Venerable Bede on Purgatory

The Venerable Bede died in 735. His tomb is at Durham Cathedral in England, currently an Anglican Cathedral. They sell the book of his History of the Church in England at their bookstore. Ironically, it contains a rather vivid description of purgatory, although the term “purgatory” did not yet exist when it was written. Here is the section, which contains a visit to the lowest level of purgatory, then hell, and then the highest level of purgatory.
Thus he related what he had seen. “He that led me had a countenance full of light, and shining raiment, and we went in silence, as it seemed to me, towards the rising of the summer sun. And as we walked we came to a broad and deep valley of infinite length; it lay on our left, and one side of it was exceeding terrible with raging flames, the other no less intolerable for violent hail and cold snows drifting and sweeping through all the place. Both sides were full of the souls of men which seemed to be tossed from one side to the other as it were by a violent storm; for when they could no longer endure the fervent heat, the hapless souls leaped into the midst of the deadly cold; and finding no rest there, they leaped back again to be burnt in the midst of the unquenchable flames. Now whereas an innumerable multitude of misshapen spirits were thus tormented far and near with this interchange of misery, as far as I could see, without any interval of rest, I began to think that peradventure this might be Hell, of whose intolerable torments I had often heard men talk. My guide, who went before me, answered to my thought, saying, ‘Think not so, for this is not the Hell you believe it to be.’
“When he had led me farther by degrees, sore dismayed by that dread sight, on a sudden I saw the place before us begin to grow dark and filled with shadows. When we entered into them, the shadows by degrees grew so thick, that I could see nothing else, save only the darkness and the shape and garment of him that led me. As we went on ‘through the shades in the lone night,’ lo! on a sudden there appeared before us masses of foul flame constantly rising as it were out of a great pit, and falling back again into the same. When I had been led thither, my guide suddenly vanished, and left me alone in the midst of darkness and these fearful sights. As those same masses of fire, without intermission, at one time flew up and at another fell back into the bottom of the abyss, I perceived that the summits of all the flames, as they ascended were full of the spirits of men, which, like sparks flying upwards with the smoke, were sometimes thrown on high, and again, when the vapours of the fire fell, dropped down into the depths below. Moreover, a stench, foul beyond compare, burst forth with the vapours, and filled all those dark places.
“Having stood there a long time in much dread, not knowing what to do, which way to turn, or what end awaited me, on a sudden I heard behind me the sound of a mighty and miserable lamentation, and at the same time noisy laughter, as of a rude multitude insulting captured enemies. When that noise, growing plainer, came up to me, I beheld a crowd of evil spirits dragging five souls of men, wailing and shrieking, into the midst of the darkness, whilst they themselves exulted and laughed. Among those human souls, as I could discern, there was one shorn like a clerk, one a layman, and one a woman. The evil spirits that dragged them went down into the midst of the burning pit; and it came to pass that as they went down deeper, I could no longer distinguish between the lamentation of the men and the laughing of the devils, yet I still had a confused sound in my ears. In the meantime, some of the dark spirits ascended from that flaming abyss, and running forward, beset me on all sides, and with their flaming eyes and the noisome fire which they breathed forth from their mouths and nostrils, tried to choke me; and threatened to lay hold on me with fiery tongs, which they had in their hands, yet they durst in no wise touch me, though they assayed to terrify me. Being thus on all sides encompassed with enemies and shades of darkness, and casting my eyes hither and thither if haply anywhere help might be found whereby I might be saved, there appeared behind me, on the way by which I had come, as it were, the brightness of a star shining amidst the darkness; which waxing greater by degrees, came rapidly towards me: and when it drew near, all those evil spirits, that sought to carry me away with their tongs, dispersed and fled.
“Now he, whose approach put them to flight, was the same that led me before; who, then turning towards the right, began to lead me, as it were, towards the rising of the winter sun, and having soon brought me out of the darkness, led me forth into an atmosphere of clear light. While he thus led me in open light, I saw a vast wall before us, the length on either side, and the height whereof, seemed to be altogether boundless. I began to wonder why we went up to the wall, seeing no door in it, nor window, nor any way of ascent. But when we came to the wall, we were presently, I know not by what means, on the top of it, and lo! there was a wide and pleasant plain full of such fragrance of blooming flowers th4t the marvellous sweetness of the scents immediately dispelled the foul stench of the dark furnace which had filled my nostrils. So great was the light shed over all this place that it seemed to exceed the brightness of the day, or the rays of the noontide sun. In this field were innumerable companies of men clothed in white, and many seats of rejoicing multitudes. As he led me through the midst of bands of happy inhabitants, I began to think that this perchance might be the kingdom of Heaven, of which I had often heard tell. He answered to my thought, saying, ‘Nay, this is not the kingdom of Heaven, as you think.’
“When we had also passed those mansions of blessed spirits, and gone farther on, I saw before me a much more beautiful light than before, and therein heard sweet sounds of singing, and so wonderful a fragrance was shed abroad from the place, that the other which I had perceived before and thought so great, then seemed to me but a small thing; even as that wondrous brightness of the flowery field, compared with this which I now beheld, appeared mean and feeble. When I began to hope that we should enter that delightful place, my guide, on a sudden stood still; and straightway turning, led me back by the way we came.
“In our return, when we came to those joyous mansions of the white-robed spirits, he said to me, ‘Do you know what all these things are which you have seen?’ I answered, ‘No,’ and then he said, ‘That valley which you beheld terrible with flaming fire and freezing cold, is the place in which the souls of those are tried and punished, who, delaying to confess and amend their crimes, at length have recourse to repentance at the point of death, and so go forth from the body; but nevertheless because they, even at their death, confessed and repented, they shall all be received into the kingdom of Heaven at the day of judgement; but many are succoured before the day of judgement, by the prayers of the living and their alms and fasting, and more especially by the celebration of Masses. Moreover that foul flaming pit which you saw, is the mouth of Hell, into which whosoever falls shall never be delivered to all eternity.
This flowery place, in which you see this fair and youthful company, all bright and joyous, is that into which the souls of those are received who, indeed, when they leave the body have done good works, but who are not so perfect as to deserve to be immediately admitted into the kingdom of Heaven; yet they shall all, at the day of judgement, behold Christ, and enter into the joys of His kingdom; for such as are perfect in every word and deed and thought, as soon as they quit the body, forthwith enter into the kingdom of Heaven; in the neighbourhood whereof that place is, where you heard the sound of sweet singing amidst the savour of a sweet fragrance and brightness of light. As for you, who must now return to the body, and again live among men, if you will seek diligently to examine your actions, and preserve your manner of living and your words in righteousness and simplicity, you shall, after death, have a place of abode among these joyful troops of blessed souls which you behold. For when I left you for awhile, it was for this purpose, that I might learn what should become of you.’ When he had said this to me, I much abhorred returning to the body, being delighted with the sweetness and beauty of the place which I beheld, and with the company of those I saw in it. Nevertheless, I durst not ask my guide anything; but thereupon, on a sudden, I found myself, I know not how, alive among men.”

