Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 25

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Relief of the Holy Souls – The Stations of the Cross – Venerable Mary d’Antigna

After Holy Communion we shall speak of the Stations of the Cross. This holy exercise may be considered in itself, and in the indulgences with which it is enriched. In itself, it is a solemn and very excellent manner of meditating on the Passion of our Saviour, and consequently the most salutary exercise of our holy religion.

In its literal sense, the Way of the Cross is the distance traversed by the Man-God whilst carrying the weight of His Cross from the palace of Pilate, where He was condemned to death, to the summit of Calvary, where He was crucified. After the death of her Divine Son, the Blessed Virgin, either alone or in company with the holy women, frequently visited that dolorous path. After her example, the faithful of Palestine, and in the course of ages numerous pilgrims from the most distant countries, went to visit those holy places, bedewed with the sweat and blood of Jesus Christ; and the Church, to encourage their piety, opened to them her treasures of spiritual blessings. But as everyone cannot go to the Holy Land, the Holy See allows to be erected in the churches and chapels in other countries, crosses, paintings, or bas-reliefs representing the touching scenes which took place on the real road to Calvary at Jerusalem.

In permitting the erection of these holy Stations, the Roman Pontiffs, who understood all the excellency and all the efficacy of this devotion, deigned also to enrich it with all the Indulgences which they had granted to a real visit to the Holy Land. And thus, according to the Briefs and Constitutions of the Sovereign Pontiffs Innocent XI, Innocent XII, Benedict XIII, Clement XII, and Benedict XIV those who make the Stations of the Cross with proper dispositions gain all the Indulgences granted to the faithful who visit in person the Holy Places of Jerusalem, and these Indulgences are applicable to the dead.

Now it is certain that numerous Indulgences, whether plenary or partial, were granted to those who visited the Holy Places of Jerusalem, as may be seen in the Bullarium Terrae Sanctae, so that as regards Indulgences we may say that of all practices of piety the Way of the Cross is the most richly endowed.

Thus this devotion, as well on account of the excellence of its object as by reason of the Indulgences, constitutes a suffrage of the greatest value for the Holy Souls.

We find an incident relating to this subject in the Life of Venerable Mary d’Antigna. (Louvet, Le Purgatoire, p. 332). For a long time she had the pious custom of making the Stations of the Cross each day for the relief of the souls departed; but later, for motives more apparent than solid, she did it but rarely, and finally omitted it altogether. Our Lord, who had great designs in regard to this pious virgin, and who desired to make her a victim of love for the consolation of the poor souls in Purgatory, vouchsafed to give her a lesson which serves as an instruction to us all. A Religious of the same convent, who had died a short time previously, appeared to her, complaining sorrowfully, “My dear sister,” she said, “why do you no longer make the Stations of the Cross for the souls in Purgatory? You were formerly accustomed to relieve us every day by that holy exercise; why do you deprive us of that assistance?”

Whilst the soul was still speaking Our Lord Himself appeared to His servant, and reproached her with her negligence. “Know, My daughter,” He added, “that the Stations of the Cross are very profitable to the souls in Purgatory, and constitute a suffrage of the greatest value. This is why I have permitted this soul, for her own sake and for the sake of others, to implore this of you. Know also that it was on account of your exactitude in practicing this devotion that you have been favored by frequent communication with the dead. It is for this reason also that those grateful souls never cease to pray for you, and to plead your cause at the tribunal of My Justice. Make known this treasure to your sisters, and tell them to draw from it abundantly for themselves and for the dead.”

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