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Happiness in Purgatory   By:

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Published April, 1897,



A Monthly Magazine of General Literature and Science


IT may be said of Purgatory that if it did not exist it would have to be created, so eminently is it in accord with the dictates of reason and common sense. The natural instinct of travellers at their journey's end is to seek for rest and change of attire. Some are begrimed with mud, others have caught the dust of a scorching summer day; the heat or cold or damp of the journey has told upon them and their attire. Perhaps, even, the way has made them weary unto sickness, and they crave for an interval of absolute repose.

Travellers from earth, covered with the mud and dust of its long road, could never wish to enter the banquet room of eternity in their travel stained garments. "Take me away!" cried Gerontius to his angel. It was a cry of anguish as well as desire, for Gerontius, blessed soul though he is, could not face heaven just as earth had left him. He has the true instinct of the traveller at his journey's end. Dust, rust, and the moth have marked their presence, and even the oddities and eccentricities of earthly pilgrimage must be obliterated before the home of eternity can be entered. De mortuis nil nisi bonum is interpreted, nothing short of heaven for those who have crossed the bourne. But, if the heavenly gates are thrown open to the travellers all weary and footsore, "not having on a nuptial garment," no heterogeneous meeting here on earth could compete with the gathering of disembodied spirits from its four quarters. It is human ignorance alone which canonizes all the departed, and insists on a direct passage from time to heaven. The canonization is not ratified in heaven, because heaven would not exist if it took place. The Beatific Vision is incompatible with the shadow of imperfection. To act as if it were belongs to the same order of things as rending the garment of Christian unity.

Purgatory makes heaven, in the sense that heaven would not be possible for men without it. As well might we try to reach a far off planet, which is absolutely removed from our sphere, an unknown quantity, though a fact science does not dispute. Heaven without Purgatory is a far off planet which must ever remain beyond our touch and ken, for it would be easier that we in our present condition should traverse space than that the sinner should see God face to face.

The vestibule of heaven, in which souls tarry in order to make their preparations, and to be prepared for the feast of eternity, can scarcely be an abode of pure suffering. Heart and mind, as they exist in the anima separata that is, understanding and love are at rest. On earth mind and heart are the source of the greatest pain as well as the greatest joy. The severest pain of body may be accompanied by happiness and a mind at rest, whereas remorse makes life unbearable. Hidden criminals at large have not unfrequently given themselves up to justice in order to arrive at peace by a public execution, that being the penalty demanded by their tortured conscience. Death, however ignominious, rather than remorse the backbite of inwit, in the quaint language of our forefathers. Remorse is not in the organs of sense, but a purely intellectual operation, proper to man. It cannot be softened by worldly prosperity or riches, fame or success. On the other hand, a good conscience is a well spring of happiness, be the outward circumstances of a man's life what they may. Bodily pain would add to the torture of remorse, just as it might deaden the joy of a good conscience, per accidens , as theologians say. Conjointly with the mind, the heart causes the keenest sufferings and the deepest joys of human life, joys and sufferings which are acted upon in the same way indirectly by pain of body. A severe toothache, for instance, quickens the pangs of remorse, whilst it deadens joy proceeding either from the intellect or the heart... Continue reading book >>

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