November is an important month in the liturgical life of the Church. Beginning with the first day of the month, the Church presents to the faithful the reality of heaven and its citizens: ALL SAINTS DAY.
Usually, but not always, the very next day is dedicated to all the departed faithful who have not yet made restitution for their wrongs and now suffer in PURGATORY.
These are the two basic realities brought to mind during this month. There are others of no less importance, including a special feast day commemorating ALL THE SAINTS OF THE SERAPHIC ORDER. For those who do not know what the `Seraphic Order' is, it is the Religious Order founded by St. Francis of Assisi and which represents those who are among the highest of the choirs of angels in heaven: the Seraphim who stand next to the throne of God _ humanly speaking.
The feast of St. Charles Borromeo is also celebrated this month (November 4). St. Charles was an ardent reformer after the Council of Trent; a fervent member of the Third Order of St. Francis. An example to every Bishop of the Church.
Then, on the 5th of November, we Franciscans honor all the Holy Relics of saints and blessed preserved in the churches of the Order. Of course, even in those churches of heretical Franciscans of the Modernist Wojtylian Church there may still be some holy relics. We doubt if any attention is given them.
The feast of the DEDICATION OF THE ARCHBASILICA OF OUR HOLY SAVIOR (November 9) recalls to mind the mystical and metaphysical reality of the actual building we commonly refer to as the `church.' That it is first the `House of God' and because it is the place where God actually resides (not merely symbolically) it is then a `House of Prayer.'
On November 18 we likewise commemorate the dedication of the Basilicas of Ss. Peter and Paul. Not many realize that the most famous of all the churches of Christendom is St. Peter's Basilica. The church was built over the tomb of St. Peter, first Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth. Pilgrims continue to come and visit this great shrine of the Roman Catholic Church because Peter is the rock and foundation of our faith. Unfortunately, St. Peter's Basilica has become little more than a museum of religious artifacts rich in Catholic history, but now an object for curious eyes, blind to the supernatural realities reflected in the material relics of the past.
November 19 may be just another day for the average Catholic, but it is a great day for the Franciscan Order. For, on this day we Franciscans commemorate the holy Queen of Hungary. She was the daughter of the King of Hungary. At the age of four, she was taken to the castle of her future husband, Louis IV of Thuringia, who was eleven at the time. The two grew up together, loved each other deeply and were married in 1221. Her husband caught the plague during his participation in the Fifth Crusade and died at Otranto. Elizabeth then suffered greatly from her husband's uncle who drove her and her three children from the court in midwinter. After she suffered great hardships, the Duke's companions returned from the Crusade and saw to it that she was restored to her former dignity. After providing for her children, Elizabeth became a Franciscan tertiary. She died at the age of 24.
This should serve as a lesson to those who dream of worldly pomp and splendor, not realizing how fragile all those things are. Furthermore, we ought to consider that youth is not so dim and dumb as to ignore spiritual values. Too often, it is the parents who have their spiritual senses dulled to the point that they cannot see the spiritual values which have taken root in their own children. And, rather than rejoice at such a great blessing to them as parents, they do all in their power to discourage and frustrate their own children's greatest blessing in this life.
Children are never too young to love and practice virtue. If parents were more holy, would not the children gladly follow them? The first example children see is that of their parents.
On November 24, we celebrate the feast of St. John of the Cross _ the great Carmelite mystic whose mystical writings continue to inspire and guide souls on their great adventure heavenward. No Catholic of genuine spirituality can ignore St. John of the Cross and think he is guided by God. For, the profound supernatural experiences of St. John of the Cross are the same for every Catholic living a life of grace and progressing to union with God. The only difference between St. John of the Cross and other saints is that while all go the same way of self-denial and humility, it was God's will that St. John of the Cross should leave a more detailed legacy as a guide for the future when sure guides would be deficient.
We lament only too profoundly the distortion to which other saints are subjected by the worldly. Then, failing to perceive this distortion of desacralization of the true character of our saints, the well-meaning faithful are led along false paths of spirituality. The most flagrant example of this is the founder of the Franciscan Order, St. Francis of Assisi.
Stripped of his true supernatural motivation for all that he did, St. Francis is presented to a world as some kind of `nature lover' akin to pantheistic love of `Mother Earth.'
Our saints are too little known by so many Catholics. Added to this deplorable negligence is the increasing influence of Shamanism and Spiritism.
Let us consider for a moment, some of the oddities that have befallen the people. For example, while our clergy and theologians blindly embraced materialistic evolution, and necessarily had to deny the existence of the world of spirits, our people found a substitute in astronomy, horoscopes and fanciful communications with the departed through mediums.
