universal damnation. The souls in purgatory have assured hope and inamissible charity; they love God; they adore divine justice; they are confirmed in good; they repent profoundly; they love all God's children.

This delay of the beatific vision differs notably from that which existed in limbo before the death of our Lord. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and the prophets, saw in this delay a punishment inflicted, not, properly speaking, on their person, but on human nature not yet perfectly regenerated. The time for deliverance by Christ the Redeemer had not yet arrived. This time has now arrived. Hence the delay in purgatory is truly a suffering, the chief of purgatorial sufferings.

Suffering in Purgatory and Suffering on Earth

Suffering in purgatory is greater than all suffering on earth. Such is the doctrine of tradition, supported by theological reasoning. [402]

Tradition is expressed by St. Augustine: "That fire will be more painful than anything man can suffer in the present life." [403] St. Isidore [404] speaks in the same sense. According to these testimonies and others similar to them, the least pain in purgatory surpasses the greatest sufferings of the present life.

St. Bonaventure speaks somewhat differently: "In the next life, by reason of the state of the souls there retained, the purifying purgatorial suffering will be, in its kind, more severe than the greatest trials on earth." [405] We must understand him thus: For one and the same sin, the smallest suffering in purgatory is greater than any corresponding suffering on earth. But it does not follow that the least pain in purgatory surpasses the greatest terrestrial suffering. On this
point St. Bonaventure is followed by St. Robert Bellarmine. [406] According to this last author, the privation of God is without doubt a very great suffering, but it is sweetened and consoled by the assured hope of once possessing Him. From this hope there arises an incredible joy, which grows in measure as the soul approaches the end of its exile. [407]

Many theologians, notably Suarez, [408] rightly remark that the sufferings in purgatory, especially the delay of the beatific vision, are of a higher order than our terrestrial sufferings, and in this sense we may say that the smallest suffering in purgatory is more severe than the greatest suffering on earth. The joy they have in the hope of deliverance cannot diminish the suffering they feel from deprivation of the beatific vision. We see this truth in Jesus crucified: supreme beatitude, love of God and of souls, far from diminishing His pains, augmented them. St. Catherine of Genoa speaks thus: "Souls in purgatory unite great joy with great suffering. One does not diminish the other." [409] She continues: "No peace is comparable to that of the souls in purgatory, except that of the saints in heaven. On the other hand, the souls in purgatory endure torments which no tongue can describe and no intelligence comprehend, without special revelation." This saint, we recall, experienced on earth the pains
of purgatory.

This testimony of tradition is illustrated by the character of great saints. While they are more severe than ordinary preachers, they also have much greater love of God and souls. They show forth, not only the justice of God, but also His boundless love. A good Christian illustrates the same truth. A Christian mother, for instance, is severe in order to correct her children, but the element that predominates is sweetness and maternal goodness. Today, on the contrary, it often happens that many parents lack both severity and love. Those persons who do not undergo purgatory on earth will have it later on. Nor must we make too sharp a distinction between sanctification and salvation. If we neglect sanctification, we may miss salvation itself.

Privation of the beatific vision is painful in the same degree as the desire of that vision is vivid. Two reasons, one negative, the other positive, show the vividness of this desire.

Negatively, its desire for God is no longer retarded by the weight of the body, by the distractions and occupations of this terrestrial life. Created goods cannot distract it from the suffering it has in the privation of God.

Positively, its desire of God is very intense, because the hour has arrived when it would be in the enjoyment of God if it had not placed thereunto an obstacle by the faults which it must expiate.

The souls in purgatory grasp much more clearly than we do, by reason of their infused ideas, the measureless value of the immediate vision of God, of His inamissible possession. Further, they have intuition of themselves. Sure of their own salvation, they know with absolute certainty that they are predestined to see God, face to face. Without this delay for expiation, the moment of separation from the body would coincide with that of entrance into heaven.

In the radical order of spiritual life, then, the separated soul ought already to enjoy the beatific vision. Hence it has a hunger for God which it cannot experience here on earth. It has failed to prepare for its rendezvous with God. Since it failed to search for Him, He now hides Himself.

Analogies may be helpful. We are awaiting, with great anxiety, a friend with whom to discuss an important matter at a determined hour. If our friend is delayed, inquietude supervenes. The longer the delay, the more does inquietude grow. In the physical order, if our meal is retarded, say six hours or more, hunger grows ever more painful. If we have not eaten for three days, hunger becomes very severe.

Thus, in the spiritual domain, the separated soul has an insatiable hunger for God. It understands much better than it did on earth that its will has a depth without measure, that only God seen face to face can fill this will and draw it irresistibly. This immense void renders it more avid to see the sovereign good. [410]

This desire surpasses by far the natural desire, conditional and inefficacious, to see God. [411] The desire of which we speak now is a supernatural desire, which proceeds from infused hope and infused charity. It is an efficacious desire, which will be infallibly fulfilled, but later. For the moment God refuses to fulfill this desire. The soul, having sought itself instead of God, cannot now find Him.

Joy follows perfect activity. The greatest joy, then, follows the act of seeing God. The absence of this vision, when its hour has arrived, causes the greatest pain. Souls in purgatory feel most vividly their impotence and poverty. A parallel on earth appears in the saints. Like St. Paul, [412] saints desire to die and to be with Christ.

We often hear it said that in the souls in purgatory there is an ebb and flood. Strongly drawn toward God, they are held back by the "remains of sin," which they have to expiate. They cannot rush to the goal which they so ardently desire. Love of God does not diminish their pain, but increases it. And this love is no longer meritorious. How eloquent is their title: the suffering Church!

