Friday, October 31, 2008

Month of the Holy Souls

Wisdom 11
:17 what things a man sinneth, by the same also he is tormented.

If you saw a fellow man suffering unbearable torments, would you stop to help? If a dying man with parched lips held out a cup for a drop of water, would you give it? Would you pass a morsel of food to a child ravaged with hunger? Not many Catholics would refuse to help those mentioned above. How easy it is though, to neglect our duty to help those whose sufferings we cannot see. November is the month of the Holy Souls, and we can do much to alleviate their sufferings and torments. It is by the mercy of God that the Church can work to console and comfort the souls of those languishing in Purgatory, and it is our duty to make good use of this grace.

There are many ways we can provide relief to their sufferings and torments:
  • Have a Mass said for them (I currently do this for the soul closest to entering heaven)
  • Offer Holy Communion for them
  • Sprinkle holy water to relieve their sufferings
  • Almsgiving
  • Fast, pray, penance and mortification (try going without water when thirsty and offering it for the Holy Souls)
  • Offering indulgences and praying the indulgenced prayers
  • Making the stations of the cross for their relief
  • The Heroic Act of Charity.
St Catherine of Genoa tells us that the sufferings of Purgatory are equal to those of hell, and explains that the deprivation of the sight of God is the most unbearable torment a soul can suffer, and this is so because all souls are instinctively urged towards God, but when repelled by His Justice, the most incredible suffering results. Saint Chrysostomon tells us that of all the torments in this world (and there are many) we will not find one that equals the privation of the beatific vision of God. Think about that for a minute. Of all the wicked tortures that man could possibly suffer and have inflicted upon him, nothing can even come close to being deprived of the sight of God. And yet, the souls in Purgatory are suffering this very torture, and we, the Church Militant, have been given the grace (and the duty) to help them reduce their sufferings.

Don't neglect almsgiving in your efforts to help the Church Suffering. A Benedictine priest in the ninth century was generous about causing alms to be distributed for the dead. He had established a rule that whenever one of his Religious died, that portion of the dead brother's food would be given to the poor for a whole month, so that the deceased Religious might profit from the alms. Then disease struck the monastery and many of the Religious died, and the Procurator of the monastery, in an effort to preserve the food supply and economize the resources, refused or neglected to distribute the food to the poor as had been the pious custom of his predecessor.

A month later, as the Procurator was alone in one of the rooms, he saw a great number of souls whom he recognized to be those of the deceased Religious whose portions of food he had not given in charity to the poor. The poor man was struck with terror, and one of the souls addressed him, saying, "Unfortunate creature, why did you not distribute the alms which were destined to give us relief from our sufferings? Why have you deprived us of that assistance from our torments? Receive from this moment, the punishment of your avarice; another and more terrible chastisement is reserved for you, when after three days, you will appear before God."

The poor man became very ill, and before he died, he received the Sacraments, displaying signs of humble repentance. A Requiem Mass was said for him, and his share of the food was given to the poor as alms for the benefit of his soul. He soon appeared to the Abbot, pale and disfigured. He told the Abbot that all the alms that were offered for him, by order of Divine Justice, had instead been attributed to the souls of his brothers whom he had defrauded by his greed. He begged for an increase in alms, and related that his soul would not be released until all of his fellow Religious had first been released. The holy Abbot increased his alms, and was soon rewarded with a vision of this grateful soul being escorted to heaven by angels, stopping to thank him in the most touching manner for the charity he had exercised towards him.

1 comment:

Shirley said...

I do most of those things for the Holy Souls, thanks for the reminder about sprinkling Holy Water for them; I had forgotten that one.