"Though the path is plain and smooth for people of good will, those who walk it will not travel far, and will do so only with difficulty if they do not have good feet, courage, and tenacity of spirit. "

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

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"There is nothing which gives greater security to our actions, or more effectually cuts the snares the devil lays for us, than to follow another person’s will, rather than our own, in doing good."

St Philip Neri

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"Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind and a clean conscience inspires great trust in God."

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)



Let us consider the foundation of this charity, then how it can be exercised, and thirdly, what are its fruits. What is the foundation of this charity? St. Thomas announces the principle: "All the faithful in the state of grace are united with one another by charity. They are all members of one sole body, that is, of the Church. Now in an organism each member is aided by all others. Thus every Christian is aided by the merits of all other Christians." [484] Without doubt, he adds, Jesus Christ alone, as the head of humanity, can merit by title of strict justice. But every just soul can aid its neighbor, by the merit of congruity. [485] Hence we can aid the souls in purgatory, since they also belong to the body of Christ.

Charity loves God, loves all who are now children of God, and all who are called to be His children. But the suffering souls are children of God and will be His children forever. The Blessed Trinity dwells in them, Jesus lives in them intimately. And whereas we love them all, we have special duties to the souls of our dead relatives.

The poor souls can do nothing for themselves. They can no longer merit or give satisfaction or receive the sacraments or gain indulgences. They can only accept and offer their own suffering of satispassion. Hence they have a special right to be aided by others. The foundress of the Helpers of the Poor Souls, while still a child, said to her friends: "If one of us were in a fiery prison and we could deliver him by a word, would we not say that word quickly? The poor souls are in a fiery prison, and our good God, to open that prison, asks only a prayer from us. [486] Can we refuse this prayer?"

Little by little this same child reached the following intuition: "Deliverance from purgatory means the greater glory of God. We must give Him these souls whom He is calling." Some years later the Cure of Ars said of this young girl: "She will found an order for the souls in purgatory. It is God who has given her the idea of such sublime devotion. This order will have rapid extension in the Church." [487]

Father Faber [488] remarks that work for the suffering souls is sure of success. As they cannot be lost, our work for them must bear fruit. To obtain for these souls the greatest of all gifts, God seen face to face, will, at the same time, increase the accidental joy of our Lord, of His blessed Mother, and of the saints.

How Shall We Exercise This Charity

We exercise this charity by praying for the dead, that is, by offering our merits, our prayers, our satisfactions, our deeds of almsgiving, by gaining indulgences, and above all by offering Holy Mass for their repose.

The Church herself gives us the example. During each Mass she prays for them in the Memento of the Dead. Further, she opens her treasures, the merits of Christ and of the saints, in the form of indulgences applicable to the poor souls.

Indulgences, says St. Thomas, [489] offer chief value to him who accomplishes the good work. But they have a secondary value, for those for whom this work is done. Nothing hinders the Church from applying indulgences to the souls in purgatory.

Can suffrages offered for one soul be profitable also for others? The answer runs thus: [490] By intention, they have a special value for the one. But, by reason of charity which cannot exclude anyone, they are more profitable to those who have the greater charity and are thus better disposed to receive greater consolation. Thus, as regards Holy Mass, we distinguish the special fruit, granted to the soul for whom the Mass is said, from the general fruit, in which all the faithful, however numerous, participate, each in the measure of his own disposition.

St. Thomas asks a second question: [491] Are suffrages offered for many souls together more profitable than if they were offered for one? His answer runs thus: By reason of the charity which inspires them, these suffrages are just as profitable for many as if they were offered for one. One Mass gives joy to ten thousand souls in purgatory as if they were but one. Nevertheless these same suffrages, considered as satisfaction, are more useful to those to whom they are applied singly.

This at least was the thought of St. Thomas, when, as a young priest, he wrote his commentary on the Fourth Book of Sentences. [492] But at the end of his life when he was composing the Summa, [493] he says regarding the sacrifice of the Mass: "Although one sacrifice of Mass is in itself sufficient to satisfy for all suffering, nevertheless its value, both for those for whom it is offered and for those who offer, is measured by their devotion. This measure of devotion depends, in the case of the poor souls, on the dispositions they had at the moment of death."

Here the only limit assigned to the satisfactory power of the Mass is the devotion of those who offer and of those for whom it is offered. Thus it is generally admitted that the parochial Mass in a large parish is just as profitable to each member, according to his devotion, as it would be for each member of a small parish.

