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The Duration of Purgatory
According to the common opinion of the doctors, the expiatory pains are of long duration.
"There is no doubt," says Bellarmine, "that the pains of Purgatory are not limited to ten or twenty years, and that they last in some cases entire centuries. But allowing it to be true that their duration did not exceed ten or twenty years, can we account it as nothing to have to endure for ten or twenty years the most excruciating sufferings without the least alleviation? If a man was assured that he should suffer some violent pain in his feet, or his head, or teeth for the space of twenty years, and that without ever sleeping or taking the least repose, would he not a thousand times rather die than live in such a state?
And if the choice were given to him between a life thus miserable and the loss of all his temporal goods, would he hesitate to make the sacrifice of his fortune to be delivered from such a torment?
Shall we then find any difficulty in embracing labour and penance to free ourselves from the sufferings of Purgatory? Shall we fear to practise the most painful exercises: vigils, fasts, almsgiving, long prayers, and especially contrition, accompanied with sighs and tears?"
These words comprise the whole doctrine of the saints and theologians.
Father Mumford, of the Company of Jesus, in his "Treatise on Charity towards the Departed," bases the long duration of Purgatory on a calculation of probability, which we shall give in substance. He goes out on the principle that, according to the words of the Holy Ghost, "The just man falls seven times a day," that is to say, that even those who apply themselves most perfectly to the service of God, notwithstanding their good-will, commit a great number of faults in the infinitely pure eyes of God.
We have but to enter into our own conscience, and there analyse before God our thoughts, our words, and works, to be convinced of this sad effect of human misery. Oh! how easy it is to lack respect in prayer, to prefer our ease to the accomplishment of duty, to sin by vanity, by impatience, by sensuality, by uncharitable thoughts and words, by want of conformity to the will of God! The day is long; is it very difficult for even a virtuous person to commit, I do not say seven, but twenty or thirty of this kind of faults and imperfections?
Let us take a moderate estimate, and suppose that you commit about ten faults a day; at the end of 365 days you will have a sum of 3650 faults. Let us diminish, and, to facilitate the calculation, place it at 3000 per year. At the end of ten years this will amount to 30,000, and at the end of twenty years to 60,000. Suppose that of these 60,000 faults you have expiated one half by penance and good works, there will still remain 30,000 to be atoned for.
Let us continue our hypothesis: You die after these twenty years of virtuous life, and appear before God with a debt of 30,000 faults, which you must discharge in Purgatory.
How much time will you need to accomplish this expiation?
Suppose, on an average, each fault requires one hour of Purgatory. This measure is very moderate, if we judge by the revelations of the saints; but at any rate this will give you a Purgatory of 30,000 hours. Now, do you know how many years these 30,000 hours represent?
Three years, three months, and fifteen days. Thus a good Christian who watches over himself, who applies himself to penance and good works, finds himself liable to three years, three months, and fifteen days of Purgatory.
The preceding calculation is based on an estimate which is lenient in the extreme.
Now, if you extend the duration of the pain, and, instead of an hour, you take a day for the expiation of a fault, if, instead of having nothing but venial sins, you bring before God a debt resulting from mortal sins, more or less numerous, which you formerly committed, if you assign, on the average, as St. Frances of Rome says, seven years for the expiation of one mortal sin, remitted as to the guilt, who does not see that we arrive at an appalling duration, and that the expiation may easily be prolonged for many years, and even for centuries?'
Years and centuries in torments! Oh! if we only thought of it, with what care should we not avoid the least faults! with what fervour should we not practise penance to make satisfaction in this world!
Matter of Expiation of Scandal from Immodest Paintings
THOSE who have had the misfortune to give bad example, and to wound or cause the perdition of souls by scandal, must take care to repair all in this world, if they would not be subjected to the most terrible expiation in the other. It was not in vain that Jesus Christ cried out, Woe to the world because of scandals! Woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh! (Matt. 18:7)
Hear what Father Rossignoli relates in his Merveilles du Purgatoire. A painter of great skill and otherwise exemplary life had once made a painting not at all conformable to the strict rules of Christian modesty. It was one of those paintings which, under the pretext of being works of art, are found in the best families, and the sight of which causes the loss of so many souls.
True art is an inspiration from Heaven, which elevates the soul to God; profane art, which appeals to the senses only, which presents to the eye nothing but the beauties of flesh and blood, is but an inspiration of the evil spirit; his works, brilliant though they may be, are not works of art, and the name is falsely attributed to them.
They are the infamous productions of a corrupt imagination.
The artist of whom we speak had allowed himself to be misled in this point by bad example. Soon, however, renouncing this pernicious style, he confined himself to the production of religious pictures, or at least of those which were perfectly irreproachable. Finally, he was painting a large picture in the convent of the discalced Carmelites, when he was attacked by a mortal malady.
Feeling that he was about to die, he asked the Prior to allow him to be interred in the church of the monastery, and bequeathed to the community his earnings, which amounted to a considerable sum of money, charging them to have Masses said for the repose of his soul. He died in pious sentiments, and a few days passed, when a Religious who had stayed in the choir after Matins saw him appear in the midst of flames and sighing piteously.
"What!" said the Religious, "have you to endure such pain, after leading so good a life and dying so holy a death?" "Alas!" replied he, "it is on account of the immodest picture that I painted some years ago. When I appeared before the tribunal of the Sovereign Judge, a crowd of accusers came to give evidence against me. They declared that they had been excited to improper thoughts and evil desires by a picture, the work of my hand. In consequence of those bad thoughts some were in Purgatory, others in Hell. The latter cried for vengeance, saying that, having been the cause of their eternal perdition, I deserved, at least, the same punishment. Then the Blessed Virgin and the saints whom I had glorified by my pictures took up my defence. They represented to the Judge that that unfortunate painting had been the work of youth, and of which I had repented; that I had repaired it afterwards by religious objects which had been a source of edification to souls.
"In consideration of these and other reasons, the Sovereign Judge declared that, on account of my repentance and my good works, I should be exempt from damnation; but at the same time, He condemned me to these flames until that picture should be burned, so that it could no longer scandalise any one."
Then the poor sufferer implored the Religious to take measures to have the painting destroyed "I beg of you," he added, "go in my name to such a person, proprietor of the picture; tell him in what a condition I am for having yielded to his entreaties to paint it, and conjure him to make a sacrifice of it. If he refuses, woe to him! To prove that this is not an illusion, and to punish him for his own fault, tell him that before long he will lose his two children. Should he refuse to obey Him who has created us both, he will pay for it by a premature death."
The Religious delayed not to do what the poor soul asked of him, and went to the owner of the picture. The latter, on hearing these things, seized the painting and cast it into the fire. Nevertheless, according to the words of the deceased, he lost his two children in less than a month. The remainder of his days he passed in penance, for having ordered and kept that immodest picture in his house.
If such are the consequences of an immodest picture, what, then, will be the punishment of the still more disastrous scandals resulting from bad books, bad papers, bad schools, and bad conversations?
Vae mundo a scandalis! Vae homini illi per quem scandalum venit! -- "Woe to the world because of scandals! Woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh!
Scandal makes great ravages in souls by the seduction of innocence. Ah! those accursed seducers! They shall render to God a terrible account of the blood of their victims.
Read the book 'Purgatory' by Rev. F.X. Schouppe, S.J.
Read the books 'How to Avoid Purgatory' and 'Read Me or Rue it' by Fr. Paul O'Sullivan, O.P.