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Preface: An Essay on Masses ...
Introduction
General Remarks
1st Motive: The Pains of Purgatory
2nd Motive: The Duration of ...
3rd Motive: The Condition of ...
4th Motive: The Number of Souls
5th Motive: The Honor/Glory of God
6th Motive: The Church Triumphant
7th Motive: Own Spiritual Advantage
8th Motive: Natural Affection
9th Motive: The Value of the Mass
Certain Practical Questions
The Seventh Motive — Our Own Spiritual Advantage

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. - St. Matthew 5:7

 

"God," says the beloved disciple, "is love," and it is one of the most beautiful inventions of divine love that while we devote ourselves most unreservedly to promoting the honor and glory of God, either by direct acts of adoration or indirectly by works of mercy, we should, at the same time, be insuring our own advancement in virtue here, and be laying up for ourselves treasures of merit in the world to come. But I shall leave it, without apology, to Father Faber, from whose copious streams of loving thought we have so frequently drank in these pages, to instruct us upon this point -- remarking, however, that what he says of devotion in general to the souls in Purgatory is more especially true of the Mass, which is at once the most perfect expression of our devotion, and the most powerful and efficacious means within its reach; for it substitutes the eloquent pleadings of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ for the prayers of our poor sullied hearts.

 

Says Father Faber:

 

"Another point of view from which we may look at this devotion for the Dead, is as a specially complete and beautiful exercise of the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, which are the supernatural fountains of our whole spiritual life.

 

It exercises Faith, because it leads men not only to dwell in the unseen world, but to work for it with as much energy and conviction as if it were before their eyes. . . . What to us, either in interest or importance, is the world we see, to the world we do not see? This devotion exercises our Faith also in the effects of the Sacrifice and Sacraments, which are things we do not see, but which we daily talk of in reference to the dead as undoubted and accomplished facts. It exercises our Faith in the communion of Saints to a degree which would make it seem impossible to a heretic that he ever could believe so wild and extravagant a creed. It acts with regard to Indulgences as if they were the most inevitable material transactions of this world. It knows of the unseen treasures out of which they come, of the unseen keys which open the treasury, of the indefinite jurisdiction which places them infallibly at its disposal, of God's unrevealed acceptance of them, and of the invisible work they do, just as it knows of trees and clouds, of streets and churches -- that is, just as certainly and undoubtingly; though it often can give others no proof of these things, nor account for them to itself. The difficult doctrine of satisfaction is no difficulty to the faith of this devotion. It moves about in it with the greatest ease, makes its own arrangements, transfers its satisfactions hither and thither, turns one in one direction, another in another, making quite sure of God being agreeable to it all. The details of daily household life are not ordered with more calmness and self-possession than are these hidden things which at every turn are starting questions almost the most difficult which the understanding can find to grapple with, or break itself upon. It exhibits the same quiet faith in all those Catholic devotions which I mentioned before as centering themselves in this devotion for the dead. . . .

 

Neither is this devotion a less heroic exercise of the theological virtue of Hope, the virtue so sadly wanting in the spiritual life of these times. For look what a mighty edifice this devotion raises; lofty, intricate, and of magnificent proportions, into which somehow or other all creation is drawn, from the little headache we suffer up to the Sacred Humanity of Jesus and which has to do even with God Himself. And upon what does all this rest, except on a simple childlike trust in God's fidelity, which is the supernatural motive of hope? We hope for the souls we help, and unbounded are the benedictions which we hope for in their regard. We hope to find mercy ourselves, because of our mercy; and this hope quickens our efforts without detracting from the merit of our charity. If we give away our own satisfactions and the Indulgences we gain, to the souls in Purgatory, instead of keeping them for ourselves, what is this hut a heroic exercise of hope? We throw ourselves upon God. We hardly face the thought that we ourselves are thus sentencing ourselves, it may be, to abide years and years longer in that unconquerable fire. We shut our eyes, we quell the rising thought, we give our alms, and throw ourselves on God. We shall not be defrauded of our hope. No! No! All is right, when it is left to God. Then, again, this devotion has to do altogether with things beyond the grave, and there is the region of hope. . . .

