"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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"Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise. "

Thomas á Kempis

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"This is the greatest wisdom -- to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. "

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.


By Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange,OP


 PART 4 : PURGATORY (cont)



We must now recall briefly, first what we have said above on the nature of knowledge in the separated soul; secondly, on particular judgment. [443]

These souls, since they have their bodies no longer, cannot exercise the operations of sense-life. But they do retain and can exercise the superior faculties of intellect and will. They carry with them all their knowledge and all their virtues, theological and moral, but they must exercise these possessions without the support of the imagination.

This preternatural mode of being is accompanied by a preternatural mode of acting. Infused ideas enable them to know the singular in the universal, in particular to know persons remaining on earth with whom they have a special relation.

Further, they see themselves intuitively, as the angels do. Hence they know very clearly their own spirituality, immortality, liberty. In themselves, as in a mirror, they have perfect natural knowledge of God, the author of their nature. And they know one another.

The particular judgment, we have said, comes at the very instant of separation from the body. This instant terminates merit and demerit. The sentence of judgment, in the form of an intellectual illumination, covers their entire terrestrial life, and is therefore definitive. The state of the souls in purgatory follows from these principles.

Certitude of Salvation and Confirmation in Grace

Particular judgment gives to the souls in purgatory assurance of salvation. Their hope is no longer, like ours, the certitude of tendency. [444] It is the certitude of arrival, a certitude which can be had on earth only by a special revelation. [445] The particular judgment contains this special revelation. The soul is certain of its predestination. Further, it knows that it is not in heaven, where one sees God, nor in hell, where one blasphemes God. It lives in a transitory state of purification, where it loves God above all things.

Further, these souls are confirmed in grace. This, too, is a consequence of the particular judgment. Theologians teach this truth generally, recalling that the Church has condemned the following proposition of Luther: "The souls in purgatory sin continually and endeavor to escape their sufferings." [446] Confirmation in grace is our reason for calling them the holy souls.

But how can they be confirmed in grace before they have received the beatific vision, which has as a consequence impeccability? Suarez explains this by a special protection of God, which preserves the souls from sin, mortal or venial, in order that their entrance into heaven shall not be delayed longer than necessary. Thomists add an intrinsic reason. These souls, being pure spirits, judge in immovable fashion concerning their last end, and adhere to that last end immovably. They are fixed in good. This is the teaching of St. Thomas. [447] This immutable adherence to the last end, we must repeat, is in a higher order than our solar time. It is measured by eviternity, though, in regions of thought less elevated, separated souls have a succession of thoughts and sentiments which are measured by discontinuous time, by spiritual instants. [448] We find something similar on earth in saints who are confirmed in grace. Their turning toward God is immutable, but below this they have a succession of thoughts and sentiments, subordinated to God loved above all things.

All that we are now saying follows clearly from principles enunciated above. But difficulties still face us. First, these souls, confirmed in grace, may still have died in venial sins. When are these venial sins forgiven? Further, those converted just before death, after a life of grave disorder, have carried with them very defective dispositions. Are these dispositions taken away at once upon entrance into purgatory, or only gradually? Theology explains.

The Remission of Venial Sins

Just souls surprised by death, for example, during sleep, or at a moment when they do not have sufficient control of reason, were not able at the last moment to make an act of contrition, a meritorious act which would have obtained the remission of venial sins. Such sins are remitted to them by the act of charity and contrition which they make immediately

after death, at the moment of the particular judgment. This act indeed is no longer meritorious. But it is an act of charity and contrition which suffices to remit venial sins, though the soul must still endure the suffering due to these faults. Such is the teaching of St. Thomas, [449] admitted also by Suarez, [450] and by the generality of theologians. [451]

This doctrine is very probable. Nothing prevents the separated soul from making at once an act of repentance. It is no longer hindered by the passions. General contrition would suffice for the remission of these sins. But, under the light of the particular judgment, the soul sees all its sins singly and consequently repents of each singly. This is a wonderful complement of the act of contrition made on earth, although that complement is not meritorious. Certainly it is better to make this act of contrition before death. To sacrifice life in union with the Masses celebrated at the moment of death would have been meritorious. But, while it is not now meritorious, it obtains the remission of venial sins. Such a soul is a saint, because all its venial sins are at once remitted, and it can no longer sin. This is truly a beautiful doctrine.

