All Souls Day.
Pray for the Holy Souls!
May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.
To Labour for the Conversion of Souls, and for Their Relief in the Flames of Purgatory, in Honour of the Holy Angels.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
To Labour for the Conversion of Souls, and for Their Relief in the Flames of Purgatory, in Honour of the Holy Angels.
WHAT can we do more agreeable to the angels than to labour with them for the establishment of the glory of our common Master? It is with a view to this glory that the countless host of pure spirits is occupied with watching over miserable mortal creatures with such attention; it is this which, according to the Apostle, detains them all in the service of men. He who knows God can consider nothing mean when it is question of His Divine interests; and if it is difficult to comprehend the charity, the patience, and the diligence of angels in serving such vile creatures as we are, let us cease to wonder when we consider that it is the glory of their Sovereign which makes them do and bear such amazing things. The least degree of God’s glory, the very shadow of His interests, is worth the sufferings of the whole universe and the annihilation of all creatures. O my God! why art Thou not known? Truly our earth is the land of forgetfulness as to all Thou art and all that is due to Thee. It is impossible to think of this without experiencing a longing desire to leave it with all speed, in order to enter the land of light, where we shall perceive, although late, that we ought to have forgotten all things, or to have thought of them only for Thy sake.
Let us, then, with the holy angels, have regard to the interests of God in souls; and let us use all our endeavours that our Sovereign may be glorified in them. A God-Man having given His life amidst an accumulation of unspeakable torments for this end, we must either renounce our Christianity or give all that in our degree we can give to promote His glory in them. Tears of bitter grief ought to stream from our eyes at the sight of what passes around us. What expense is lavished in pampering and adorning a wretched body which every day is hastening to corruption, for the gratification of ambition and vanity! What revenues are every year squandered, what immense sums expended, throughout this earth on that which is nothing but earth! Consider for a moment what profit the men now living will derive from all this expenditure a hundred years hence, and take and meditate a while seriously on this truth. Then let us be lost in astonishment at beholding the small share which the interests of God have in all this outlay. Let us be plunged in an abyss of grief at seeing even those goods which are consecrated solely to the honour of God, the very revenues of the Church, employed—rather let us say squandered away—for every other purpose. Be rent asunder, O ye heavens, and be astounded at the fearful blindness and hardness of the hearts of Christians. In a report concerning Greece which was printed and distributed in the chief places of Christendom, it was stated that an annual revenue of a thousand crowns would suffice to maintain all the necessary missions in that country, and I know not whether throughout all Christendom the sum could be collected. O Christians! it is question of winning new empires to Jesus Christ and to His Blessed Mother: I repeat it, new empires—alas! what will not men do to conquer a single town?—by contributing something towards the foreign missions in the Indies, in China, in Japan, in Canada; and yet you remain unmoved!
Nearly all our country places are made desolate by the reign of sin, and ignorance of our holy mysteries; a small sum spent in giving missions would do much in the way of remedy; but there are very few who trouble themselves about the matter. So it is: money is forthcoming in abundance for a handkerchief, for a dress, for play, for horses, for furniture, for plate, for keeping dogs; it is only when the interests of my God are concerned that no money is to be had, and nothing can be done. O Christians! do you, in truth, know what you are doing? And ye holders of benefices, how can you live in peace, how can you take a moment’s rest, beholding your houses filled with such handsome furniture, fine pictures, and magnificent plate, and the other expenses in which you indulge out of the patrimony of the poor? If you were to take twenty sous from a poor man, nay, but ten sous, to go and make merry with, what would you say? what would others say? If you were to go and take a crown out of the poor-box in the church to spend upon your pleasures, or if you were to help yourselves to the same sum out of the offertory, would you not feel somewhat uneasy in your mind? And yet every year you take from the poor and from churches sums of money beyond what your necessities require to a fearful amount; you have, besides, much hoarded up; and you keep all these splendid sideboards of plate, these pictures, which have been bought with this money; and perhaps you will die in this state, without making restitution, leaving these things to your heirs, and thus pillaging the property of churches and of the poor even after your death: and all this while you laugh, and pass your days without fear. Oh, horror and desolation! Verily, my God, I see the truth of those words of Thine, that few indeed are saved.
The example of the holy angels is a motive of wonderful power, not only to do all and to give all to promote the glory of God in souls, but also never to grow weary in so doing, nor be discouraged by the sufferings we have to endure. The Apostle teaches us (2 Tim. iv. 2), that we must instruct souls “with all patience and doctrine.” These few words include everything: to say all patience and doctrine is to except neither suffering, nor contempt, nor toil, nor any form of instruction, whether in public or in private, whether by preaching or by catechising. Alas! the angels are ever thinking of us, though we scarcely ever think of them; they are constantly attending on us, notwithstanding the repulses and disregard with which we repay them. After offending God during the whole course of our lives, which is greatly to offend them also, they continue nevertheless to do us good, their love always triumphing over everything. This is why St. Ignatius proposed them as an example to his children, in order to encourage them when they saw no fruit from their labours. And truly all our fervour is like ice, compared with the bright flames of pure love with which these spirits are animated. Where will you find the director, the preacher, who, after giving hundreds of counsels for years together, and receiving nothing in return but insults, will continue to proffer them with the same amiability? and yet the angels persevere with an unalterable fidelity after forty or sixty years, after thousands of millions of inspirations which they have given us. They see clearly that numbers of unbelievers and heretics of whom they have the charge are on the road to hell, and that all their endeavours will prove ineffectual; but this does not prevent their watching lovingly over them to the very last breath of life. Again we ask, where is the gardener who would continue diligently watering a tree if he knew that it would never bear fruit? But the goodness of the angels is beyond all compare. All directors, preachers, confessors, missionaries, and all such as labour in any way for the good of their neighbour, ought to have a special devotion to them, that they may in some measure participate in their charity and indefatigable patience.
