Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 32

statue of Saint Andrew Avellino by Pedro Alonso de los Ríos, 17th century, façade of Saint Emilian and Saint Cajetan's Church, Madrid, Spain); photographed by Luis García (Zaqarbal), 4 July 2009; swiped off Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Relief of the Holy Souls – Which of them should be the Objects of our Charity – All the Faithful Departed – Saint Andrew Avellino – Sinners dying without the Sacraments – Saint Francis de Sales

We have seen the resources and the numerous means which Divine Mercy has placed in our hands for relieving the souls in Purgatory; but what souls are in those expiatory flames, and to what souls should we give our assistance? For what souls should we pray and offer our suffrages to God? To these questions we must answer that we should pray for the souls of all the faithful departed, omnium fidelium defunctorum, according to the expression of the Church. Although filial piety imposes special duties upon us with regard to parents and relations, Christian charity commands us to pray for all the faithful departed in general, because they are all our brethren in Jesus Christ, all are our neighbors, whom we must love as ourselves.

By these words , faithful departed, the Church means all those actually in Purgatory, that is to say, those who are neither in Hell, nor as yet worthy to be admitted into the glory of Paradise. But who are these souls? Can we know them? God has reserved this knowledge to Himself, and, except so far as He is pleased to show us, we should remain in total ignorance of the state of souls in the other life. Now, He rarely makes known that a soul is in Purgatory or in the glory of Heaven; still more rarely does He reveal the reprobation of a soul. In this uncertainty we must pray in general, as does the Church, for all the departed, without prejudice to those souls whom we wish to aid in particular.

We may evidently restrict our intention to those among the dead who are still in need of our assistance, if God grants us the privilege which He accorded to Saint Andrew Avellino, of knowing the condition of souls in the other life. When this holy Religious of the Order of Theatines was, according to his pious custom, praying with angelic fervor for the departed, it sometimes happened that he experienced within himself a sort of resistance, a feeling of invincible repulsion; at other times it was, on the contrary, a great consolation and a particular attraction. He soon understood the meaning of these different impressions; the first signified that his prayer was useless, that the soul which he desired to assist was unworthy of mercy, and condemned to eternal fire; the other indicated that his prayer was efficacious for the relief of the soul in Purgatory. It was the same when he wished to offer the Holy Sacrifice for someone deceased. He felt, on leaving the sacristy, as though withheld by an irresistible hand, and understood that that soul was in Hell; but when he was inundated with joy, light, and devotion, he was sure of contributing to the deliverance of a soul.

This charitable saint prayed, therefore, with the greatest fervor for the dead whom he knew to be suffering, and ceased not to apply his suffrages until the souls came to thank him, giving him the assurance of their deliverance. (Life of the Saint).

As for us, who have not these supernatural lights, we must pray for all the departed, even for the greatest sinners and the most virtuous Christian. Saint Augustine knew the great virtue of his mother, Saint Monica; nevertheless, not content with offering his own suffrages for her to God, he asked his readers not to cease recommending her soul to Divine Mercy.

As regards great sinners, who die without being outwardly reconciled with God, we may not exclude them from our suffrages, because we have not the certainty of their interior impenitence. Faith teaches us that all men dying in the state of mortal sin incur eternal damnation; but who are those that in reality die in that state? God alone, who reserves to Himself the judgment of the living and the dead, knows this. As to ourselves, we can but draw a conjectural conclusion from exterior circumstances, and from [even] this we must refrain. It must, however, be confessed that there is everything to be feared for those who die unprepared for death, and all hope seems to vanish for those who refuse to receive the Sacraments . The latter quit this life with exterior signs of reprobation. Nevertheless, we must leave the judgment to God, according to the words, Dei judicium est – “To God belongs judgment.” (Deuteronomy 1:17). There is more to be hoped for those who are not positively hostile to religion, who are benevolent towards the poor, who retain some practice of Christian piety, or who at least approve and favor piety; there is more, I say, to hope for such persons when it happens that they die suddenly, without having had the time to receive the last Sacraments of the Church.

Saint Francis de Sales will not have us despair of the conversion of sinners until their last breath, and even after their death he forbids us to judge evil of those who have led a bad life. With the exception of those sinners whose reprobation is made manifest by Holy Scripture, we may not, he says, conclude that a person is damned, but must respect the secret of God. His principal reason was, that as the first grace is gratuitous, so also is the last, which is final perseverance or a good death. This is why we must hope for the departed, how sad soever his death may have been, because our conjectures can be based on the exterior only, whereby the most clever may be deceived.

MLA Citation