Books about the Immaculate Conception from the 17th Century (in Latin, of course)

You might expect I’m going to link to full texts of some of these classics.

De Immaculata Beatae Virginis Conceptione ab omni originali peccato immuni Libri Quatuor, dicati sacrae maiestati Philippi 3 Hispaniarum regis by Aegidius a Presentatione. 1617. Translation: On the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Immune from all Original Sin.

Horizon Marianus sive De excellentia et virtutibus B. Mariae Virginis : tractatus novem, super totidem eius festa intra anni circulum ab Ecclesia celebrari solita by Fr. Bartholomaeo de los Rios et Alarcon. 1647. (Downloadable PDF) Translation: Marian Horizon, or of the Excellencies and Virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Geminum Sidus Mariani Diadematis, siue Duplex Disputatio de Infinita Dignitate Matris Dei, atque de eius Gratia habituali infinita simpliciter by Juan de Cardenas S.J. 1673. Translation: The Twin Stars of Mary’s Diadaem, or 2 disuptations about the Infinite Dignity of the Mother of God, and about her habitual infinite grace. It must be understood that he is using hyperbole here.

An “Extensive Summary,” but Not Well Understood

Paul VI on Lumen Gentium, from a speech at the close of the 3rd Session of the Second Vatican Council (November 22, 1964) – my translation

“For this is the first time, and in saying this we are deeply moved in spirit, that an Ecumenical Council has concentrated into one extensive summary the Catholic doctrine regarding the place the Blessed Virgin Mary occupies in the mystery of Christ and the Church.”

