Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 11

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Assistance rendered to the Souls – Holy Mass – Jubilee of Leo XIII – Solemn Commemoration of the Dead on the Last Sunday in September

We have witnessed the holy enthusiasm with which the Church celebrated the Sacerdotal Jubilee of her venerated head, Pope Leo XIII. The faithful from all parts of the world went to Rome, either in person or in heart, to offer their homage and gifts at the feet of the Vicar of Jesus Christ. The entire Church Militant rejoiced in the midst of her long trials.

The Church Triumphant in Heaven shared in this rejoicing by the canonization and beatification of a large number of her glorious members. Was it not fitting that the Church Suffering should also participate therein?

Could our dear brethren in Purgatory be forgotten? Should not those souls so dear to the heart of Jesus also experience the happy effects of that glorious feast?

Leo XIII understood this. Always guided by the Holy Spirit, when acting as Supreme Pastor, the Pope, by an Encyclical Letter dated April 1, 1888, decreed that, throughout the entire Christian world, there should be a solemn Commemoration of the Dead on the last Sunday of the month of September. Calling to mind with what admirable love the Church Militant has manifested her joy, and how the Church Triumphant rejoiced with her, “To crown, in a certain sense,” says our Holy Father, “this general exultation, we desire to fulfill, as perfectly as possible, the duty of our apostolic charity by extending the fullness of infinite spiritual treasures to those beloved sons of the Church who, having died the death of the just, have quitted this life of combat with the sign of faith, and have become offshoots of the mystic vine, although they are not permitted to enter into eternal peace until they shall have paid the last farthing of the debt which they owe to the avenging justice of God.

“We are moved thereto both by the pious desires of Catholics, to whom we know our resolution will be particularly dear, and by the agonizing intensity of the pains suffered by the departed souls; but we are especially inspired by the custom of the Church, who, in the midst of the most joyful solemnities of the year, forgets not the holy and salutary commemoration of the dead that they may be loosed from their sins.

“For this reason, since it is certain from Catholic doctrine that the souls detained in Purgatory are relieved by the suffrages of the faithful, and especially by the august Sacrifice of the Altar, we think we can give no more useful nor more desirable pledge of our love than by everywhere multiplying, for the mitigation of their pains, the pure oblation of the Holy Sacrifice of our Divine Mediator.

“We therefore appoint, with all necessary dispensations and derogations, the last Sunday of the month of September next as a day of ample expiation; on which day there shall be celebrated by us, and likewise by our brethren the Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops, and by all other Prelates exercising jurisdiction in a diocese, each in his own patriarchal church, metropolitan or cathedral, a special Mass for the dead, with all possible solemnity, and according to the rite indicated by the missal for the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed. We approve that the same be done in the parochial and collegiate churches, secular as well as regular, provided the Office proper for the Mass of the day everywhere where such obligation exists be not omitted.

“As regards the faithful, we earnestly exhort them, after having received the Sacrament of Penance, to devoutly nourish themselves with the bread of angels by way of suffrage for the souls in Purgatory.

“By our apostolic authority, to those of the faithful who do so we grant a plenary indulgence, to be applied to the souls departed, and the favor of the privileged altar to all those who, as we have said above, shall celebrate Mass.

“Thus the holy souls who expiate the remains of their faults by those sharp pains will receive special and efficacious relief, thanks to the Saving Host which the Universal Church, united to her visible Head, and animated with the same spirit of charity, will offer to God, that He may admit them into the abode of consolation, of light, and of eternal peace.

“Meanwhile, venerable brethren, we grant you affectionately in the Ford, as a pledge of these heavenly gifts, the apostolic benediction to you, to all the clergy, and to all the people confided to your care.

“Given at Rome, under the seal of the Fisherman, on the solemnity of Easter, in the year 1888, the eleventh of our Pontificate.”

MLA Citation