Gallery of Saints
All Souls Day
VIEW THE POEM OF THE SOUL
Taken From THE LITURGICAL YEAR, Dom Guéranger OSB, Book XV
'WE will not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep, that you be not sorrowful, even as others who have no hope,' [1 Thess. iv. 13] The Church today has the same desire as the Apostle thus expressed to the first Christians. The truth concerning the dead not only proves admirably the union between God's justice and His goodness; it also inspires a charitable pity which the hardest heart cannot resist, and at the same time offers to the mourners the sweetest consolation. If faith teaches us the existence of a Purgatory where our loved ones may be detained by unexpiated sin, it is also of faith that we are able to assist them; [Conc. Trid. Sess. xxv] and theology assures us that their more or less speedy deliverance lies in our power. Let us call to mind a few principles which throw light on this doctrine, Every sin causes a twofold injury to the sinner: it stains his soul, and renders him liable to punishment. Venial sin, which displeases God, requires a temporal expiation. Mortal sin deforms the soul, and makes the guilty man an abomination to God: its punishment cannot be anything less than eternal banishment, unless the sinner, in this life, prevent the final and irrevocable sentence. But even then the remission of the guilt, though it revokes the sentence of damnation, does not cancel the whole debt. Although an extraordinary overflow of grace upon the prodigal may sometimes, as is always the case with regard to Baptism and Martyrdom, bury every remnant and vestige of sin in the abyss of Divine oblivion; yet is it the ordinary rule that for every fault satisfaction must be made to God's justice, either in this world or in the next.
On the other hand, every supernatural act of virtue brings a double profit to the just man: it merits for his soul a fresh degree of grace; and it makes satisfaction for past faults, in exact proportion to the value, in God's sight, of that labour, privation, or trial accepted, or that voluntary suffering endured, by one of the members of His beloved Son. Now, whereas merit is a personal acquisition and cannot be transferred to others, satisfaction may be vicarious; God is willing to accept it in payment of another's debt, whether the recipient of the boon be in this world or in the next, provided only that he be united by grace to the mystical Body of our Lord, which is one in charity. This is a consequence of the mystery of the communion of saints, as Suarez explains in his treatise on suffrages. Appealing to the authority of the greatest and most ancient princes of science, and discussing the objections and restrictions since proposed by others, the illustrious theologian does not hesitate to formulate this conclusion, with regard to the suffering souls in particular: 'I believe that this satisfaction of the living for the dead is a matter of simple justice, [Esse simpliciter de justitia.] and that it is infallibly accepted with its full value, and according to the intention of him who applies it. Thus, for instance, if the satisfaction I make would, if kept for myself, avail me in strict justice for the remission of four degrees of Purgatory, it will remit exactly the same amount to the soul for whom I choose to offer it.' [SUAREZ, De Suffragiis, Sectio vi]
We well know how the Church seconds the goodwill of her children. By the practice of Indulgences, she places at their charitable disposal the inexhaustible treasure accumulated, from age to age, by the superabundant satisfactions of the Saints, added to those of the Martyrs, and united to those of our blessed Lady and the infinite residue of our Lord's sufferings. These remissions of punishment she grants to the living by her own direct power; but she nearly always approves of and permits their application to the dead by way of suffrage -----that is to say, in the manner in which, as we have seen, each of the faithful may offer to God who accepts it, for another, the suffrage or succour [SUAREZ, De Suffragiis, in Proremio] of his own satisfactions. Such is the doctrine of Suarez, who adds that an Indulgence ceded to the dead loses nothing either ot the security or of the value it would have had for ourselves who are still militant. [De Indulgentiis, Disput. liii. Sect. iii]
Now, Indulgences under every form are continually coming in our way. Let us make use of our treasures, and exercise mercy towards the poor suffering Souls. Is any condition more pitiable than theirs? So great is their anguish, that no distress on earth can approach to it; and withal so nobly endured, that not a murmur breaks the silence of that 'river of fire, which in its imperceptible current bears them on little by little to the ocean of Paradise.' [MGR. GAY, Christian Life and Virtues: Of Charity towards the Church, ii] All Heaven cannot help them, for there is no merit to be gained there. God Himself, though most merciful, owes it to His justice not to deliver them until they have paid the whole debt that they carried with them beyond the world of trial. The debt was contracted perhaps through our fault, and in our company; and it is to us they turn for help, to us who are still dreaming of nothing but pleasure, while they are burning, and we could so easily shorten their torments! 'Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you my friends, because the hand of the Lord hath touched me.' [Job xix. 21]