Ignoring the well-founded relationship that truly exists between those of us who are still on this side of the threshold of death with those on the other side, our people have been gradually drawn to place their confidence and trust in clever charlatans and pseudo-mystics. Following fables, they reject sound doctrine.
The consoling truths _ as well as sobering _ concerning the condition of departed spirits need to be emphasized again.
Non-Catholics _ even those who still remain physically in the Church while denying Her doctrines _ resent the Church mainly because the Church insists on teaching what She has received from Her Divine Founder and Teacher.
Because the Church is the only institution guided by the Holy Ghost, those who guide themselves and persist on claiming for themselves `divine inspiration' are irked by this apparent intransigence. Confusing theological tolerance with civil tolerance, the Modernist heretics find great favor among the Antiquated heretics because all are born of the same father, the Father of Lies.
It is natural for human beings to commune with their loved ones even after their manner of existing is transformed and now differs accidentally from ours. Men of all ages have experienced this innate desire to commune with the dead and with the angels. It cannot be an illusion any more than breathing can be an illusion just because we cannot see air _ unless it is polluted.
Ever since the leadership in the Church has been hi-jacked, the most profound change has taken place in the life of the Church. We may argue about the relative merits of this or that formulation of doctrine, or deliberate neglect of this or that doctrine. Important as these things are, they remain in the realm of the intellect. What is of even greater importance is the life of the Church which pertains to the will. There were few saints even when the Church's doctrines were all intact. People believed with their minds and with their lips, but their hearts were still far from God.
Popes, Bishops and Priests offered the Tridentine Mass and other valid and approved rituals for the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass. The doctrine of the Mass was sound and secure; but despite all this, not many grew in that holiness which infuses society with sanctity. The salt, so to speak, had lost its savor, even though the chemical content of its flavor could still be defined.
If definitions have to be changed, it can only be because the reality defined has been changed or rejected. Whether by distortion or deletion, doctrine flows from feeling and not from revelation in the institutions of heretics. For this reason, we Roman Catholics, see the essential difference between our faith and that of those who have left us at different times of history.
Our faith and our feelings are guided by supernatural revelation and supernatural insights gleaned through grace. To put it in terms of natural philosophy, our point of departure is objective revelation; whereas, those separated from us have their point of departure in their subjective selves. We take for our guides the truths that are outside of ourselves and we make an effort to conform our lives to those truths with the help of God's grace.
Those who have separated themselves from union with us take an entirely different approach. For them, `God' is identified with their own subconscious or conscious wishes.
If there is any similarity between the Catholic and the non-Catholic, it is only a surface similarity. The former Catholic has kept whatever does not interfere with his `lifestyle' and has rejected, logically, all that becomes an embarrassment to him. That is to say, whatever is an obstacle to his self-will is discarded.
Immortality is a universal belief. No matter how distorted or erroneous it may be, immortality cannot be denied in practice. The fact of erecting statues to those who are deemed `memory-worthy' shows that we do not wish these individuals to be erased from our memory. They `live,' so to speak, at least in our memory. And, this, of course, is already an indication that we have an intuitive knowledge of immortality.
`Immortal' means that something does not die. No matter what is said or what is done, no matter how some thing is changed, it is never completely destroyed. All material things undergo change. Yet, no matter how many diverse changes take place, there is some thing in the thing changed that always remains.
To a certain extent, even our souls undergo an accidental change. For example, when we learn something, that knowledge has modified our intellect; has been stored in our spiritual memory; and may even serve to motivate our will to some action or incline us to refrain from some action.
Man's interest and curiosity concerning the `hereafter' is, then, a very natural and necessary interest. Among the difficulties in examining the spiritual realities is the fact of man's fall. If Adam and Eve had not disobeyed God's simple command, our own knowledge of God and the rest of the spirit world would be beyond dispute because it would be an intuitive knowledge.
Now, much of our knowledge is more like `hand-me-down' clothing: repeating what someone has said. This is certainly not the best source of knowledge because we are forced to deal with a kind of `middleman' _ something that Protestantism also disliked, but for different reasons.
There are basically two facts man has concerning life: First, that each man's life is finite _ as far as experience of this present state of being is concerned. Secondly, man has the persuasion that, like the poet's psalm of life: "Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return was not spoken of the soul."
We cannot attribute this universal sentiment, or persuasion to mere subjective illusion. If even the physical world will not be annihilated at the end of time, but only transformed, how much more so spiritual being.
This is where the teaching of the Church guides and enlightens us to the point that we are able to avoid the treacherous rapids of rash judgment in these matters. Often, it is not that our thinking is wrong in the first instance, but that it lacks correct data to make correct judgments and conclusions.
As a postulate, we accept that the soul is immortal. A `postulate' is a truth which has been rigorously proven and established in another branch of either philosophy or theology. Consequently, we know that those who have departed this world from the time of Adam and Eve, including our own are somewhere.
