HOW TO AVOID PURGATORY By Fr. Paul O’Sullivan O.P.
For those who have not read this little book and to refresh myself, I will be posting the entire book in daily doses. (To read later find in the Purgatory Category).
THE SECOND MEANS: PENANCE
The Second Means of avoiding Purgatory is to satisfy for our sins in this
life by doing penance. “Do penance or you shall all likewise perish”. Do
penance, or you will burn long years in Purgatory, is a fact that there is
no getting away from.
This is a terrifying thought and one that makes the bravest man shudder.
Which of us does not tremble when he thinks of those who have been burnt to
death in a slow fire? What fear would not be ours if we had to face a
similar death? Yet their suffering was of relatively short duration. The
incomparably fiercer fire of Purgatory, which we may have to face, may last
20, or 50 or 100 years!
Many people have such a horror of penance that they never even dream of
practicing it. It is like the fear that children have of ghosts, a very
great but a very unfounded fear. Their idea is that penance is something
awful. They think perhaps of the severe penances of the great Saints and of
course are afraid to attempt anything of a like kind.
The Second Means: Penance
God does not ask us, as a rule, to do what is heroic. When He does, He
gives us all the strength necessary, as in the case of the Saints. He asks
each one to do a little. If we are afraid of doing much and it is only
natural that some should be, let us do at least a little. No one but a
coward is afraid to do a little, especially if he gets much in exchange.
The easy road to Heaven of Saint Therese, the Little Flower, is to do many
little things. God was infinitely pleased with the widow’s mite; He will be
equally pleased with our little penances.
As a result of little mortifications, we can deliver ourselves from the
awful fires of Purgatory and amass rich merits for Heaven. To go into the
matter further, there is not much difficulty about mortification or
penance, notwithstanding the absurd fear that people have of it.
Penance is not only easy, it is useful and necessary and it will bring us
very great happiness. Not to do penance is the greatest penance of all. As
a matter of fact, every man of the world naturally, spontaneously mortifies
himself. The first principle, for instance, of politeness and good breeding
is to sacrifice our whims and tastes for the sake of others. The selfish
man is a boor; the generous man is the idol of all.
Again, the only way of securing good health is to eschew the most
appetising viands when they do us harm and to make use of plain foods when
they do us good. Overeating is the cause of the vast majority of sickness
and premature deaths.
To take another example. The secret of success is strenuous, methodical,
regular work. Now generosity, self-denial, method, regularity are other
forms of very genuine but practical mortification. Yet no man can get on
without them. To insist on our own likes and dislikes, to do only as we
please, is to lead a life bristling with difficulties, in which every duty
is a burden, every good act an effort and a labor
Boy scouts and girl scouts are bound to do a kind act every day, even though it costs them a big effort. Christians should surely do more. Daily acts of self-restraint, of patience with others, of kindness to others, the exact fulfilment of duty are splendid penances and a great aid to happiness.
If we are afraid to do much, let us do many little things.
Reflection – Do I despise the great gift of God’s Love?
“Is it not, I say, quite a common case for men and for women to neglect religion in their best days? They have been baptised, they have been taught their duty, they have been taught to pray, they know their Creed, their conscience has been enlightened, they have opportunity to come to Church. This is their birthright, the privileges of their birth of water and of the Spirit; but they sell it, as Esau did. They are tempted by Satan with some bribe of this world and they give up their birthright in exchange for what is sure to perish and to make them perish with it. Esau was tempted by the mess of pottage which he saw in Jacob’s hands. Satan arrested the eyes of his lust and he gazed on the pottage, as Eve gazed on the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve sold their birthright for the fruit of a tree—that was their bargain. Esau sold his for a mess of lentils—that was his. And men now-a-days often sell theirs, not indeed for any thing so simple as fruit or herb but for some evil gain or other, which at the time they think worth purchasing at any price; perhaps for the enjoyment of some particular sin, or more commonly for the indulgence of general carelessness and spiritual sloth because they do not like a strict life and have no heart for God’s service. And thus they are profane persons, for they despise the great gift of God.” – (Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman)
Lenten Preparation Novena
Lord, during this Lenten Season,
nourish me with Your Word of life
and make me one
with You in love and prayer.