In other words, Vatican II said more about Mary than any previous Ecumenical Council, yet the newspapers reported Vatican II as a “downgrade” of Mary or a “lessening of emphasis” on her [example 1] [example 2]. The vote to incorporate teachings on Mary into the document on the Church was seen as a de-emphasis, but in fact there was still more said than had ever been said before concerning Mary. Unfortunately, there were a number of clerics that wanted to believe the newspapers, and the new generation was all about change for the sake of change, and that meant downgrading Mary in practice.

The doctrine contained in Lumen Gentium requires careful study, and spin doctors of the ’60s tried to minimize the impact by focusing on certain phrases that would seem to de-emphasize devotion to Mary (avoiding false exaggeration, for instance). Overall, though, the document shows that devotion to Mary is very important, and gives a stronger doctrinal basis for her role in salvation history than any previous council.

from Lumen Gentium
53. The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. [Emphasis added.] At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved. She is “the mother of the members of Christ . . . having cooperated by charity that faithful might be born in the Church, who are members of that Head.”(3*) Wherefore she is hailed as a pre-eminent and singular member of the Church, and as its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity. The Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother.

Sunday Shopping

I think this is one of those cases where the teaching never changed but everyone forgot it. I still hold to the “no Sunday shopping except in case of necessities” because it just makes sense. If we shop on Sunday unnecessarily, we encourage stores to be open, etc.

It’s actually not that big of a deal to me. No Sunday shopping–my catechist taught it and the rule still holds. If people have forgotten, they just need to be reminded.

From CCC 2187: “Sanctifying Sundays and holy days requires a common effort. Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord’s Day.” If we didn’t shop on Sundays, more people would have Sundays off, because there would be less business. The argument that everybody shops on Sunday has no weight. If we want to follow the 10 commandments, we should do our best to follow them, even if we see no examples from anybody we know.

Ven. Fulton J. Sheen and Purgatory

I recently wrote an article about the thoughts of Ven. Fulton J. Sheen on the subject of Purgatory.

Here is a paragraph from his book The Moral Universe: A Preface to Christian Living.

Three possible states await a soul after death:
a state of perfect Love without suffering which is heaven;
a state of suffering without Love which is hell,
and a state of Love with suffering which is Purgatory.
Purgatory is a creation of the mercy of God. (128)

A PDF of the article can be found here.

Vollert on Mary and the Church

“But she was redeemed quite otherwise than the rest of men; she was preserved form contracting the sin of nature. She was redeemed apart, and therefore placed apart. Her fullness of grace, which grew in her all her life, was not dependent on the Church, but has its explanation in her divine maternity, its rule and measure. Thus she constitutes an order apart, so that she alone can enter into comparison with the rest of the Church. This fact makes possible an analogy between her, a particular person, and the collectivity which is the Church.” Vollert, Cyril, “Mary and the Chruch,” in Mariology (Carol, Juniper, editor) vol. 2, p. 558.

Cardinal Lambruschini’s Defense of the Immaculate Conception

There are many classic Mariological works online, and some of them are even in English!

This one is a defense written about 12 years prior to the Dogma, defending the teaching of the Immaculate Conception. This English translation is from 1855, one year after the dogma was declared.

A Polemical Treatise on the Immaculate Conception by Luigi Lambruschini. You can download the book as a PDF file by clicking on the gear icon.

The Interior Life

Why didn’t somebody tell me?

Well, somebody has now, and I have discovered a rather important find in the world of books on the Spiritual Life. In fact, it’s such a classic that the whole thing is out on the Internet:

The Three Ages of the Interior Life by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

Now, the title is not all that catchy, and some other things I’ve read by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange are not necessarily the most exciting. Here, however, he is in his element, and this is incredibly useful reading.

He starts with something very simple:

I. The One Thing Necessary

As everyone can easily understand, the interior life is an elevated form of intimate conversation which everyone has with himself as soon as he is alone, even in the tumult of a great city. From the moment he ceases to converse with his fellow men, man converses interiorly with himself about what preoccupies him most. This conversation varies greatly according to the different ages of life; that of an old man is not that of a youth. It also varies greatly according as a man is good or bad.