The Defective Dispositions

When sin is remitted by grace, the soul is no longer turned away from God, [452] but it can retain a defective disposition which carries it toward created good. These defective dispositions, while they no longer have predominance, remain as the fuel of concupiscence. The drunkard or the backbiter, even after absolution, retains a disposition to fall back into his old sin.

Do these dispositions remain in the separated soul? Yes. They are like rust, penetrating at times to the depths of the intelligence and the will. Does this rust disappear suddenly upon entrance into purgatory? Some theologians thinks so, because an intense act of charity can immediately take away these evil dispositions. [453]

Now we do not find this answer in St. Thomas, but rather its contrary. He says, as we have seen. "The rigor of suffering corresponds properly speaking to the gravity of the fault, and the duration of the suffering corresponds to the rootedness which the sin has in the subject." [454] Now uprooting is generally a long process, demanding a long affliction or a long penance.

St. Catherine of Genoa [455] speaks as follows: "No peace is comparable to that of the souls in purgatory except that of the saints in heaven. This peace grows as hindrances disappear. As the rust disappears, the soul reflects more and more perfectly the true sun, which is God. And its happiness grows in the same measure." [456]

Hence we are inclined to think that, although venial sins are immediately remitted on entrance into purgatory, evil dispositions, as a rule, disappear progressively. We say, as a rule. Exceptions may occur, as on earth, so in purgatory. [457]

Voluntary Satispassion

We are here in the heart of our subject. Sin merits suffering. The divine order, like the social order, must be re-established by a penal compensation. If the soul accepts this penalty, it re-enters the order which it has violated.

This thought, adumbrated by Plato, is developed by St. Thomas. [458] Voluntary acceptance of the pains of purgatory obtains for the poor souls the remission of their debt to divine justice. But, whereas on earth the satisfaction is meritorious, the satispassion in purgatory is no longer meritorious. [459]

Purgatorial satispassion is not only accepted by the will, but it is offered, with ardent charity, as an act of adoration. Here we have one of the most beautiful views of purgatory. The soul clearly recognizes the imprescriptible rights of God, author of nature and grace. It now sees the infinite value of redemption, of the sacrifice of the cross, of Mass, of the sacraments, which on earth it treated with negligence. It also sees much more profoundly, without possible distraction, the value of eternal life, of the possession of God. What joy in purgatory when Mass is celebrated on anniversary days !

These souls love their suffering. On earth they were not generous enough to impose on themselves a condign punishment. Now that punishment becomes an expiatory sacrifice. And the more this suffering penetrates the depth of their will, the more lovingly they accept it. Egoism, selfishness, the rust of sin, is burned away, and charity reigns without rival in the depths, rooted there forever.

We on earth see events along the horizontal line, where it is hard to distinguish good from evil, since great criminals often have statues in public places. The souls in purgatory, on the contrary, have rather the vertical view, where God's infinite holiness penetrates the most profound depths of perversity. Adoration of this holiness constitutes the purgatorial liturgy.

"Joy from pain, how can it come?" Purgatorial pain is accepted and offered, not only with peace, but with the joy which comes from the certitude of grace and salvation. Joy does not diminish pain, because both proceed from thirst for God.

Of this ebb and flow, the ebb and flow of the sea is a feeble image. On the one side, attraction toward God; on the other, a soul held back by the vestiges of sin. [460]

Purgatorial love of God, far from diminishing pain, rather augments it. Purgatorial purification makes us think of the dark night described by St. John of the Cross. The poor souls are spiritually crucified. They may say: "I am crucified in this flame." But the sense of the word is contrary to the sense it has for the damned. Here it means the living flame of love, which ceases not to mount up to God. [461]

Mutual love governs purgatory. All have perfect peace, perfect abandonment into the hands of the Lord. They find sweetness in their sufferings. In the book called De paenitentia, attributed to St. Augustine, we read: "Let the penitent always feel pain for-his sin, and always feel joy for his pain." [462] In the words of the Psalmist: "Justice and peace have kissed." [463] Such is the liturgy of the Church suffering.