For this reason, the Church teaches the existence of the three branches, if you will, of the Church: the Church Triumphant to which all the souls in heaven belong; the Church Suffering to which all the souls in Purgatory belong; and, finally, the Church Militant to which all those belong who are on this side of the grave, hold to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, submit to its legitimate authority and have not been excommunicated for grave public sin.
Apart from the fact that even those who depart this life without the benefit of either sacramental Baptism or extra-sacramental Baptism of Desire or Blood, continue to exit beyond the grave, we will concern ourselves more at this time with those who have become members of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ through the reception of the Sacrament of Baptism.
Our loved ones, then, upon leaving this present form of existence do continue in existence. Unlike those who have not received Baptism, our loved ones had been elevated to the supernatural state of sanctifying grace. This state enables them to participate in the Beatific Vision which is the eternal bliss of heaven.
If they are in heaven, then they love us even more than they did when they were still in this life and were able to love us only imperfectly. If they are in heaven, they are among the saints whom we honor on ALL SAINTS DAY. We can pray to them and expect their intercession on our behalf.
And why should this sound strange to the ears of heretics and other non-believers? Why should this consoling and sound doctrine of the Church appear bizarre, when these same people consider the bizarre claims of psychics and mediums and horoscope readers perfectly reasonable?
During the time of painful bereavement which follows immediately on the loss of a dear one, this natural desire of communion becomes intensely felt. The aching void in our lives caused by this separation urges us to find some means of communication with our departed.
What can we do to replace that daily intimacy when we exchanged our thoughts, opinions, grief and perplexities and found comfort in kindness and understanding? What is there to bar the way to reach those whom we have lost but who still exist? True, their manner of existing is now different from ours, but why can we not communicate with them through prayers? And, should they be in that other state of the Church, the Church Suffering, why should our prayers not have the power to help them?
The teaching of the Church continues to be the same despite the treacherous veil of seeming authenticity of the apostate sect emerging from the Second Vatican Council. This is the doctrine we wish to hand on to the reader.
The teaching of the Church is a clear illustration of how differently Christ's teaching serves the desires of the human heart as compared to the futile efforts of paganism.
Catholics who are quite well instructed in the faith do not appreciate fully the significance of the Church's doctrine in this matter. We should seek realistic consolation in the divinely revealed truths presented to us by the Church. Too often people pose questions without knowing what the Church teaches and give themselves incorrect answers.
Most Catholics do not sufficiently pay attention to the riches hidden in our faith. If we would only spend a little time considering these beautiful and consoling truths, many of our problems would solve themselves.
The blessed souls in heaven desire to communicate with us more than we with them. Their desire is motivated by a perfect charity. They love us with a fervor and purity that is beyond our ken. Their motives for loving us with that pure charity so often urged upon us is intensified by the warmth of their glory. All the obstacles to that pure charity that hinder us here on earth no longer exist in heaven. Because they are perfect, their love for us is likewise perfect. Whereas we are reluctant now to pray to them with confidence, our assurance would be increased if we could understand how much they love us and how powerful they are with God. Consequently, from their side there is a great desire and readiness to give the blessings of communion with them. The words of our Lord uttered so many centuries ago are lamentably valid even today: We have not asked, and therefore, we have not received. We have not knocked, and the door remains closed; we have not sought, and do not, therefore, find.
Is it not odd and tragic to see our Catholics take up with the witchcraft of horoscopes, thus opening themselves to the influences of evil spirits, instead of developing close friendships with the many saints in heaven? Or should we be so foolish as to think that the saints in heaven are less powerful in their intercession than the devils in hell?
And what of those for whom we pray, at least once a year on ALL SOULS DAY? We can communicate with the poor souls in purgatory; we can pray for them.
This is a particularly precious power and privilege. We can help them in their distress because they cannot pray for themselves. We can gain remission for their sufferings in whole or in part by communicating the indulgences so easily gained from the treasury of the Church. We can apply these indulgences to the poor souls in Purgatory.
To be sure, there is hardly any talk of indulgences in the apostate Church. This is readily understandable since the apostate Church has for its goal the ultimate reduction of the Roman Catholic Church to the most liberal of Protestant sects. This has been achieved to such a great extent due to the indifference of so many Catholics.
When John-Paul II embraced the Lutheran heretics and praised Martin Luther, he proved to any intelligent Catholic that he was already a traitor to the true faith. To pretend that Martin Luther inveighed against the "corruption of the Church" is so outrageously false that only the equally corrupt would believe it. One of the targets of Martin Luther was precisely the consoling practice of praying and making sacrifices for the poor souls in Purgatory by gaining indulgences.
