Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 44

Saint Peter FaberArticle

Motives and Incentives to Devotion towards the Holy Souls – Saint John of God – Give Alms for your Own Sake – Saint Bridget – Blessed Peter Lefevre

We have just seen how holy and meritorious Charity towards the holy souls is before God – Sancta cogitatio. It remains to show how salutary, at the same time, it is for ourselves – Salubris cogitatio. If the excellence of the work in itself is so powerful an incentive, the precious advantages which we derive from it are no less a stimulus. They consist, on the one hand, of the graces which we receive in recompense for our generosity, and, on the other, of the Christian fervor with which this good work inspires us.

Blessed, said our Saviour, are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7). Blessed is he, says the Holy Ghost, that understands concerning the needy and the poor: the Lord will deliver him in the evil day. (Psalm 40). As long as you did it to one of these My brethren, you did it to Me. (Matthew 25:40). The Lord deal mercifully with you, as you have dealt with the dead. (Ruth 1:8). These different sentences express, in their strongest sense, Charity towards the departed.

All that we offer to God in Charity to the dead, says Saint Ambrose in his book of Offices, is changed into merit for ourselves, and we shall find it after our death increased a hundredfold – O/nne quod defunctis impenditur, in nostrum tandem meritum commutatur, et illud post mortem centuplum recipimus duplicatum. We can say that the spirit of the Church, the sentiments of the doctors and the saints, are expressed in these words: What you do for the dead, you do in a most excellent manner for yourself. The reason of this is, that this work of mercy will be returned to you increased a hundredfold, in the day when you yourself shall be in distress. We may here apply the celebrated words of Saint John of God when he asked the inhabitants of Granada to give him an alms for the love of themselves. To provide for the needs of the sick whom he took into his hospital, the charitable saint traversed the streets of Granada, crying, “Give alms, my brethren, give alms for the love of yourselves .” People were astonished at this new form of expression, because they had always been accustomed to hear: alms for the love of God. “Why,” said they to the saint, “do you ask us to give alms for the love of ourselves?” “Because,” replied he, “it is the great means of redeeming your sins, according to the words of the Prophet: Redeem thou thy sins with alms, and thy iniquities with works of mercy to the poor. ” (Dan. 4:24). In giving alms, you labor in your own interest, since you thereby diminish the terrible chastisements which your sins have merited. Must we not conclude that all this is true of alms bestowed upon the souls of Purgatory? To assist them is to preserve ourselves from those terrible expiations which we shall not otherwise escape. We may, therefore, cry with Saint John of God, Give them the alms of your suffrages: assist them for the love of yourself. Generosity towards the departed is always repaid; it finds its recompense in all kinds of graces, the source of which is the gratitude of the holy souls and that of Our Lord, who considers as done to Himself all that we do for the suffering souls.

Saint Bridget declares in her Revelations, and her testimony is quoted by Benedict XII (Serm. 4, 12), that she heard a voice from the depths of the Purgatorial flames pronouncing these words: “May those be blessed, may those be rewarded, who relieve us in these pains!” And on another occasion: “O Lord God, show Thy Almighty power in recompensing a hundredfold those who assist us by their suffrages, and make the rays of the divine light to shine upon us.” In another vision the saint heard the voice of an angel saying: “Blessed be upon earth those who, by their prayers and good works, come to the assistance of the poor suffering souls!”

Blessed Peter Lefevre, of the Company of Jesus, so well known for his devotion towards the holy angels, had also a special devotion towards the souls in Purgatory. “Those souls,” he said, “have bowels of Charity, which are ever open to those who still walk amidst the dangers of this life; they are filled with gratitude towards those who assist them. They can pray for us, and offer up their torments to God in our behalf. It is a most excellent practice to invoke the souls in Purgatory, that we may obtain from God, through their intercession, a true knowledge of our sins and a perfect contrition for them, fervor in the exercise of good works, care to produce worthy fruits of penance, and in general, all virtues, the absence of which has been the cause of their terrible chastisement.

MLA Citation