St. John Vianney on the Torments of Purgatory and Our Duty to Pray for the Poor Souls August 24, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, Four Last Things, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, Holy suffering, priests, reading, Saints, sanctity, Spiritual Warfare, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.
Sort of a long excerpt, so the intro and conclusion will be brief. One of the great forgotten acts of charity in the Church of the past 50 years has been the duty to pray for the souls in Purgatory. With seemingly almost every Requiem Mass turning into an instant canonization, most people no longer bother to pray for the departed souls, blithely assuming they have no need to do so. But Saint John Vianney, and our Catholic ancestors, knew far better. From pp. 171-3 of The Sermons of the Cure of Ars:
Oh! How we suffer, they cry to us. Oh! You, our brethren, deliver us from these torments. You can do it! Ah, if you only experienced the sorrow of being separated from God! Cruel separation! To burn in the fire kindled by the justice of God! To suffer sorrows incomprehensible to mortal man! To be devoured by regret, knowing that we could so easily have avoided such sorrows! Oh! My children, cry the fathers and the mothers, can you thus so readily abandon us, we who loved you so much? Can you then sleep in comfort and leave us stretched upon a bed of fire? Will you have the courage to give yourselves up to pleasure and joy while we are here suffering and weeping day and night? You have our wealth, our homes, you are enjoying the fruit of our labors, and you abandon us here in this place of torments , where we are suffering such frightful evils for so many years! And not a single almsgiving, not a single Mass which would help to deliver us! You can relieve our sufferings, you can open our prison, and you abandon us! Oh! How cruel these sufferings are!
Yes, my dear brethren, people judge very differently, when in the flames of Purgatory, of all those light faults, if indeed it is possible to call anything light which makes us under such rigorous sorrows. What woe would there be to man, the Royal Prophet cries, even the most just of men, if God were to judge him without mercy. If God has founds spots in the sun and malice in the angels, what, then, is this sinful man? And for us, who have committed so many mortal sins and who have done practically nothing to satisfy the justice of God, how many years of Purgatory! [A quick note: I know the belief widespread in the Church in recent years has been that Purgatory is out of time, and thus the idea of “years” or “decades” in Purgatory has no meaning. This belief is attributed to God being outside time, and so Purgatory/Heaven/hell must be outside time, too. But I think this idea is a bit reductive, in addition to being quite counter to the wisdom of the Saints from the earliest Church through to at least the mid-20th century. God may exist outside time, but He also created time, and has chosen to enter into time when it has pleased Him to do so. As such, it is entirely possible that He could have instituted a temporal sense outside of creation, even in Purgatory. Human beings are contingent creatures bound by a sense of time. We cannot escape contingency, or, perhaps better said in this case, our changeable nature, until we reach our final destination, be it Heaven or hell. Thus, it seems to make eminent sense to me, that while we remain contingent or changeable, while we are still not at our final destination, that a temporal sort of existence could remain. Something to consider, anyway]
“My God,” said St. Teresa, “what soul will be pure enough to enter into Heaven without passing through the vengeful flames?” In her last illness, she cried suddenly: “O justice and power of my
god, how terrible you are!” During her agony, God allowed her to see His holiness as the angels and the Saints see Him in Heaven, which caused her so much dread that her sisters, seeing her trembling and extraordinarily agitated, spoke to her, weeping: “Ah Mother, what has happened to you; surely you do not fear death after so many penances and such abundant and bitter tears?”
“No, my children,” St. Teresa replied, “I do not fear death; on the contrary, I desire it so that I may be united forever with my God.”
“is it your sins, then, which terrify you, after so much mortification?”
“Yes, my children,” she told them. “I do fear my sins, but I fear still another thing even more.”
“Is it the judgment, then?”
“Yes, I tremble at the formidable account that it will be necessary to render to God, Who, in that moment, will be without mercy, but there is still something else of which the very thought alone makes me die with terror.”
The poor sisters were deeply distressed.
“Alas! Can it be hell, then?”
“No,” she told them. “Hell, thank God, is not for me. Oh! My sisters, it is the holiness of God. My God, have pity upon me! My life must be brought face to face with that of Jesus Christ Himself! Woe to me if I have the least blemish or stain! Woe to me if I am even in the very shadow of sin!”
“Alas,” cried these poor sisters. “What will our deaths be like!”
What will ours be like, then, my dear brethren, we who, perhaps in all our penances and our good works, have never yet satisfied for one single sin forgiven in the tribunal of Penance? Ah! What years and centuries of torment to punish us!……How dearly we shall pay for all those faults thatw e look upon as nothing at all, like those little lies that we tell to amuse ourselves, those little scandals, the despising of the graces which God gives us at every moment, those little murmurings in the difficulties that He sends us! No, my dear brethren, we would never have the courage to commit the least sin if we could understand how much it outrages God, and how greatly it deserves to be rigorously punished, even in this world.
I try to make prayer for the poor holy souls in Purgatory my number one prayer intention every day. I try to give special focus to those souls who have been forgotten or ignored for who knows how long. May God have mercy on them, and on us. And may the holy souls during and after Purgatory pray for us always!