As the care which these immortal spirits bestow upon us extends beyond time and after death, they may also be imitated in this persevering love. We shall give them much pleasure by assisting those departed souls who are burning in the fires of Purgatory; and they experience a special consolation when they behold us disposed to relieve them. Help, then, these poor souls by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, by mental and vocal prayer, by bestowing alms and visiting the poor for their intention, by fasts and mortifications, and by the indulgences which can be applied to them. If you possess a blessed medal, ascertain what indulgences are attached to it which are applicable to the dead; to this end, procure the little book which contains a list of them, and have frequent recourse to this treasury in behalf of those poor souls. As there are many indulgences attached to medals—I speak of such as are common, and may be applied to the dead by the person who wears them; as, for instance, by reciting the Pater and Ave five times in honour of the Five Wounds of our Lord, or the Pater and Ave three times in honour of the Most Holy Trinity, before an image of our Lord or of our Lady—it will be easy for you to give some relief to these much afflicted souls several times a day.
I know persons who never omit this practice when in church, who never lie down to sleep without performing this act of devotion; and it is an easy thing to do, because all that is required is to wear one of these medals, and a picture of our Lord and of His Blessed Mother may readily be found in all Hours and Breviaries, and other pious books, when there happens to be none in the room we occupy, which, however, ought never to be. I know some persons who pass a considerable time in repeating these prayers over and over again, in order to obtain the more for these souls who are the prisoners of Divine justice; for let us suppose, for instance, that the remission of a hundred days’ penalty, or of ten years’ penalty, were attached to each repetition of these prayers, we should relieve them of many years of suffering if we were to continue to repeat them devoutly for half an hour or an hour. I know persons who, when they desire to obtain something from God, endeavour to move Him to mercy by first performing this act of mercy themselves.
Ah! if a dog had fallen into the fire you would feel compassion for him; if a house were burning, every one would run for water to extinguish the flames; neither darkness nor bad weather would keep people back; crowds would hurry eagerly to the spot: whereas such is the prodigious blindness of Christians, a thing of ordinary occurrence in all spiritual concerns, that souls made to the image of God are enduring the torments of burning—your father, your mother, your husband, your wife, your dearest friend—and no one gives it a thought! For the first few days that follow death people do think of it, because such is the custom, or perhaps even for the space of a year; and after that, the persons to whom you manifested so much affection are left to burn unaided. Oh, how truly do they then estimate the value of your love! and how great a folly it is to rely on the friendship of creatures, and how good it is to attach one’s self to God only, who is the true friend in life, in death, and after death! There are well-authenticated revelations from which we learn that there are souls which are condemned to the fires of Purgatory for hundreds of years, and sometimes, alas! for the indulgence of some vanity—a woman perhaps for her love of dress: and, knowing all this, you forget them so soon and so easily.
I said in my book on “The Admirable Mother of God,” how profitable a thing it is to place all our good works in her sacred hands, that she may apply them to such souls as she pleases: do you at least place at her disposal the good works of some months or years of your life; perhaps, for what you know, all that is wanting to deliver a soul from Purgatory is some one single good action. Father de Coret, of the Company of Jesus, in his work on “Devotion to the Holy Angel Guardians,” relates two very striking incidents bearing on this subject. He says that a soul suffering in Purgatory learned from his good angel that a child just born would one day be a priest, and would deliver him from that place of suffering by his first offering of the Holy Sacrifice. He adds, what I have already related, that in the year 1634, in the city of Vienna, three other souls appeared to a Jesuit, and told him that at his birth their good angels had brought them the news in the flames of Purgatory, assuring them that one day he should be their deliverer. St. Teresa has written that she had a revelation that the soul of one of her benefactors was to come out of Purgatory on the day that the first Mass should be celebrated in one of her houses; and this made her feel very anxious to hasten on the completion of that house, knowing that this soul would continue to burn until the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass could be celebrated within its walls. I leave you to make such reflections as these revelations may suggest, if only your mind be a little enlightened; they will furnish many and most profitable thoughts.
Henricus S. Bowden.
Edm. Can. Surmont,
Die 9, Martii, 1911.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
November Devotion: The Holy Souls in Purgatory.
Virtues to practice: Charity and kindness.
Most loving Jesus, I humbly beseech Thee, that Thou Thyself wouldst offer to Thine eternal Father in behalf of the Holy Souls in purgatory, the Most Precious Blood which poured forth from the sacred wounds of Thine adorable Body, together with Thine agony and death. And do thou likewise, O sorrowful Virgin Mary, present unto Him, together with the dolorous Passion of thy dear Son, thine own sighs and tears, and all the sorrows thou didst suffer in His suffering, in order that, through the merits of the same, refreshment may be granted to the souls now suffering in the fiery torments of purgatory, so that, being delivered from that painful prison, they may be clothed with glory in heaven, there to sing the mercies of God for ever and ever. Amen.
Absolve, O Lord, the souls of all the faithful departed from every bond of sin, that with Thy gracious assistance they may deserve to escape the judgment of vengeance and enjoy the blessedness of everlasting light.
V. Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord
R. And let perpetual light shine upon them.
V. From the gates of hell,
R. Deliver their souls, O Lord.
V. May they rest in peace.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
Let us pray.
O, God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful; grant unto the souls of Thy servants and handmaids the remission of all their sins: that through our devout supplications they may obtain the pardon they have always desired. Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.
Eternal rest, etc.
An indulgence of 3 years. A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if these prayers are said daily for a month (S. C. md., Sept. 15, 1888; S. P. Ap., April 25, 1934).
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