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The Forgotten Souls of Purgatory

“As you measure to others,” says our Blessed Saviour, “it shall be measured to you again.” Now, what would you wish to be done for you if in Purgatory? Surely you would not like to be forgotten—to have no longer a share in the prayers of the faithful. To escape so great a misery, which is often an effect of Divine Justice on such as have had no charity for the deceased, be very earnest today in your supplications for those Poor Souls who have none to pray for them. 

The duty of helping the poor sufferers in Purgatory by our prayers is a great and holy act of charity which is very dear to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but which is by very many altogether unheeded, and by very few performed with that earnest, untiring perseverance which it so well deserves. Is there one of us who, passing on any errand of business or pleasure, could see a fellow creature in fearful agony, from which, by a little delay, a little extra trouble, we might liberate him, or at least assuage and shorten his torment, and yet would pass on without turning, without speaking one compassionate word? Not one of us, surely. Yet daily and hourly, as we pass on our errands of duty and pleasure, there are innumerable multitudes of our fellow creatures calling to us from wide oceans of unimaginable and undying fire; and the dew of charity seems dried up in our hearts, and we have none to give them. Daily and hourly they are stretching their manacled hands toward us, praying for one touch of the talismanic power of indulgenced prayer to lighten the weight, to send ringing downward the chains that bind them; and we lock up the rich treasure before their pleading eyes, and turn away! 

We turn away because we cannot spare the time from our amusements, our dress, from the thousand and one things that make up the business of our lives. Daily and hourly they plead to us who think that we love Jesus to consider how they have seen Him, and know what He is, while we only guess, imploring of us to use our power with their Sovereign to shorten their time of banishment, to rid them of their keenest pang—separation from Him. They have seen Him, and their souls are straining after Him, and their hearts are thirsting for Him, with a straining and a thirsting that only immortality could bear and live. We stand by, and hearken not, and our precious power is lost, lies utterly useless; and are we the dearer to the Heart of Jesus for it?

Oh! Are we deaf, that their voices are unanswered? Are our hearts turned to stone, that human souls can thus cry to us in vain? We have heard their cry, oh! so often: “Have pity on us! Have pity on us, at least you, our friends!” Passing by a quiet graveyard in the calm of a summer evening, we have heard it. It has floated on the faint breath of summer air, stealing over the peaceful green mounds; in the light rustle of the drooping trees; in the softened murmur of the little brook, slipping between the graves. It has trembled over the whole scene. Oh, the gentle, holy resignation, the perfect humility of that cry, “Have pity!” We have heard it rising above the measured fall of footsteps, above the muffled roll of carriage wheels, above all the stately pomp of each well-appointed funeral. “Have pity! This is not what we want; what care we for all this pomp and show? It is of no value here. Oh, the unutterable value of one ‘My Jesus, mercy!’ The priceless worth of one fervent ‘Hail Mary!’ And you waste your time thus. Have you no love as well as respect for our memory?” It is more than merely a work of charity, and the most perfect of all works of fraternal charity.

Perhaps by the little prayer of one or three hundred days’ indulgence that only cost you one short sentence breathed to Heaven from your heart’s core, but which paid the balance of the debt, which otherwise must be told down by that soul in pain and anguish. Think of it speeding upward into the very bosom of God, perfect at last, and worthy of Him. Perfect! And is not gratitude a grand, rich attribute of perfection? Yes, and not one new glory is added, not one speechless joy won at last, but that soul will think of how a heart had pleaded bravely for it on the earth that looks so cold and dark beyond the brightness of Heaven. Never can that heart, still bound to that cold earth, be tempted, or sad, or tried; never can it cry to Heaven for help without that glorious spirit casting itself before the throne of God, crying with all the gratitude of its heavenly perfection for the benefactor who paid the debt which bound it in a fiery prison, far from God and Heaven; paying back the loan a hundred and a thousandfold.

This article is taken from Stories about Purgatory and What They Reveal: 30 Days for the Holy Souls compiled from various sources by an Ursuline of Sligo, which is available from TAN Books.

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