Wednesday, November 01, 2006
All Souls - remembering the souls in Purgatory.
November is the month of remembering the Holy Souls. Catherine of Genoa pretty much explains why they are "holy".
St Catherine of Genoa's mystical treatise on purgatory is the very best literature I have ever read on the subject. It is so doctrinally sound and much more substantial than anything else most contemporary writers have to offer. (I'll go after a couple of these at another date; writings that seem to pander more to curiosity and sensationalism.)
St Catherine was a no-nonsense woman, very practical, and quite an able administrator. Before her conversion she would have been someone we might describe as a 'bitch', lacking charity as well as any sense of humor, while being rather worldly and vain. Her conversion, when she had gone to the Church to make her confession, was an intense experience of the love of God, and her life was forever changed. She devoted herself to the care of the poor and the sick, founding a hospital, of which she became the Administrator.
She combined the practice of the contemplative life with the active life in an extraordinary fashion, never compromising herself with the world or lukewarm Christians and Ecclesiastics.
Presented is an excerpt from her "Treatise":
"The state of the souls who are in Purgatory, how they are exempt from all self-love.
This holy Soul (Catherine of Genoa) found herself, while still in the flesh, placed by the fiery love of God in Purgatory, which burnt her, cleansing whatever in her needed cleansing, to the end that when she passed from this life she might be presented to the sight of God, her dear Love. By means of this loving fire, she understood in her soul the state of the souls of the faithful who are placed in Purgatory to purge them of all the rust and stains of sin of which they have not rid themselves in this life. And since this Soul, placed by the divine fire in this loving Purgatory, was united to that divine love and content with all that was wrought in her, she understood the state of the souls who are in Purgatory. And she said:
The souls who are in Purgatory cannot, as I understand, choose but be there, and this is by God's ordinance who therein has done justly. They cannot turn their thoughts back to themselves, nor can they say, "Such sins I have committed for which I deserve to be here ", nor, "I would that I had not committed them for then I would go now to Paradise", nor, "That one will leave sooner than I", nor, "I will leave sooner than he". They can have neither of themselves nor of others any memory, whether of good or evil, whence they would have greater pain than they suffer ordinarily. So happy are they to be within God's ordinance, and that He should do all which pleases Him, as it pleases Him that in their greatest pain they cannot think of themselves. They see only the working of the divine goodness, which leads man to itself mercifully, so that he no longer sees aught of the pain or good which may befall him. Nor would these souls be in pure charity if they could see that pain or good. They cannot see that they are in pain because of their sins; that sight they cannot hold in their minds because in it there would be an active imperfection, which cannot be where no actual sin can be.
Only once, as they pass from this life, do they see the cause of the Purgatory they endure; never again do they see it for in another sight of it there would be self. Being then in charity from which they cannot now depart by any actual fault, they can no longer will nor desire save with the pure will of pure charity. Being in that fire of Purgatory, they are within the divine ordinance, which is pure charity, and in nothing can they depart thence for they are deprived of the power to sin as of the power to merit." "Treatise On Purgatory"
I do not dispute that God, in His Providence, has permitted souls to appear, speak, ask for prayers, what have you. Yet I believe the "Treatise" gives a better understanding of what the experience of purgatory is, as well as encouraging our prayers and suffrage for the Holy Souls.