Friday, April 9, 2010

For The Divine Mercy: A Novena (Day 8, Easter Friday)

For lifelong Catholics, the doctrine of Purgatory is probably no big deal. Then again, what do I know? I'll be frank, I don't know much. Which actually is just another reason why I am Catholic. When I became a Catholic I took an oath to believe everything the Church believes, and I do.

A few days ago we prayed for children and the childlike. In the gospel of Matthew, Our Lord said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." I have no problem following this prayer request now.

"Today bring to Me the Souls who are in the prison of Purgatory, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. Let the torrents of My Blood cool down their scorching flames. All these souls are greatly loved by Me. They are making retribution to My justice. It is in your power to bring them relief. Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf. Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice." 

To get caught up in the whys and wherefores of the afterlife is not why I became Catholic. Because by the time I reached the point of deciding to join the Church, I already believed everything I needed to believe in order to make my decision. Every other Christian doctrine I attempted to dissect through studying scripture alone ultimately left me feeling befuddled. In the end, with God is where I want to be. When I die, if I go to purgatory first (before hopefully going to heaven) then thanks be to God! And so with complete, childlike faith I can pray,

Most Merciful Jesus, You Yourself have said that You desire mercy; so I bring into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls in Purgatory, souls who are very dear to You, and yet, who must make retribution to Your justice. May the streams of Blood and Water which gushed forth from Your Heart put out the flames of Purgatory, that there, too, the power of Your mercy may be celebrated.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls suffering in Purgatory, who are enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. I beg You, by the sorrowful Passion of Jesus Your Son, and by all the bitterness with which His most sacred Soul was flooded: Manifest Your mercy to the souls who are under Your just scrutiny. Look upon them in no other way but only through the Wounds of Jesus, Your dearly beloved Son; for we firmly believe that there is no limit to Your goodness and compassion. Amen.

Why the idea of purgatory is such a stumbling block to many is not really worth discussing to me. Sure, the "P" word isn't in the Bible, but have you ever read the book of Revelation? It sounds pretty crowded up there if the only ones there are God, Jesus, Mary and a few other good guys like Enoch, Elijah, Moses and John the Baptist. Not counting the angels, of course. Perhaps the throngs and multitude John sees in heaven are the saints? It sounds plausible to me.

When Webster was writing about Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, he said he felt "a bit kooky" reading her material. The same feeling comes over me when reading the words of Our Lord from the diary of Sr. Faustina. Or reading Emmerich's visions of purgatory. Or St. Teresa of Avila's. And long before either one of them, St. Gertrude's visions of purgatory were recorded. Which is where this very familiar-sounding prayer comes from,

Prayer for the Souls in Purgatory

Eternal Father, I offer You the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with all the Masses being said throughout the world today for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, those in the Universal Church, in my home and within my family. Amen.

You see, not everyone is a prophet or a seer for the Lord. Just because I am not one doesn't mean that they do not, or cannot, exist. As for His gifts, to some He gave to be apostles, to others prophets, or even evangelists, or pastors and teachers. So He prepared those who belong to Him for the ministry, in order to build up the Body of Christ, until we are all united in the same faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Thus we shall become the perfect Man, upon reaching maturity and sharing the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4.11-13)

I haven't been, ahem, blessed with the stigmata either. But I surely believe that St. Francis of Assisi, Blessed Anne Catherine, and Padre Pio (and others?) were. What follows is from a biography of  the great missionary and preacher St. Francis de Sales.

The Souls In Purgatory.

The opinion of St. Francis de Sales, says the Bishop of Belley, was that from the thought of purgatory, we should draw more consolation than pain. The greater number of those, he said, who fear purgatory so much, do so in consideration of their own interests, and of the love they bear themselves rather than the interests of God, and this happens because those who treat of this place from the pulpit usually speak of its pains, and are silent of the happiness and peace which are found in it.

No doubt the torments are so great that the greatest sufferings of this life cannot be compared with them; but still, the interior satisfaction there is such, that no enjoyment or prosperity on earth can equal it.

1. The souls in purgatory are in a constant state of union with God.

2. They are perfectly submissive to His will, or, to speak better, their will is so transformed into the will of God, that they cannot wish for anything but what God wishes; in such a manner, that if paradise were opened to them, they would rather precipitate themselves into hell than appear before God with the stains which they still perceive on themselves.

3. They are purified voluntarily and lovingly, because such is the divine good-pleasure. The souls in purgatory are there indeed for their sins, sins which they have detested, and sovereignly detested; but as to the abjection and pain that still remain, of being detained there, and deprived for a time of the joy of the blessed in paradise, they endure all that lovingly, and devoutly pronounce this canticle of the divine justice: Thou art just, O Lord, and thy judgment is right.

4. They wish to be there in the manner that pleases God, and for as long a time as He pleases.

5. They are impeccable, and cannot have the least motion of impatience, or be guilty of the smallest imperfection.

6. They love God more than themselves, and more than all things else, with a perfect, pure, and disinterested love.

7. They are consoled by angels.

8. They are assured of their salvation.

9. Their most bitter bitterness is in the most profound peace.

10. If purgatory is a kind of hell as regards pain, it is a kind of paradise as regards the sweetness which charity diffuses through the heart— charity which is stronger than death, and more powerful than hell, and whose lamps are fire and flames.

11. A state more desirable than terrible, since its flames are flames of love.

12. Terrible, nevertheless, since they postpone the end of all consummation, which consists in seeing and loving God, and in this vision and love, to praise and glorify Him for all eternity. With regard to this subject, St. Francis de Sales approved very much of the admirable Treatise on Purgatory, written by the blessed Catherine of Genoa.

If these things be so, I shall be asked, why recommend so much the souls in purgatory to our charity?

The reason is, because, notwithstanding their advantages, the state of these souls is still very sad and truly deserving of compassion, and, moreover, the glory which they will render to God in heaven is delayed. These two motives ought to engage us, by our prayers, our fasts, our alms, and all kinds ol good works, especially by offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass for them, to procure their speedy deliverance.

When any of St. Francis de Sales' friends or acquaintances died, he never grew weary of speaking fondly of them, or recommending them to the prayers of others.

His usual expression was: "We do not remember sufficiently our dead, our faithful departed; and the proof of it is, that we do not speak enough of them. We turn away from that discourse as from a sad mbject, we leave the dead to bury their dead; their memory perishes from us with the sound of their mourning-bell; we forget that the friendship which ends, even with death, is never true, Holy Scripture assuring us that true love is stronger than death."

He was accustomed to say that in this single work of mercy, the thirteen others are assembled.

Is it not, he said, in some manner, to visit the sick, to obtain by our prayers the relief of the poor suffering souls in purgatory?

Is it not to give drink to those who thirst after the vision of God, and who are enveloped in burning flames, to share with them the dew of our prayers ?

Is it not to feed the hungry, to aid in their deliverance by the means which faith suggests?

Is it not truly to ransom prisoners?

Is is not to clothe the naked, to procure for them a garment of light, a raiment of glory?

Is it not an admirable degree of hospitality, toprocure their admission into the heavenly Jerusalem, and to make them fellow-citizens with the saints and domestics of God?

Is it not a greater service to place souls in heaven, than to bury bodies in the earth?

As to spirituals, is it not a work whose merit may be compared to that of counselling the weak, correcting the wayward, instructing the ignorant, forgiving offences, enduring injuries ? And what consolation, however great, that can be given to the afflicted of this world, is comparable with that which is brought by our prayers, to those poor souls who have such bitter need of them?

You will find the Divine Mercy chaplet here.