Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 23

detail statue of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, church of Saint Gordian and Saint Epimachus, Merzhofen, Germany, 1896, by Peter Paul Metz; photograph taken in May 2009 by Andreas Praefcke; swiped off WikipediaArticle

Relief of the Holy Souls – Fasts, Penances, and Mortifications, however Trifling – A Glass of Cold Water – Blessed Margaret Mary

After prayer comes fasting, that is to say, not only fasting properly so called, which consists in abstaining from food, but also all penitential works of what nature soever they may be. It must here be remarked that this is a question not only of the great austerities practiced by the saints, but of all the tribulations, all the contradictions of this life, as also of the least mortifications, the smallest sacrifices which we impose upon ourselves or accept for the love of God, and which we offer to His Divine Mercy for the relief of the holy souls.

A glass of water, which we refuse ourselves when thirsty, is a trifling thing, and if we consider this act in itself, we can scarcely see the efficacy it possesses to alleviate the sufferings of Purgatory. But such is the Divine Goodness that it deigns to accept this as a sacrifice of great value. “If I am permitted,” says the Abbe Louvet, speaking of this subject, “I will relate an example which came almost under my own personal experience. One of my relations was a Religious in a community which she edified, not by that heroism of virtue which shone forth in the saints, but by an ordinary virtue and great regularity of life. It happened that she lost a friend whom she had formerly known in the world, and from the time she heard of her death, she made it her duty to recommend her to God. One evening, being very thirsty, her first impulse was to refresh herself with a glass of water, this being allowed by her Rule; but she remembered her deceased friend, and, for the benefit of her soul, refused herself this little gratification. Instead, then, of drinking this glass of water which she held in her hand, she poured it out, praying God to show mercy to the departed. This good sister reminds us of King David, who, finding himself with his army in a place without water and oppressed with thirst, refused to drink the refreshing water which was brought to him from the cisterns of Bethlehem. Instead of raising it to his parched lips, he poured it out as a libation to the Lord, and Holy Scripture cites this act of the holy King as one most agreeable to God. Now, this slight mortification which our holy Religious imposed upon herself by denying herself this draught of water was so pleasing to God, that He permitted the departed soul to make it manifest by an apparition. On the following night she appeared to the sister, heartily thanking her for the relief she had received. Those few drops of water, which, in the spirit of mortification she had denied herself, were changed into a refreshing bath, to temper the heat of Purgatorial fires.

We wish to remark that what we here say is not restricted to acts of supererogatory mortification; it must be understood of obligatory mortification; that is to say, of all that we have to undergo in the fulfillment of our duties, and in general to all those good works to which our duties as Christians or those of our particular state of life oblige us.

Thus every Christian is bound by virtue of the law of God to refrain from wanton words, slander, and murmuring; thus every Religious must observe silence, charity, and obedience as prescribed by the Rule. Now, these observances, though of obligation, when practiced in the true spirit of a Christian, with a view to please God, in union with the labors and sufferings of Jesus Christ, may become suffrages and serve to relieve the holy souls.

In that famous apparition where Blessed Margaret Mary saw the deceased Religious suffering intensely for her tepidity, the poor soul, after having related in detail the torments which she endured, concluded with these words: “Alas! one hour of exactitude in silence would cure my parched mouth; another passed in the practice of charity would heal my tongue; another passed without murmuring or disapprobation of the actions of the Superior would cure my tortured heart.”

By this we see that the soul asked not for works of supererogation, but only the application of those to which the Religious are obliged.

MLA Citation