Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 10

statue of Saint Augustine of Hippo; created by an unknown Moravian sculptor, date unknown; Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Brno-Zábrdovice, Czech Republic; photographed 28 January 2018 by OndranessArticle

Assistance given to the Holy Souls – Holy Mass – Saint Augustine and Saint Monica

In the New Law we have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, of which the divers sacrifices of the Mosaic Law were but feeble figures. The Son of God instituted it, not only as a worthy homage given by the creature to the Divine Majesty, but also as a propitiation for the living and the dead; that is to say, as an efficacious means of appeasing the Justice of God, provoked by our sins.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated for the departed, even from the time of the foundation of the Church. “We celebrate the anniversary of the triumph of the martyrs,” writes Tertullian in the third century, “and, according to the tradition of our fathers, we offer the Holy Sacrifice for the departed on the anniversary of their death.” (De Corona, c. 5)

“It cannot be doubted,” writes Saint Augustine, “that the prayers of the Church, the Holy Sacrifice, and alms distributed for the departed, relieve those holy souls, and move God to treat them with more clemency than their sins de serve. It is the universal practice of the Church, a practice which she observes as having received it from her forefathers – that is to say, the holy Apostles.” (Serm. 34, De Verbis Apost.)

Saint Monica, the worthy mother of Saint Augustine, when about to expire, asked but one thing of her son, that he would remember her at the altar of God; and the holy Doctor, when relating that touching circumstance in the Book of his Confessions, entreats all his readers to unite with him in recommending her to God during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. (Liv. 9., c. 5)

Wishing to return to Africa, Saint Monica went with Saint Augustine to Ostia, in order to embark; but she fell sick, and soon felt that her end was approaching. “It is here,” said she to her son, “that you will give burial to your mother. The one thing I ask of you is that you will be mindful of me at the altar of the Lord.” Ut ad altare Domini memineritis mei.

Saint Augustine continues: “May I be pardoned for the tears I then shed, for that death should not be mourned which was but the entrance to true life. Yet, considering with the eyes of faith the miseries of our fallen nature, I might shed before You, O Lord, other tears than those of the flesh, tears which flow at the thought of the peril to which every soul is exposed that has sinned in Adam.

“It is certain that my mother lived in such manner as to give glory to Your Name, by the activity of her faith and the purity of her morals; yet dare I affirm that no word contrary to Thy law has ever escaped her lips? Alas! what will become of the holiest life if Thou dost examine it in all the rigors of Thy justice? For this reason, O God of my heart, I leave aside the good works which my mother has performed to ask of Thee only the pardon of her sins. Hear me, by the wounds of Him who died for us upon the Cross, and who, now seated at Thy right hand, is our Mediator.

“I know that my mother always showed mercy, that she pardoned from her heart all offenses, and forgave all the debts owing to her. Cancel then her debts, if during the course of her long life there are any owing to Thee. Pardon her, O Lord, pardon her, and enter not into judgment against her; for Thy words are true; Thou hast promised mercy to the merciful.

“This mercy, I believe, Thou hast already shown to her, O my God; but accept the homage of my prayer. Remember that on her passage to the other life Thy servant desired for her body neither pompous funeral nor precious perfumes, she asked not a magnificent tomb, nor that she should be carried to that which she had caused to be constructed at Tagaste, her native place; but only that we should remember her at Thy altar, whose mysteries she prized.

“Thou knowest, Lord, all the days of her life she took part in those Divine Mysteries which contain the Holy Victim whose blood has effaced the sentence of our condemnation. Let her repose then in peace with my father, her husband, with the spouse to whom she was faithful during all the days of her union, and in the sorrows of her widowhood with him whose humble servant she made herself, to win him for Thee by her meekness and patience. And Thou, O my God, inspire Thy servants, who are my brethren, inspire all those who read these lines to remember at Thy altar Monica, Thy servant, and Patricius, who was her spouse; that all who still live in the false light of this world may piously remember my parents, that the last prayer of my dying mother may be heard beyond her expectations.”

This beautiful passage of Saint Augustine shows us the opinion of this great Doctor on the subject of suffrages for the departed, and it makes us see clearly that the greatest of all suffrages is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

MLA Citation