Whether it be that Purgatory is now more than ever overflowing with the multitudes daily sent thither through the worldliness of the age, or that the last and universal judgment is approaching -----the Holy Ghost is no longer satisfied with keeping up the zeal of ancient confraternities devoted to the service of the departed. He raises up new associations, and even religious families, whose one aim is to promote, by every possible means, the deliverance or the solace of the suffering souls. In this kind of redemption of captives there are likewise to be found Christians, who at their own risk offer to take upon themselves the chains of their brethren, by utterly forgoing, for this purpose, not only all their own satisfactions, but even the suffrages which may be offered for them after death: an heroic act of charity, which must not be lightly undertaken, but which the Church approves; [Propagated in the eighteenth century by the Regular Clerks Theatines, and enriched with spiritual favours by the Sovereign Pontiffs Benedict XIII, Pius VI, and Pius IX.] for it greatly glorifies our Lord, and in return for the risk incurred of a temporary delay of beatitude, merits for its author a greater nearness to God, both by grace here below and in glory in Heaven. If the suffrages of the simple faithful are of such value, of how much more are those of the whole Church, in the solemnity of public prayer, and the oblation of the awful Sacrifice, wherein God Himself makes satisfaction to God for every sin! From the very beginning the Church has always prayed for the dead, as did even the Synagogue before her. [2 Mach. xii. 46]
As she honoured with thanksgiving the anniversaries of her Martyred sons, so she celebrated with supplications the memory of her other children, who might not yet be in Heaven. In the sacred mysteries she daily uttered the names of both, for this twofold purpose of praise and prayer. As in each particular church it was impossible to name all the blessed of the entire world, a common mention was made of them all; and in like manner, after the recommendations peculiar to each place and day, a general commemoration was made of all the dead. Thus, as St. Augustine remarks, those who had no relatives and friends on earth were henceforth not deprived of suffrages; for, to make up for their abandonment, they had the tender compassion of the common mother. [AUG. De cura pro mortuis, iv]
The Church having always followed the same method with regard to the commemoration of the blessed and that of the departed, it might be expected that the establishment of All Saints' Feast, in the ninth century, would soon lead to the solemn commemoration of All Souls. In 998, according to the Chronicle of Sigebert of Gembloux, St. Odilo, abbot of Cluny, instituted it in all the monasteries under his crosier, to be celebrated in perpetuity on the morrow of All Saints. In certain visions, ordered in his life, Odilo and his monks had been denounced by the demons as the most indefatigable helpers of the holy Souls, and most formidable to the powers of Hell; and this institution was the Saint's retaliation. The world applauded the decree; Rome adopted it; and it became the law of the whole Latin Church.
The Greeks make a general commemoration of the dead the eve of our Sexagesima Sunday, [the eighth Sunday before Easter and the second before Lent -----Web Master] which with them called Apocreos, or Carnival, and on which they celebrate the second coming of our Lord. They give the name of 'Saturday of All Souls' to this day, as well as to the eve of Pentecost, when they again pray solemnly for the departed.
. . . Formerly the Roman Church on this day doubled her task of service to the Divine Majesty. The Commemoration of the Dead did not distract her from the Saints, and the Office of the second day within the Octave preceded the Dirge. She now recites only the Office of the Dead.
At the day Hours, as well as at Matins and Lauds, the hymn and the Deus in adjutorium are suppressed; the ordinary psalms are concluded with Requiem aeternam; and the Collect for the Dead is said at the close. She has, moreover, extended to the universal Church a privilege already existing in Spain, which allows each priest to offer three Masses for the Dead.
The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed ends at None; but Cluny, up to the last century, had the custom of celebrating second Vespers.
As to the obligation of resting from servile works on All Souls' day, it was of semi-precept in England, the more necessary works being permitted; in some places the obligation lasted only till mid-day; in others assistance at Mass was alone enjoined. For some time, Paris kept November 2 as a Feast of obligation; in 1673 the command to observe it until mid-day was retained in the statutes by the Archbishop Francis de Harlay. The precept no longer exists, even at Rome.
. . . While the Soul is supplying in Purgatory for the insufficiency of her expiations, the body she has quitted returns to the earth in virtue of the sentence pronounced against Adam and his race from the beginning of the world. But, with regard to the body as well as the Soul, justice is full of love; its claims are a prelude to the glory which awaits the whole man. The humiliation of the tomb is the just punishment of Original Sin; but in this return of man to the earth from whence he sprang, St. Paul would have us recognize the sowing necessary for the transformation of the seed, which is destined to live again under very different conditions. For 'flesh and blood cannot possess the kingdom of God'; [1 Cor. xv. 50] neither can corruptible members aspire to immortality. The body of the Christian, which St. Ignatius of Antioch calls the wheat of Christ, is cast into the tomb, as it were into the furrow, there to leave its own corruption, the form of the first Adam with its heaviness and infirmity; but by the power of the new Adam reforming it to His Own likeness, it shall spring up all heavenly and spiritualized, agile, impassible, and glorious. Blessed be He, who willed to die for us in order to destroy death and to make His own victory ours!