Fill my heart with Your love
and keep me faithful to the Gospel of Christ.
Give me the grace to rise above my human weakness.
Give me new life by Your Sacraments, especially the Mass.
Father, our source of life,
I reach out with joy to grasp Your hand;
let me walk more readily in Your ways.
Guide me in Your gentle mercy,
for left to myself I cannot do Your Will.
Father of love, source of all blessings,
help me to pass from my old life of sin
to the new life of grace.
Help me to repent of my sins now and make reparation throughout
this Lenten season and each day thereafter.
United with your Son,
who makes His way to Calvary,
I offer You my intentions
(Mention your special intention)
Prepare me for the glory of Your Kingdom.
I ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen
St Peter Damian was a reformer but he reformed his own life before he tried to reform others. Example is still the most powerful influence in changing others and preaching is useless if it is not joined to a holy life. Before we can change others, we have to change ourselves. Lent is nearly here – a great place to work on our progress or to begin all over again.
“He pours light into our minds, arouses our desire and gives us strength… As the soul is the life of the body, so the Holy Spirit is the life of our souls.”
“The best penance is to have patience with the sorrows God permits. A very good penance is to dedicate oneself to fulfill the duties of everyday with exactitude and to study and work with all our strength.”
“Through a woman [Eve] a curse fell upon the earth; through a woman [Mary] as well there returned to the earth, a blessing.”
For whom the Lord loves he reproves,
he chastises the one he favours………….Proverbs 3:12
REFLECTION – “When you are scorned by others and lashed by God, do not despair.
God lashes us in this life to shield us from the eternal lash in the next.”………..St Peter Damian
PRAYER – Infinitely just God, help me to accept Your corrections and turn them to my benefit. Let me never despair about my weaknesses but entrust myself to Your goodness and mercy. Help me Lord! St Peter Damian, pray for us, amen.
(Excerpt 2 from the Universal Prayer attributed to Pope Clement XI)
I pray to You, Lord, enlighten my understanding, strengthen my will, make clean my heart, make holy my inward being. Give me sorrow for my past sins and let me not fall into temptation. Help me to rise above my natural weaknesses, let me grow stronger in all that is good and true. Grant me, O good and loving God, to love You as You deserve, to turn away from all that is self-centred. Let me seek Your Kingdom above all, let me live as a pilgrim in this world, give me right respect for all who have claim on me. Give me a tender care for any who depend on me. Let me cherish my friends and let me forgive my enemies from my heart. Grant me all this, my heavenly Father for I give You all of myself through Christ our Lord, amen.
Saint of the Day – 21 February – St Peter Damian (c 1007-1072) Bishop, Confessor, Benedictine Monk, Cardinal, Theologian, Reformer, Writer, Teacher, Preacher, Poet and Doctor of the Church. Also known as – Petrus Damianus; Italian: Pietro or Pier Damiani was a reforming Benedictine Monk and Cardinal in the circle of Pope Leo IX. Dante placed him in one of the highest circles of Paradiso as a great predecessor of Saint Francis of Assisi. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1828 by Patronages – Spiritual warfare, Church Reformers and of Faenza, Italy.
Peter was born in Ravenna, Italy, around 1007, the youngest of a large noble but poor family. Orphaned early, he was at first adopted by an elder brother, who ill-treated and underfed him while employing him as a swineherd. After some years, another brother, Damianus, who was Archpriest at Ravenna, had pity on him and took him away to be educated. Adding his brother’s name to his own, Peter made such rapid progress in his studies of Theology and Canon Law, first at Ravenna, then at Faenza and finally at the University of Parma, that when about twenty-five years old he was already a famous teacher at Parma and Ravenna. As well as a good grounding in the field of law, he acquired a refined expertise in the art of writing the ars scribendi and, thanks to his knowledge of the great Latin classics, became “one of the most accomplished Latinists of his time, one of the greatest writers of medieval Latin” (J. Leclercq, Pierre Damien, ermite et homme d’Église, Rome, 1960, p. 172).
