Continued from Last Week
8. Fasting: In order to help the suffering souls, we must render satisfaction to God for the sins that divine justice by corresponding works of atonement, works by which God is glorified, and man is deprived of some enjoyment in penalty for the sinful gratification in which he wrongfully indulged. By fasting we chastise our body, refuse gratification to its appetite, give strength to our soul and pleasure to the whole spiritual being. Fasting is directed against all forbidden pleasures and enjoyments. By fasting therefore, we atone for the sins committed by and against our body. Instead of applying this atonement for ourselves, we can offer it to Almighty God in union with the fast of Christ in favour of the suffering souls.
9. Indulgences: According to the doctrine of the Church, the guilt of sin and its eternal punishment is remitted in the Sacrament of Penance. The temporal punishment due to sin however is not always remitted entirely in the Sacrament of Penance, as is done in Baptism. This remaining temporal punishment, as long as it is not remitted, must be suffered either in this world or in Purgatory, before we can enter heaven. Satisfaction for temporal punishment is made by the works of Penance imposed in the Sacrament Penance and united with the merits of Christ, and is applied to us by the power of binding and loosing granted to the Church by Christ Himself. By this same power works of penance are imposed on us outside the Sacrament of Penance for purpose of gaining indulgences.
Finally, satisfaction is also rendered by voluntary works of penance, and by the unavoidable sufferings borne with patience and resignation — all this in union with the merits of Christ. An indulgence therefore is the remission of the tempo¬ral punishment due to sin which the Church grants to the faithful, provided they observe certain conditions. The entire temporal punishment is remitted by a plenary indulgence; a part of it only by a partial indulgence. It has always been the practice of the popes to grant numerous indulgences applicable to the suffering souls; by gaining of which indulgences we cede to these imprisoned friends of God so much remission of temporal punishment as we would have obtained for ourselves. It was revealed to St. Bridget that many and great punishments are remitted on account of indulgences, so that whomsoever departs this life after having gained a plenary indulgence before consenting to another sin is admitted to heaven the same way as one dying in his baptismal innocence.
10. Holy Water: When we take holy water and sprinkle ourselves or our surroundings with it, the prayer of the Church ascends to heaven drawing down blessings upon us and on the objects that are sprinkled with it. Holy water may be used not only for the purpose of benefiting persons present, but may also be applied for the absent and especially for the suffering souls. In this case the prayers of the Church ascend to heaven in favour of the person or soul intended to be helped. Deodatus, one of the ancient Fathers of the desert remarks: “As the flowers withering in the heat of the sun are refreshed by the rain so also the souls in Purgatory, these flower-select of heaven, scorched by the Sun of eter¬nal Justice are refreshed by the devout application of holy water”.
11. Burning of Blessed Candles: God Himself in the Old Testament ordained that lights should be used in His temple and at religious rites performed there. For this purpose He gave the minut¬est of directions: “Thou shall make a candlestick of beaten work of the finest gold … Thou shall also make seven lamps, and shall set them upon the candlestick, to give light over against”. Under the Christian dispen¬sation, the use of lights was retained not Twelve means of relieving the suffering of the souls in purgatory only when the Sacred mysteries were celebrated at night during times of persecution, but also during the day. In the early Church those selected to take care of the lamps and candles were specially ordained for this purpose. The burning lamp or candle signifies Christ, the eternal Light which we implore in our prayers to shine upon the departed. At the same time they are also alms for the suffering souls, symbolizing charity; for as the flame gradually consumes the blessed candles, thus charity reduces the torments of the purifying fire.
12. Confraternities for the Relief of the Suffering Souls: Confraternities for the relief of the suffering souls are pious unions or societies founded for the aid and relief of the souls in Purgatory. The existence of such pious unions or confraternities for the relief of the suffering souls can be traced as far back as the year 700 of the Christian era, namely in Mabillon’s “Acts of the Saints of the Order of St. Benedict”. In the lives of other saints also we often meet with leagues of prayer which holy persons entered into for the purpose of helping one another in mitigating torments of Purgatory. We find instances of this in the biographies of St. Boniface, the Venerable Bede, Abbot Eudberit of Wiremouth, and others. Terrified at the thought that, as Bellarmine expresses it, “but few just men will escape the exceedingly great pains of Purgatory, because only a very small num¬ber are admitted to heaven through the supreme mercy of God immediately after their death”, compassionate souls re¬solved to come to the aid of their deceased brethren by the extraordinary power of united prayer and other works of suffrage.
The joint intercession, the increased devotion, the multiplied grace, the virtues and merits of brethren united in God are powerful means of moving the Heart of a God so full of compassion for His children in distress. The following conditions must be observed in order that our good works for the souls in Purgatory may be accepted by God: (a) We must have the intention of resigning the merits of our good works in favour of the suffering souls. Our in¬tention may specify a particu¬lar soul to whom we desire to apply our suffrages. If the works of suffrage are offered for the relief of the suffering souls in general, the satisfac¬tory fruits thereof are divided among them all. (b) The work performed must be one of atonement. All good works are such; but they are not all equally valuable as atonement. Their atoning value depends either on the disposi¬tion of the person performing them; or it may be inherent in the works themselves as for in¬stance Holy Mass, indulgences and the prayers of the Church. (c) According to the unanimous doctrine of all theologians, the good works, to be effective, must be per¬formed in the state of grace. Nevertheless there is no doubt that the atoning effect of such good works that possess aton¬ing power of themselves, are of benefit to the suffering souls even though they be per¬formed in the state of sin: such works are for instance Holy Mass and the Prayers and blessings of the Church.
The suffering souls receive no benefit of a good work performed in the state of sin, when the value of the work requires it to be performed in the state of grace. If in such a case the petition of a sinner is granted, this is not done because the work itself was worthy the favour, but solely and purely as a result of God’s mercy. Sometimes our excessive love for the deceased prevents us from using the right means at the proper time. We do not reflect on the condition of our own soul; we do not examine our own state of conscience before God, but are only concerned at the suffering of our brethren and friends. We per¬form our good works too hast¬ily, without first offering to God a humble and contrite heart; and thereby we expose them to the danger of being rejected. We loved our departed ones in life, let us remember them in death. Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.