Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 18

detail of an 18th-century oil painting of Saint José de Anchieta, artist unknown; currently in the Museu Paulista, University of São Paulo, Brazil; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Relief of the Souls – Holy Mass – Saint Malachy at Clairvaux – Sister Zenai’de – Venerable Joseph Anchieta and the Requiem Mass

We must not omit to recount the special grace which the great charity of Saint Malachy towards the holy souls procured for him One day, being in the company of several pious persons, and conversing familiarly on spiritual matters, they came to speak of their last end. “If,” said he, “the choice were given to each one of you, at what hour and in what place would you like to die?” At this question one mentioned a certain feast, another such an hour, others, again, at such a place. When it came to the saint’s turn to express his thoughts, he said that there was no place where he would more willingly end his life than in the Monastery of Clairvaux, governed by Saint Bernard, in order that he might immediately enjoy the benefit of the sacrifices of those fervent Religious; and as to the time, he preferred, he said, the day of All Souls, that he might have part in all the Masses and all the prayers offered throughout the entire Catholic world for the faithful departed.

This, his pious desire, was gratified in every point. He was on his way to Rome to visit Pope Eugenius III, when, arriving at Clairvaux a little before All Saints, he was overtaken by a serious malady, which obliged him to remain in that holy retreat. He soon understood that God had heard his prayers, and cried out with the prophet, This is my rest for ever and ever; here will I dwell, for I have chosen it. (Psalm 131). In fact, the day following, All Saints’, whilst the whole Church was praying for the departed, he rendered his soul into the hands of his Creator.

“We have known,” says the Abbe Postel, “a holy Religious, Sister Zenaide, who, afflicted with a frightful malady for several years, asked Our Lord the grace to die on the Feast of All Souls, towards whom she had always had great devotion. Her desire was granted. On the morning of November 2, after two years of suffering endured with truly Christian courage, she began to sing a hymn of thanksgiving, and calmly expired a few moments before the celebration of the Masses.

We know that in the Catholic liturgy there is a special Mass for the dead; it is celebrated in black vestments, and is called Mass of Requiem. It may be asked whether this Mass is more profitable to the souls than any other? The Sacrifice of the Mass, notwithstanding the variety of its ceremonies, is always the same infinitely holy Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ; but as the Mass for the Dead contains special prayers for the holy souls, it also obtains special assistance for them, at least at those times when the liturgical laws permit the priest to celebrate in black. This opinion, based on the institution and practice of the Church, is confirmed by a fact which we read in the Life of Venerable Father Joseph Anchieta.

This holy Religious, justly surnamed the Wonder-worker of Brazil, had, like all the saints, great charity towards the holy souls in Purgatory. One day during the Octave of Christmas, when the Church forbids the celebration of Requiem Masses, on the 27th of December, Feast of Saint John the Evangelist, this man of God, to the great astonishment of all, ascended the altar in black vestments, and offered the Holy Sacrifice for the Dead.

His superior, Father Nobrega, knowing the sanctity of Anchieta, doubted not that he had received a Divine inspiration; nevertheless, to remove from such conduct the character of irregularity which it appeared to have, he reprimanded the holy man in presence of all the brethren. “What, Father,” said he to him, “do you not know that the Church forbids the celebration of Mass in black today? Have you forgotten the Rubrics?”

The good Father, quite humble and obedient, replied with respectful simplicity that God had revealed to him the death of a Father of the Society. This Father, his fellow student at the University of Coimbra, and who at that time resided in Italy, in the College of the holy House of Loreto, had died that same night. “God,” he continued, “made this known to me, and gave me to understand that I should offer the Holy Sacrifice for him immediately, and do all in my power for the repose of his soul.” “But,” said the Superior, “do you know that the Mass celebrated as you have done will be of any benefit to him?” “Yes,” modestly replied Anchieta, “immediately after the memento for the dead, when I said these words: To Thee, God the Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, all honor and glory! God showed me the soul of that dear friend, freed from all its sufferings and ascending to Heaven, where his crown awaited him.”

MLA Citation