The infinite treasure of Christ's graces have been committed to the Church. Through the application of these graces, souls in Purgatory are relieved of the punishment due to their sins. It would be good to review here the teachings of the Church concerning indulgences.
In Imperial documents of the Christian epoch (For example, the codices of Theodosius and of Justinian) indulgence meant amnesty or condonation of a penalty. Since the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), the Church used indulgence in the sense of the remission of penalty due to sin after the guilt of sin had been remitted.
The Code of Canon Law clearly fixes and defines what `indulgences' are:
"A remission , before God, of the temporal punishment due to sins already remitted with respect to their guilt, which the ecclesiastical authority, drawing from the treasure of the Church, grants to the living after the manner of absolution, and to the dead after the manner of suffrage." (Canon 911).
The indulgence, then, is a payment for the penal obligation of sinners made before God out of what may be compared to a public treasury. That is to say, the Church treasury which contains the infinite merits of Jesus Christ, the merits Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints.
The indulgence is called an extrasacramental act and as such belongs to the jurisdictional power (Pope and Bishops), which, for a just cause, may grant to the faithful, on determined conditions, the benefits of the treasury of the Church, by way of a partial or total condonation (pardon) of the temporal punishment due for sins already remitted (as to guilt). This temporal punishment is what a Christian would have to give in satisfaction either in this life with good works or in Purgatory for a determined time.
The Church generally attaches indulgences to various good works (prayers, pilgrimages, almsgiving) which are not causes, but merely conditions of the fruit of the indulgences.
Indulgences for the poor souls in Purgatory work by way of suffrage. This means that, since the Church does not have jurisdiction outside the limits of this world, it presents to God the merits of Christ in order that in view of them God may condone their penalty.
The exercise of the Church's power is direct in the case of the living, and indirect in the case of the dead.
The following are the dogmatic foundations for this power:
1. The Communion of Saints, which makes possible the interchange of spiritual merits and goods among the members of the Mystical Body of Christ.
2. The "power of the keys" granted to Peter and his successors, and to the Bishops as successors of the Apostles, to draw from the infinite treasury of the Church, and apply its goods to souls fruitfully before God.
Any misunderstandings or abuses concerning indulgences have always been deplored and condemned by the Church. But, the Church has never denied Her authority in these matters as outlined above. On the contrary, She could not do so and still remain the Mystical Body of Christ.
There is, then, a communion of thoughts beyond the grave in heaven or in purgatory.
The Catholic doctrine of the Communion of Saints is full of meaning and consolation. It gives us the assurance that our longing and desire to communicate with the dear departed who have died in God's friendship may certainly be realized. Truly, it is easier for us to get in touch with them than with our friends here on earth who are often absent or taken up with their own affairs. The inner thoughts of our souls, directed to our friends in the world on the other side of the threshold of death become known to them through the power of God without the need for words.
We need but think and our thoughts are already communicated.
Is this mere wishful thinking? Although this communion for the most part is a matter of faith and takes place in the soul more so than through the external senses, it does happen that these communications become sensible experiences. However, the safer and more direct method is a spiritual communication. We have the guarantee of faith that we communicate with spirits; but we cannot have the guarantee of faith that sensible experiences are not deceptions. More people are deceived in these matters because they lack faith and wish for sensible signs.
If you would consider a radio broadcaster who speaks into a microphone to millions of people whom he does not see, we will have some idea of how this communication with the saints in heaven and the souls in Purgatory works. The broadcaster does not see the people to whom he addressed his words. He knows by human faith that given the fact that his equipment is functioning correctly, that he is reaching millions of people with his voice. We ought to have at least as much faith in the word of God as we do in manmade equipment that transports sounds to millions of listeners.
It would not be amiss to mention here, also, the spiritual reality and existence of the holy angels. We ought to ignore the empty and mindless opinions of those pseudo-theologians who deny the existence of angels, and look to the infallible teaching of the Church on this head.
The Catholic Church teaches us that besides the souls of the dead there are in creation a host of pure spirits called angels. They are also made in the image and likeness of God. They differ from us in that they are not united to a material body as our spirit is. These angels are the first-born children of God, having been created before the human race came into being.
The Fathers of the Church give us the number of degrees, or, choirs of angels: Angels, Archangels, Thrones, Dominations, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Cherubim and Seraphim.
From their ranks came the disobedient angels whom we call `devils.' These are in Hell and are permitted to leave this place of eternal punishment to roam the earth to test our own loyalty to God. They are our enemy. They and all those who serve them, or, by evil inspiration would have us believe that these evil spirits do not exist.
We ought to develop a lively devotion and friendship with the saints, angels and poor souls. In the ultimate analysis, it is they who will be our true friends in this life as in the next.
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