St. Catherine of Genoa speaks as follows: "Let us suppose in the entire world only one loaf of bread. Further, even the sight of this one loaf would satisfy the hunger of every creature. Now man, in good health, has by nature the instinct of nourishment and hence the pain of hunger. If he could abstain from eating without losing health and life, his hunger would cause an ever more intolerable pain. If therefore man were certain he would never see this unique loaf of which we have spoken, his hell would be something like that of the damned. Now the souls in purgatory have the certain hope of seeing this unique loaf and of being entirely sated by it. But they endure an ever increasing pain of hunger until they enter into the eternal possession of this bread of life, which is Jesus Christ, our Lord." [413]

This analogy of hunger is developed by Father Faber. [414]

Scripture is eloquent on this. "I will send forth famine into the land, not a famine of bread . . . but of hearing the word of the Lord, . . . they shall go about seeking the word of the Lord and shall not find it." [415] "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice." [416] "If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink . . . out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." [417] "My soul hath thirsted after the strong living God. When shall I come and appear before the face of the Lord?" [418] "O God, my God, to Thee do I watch at break of day; for Thee my soul hath thirsted, for Thee my flesh, Oh, how many ways, in a desert land, and where there is no way and no water." [419]

If purgatory is less severe for souls who have sinned only by feebleness, it must be more rigorous for those who have for a long time failed in confession and Communion. "Child of nothing, what hast thou to lament? Sinner covered with ignominy, what canst thou reply?
What reproaches must one address to thee, who hast so often offended God and so often merited hell ? My goodness has spared thee, that thou mightest know My love." [420]

Two Difficulties

Many souls are in purgatory who have sinned only venially. Can punishment so severe be proportioned to venial sins? St. Thomas replies: "Pain corresponds less to the gravity of the sin than to the disposition of the suffering soul. One and the same sin is punished more severely in purgatory than it is on earth. To illustrate. A man of delicate constitution suffers more than does another from a legal scourging.

Why is one and the same sin punished more rigorously in purgatory than on earth? Because in the absence of merit, reparation becomes satispassion. Further, the separated soul knows much better than it did before that God is the one thing necessary.

These souls can no longer do anything for themselves. They can only suffer. Hence we, who can still merit and satisfy, should offer our merits and satisfactions for them. Such offerings will never be lost. These souls incapable of sin can lose nothing of what we obtain for them.

A second difficulty appears. The more saintly a soul is, the more it desires to see God. And pain corresponds to desire. Is this just?

Our reply follows Suarez and St. Catherine of Genoa. Souls in purgatory, desiring the beatific vision, suffer from its delay, just as on earth the saints desire to die and to be with God. This normal consequence of intense love is a very noble suffering, pleasing to God who tries us. But this great pain is compensated by their greater abandonment to Providence and their greater love of divine justice. And less perfect souls suffer more from another point of view. They have lost for eternity a higher degree of glory, which would have been theirs had they been more perfect.

Think of the sufferings of Jesus and of His Mother. These sufferings were undoubtedly proportioned to reparation for our sins, but also to the intensity of their love. Suffering for sin grows with love of God. [421]
 
 
 

   
 
402. IV Sent., dist. 21, q 1, a. 3; also Appendix of the Supplement, a. 3.
403. Comment on Ps. 37:3. Journel, no. 1476.
404. De ordine creatur., chap 14, no. 12.
405. IV Sent., dist. 21, q. 4; also dist. 20, a. 2, q. 2.
406. Dict. theol. cathol., cols. 1240, 1292.
407. De purgatorio, chap 14, p. 121.
408. Disputatio 46, section 1, nos. 2, 5, 6.
409. Treatise on Purgatory, chap. 14; chaps. 2 and 3.
410. Contra Gentes, Bk. IV, chap. 91, no. 2. "By the very fact that the soul is separated from the body it becomes capable of the divine vision for which it was unable while united to the corruptible body. Hence immediately after death souls gain either punishment or reward, if there be no impediment."
411. Ia, q. 12, a.1.
412. Phil. 1:23.
413. 413 St. Catherine of Genoa received very early great graces of consolation during five years, but during the next five years she suffered great aridity, became discouraged and during five further years neglected her religious duties. One day her sister said to her: "Tomorrow is a great feast. I hope you will go to confession." She did go and in the confessional received a very great grace of contrition. She commenced from that hour a life of heroic penance, until the Lord let her understand that she had satisfied divine justice. Then she said: "If now I would turn back I would wish someone to tear out my eyes in punishment. Even this I feel were not enough."
414. All for Jesus, p. 388. See Dict. theol. cath., "Dam" (the Pain of Loss in Purgatory), cols. 17 ff.; also Monsabre, Conferences at Notre Dame, 97th Conference, Purgatory; and Monsignor Gay, Life and Christian Virtues, chap. 17, On the Suffering Church.
415. Amos 8:11.
416. Matt. 5:6.
417. John 7:37.
418. Ps. 41:3.
419. Ibid., 62:1.
420.  Imitation of Christ, Bk. III, chap. 13, no. 3.
421. What a world separates the true idea of heaven from heaven as conceived by naturalism, by pantheism, a heaven which would be married to hell beyond good and bad, a heaven where without renouncing anything men would find supreme beatitude. This is the heaven defended by the secret doctrines of the counter-Church which begins with the Gnostics of old and continues in present day occult doctrines that produce universal confusion. In the second part of Faust, Goethe is inspired by this naturalism, so distant from Christian faith.