So that’s what the interior life is. But, it can change into something different…

The interior life of a just man who tends toward God and who already lives by Him is indeed the one thing necessary. To be a saint, neither intellectual culture nor great exterior activity is a requisite; it suffices that we live profoundly by God. This truth is evident in the saints of the early Church; several of those saints were poor people, even slaves. It is evident also in St. Francis, St. Benedict Joseph Labre, in the Cure of Ars, and many others. They all had a deep understanding of these words of our Savior: “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” If people sacrifice so many things to save the life of the body, which must ultimately die, what should we not sacrifice to save the life of our soul, which is to last forever?

This is just the beginning, but one thing is clear. The Interior Life makes all the difference.

More Books about the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Latin Language

It’s amazing how many books about the Blessed Virgin Mary are available free online to either read or download. Here are more classic examples of Mariology.

Mariale of Bl. Bernadine of Busti, O.F.M. (1511)

Psalterium divae Virginis Mariae rhythmice conscriptum by Stephanus (Cantuarensis) (1579)

Theotocodia sive parthenodia opus eximium in laudem deiparae Virginis by Tito Próspero Martinengo (1583)

Apologeticus Marianus by Johannes Paludanus (1623)

Elucidarium Deiparae by Juan Bautista Poza (1627)

De Immaculata prorsusque pura, sanctissimae, semperque virginis genitricis Dei Mariae Conceptione by Juan Serrano (1635)

Sancti Bernardini Senensis ordinis Seraphici Minorum Opera omnia synopsibus ornata, postillis illustrata, nec non variis tractatibus… Volume 4 (1635). This book contains sermons of St. Bernardine of Siena concerning the Blessed Virgin.

Nomenclator Marianus, e titulis selectioribus, quibus B. Virgo a S.S. Patribus honestatur, contextus (1639) by Théophile Raynaud

Rosetum Deiparae Virginis Mariae (1641) by Johann Christian Itzstein

Philosophia tota deiparae sacra by Conrad Calmelet, Ignatius Waizenegger (1642)

Diptycha Mariana. Quibus inanes Beatissimae Virginis Praerogativae, Plerisque Novis Scriptionibus Vulgate, a Probates et Veris Apud Patres, Thelogosque Receptis, Solide, et Accurate Secernuntur (1643) by Théophile Raynaud

Corona augustissimae Virginis Dei Matris (1645) by François Poiré

Directiones Mariani colloquii Deiparae Virginis (1645) by Jacob Rhem. This book is from Jakob Rem, the Jesuit who founded the Sodality of Our Lady in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, and received in a private revelation the term “Mother Thrice Admirable,” which is used today most commonly in the Schoenstatt movement.

Adae abbatis Perseniae, sacri ordinis Cisterciensis alumni, … Mariale Quo … By Adam de Perseigne collected by I. Marracci (1652)

Firmamentum Symbolicum in quo Deiparae Elogia, Quibus velunt firmamentum stellis est (1652) by Sebastianus (a Matre Dei) Mary is the symbolic firmament, the firmament of stars as it were.

Opera Omnia by Raymond Jordon (Idiota) (1654) collected by Théophile Raynaud. Included in this book ascribed to “Idiota,” are a number of “contemplations” of the Virgin Mary: a shorter set of contemplations that was translated into a number of languages, including English, which begins on page 204, and a complete tract on the Blessed Virgin, which covers many topics (de Vita et Laudibus Gloriosae Virginis Mariae). This is found beginning on page 219 according to the PDF file/viewer or 119 according to the book (there is an error in the book pagination it really should read 219. A Spanish translation: Contemplaciones del Idiota (1550) has the short set of contemplations on the Virgin Mary beginning on page 245.

Domus propitiationis pauperis in patrocinium Mariae Deiparae by François Van Hondegen (1655). The title translates to: The House of Propitiation of the Poor Under the Patronage of Mary the Mother of God. The first section of the book deals with the mediation and mercy of Christ, and then afterwards examples of the patronage of Mary to those devoted to her.

Exceptiones Concilii Tridentini pro omnimoda puritate Deiparae Virginis expensae (1655) by Juan Eusebio Nieremberg

Annus Marianus by Paul de Barry and Adam Schirmbeck (1659)

Maiestas gratiarum ac virtutum omnium Deiparae Virginis, Mariae (1659) by Francisco Guerra (only Volume 2 is online)

Disputationes Theologiae Scholasticae, Volume 2 (1661) by Georges de Rhodes. This text contains a tract on Mary, the Mother of God.