The great Thomistic commentators, [494] Cajetan, John of St. Thomas, Gonet, the Carmelites of Salamanca, insist on the infinite value of the Mass, by reason of the victim offered, of the chief priest who offers. One Mass said for many persons can be just as profitable to each, according to the measure of his devotion, as if it were offered for one alone. The sun illuminates ten thousand people as easily as if they were but one person.

The effect of a universal cause is limited only by the capacity of its subjects to receive the influence of that cause.

Thus that Mass on All Souls Day, which is said for all the souls in purgatory, has special value for forgotten souls, for whom no one now offers a special Mass. [495]

Fruits of This Charity

Each soul in purgatory is, as it were, a spiritual universe gravitating toward God. We can accelerate the process. Mass celebrated for these dear ones, indulgences gained for them, increase likewise our own store of merit. Perseverance, too, is necessary. Many believe too easily in the prompt deliverance of their dear ones, and after a period, say of a month, no longer pray for them.

We can aid the poor souls, not only by offering prayers, but by other acts of virtue: by almsgiving, by accepting a cross. Let us remember particularly the souls most abandoned, who are sometimes the most holy.

God is pleased to reward our least service. And these souls, too, will not fail to aid us by their own gratitude in heaven. Even before their deliverance they pray for all benefactors. They have charity, which indeed excludes no one but which imposes on them a special duty toward those friends. Their prayers are efficacious even if they do not know in detail our condition, just as our prayers for them are efficacious though we do not know their condition. [496]

May we also pray to the poor souls? The liturgy does not pray to them. But we are not forbidden to pray to them, though we must give preference to prayer for them. Here is a sentence from St. Thomas: "The souls in purgatory are not in the state of praying, but in the state of being prayed for." [497]

Certain fervent Christians offer, in favor of the souls in purgatory, all their acts of satisfaction, including those to be made for them after death. This act is called the heroic act. It should not be made lightly, but only after serious reflection. St. Louis Marie de Montfort urges this act as devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Her wisdom will perform this task much better than we can. This act is not a vow. But it may better be made first for a year or so, before it is made for life. Charity to the suffering souls leads us into the mystery of the communion of saints: Christ, the head of men and of angels, head of the Church militant, suffering, and triumphant. Each member shares in the merits of Christ and of all His members. The Church is not a mere visible, hierarchical society, but also the mystical body of the Savior.

The Church is the kingdom of God announced in the Gospel, the kingdom where charity reigns as queen, which makes of all the faithful and of all the blessed one true family of which God is the Father. Thus are realized the words of the Savior: "I am the vine; you are the branches." Thus is realized His desire "that they be one, as Thou, Father, and I are one." The mystical body is a favorite doctrine of St. Paul, who is followed by early Fathers, by St. Augustine, and by the medieval doctors.

From the triune God, through Christ, the life of grace descends, like a spiritual river, upon the souls on earth, in purgatory, and in heaven, and then returns to God under the form of adoration, supplication,
reparation, thanksgiving.

The parable of the Good Samaritan may serve as summary. He is moved by the misery of his neighbor, and reacts in the most efficacious manner. Hence he, too, merits the mercy of God. "Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy." [498]

Genuine compassion will never cease to pour in oil and wine: prayer, patience, Holy Mass, the Way of the Cross. Mercy on the poor souls will bring us also the crowning mercy of a holy death.

484. V Sent., dist. 25, q. 2, a. l; Supplementum, q. 71, a. l.
485. This merit of congruity is founded not on justice but on charity. God by reason of our charity grants relief to those whom we love. Ia IIae, q.114, a.6.
486. La Reverende Mere Marie de Providence, p. 7.
487. Ibid., p. 14.
488.  All for Jesus, chap. 9.
489. Supplementum, q. 71, a. 10.
480. Ibid., q. 72.
491. IV Sent., dist. 45, q. 2, a. 4; Supplementum, q. 71, a. 13.
492. Ibid., dist. 45, q. 2, a. 4.
493. IIIa, q. 79, a. 5.
494. Ibid.
495. Likewise the pope often asks that priests celebrate Mass to pay those debts, very numerous, which have been established by legacies and foundations, of which after a revolution there remains no trace.
496. Hugon, Vol. IV, de novissimis, p. 828.
497. IIa IIae, q. 83, a. 11 ad 3; Cf. Dict. theol. cath., "Purgatoire," cols. 1315-18.
498. Matt. 5:7.