About 1035, however, he gave up his secular calling and, avoiding the compromised luxury of Cluniac Monasteries, entered the isolated hermitage of Fonte Avellana, near Gubbio. Both as a Novice and as a Monk, his fervour was remarkable but led him to such extremes of self-mortification in penance that his health was affected and he developed severe insomnia. On his recovery, he was appointed to lecture to his fellow Monks. Then, at the request of St Guy of Pomposa (Guido d’Arezzo) and other heads of neighbouring Monasteries, for two or three years he lectured to their brethren too and (about 1042) wrote the Vita of St. Romuald for the monks of Pietrapertosa. Soon after his return to Fonte Avellan, he was appointed Economus (manager or administrator) of the house by the Prior, who designated him as his successor. In 1043 he became Prior of Fonte Avellana and remained so until his death in February 1072.
Subject-hermitages were founded at San Severino, Gamogna, Acerreta, Murciana, San Salvatore, Sitria and Ocri. A zealot for monastic and clerical reform, he introduced a more-severe discipline, including the practice of flagellation (“the disciplina”), into the house, which, under his rule, quickly attained celebrity and became a model for other foundations, even the great abbey of Monte Cassino. There was much opposition outside his own circle to such extreme forms of penitence, but Peter’s persistent advocacy ensured its acceptance, to such an extent that he was obliged later to moderate the imprudent zeal of some of his own hermits. Another innovation was that of the daily siesta, to make up for the fatigue of the night office. During his tenure of the priorate a cloister was built, silver chalices and a silver processional cross were purchased, and many books were added to the library.
Reformer Although living in the seclusion of the cloister, Peter Damian closely watched the fortunes of the Church and like his friend Hildebrand, the future Pope Gregory VII, he strove for reforms in a deplorable time. When Benedict IX resigned the pontificate into the hands of the archpriest John Gratian (Gregory VI) in 1045, Peter hailed the change with joy and wrote to the new pope, urging him to deal with the scandals of the church in Italy, singling out the wicked bishops of Pesaro, of Città di Castello and of Fano. Extending the area of his activities, he entered into communication with the Emperor Henry III. He was present in Rome when Clement II crowned Henry III and his consort Agnes and he also attended a synod held at the Lateran in the first days of 1047, in which decrees were passed against simony. After this he returned to his hermitage.
Pope Benedict XVI described him as “one of the most significant figures of the 11th century … a lover of solitude and at the same time a fearless man of the Church, committed personally to the task of reform.”
Philosophy Peter often condemned philosophy. He claimed that the first grammarian was the Devil, who taught Adam to decline deus in the plural. He argued that monks should not have to study philosophy, because Jesus did not choose philosophers as disciples and so philosophy is not necessary for salvation. But the idea (later attributed to Thomas Aquinas) that philosophy should serve theology as a servant serves her mistress originated with him.
Papal envoy and Cardinal During his illness the pope died, and Frédéric, abbot of Monte Cassino, was elected pope as Stephen IX. In the autumn of 1057, Stephen IX determined to make Damian a cardinal. For a long time Damian resisted the offer, for he was more at ease as an itinerant hermit-preacher than a reformer from within the Curia but was finally forced to accept and was consecrated Cardinal Bishop of Ostia on 30 November 1057. In addition he was appointed administrator of the Diocese of Gubbio. The new cardinal was impressed with the great responsibilities of his office and wrote a stirring letter to his brother-cardinals, exhorting them to shine by their example before all. Four months later Pope Stephen died at Florence and the Church was once more distracted by schism. Peter was vigorous in his opposition to the antipope Benedict X but force was on the side of the intruder and Damian retired temporarily to Fonte Avallana.
