20 October 2016 - District Superior's Letter
The month of November is especially dedicated to the remembrance of the faithful departed.
Dear Friends and Benefactors of the Society of St. Pius X,
The month of November is especially dedicated to the remembrance of the faithful departed. Beginning with All Saints day, we are reminded of the heavenly reward that awaits all such souls and we honor all those known and unknown who have obtained their heavenly reward. This is immediately followed by All Souls day on which we recommend to God all those souls that still await their final reward but have not yet obtained it due to some remaining stain of sin on their souls which must be cleansed by the fires of purgatory.
It is important to have a strong devotion for these souls, which consists not only in remembering them but chiefly in endeavoring to assist them to the relief of their suffering by prayer and good works. “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins” (II Mach. 12, 46).
The first motive that helps urge us to aid the suffering souls is the love we owe them. Scripture and faith explain to us that their sufferings are certain. For how could it be “a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead” if there were no purgatory? It would rather be a useless work. And when our Lord says that there are certain sins so grievous as never to be forgiven in this or the next world, it follows that there are certain light sins that can be remitted in this as well as the next life. In the next life this remittance is done in purgatory.
Tradition teaches us the same. St. Cyprian earnestly exhorts the faithful to pray for the dead. Tertullian tells us this custom dates back to the time of the apostles.
Reason also teaches this article of faith. For nothing unclean shall enter the kingdom of heaven and few even of the holiest die without some venial sin on their soul. If there were no future atonement these would be excluded from heaven due to the infinite justice of God which demands satisfaction through the remittance of sin. Hence the suffering of the departed souls in purgatory are an absolutely certain fact.
It is also true that their sufferings are great beyond measure. For purgatory is a place where God’s stern justice reigns and demands complete satisfaction for sin. “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb x. 31).After death the place for this atonement is Purgatory, where the penances far exceed in severity any earthly penance that may be undergone and from which even the most fervent penitents and greatest lovers of the cross would shrink with terror. In this life penitential works are eminently meritorious and satisfactory through the merits and satisfaction of Jesus Christ and most consoling in view of our Saviour’s sufferings and crucifixion. While the atonement in purgatory is without merit and consolation and rather a just and condign punishment man has merited for his sins, lukewarmness and negligence in the service of God. Therefore the sufferings of the souls in purgatory are not only certain but also great beyond measure and conception.
These souls also stand in close relation to us. Most may be unknown to us but they are still closely related by the bond of sanctifying grace which makes them our brothers and sisters in Christ. But there are also among them some related by blood or who have been dear to us. Does not the love we owe them or their closeness to us demand and give them a special right to our assistance? Or maybe we have been accessory to their sins for which they have to atone now? In their distress and misery should we not have compassion? “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.). Or is it only your own interest you look to – loss of their society, their support, services rendered you?
Maybe we do weep at their remembrance (justly so) but we must do more as tears are of little avail to them without the accompaniment of the sacrifice of prayers and good works. Christ wept over Lazarus but His tears were followed by good works. He wept not useless but effectual tears. Our tears must also be fruitful. It is not enough to simply weep bitter tears at their loss, or provide gorgeous funerals or erect splendid monuments in their memory. All these will neither preserve their bodies from decay nor relieve their souls from the pains of purgatory. And if this is all we do we stand accused of harshness and injustice.
We must employ the means the Holy Mother Church offers us for their relief. We should pray incessantly for their souls and have Masses offered for them according to our means. We should approach the sacraments worthily, offer communions for them, endeavor to gain for them the indulgences the Church bestows in their behalf and offer up as many good works as we can for their repose.
By doing these things we will not only relieve them from sufferings but we will also most effectually promote our own spiritual interests. For the poor souls will one day reign in heaven and if we by our prayers and good works have hastened their deliverance they will be powerful friends and intercessors both in this life and the next. For being saints of God and members of His household it is as certain as their holiness that out of gratitude they will be willing to help us. Thus our sacrifices will secure prompt and powerful advocates with God.
These souls in purgatory, destined for heaven, already reign in the affection of God. It is therefore His desire that we appease His justice by our prayers and good works and so shorten the sufferings of these souls dear to Him. If a cup of water given in His name shall not be left unrewarded, how amply will God reward those who relieve these souls He loves so tenderly by their prayers and satisfactions?
Especially during the month of November, dedicated to the poor souls in purgatory, let us have pity on these suffering souls. The love we owe them and our highest interest demand it. If we could only behold them amidst their sufferings, stretching out their hands to us. Maybe a loving father or mother, husband or wife, brother or sister, a dear friend or benefactor now invokes our aid. Behold them as they are unable to help themselves and offer them the assistance that we may likewise crave after death. “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.”
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. John Fullerton