Season

Christmastide

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Purgatory

"It is quite impossible for us to imagine the cruel torments endured by the souls in purgatory. The fathers of the Church tell us that they are terrible in the extreme. St. Augustine says that the fire which purifies the elect is of the same nature as that which torments the damned. This fire is fiercer than any we have seen, or can conjecture, on earth. If we had no other testimony than this to the terrible character of the purgatorial fire, it would suffice to make us believe in its awful agony, and tremble at the thought of it. St. Augustine proceeds to describe it further: 'Although this fire,' he says, 'is not eternal, it is marvellously intense, and inflicts worse pain than any ever suffered in this world. No physical suffering can equal it, not even the fearful tortures the martyrs endured.' Now if, after hearing this, we read in the lives of the saints of the cruel tortures they underwent, we may form some faint conception of the awful nature of the pains of purgatory.

"According to St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, it would be preferable to suffer all imaginable anguish [until] the end of time than to pass one day in purgatory. My God, how intolerable those pains must be if an unhappy soul suffers more in one day than a man could suffer from now until the day of judgment! St. Thomas of Aquin declares that a single spark from the flames of purgatory is worse than all the most dreadful tortures of this life. Terrible words, almost surpassing our powers of belief! Alas, what is to become of us, wretched sinners, if after our death we are plunged into those scorching flames? What intense suffering, my God, is in store for us then! And yet not the slightest doubt can be entertained that, unless we endure these torments, we cannot enter heaven; for we are not holy and perfect: far from it, we are full of evil desires, and are soiled with the stains of sin.

"Many more passages from the fathers might be quoted concerning the pains of purgatory, but we will content ourselves with the words of St Bernadine, who says: 'There is as much difference between our material fire and the fire of purgatory as between a painted fire and a real fire.' St. Magdalen of Pazzi, who several times had a vision of purgatory, and even descried her own brother there, said that a large fire on earth appeared like pleasure-grounds in comparison to the fires of purgatory. This forcible comparison is enough to give us some idea of the agony suffered in purgatory, and to urge us to make atonement for our sins now, that we may not have to expiate them hereafter in the torturing flames. It ought also to awaken within us heartfelt compassion for the holy souls who at the present time are enduring the terrible torture of that fiery prison, and on that account deserve our deepest commiseration.

"There are many different ways of helping the suffering souls and delivering them from purgatory; but none of these is so sure and so effectual as the holy sacrifice of the Mass".

An Explanation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (Fr Van Cochem)

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This is why we must have Masses said for the dead. But there is also another way. Indulgences. We can apply them to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. And we now find ourselves in Lent. The modern Enchirodon says:
8 §1. A plenary indulgence is granted to the Christian faithful who:
...
2° in any Friday in the season of Lent piously recite the prayer En ego, o bone et dulcissime Iesu, before an image of the Crucified Jesus Christ after communion; ... 
This is with the usual conditions (Holy Confession, Holy Communion, prayers for the Pope and freedom from any attachment to sin, even venial). Here, handily is the prayer - though it must be said after Holy Communion. You are also likely to find it in your missals.
En ego, o bone et dulcissime Iesu, ante conspectum tuum genibus me provolvo, ac maximo animi ardore te oro atque obtestor, ut meum in cor vividos fidei, spei et caritatis sensus, atque veram peccatorum meorum paenitentiam, eaque emendandi firmissimam voluntatem velis imprimere; dum magno animi affectu et dolore tua quinque vulnera mecum ipse considero, ac mente contemplor, illud prae oculis habens, quod iam in ore ponebat tuo David Propheta de te, o bone Iesu: «Foderunt manus meas et pedes meos; dinumeraverunt omnia ossa mea». 
(Behold, o good and most sweet Jesus, I fall upon my knees before Thee, and with most fervent desire beg and beseech Thee that Thou wouldst impress upon my heart a lively sense of faith, hope and charity, true repentance for my sins, and a firm resolve to make amends. And with deep affection and grief, I reflect upon Thy five wounds, having before my eyes that which Thy prophet David spoke about Thee, o good Jesus: "They have pierced my hands and feet, they have counted all my bones.")

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