Milan About the end of the year 1059 Peter was sent as legate to Milan by Pope Nicholas II. So bad was the state of things at Milan, that benefices (a reward received in exchange for services rendered and as a retainer for future services) were openly bought and sold and the clergy publicly married the women with whom they lived. The resistance of the clergy of Milan to the reform of Ariald the Deacon and Anselm, Bishop of Lucca rendered a contest so bitter that an appeal was made to the Holy See. Nicholas II sent Damian and the Bishop of Lucca as his legates. The party of the irregular clerics took alarm and raised the cry that Rome had no authority over Milan. Peter boldly confronted the rioters in the cathedral, he proved to them the authority of the Holy See with such effect that all parties submitted to his decision. He exacted first a solemn oath from the archbishop and all his clergy that for the future no preferment should be paid for; then, imposing a penance on all who had been guilty, he reinstated in their benefices all who undertook to live in celibacy. This prudent decision was attacked by some of the rigorists at Rome but was not reversed. Meanwhile, Peter was pleading in vain to be released from the cares of his office. Neither Nicholas II nor Hildebrand would consent to spare him.
Later career He rendered valuable assistance to Pope Alexander II in his struggle with the antipope, Honorius II. In July 1061 the pope died and once more a schism ensued. Peter Damian used all his powers to persuade the antipope Cadalous to withdraw but to no purpose. Finally Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne and acting regent in Germany, summoned a council at Augsburg at which a long argument by Peter Damian was read and greatly contributed to the decision in favour of Alexander II.
In 1063 the pope held a synod at Rome, at which Peter Damian was appointed legate to settle the dispute between the Abbey of Cluny and the Bishop of Mâcon. He proceeded to France, summoned a council at Chalon-sur-Saône, proved the justice of the contentions of Cluny, settled other questions at issue in the Church of France and returned in the autumn to Fonte Avellana. Having served the papacy as legate to France and to Florence, he was allowed to resign his bishopric in 1067. Early in 1072 or 1073 he was sent to Ravenna to reconcile its inhabitants to the Holy See, they having been excommunicated for supporting their archbishop in his adhesion to the schism of Cadalous. On his return thence he was seized with fever near Faenza. He lay ill for a week at the monastery of Santa Maria degl’Angeli, now Santa Maria Vecchia. On the night preceding the feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Antioch, he ordered the office of the feast to be recited and at the end of the Lauds he died. He was at once buried in the monastery church, lest others should claim his relics.
St Peter Damian (Optional Memorial)
St Avitus II of Clermont
Bl Caterina Dominici
Bl Claudio di Portaceli
St Daniel of Persia
St Eustathius of Antioch
St Felix of Metz
St George of Amastris
St Germanus of Granfield
St Gundebert of Sens
Bl Noel Pinot
St Paterius of Brescia
St Pepin of Landen
St Peter Mavimenus
St Randoald of Granfield
St Robert Southwell
St Severian of Scythopolis
St Severus of Syrmium
Bl Thomas Pormort
St Valerius of San Pedro de Montes
St Verda of Persia
Martyrs of Sicily – 79 saints – Seventy-nine Christians martyred together in the persecutions of Diocletian. c.303 on Sicily
Martyrs of Hadrumetum – A group of 26 Christians martyred together by Vandals. We know little more than eight of their names – Alexander, Felix, Fortunatus, Saturninus, Secundinus, Servulus, Siricius and Verulus. c.434 at Hadrumetum (modern Sousse, Tunisia)
Martyrs Uchibori – Three Japanese laymen, all brothers, all sons of Paulus Uchibori Sakuemon, one a teenager, one only five years old, and all martyred for their faith in the persecutions in Japan. 21 February 1627 in Shimabara, Nagasaki, Japan. Beatified 24 November 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI.
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