Freedom Regained

Can the poor souls suffer anxiety? No. It is excluded by their certainty of salvation. Terror is excluded by adoration of divine justice. And perfect union with the divine will excludes impatience, and includes
gratitude. Absence of sense faculties excludes all emotional disturbance. And their spiritual sadness is completely subject to God.

St. Francis de Sales [464] speaks thus: "The souls in purgatory are most certainly there on account of their sins, sins which they have detested and still do detest above all things. Their pain arises from delay, from deprivation for a time of the blessed joys and love of paradise. But this pain they endure with the loving song: 'Thou art just, O Lord, and Thy judgment is right.' " [465]

St. Catherine of Genoa speaks in similar fashion: "They choose to remain where they are, since God has justly arranged it so. They have no envy. They do not say, 'This soul will be delivered before me'; or 'I will be delivered before it.' They are so satisfied with the
divine dispositions that they love everything that pleases God." [466]

Thus the soul, as many mystics have said, in purgatory regains full personal liberty, full mastery of self. It truly possesses itself, in the order willed by God, in that peace which is the tranquility of order.

This full liberty is incapable of evil, capable only of good, and in this it is the image of the liberty of God, who is simultaneously sovereignly free and absolutely impeccable. Liberty harmonized with immutability is the fruit of confirmation in grace. From this point of view the life of the suffering souls is very noble, very beautiful, although it is not yet the life of heaven.

443. See above, chaps. 10 and 12.
444. IIa IIae, q.18, a.4. "Hope tends with certainty toward its goal, with a certitude that participates in the certitude of faith."
445. Denz. nos. 805, 826, 806.
446. Ibid., no. 779.
447. Ia, q.64, a. 2. "The angel apprehends unchangeably by his intellect, just as we apprehend unchangeably first principles, and the will of the angel adheres fixed and unchangeably, after it has chosen." We have here a reflex of the immutability of the free decrees of God. Cf. also De veritate, q.24, a. II ad 4; also Contra Gentes, Bk. IV, chap. 9.
448. Ia, q. 10, a. 5 ad 1.
449. IV Sent., dist. 21, q. 1, a.3; Appendix of the Supplement, a.6; De malo, q.7, a. l1.
450. Disputatio XI, sect. 4.
451. Dict. theol. cath., "Purgatoire," col. 1294; Hugon, Tractatus dogmatici de novissimis, p. 825.
452. IIIa. a.86, a. 5.
453. Cf. Hugon, op. cit., p. 826, and Dict. theol. cath., "Purgatoire," col. 1298.
454. IV Sent., dist. 21, q. 1, a.3.
455. Treatise on Purgatory, chap. 2.
456. The saint is speaking from her own experience.
457. IIIa, q.86, a. 5.
458. Ia IIae, q.87, a.6.
459. Appendix to the Supplement, De purgatorio, articles 4, 7, 8.
460. Monsignor Gay (De la vie et les vertus Chret., 11, 570 ff.) speaks thus: "After death it is no longer God who keeps the creature at a distance. On the contrary, He waits for it, calls for it, draws it. The soul knows this although it does not see Him. It feels it. All that is in the soul attempts to rush toward God with a necessity that remains unchangeable. Their helplessness is the source of this immobility. Like the paralytic beside the pond, they are unable to help themselves. They cannot do penance, cannot merit, cannot satisfy, cannot gain indulgences. They are deprived of the sacraments. In one sense the souls love these chains which bind them to their present state. But their love, although it is more ardent, finds itself the more unable to help itself.

How small on earth is the number of those who in reality are seized by the idea of divine justice! In purgatory the souls have an inexpressible devotion to divine sanctity, and this is the most fundamental characteristic of their state."
461. Cf. La vie spirituelle, December 1, 1942. Father Dehau, O.P.; Les deux flammes, pp. 434 ff.
462. De paenitentia, chap. 13.
463. Ps. 84:11.
464. Love of God, Bk. IX, chap. 7.
465. Ps. 118:137
466. Treatise on Purgatory, chap. 1.