The Church . . . did not formerly exclude from the funerals of her children the joyful Alleluia; it expressed the happiness she felt at the thought that a holy death had secured Heaven to the new elect, although his expiation might not yet be completed. But the adaptation of the liturgy for the dead to the rites of Holy Week having altered this ancient custom, it would seem that the Sequence, originally a festive sequel to the Alleluia, ought also to be excluded from the Requiem Mass. Rome, however, has made a welcome exception to the traditional rule, in favour of the remarkable poem, Dies irae, of Thomas de Celano. This and the Stabat Mater of Fra Jacopone have won renown for the Franciscan lyre. The Dies irae was first sung in Italy in the fourteenth century; and in two centuries more it had spread to the entire Church.
Dies irae, dies illa
Day of wrath and doom impending,
David's word with Sibyl's blending,
Heaven and earth in ashes ending!
O what fear man's bosom rendeth,
When from Heaven the Judge descendeth,
On whose sentence all dependeth!
Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth,
Through earth's sepulchres it ringeth,
All before the throne it bringeth.
Death is struck, and nature quaking,
All creation is awaking,
To its Judge an answer making.
Lo! the book exactly worded,
Wherein all hath been recorded;
Thence shall judgment be awarded.
When the Judge His seat attaineth,
And each hidden deed arraigneth,
Nothing unavenged remaineth.
What shall I, frail man, be pleading?
Who for me be interceding,
When the just are mercy needing?
King of majesty tremendous,
Who dost free salvation send us,
Fount of pity, then befriend us!
Think, kind Jesu!-----my salvation
Caused Thy wondrous Incarnation;
Leave me not to reprobation.
Faint and weary Thou hast sought me,
On the Cross of suffering bought me;
Shall such grace be vainly brought me?
Righteous Judge! for sin's pollution
Grant Thy gift of absolution,
Ere that day of retribution.
Guilty, now I pour my moaning,
All my shame with anguish owning;
Spare, O God, thy suppliant groaning!
Through the sinful woman shriven,
Through the dying thief forgiven,
Thou to me a hope hast given.
Worthless are my prayers and sighing,
Yet, good Lord, in grace complying,
Rescue me from fires undying.
With Thy sheep a place provide me,
From the goats afar divide me,
To Thy right hand do thou guide me.
When the wicked are confounded,
Doomed to shame and woe unbounded,
Call me, with Thy Saints surrounded.
Low I kneel, with heart's submission,
See, like ashes my contrition!
Help me in my last condition!
Ah! that day of tears and mourning!
From the dust of earth returning,
Man for judgment must prepare him:
Spare, O God, in mercy spare him!
Lord, all-pitying, Jesu blest,
Grant them Thine eternal rest. Amen.
[Note this is more poetical version found in The Raccolta, and not the original form of the Sequence.]
. . . Purgatory is not eternal. Its duration varies according to the sentence pronounced at each particular judgment. It may be prolonged for centuries in the case of the more guilty souls, or of those who, being excluded from the Catholic communion, are deprived of the suffrages of the Church, although by the Divine mercy they have escaped Hell. But the end of the world, which will be also the end of time, will close for ever the place of temporary expiation. God will know how to reconcile His justice and His goodness in the purification of the last members of the human race, and to supply by the intensity of the expiatory suffering what may be wanting in duration. But, whereas a favourable sentence at the particular judgment admits of eternal beatitude being suspended and postponed, and leaves the bodies of the elect to the same fate as those of the reprobate; at the universal judgment, every sentence, whether for Heaven or for Hell, will be absolute; and will be executed immediately and completely. Let us, then, live in expectation of the solemn hour, when 'the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God.' [St. John v. 25] He that is to come will come, and will not delay, as the Doctor of the Gentiles reminds us; His arrival will be sudden, as that of a thief, we are told, not only by St. Paul, but also by the prince of the Apostles and the beloved disciple; and these in turn are but echoing the words of our Lord Himself: 'As lightning cometh out of the east and appeareth even unto the west: so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.'
Let us enter into the sentiments contained in the beautiful Offertory. Athough the poor suffering Souls are sure of their eternal blessedness, yet they entered upon this road to Heaven at a moment of utmost peril: the supreme effort of the devil in his last assault, and the agony of the judgment. The Church, therefore, extending her prayer to every stage of this painful way, does not forget its opening. Nor is she afraid of being too late; for, to God, who sees all times at one glance, this day's supplication was present at the moment of the dread passage, and obtained assistance for the straitened souls. This same prayer follows them also in their struggles with the powers of Hell, when God permits these, according to the revelations of the Saints, to be the ministers of His justice in the place of expiation. At this solemn moment, when the Church is offering her gifts for the tremendous and all-powerful Sacrifice, let us redouble our prayers for the faithful departed. Let us implore their deliverance from the jaws of the infernal lion. Let us obtain from the glorious Archangel, whom God has set over Paradise and appointed to lead souls thither, [Ant. et Resp. in festo S. Michaelis] that he would bear them up to the light, to life, to God, Who is Himself the reward promised to all believers in the person of their father Abraham.
DEVOTIONS TO AND FOR THE HOLY SOULS
THE DOCTRINE OF PURGATORY
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