Hyperdulia Deiparae seu Conciones, in omnia Festa B. Virginis Mariae (1673) by Joannes Dedinger

Hebdomada Mariana Divisa In Diversas Orationes Jaculatorias Pro Qualibet Die … (1675) by Constantius Arzonni

Hyperdulia Mariana (or Hyperdulia Sacra Mariana) (1676) by Maximilian Schmidt, Pietro Antonio Spinelli

Excitationes dormitantis animae circa Psalmum 86, Canticum Magnificat, Salvatationem Angelicam, et Antiphonam Salve Regina, ad colendam, laudandam, et diligendam Sanctissimam Virginem Deiparam by Angelo Paciuchelli (1682)

Sacra Beatae Mariae Virginis ex Evangelio ad literam epitheta:
sanctorum Patrum ac interpretum doctrina accurate explanata …
by Miguel de Ulate (1707)

Virginis Mariae, magnae Dei, et hominis Christi Iesu, dignissimae matris … by Miguel de Ulate (1714)

Quaestiones disputatae de Immaculata Conceptione Beatae Mariae Virginis by William of Ware, John Duns Scotus, Petrus Aureoli (1904)

Are St. Peter Canisius’ writings available in English?

Generally not. There is his Sum of Christian Doctrine printed in 1622 in English. Ok, technically it is A SUMME OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE composed in Latin, by the R. Father PETRUS CANISIUS, of the Society of Jesus.

Still, no English translation exists of his monumental work DE MARIA VIRGINE INCOMPARABILI ET DEI GENITRICE SACROSANCTA. I had thought this work in Latin was not available online, but I was (thankfully) wrong. It was, in fact, reprinted in Jean-Jacques Bourassé’s monumental 12 volume work, Summa aurea de laudibus B. V. Mariae.

A link to volume 8 of the Summa Aurea which contains the first 4 books of the work: Summa Aurea Volume 8

Volume 9, which contains the fifth book, can be found at this link.

The quality of the scan of the text leaves something to be desired, and the OCR of the text has many, many errors. Still, if you type out a passage you want to translate and use Google Translate for a rough English translation, you at least have a start.

Here is an example I created. In a section where St. Peter Canisius deals with the accusation of Jesus being harsh with His mother when he is found in the temple, here is (roughly) part of what St. Peter says:

“He did not allow them to suffer for three days out of contempt, but because of love and honor of the sovereign Father, he remained in the temple, and gave this example in accordance with teaching others a method of more perfect obedience, and eventually it is, as it were, a prelude to the teaching in public after the baptism, which gave glory to the eternal Father.”

The Latin original:
Hac oratione Christus puer exponit parentibus, cur minus admirari debeant, quod ipse in urbe Hierosolymitana hoc triduo manserit, illos vero in quaerendo permiserit sollicite et anxie laborare. Subindicat etiam, se ex nullo illorum contemptu, sed ob amorem et honorem summi Patris in templo remansisse, quodque hoc exemplo velit docere alios perfectioris obedientiae praestandae normam atque rationem; ac demum dicto et facto quasi praeludit ea quae post baptismum in publico docendi et disputandi munere, ad aeterni Patris gloriam apud Judaeos erat exhibiturus.

William of Ware

Yes, I’m back at the Marian Library. I’m learning plenty of information about the Blessed Virgin Mary — things that are worth learning. Right now in one of my classes we are going over the history of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. One of the figures in this history is William of Ware. He believed in the doctrine and taught Bl. John Duns Scotus.

I can see a “Who’s on first” routine developing with this name.
He’s William of Ware.
He’s Bill of where?
That’s what I said.
Where is Bill from?
That’s right.
He’s from that’s right?
No, he’s from Ware.
Where is Ware?
It’s right where it is!
Wait a minute, I want to know where Bill is from.
I told you. He’s from Ware.
That’s what I want to know.
And I’m telling you……

Unity of Government in the Church

“Unity of government is not less essential to the Church of Christ than unity of doctrine. Our divine Saviour never speaks of His Churches, but of His Church. He does not say : ” Upon this rock I will build my Churches,” but, ” Upon this rock I will build my Church,” from which words we must, conclude, that it never was His intention to establish or to sanction various conflicting denominations, but one corporate body, with all the members united under one visible Head ; for as the Church is a visible body, it must have a visible head.”

Cardinal Gibbons:
Faith of Our Fathers