 

As to the Charity of this devotion, it dares to imitate even the charity of God Himself. . . . It is an exercise of the love of God, for it is loving those whom He loves, and loving them because He loves them, and to augment His glory, and to multiply His praise. There are a hundred loves of God in this one love, as we should see if we reflected on those holy souls, and realized all that was implied in the final entry of a soul into everlasting bliss. It is love toward the Sacred Humanity, because it magnifies the copious Redemption of Jesus. It honors His merits, satisfactions, ordinances, and mysteries. It peoples His Heaven, and it glorifies His Blood. It is filled with Jesus, with His Spirit, with His work, with His power, with His victories. No less is it an exercise of love to our dearest Lady, as I have shown before, and to the angels and the saints. How abundant is its clarity to the souls themselves, who can exaggerate, whether we give them the good measure of all the Church tells us to do, and some spontaneous alms besides; or the full measure of all our satisfactions during lifetime, which are not by justice due elsewhere, . . . or the measure shaken together, which adds all that shall be done for us when we are dead, . . . or the measure running over, which heaps upon all the rest special works of love, such as promoting this devotion by conversations, sermons, and books, and by getting Masses, Communions, penances, Indulgences, from others for them. All men living on earth, even unconverted sinners, are included in it, because it swells the Church Triumphant, and so multiplies intercessors for us who are still warring upon earth. To ourselves also it is an exercise of charity, for it gains us friends in Heaven; it earns mercy for us when we ourselves shall be in Purgatory, tranquil victims, yet oh, in what distress! and it augments our merits in the sight of God, and so, if only we persevere, our eternal recompense hereafter.

 

Now if this tenderness for the dead is such an exercise of these three theological virtues, and if again even heroic sanctity consists principally in their exercise, what store ought we not to set upon this touching and beautiful devotion!"*

 

Before closing my remarks upon this motive I shall add another consideration, unworthy it may be, but yet not without influence upon even the most devout souls. It is what may be styled an argument from pure selfishness. All men are selfish, and I suppose that you, kind reader, are no exception. Let me then urge you from motives of self-interest to have Masses celebrated for the poor suffering souls. For, let me ask you pointedly:

 

Where do you expect to be thirty, forty, or fifty years from today?

 

Or allowing you a longer life, one beyond the limit of which you cannot hope to live, and then let me inquire:

 

Where do you expect to be in a hundred years from the present time?

 

Certainly not in this world; for, however unpleasant the thought of death may be, there is no one who hopes to escape the common lot of all mankind. You will then be among the dead; but where! Your body will be moldering in the cemetery, whether in an humble spot or under a stately monument it matters little; in either case it will be the food of the same worms; but the soul?

 

Where will it then be? In Heaven?

 

God grant that such may be your happy lot. But you cannot directly enter that blest abode unless you have fulfilled the law; and St. Paul says: "Love is the fulfilling of the law," a virtue in which those are deficient who neglect to pray for the dead. But if your soul is not in Heaven, where will it be? In Hell? God forbid. Purgatory alone remains, and a strong probability points to it. In the depths of your pain and anguish who will remember you? Have you by your prayers, and especially by your Masses, sent one soul to Heaven to be your intercessor with God! Has your charity been such that God will inspire good people on earth to pray for you? That God by whose just decree you will then be imprisoned in the fires of Purgatory has said, -- and His words are recorded for your instruction, and have perhaps been frequently explained to you, -- "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." But He has also said: "Judgment without mercy to him that hath not done mercy," -- "for with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again."

 

But not only will those who have the adorable Sacrifice offered for the souls in Purgatory thereby raise up advocates for themselves in Heaven; they will receive the benefit of their charity in some measure at the very time they are exercising it. For it is now generally admitted, upon the authority of Bellarmine and other eminent theologians, that the souls in Purgatory can pray for us, and more especially for those who assist them; and there seems to be no valid reason why we should not commend ourselves to their prayers. They are the friends of God, and they share with us in the communion of Saints, and if on earth "the continual prayer of a just man avails much," still more should that of souls who are more perfectly united to God by charity, and who can no longer forfeit His love. The fact that the Church does not publicly invoke them does not militate against this view; a reason, among others, why she does not do so is, because the opinion, although very probable, is not absolutely certain.

 

1. All for Jesus, pp. 407-411.

 

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