Secrets of Purgtory : Chapter 4


<font size="4"> Chapter 4

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 from which there is no getting away.

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, or even more?!

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.

God does not ask us, as a rule, to do what is heroic. When He does, He gives us the special Grace necessary, called “Heroic Grace” or “Heroic Virtue”. 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 Theresa, the Little Flower, is to do many little things, the little Acts of Supererogation you read about in the previous chapter. 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, especially if he is also humble and meek.

Again, the only way of securing good health is to eschew the most appetizing viands when they do us harm and to make use of plain foods when they do us good. Overeating is one of the causes of illness and sometimes of a premature death.

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 do much 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. Catholics can do more than this, e.g. 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.

The Most Perfect Penance

But the most perfect penance of all is to unite and conform your finite will to the infinite Holy Will of God. It is the most perfect penance because it is void of all pride. Pride can sneak in when one performs other kinds of penance, no matter how big or small they are. But the penance of uniting and conforming one’s will to God’s Holy Will is not only an act of the Virtues of Humility and Meekness, but an exercise of Wisdom, one of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost.

In what does the sanctification and spiritual perfection of a person consist? Saint Francis DeSales [b. at Thorens, in the Duchy of Savoy, 21 August 21, 1567 A.D. - d. at Lyons, France on December 28, 1622 A.D.], Bishop of Geneva, Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church,. says that
“some place it in austerity, others in giving to a charity, others in frequenting the Sacraments, others in prayer. But for my part, I know of no other perfection than loving God with all one's heart. Without this love all of the virtues are only a heap of stones.”

In the same way that virtue is ennobled and perfected by the love of God, “so likewise”, says Rodriguez, following Saint John Chrysostom, “the highest, purest and most excellent part of this love is absolute conformity to the Divine Will and having in all things no other will but God’s.”

“Whoever makes a habit of prayer should think only of doing everything to conform his will to God’s. Be assured that In this conformity consists the highest perfection we can attain and those who practice it with the greatest care will be favored by God's greatest Gifts and will make the quickest progress in the interior [Spiritual] life. Do not imagine there are other secrets. All our good consists in this” (Saint Teresa of Avila, Teresa Sanchez Cepeda Davila y Ahumada [b. at Avila, Old Castile, Spain on Sunday, March 28, 1515 A.D. - d. at Alba de Tormes on Monday, October 4, 1582 A.D.]; emphasis added).

Blessed S
tephanie of Soncino, a Dominican Nun, was taken in spirit to Heaven one day where she saw among the Seraphim several persons she had known before their deaths. Having asked why these souls were raised to such a high degree of glory, she was told that it was because of the conformity and perfect union of their will with God's Holy Will while they lived on earth

Therefore, conformity and uniformity to the Divine Will shall raise one while on earth to the highest degree of Grace and on it is founded the highest perfection anyone can attain in this life. Whoever practices entire and complete submission to God's Holy Will lays up inestimable treasures at every moment and amasses more riches in a few days than others are able to acquire in many years and with great labor and horrendously severe corporal penances. This means that a person must remain indifferent to good fortune or to adversity by accepting all of it from the Hand of God without questioning; not to ask for things to be done as we would like them to be, but rather as God wishes.

For your practical resolutions, the following is suggested:

1) Pray for the Graces necessary to develop the habit of uniting and conforming your will with God’s Holy Will.

2) Every morning when you arise for the day, perform this simple devotion with these very brief prayers of uniformity and conformity to God’s Holy Will:

Prayer of Uniformity and Conformity to God's Holy Will
Kiss the feet of your Crucifix and lay it upon your pillow, after you have made your bed in the morning, saying:
I freely and joyfully pick up the Cross which Thou hast given me to carry today, O Merciful God. Permit me to carry it today for Thy Greater Honor and Glory so that by this, my Cross, Thy Most Holy Will may be done fully in me and by me. Let not prosperity lift me up nor adversity cast me down.

Uniformity and Conformity to the Divine Will

Most Holy Trinity please give me today each and everyone of those things which Thou, O Most Holy Trinity, has willed to give me today from all eternity. Amen.