Research: Patristics


St. Augustine of Hippo

Excerpt from Thurston, Herbert, S.J. The Memory of Our Dead

(Chapter 1: The Early Centuries, pp. 27-29)

"2. I therefore, O my glory and my Life, Thou God of my heart, putting aside for a time those good deeds of my mother for which I joyfully thank Thee, do now entreat Thee for her sins. By that Medicine of our wounds, who hung upon the tree, and now sitteth at Thy right hand to make intercession for us, O hear me. I know that she dealt mercifully, and forgave from her heart the trespasses of those who trespassed against her. Do Thou forgive her the trespasses of which she may have been guilty in a life of many years, since the time when she entered the water of salvation. Forgive them, O Lord, forgive them, I bessech Thee: enter not into judgment with her. Let mercy rejoice against judgment, for Thy words are true, and Thou hast promised mercy unto the merciful. That they were so, was Thy gift, who wilt have mercy on whom Thou wilt have mercy, and wilt have compassion on whom Thou wilt have compassion. And, as I do believe, Thou hast already performed what I entreat for; yet do Thou accept, O Lord, the freewill offerings of my mouth.

3. For, when the day of Thy purpose came upon her, she cared not that her body should be richly shrouded, or wrapped in spices; she desired no proud monument, nor prayed for a grave in her native land. Not such were her last injunctions to us, but only she begged that we should remember he before Thy altar which she had served without missing a day, whence, as she knew, is dispensed that Holy Victim, whereby the handwriting that was against us is blotted out, wherin the enemy that reckons up our sins and seeketh accusations against us, and could find nothing in Him in whom we conquer, is trodden under foot. Who shall repay to Him the innocent blood? Who shall give Him back the price wherewith He bought us, that he should pluck us out of His hand? With that Sacrament of Redemption Thy handmaid bound up her soul with the bond of faith.

4. Let none have power to drag her away from Thy protection. Let not the lion nor the dragon bar her path by force or by fraud. For she will not answer that she owes nothing, lest she should be confuted and seized by the crafty accuser; but she will answer that all her debt has been forgiven by Him, to whom none can give back the ransom which He paid on our behalf, though He owed it not. May she rest in peace, therefore, with her husband, her first and only husband, whom she obeyed, bringing forth fruit with patience, that she might gain him also unto Thee. And do Thou inspire, O Lord my God, do Thou inspire Thy servants, my brethren, Thy sons, my masters, whom I serve with heart and voice and pen, that whoso reads these pages may remember before Thy altar Monica, Thy handmaid, and Patricius, once her husband, through whose flesh Thou didst bring me into this life, I know not how. Let them remember with godly love those who were my parents in this transitory life, those who were my brethren under Thee, our Father, in the Catholic mother, those who were my fellow-citizens in the eternal Jerusalem, for which Thy people of pilgrims yearn from their going out until their coming home again. So shall her dying request be granted to her in richer abundance by the prayers of many, through our Confessions rather than through my prayers."

St. Catherine of Genoa

Excerpt from Thurston, Herbert, S.J. The Memory of Our Dead

(Chapter VI: The The Devotional Appeal of Prayer for the Dead, pp. 194-197)

"God flows in upon them (souls suffering in Purgatory) i proportion as every hindrance to His entrance is consumed away. The hindrance is the rust of sin; the fire consumes the rust, and thus the soul goes on laying itself open to the Divine inflowing.

It is as with a covered object. The object cannot respond to the rays of the sun, not because the sun ceases to shine - for it shines without intermission - but because the covering intervenes. Let the covering be destroyed, again the object will be exposed to the sun, and will answer to the rays which bear against it in proportion as the work of destruction advances. Thus the souls are covered by a rust - that is sin - which is gradually consumed away by the fire of purgatory; the more it is consumed the more they respond to God, their true Sun. Their happiness increases as the rust falls off and lays them open to the Divine ray, and so their happiness grows greater as the impediment grows less, till the time is accomplished." (pp.194-195)

"Let us suppose that there existed in the world but one loaf to satisfy the hunger of every creature and the mere sight of it would do this. In such a case a man, havingnaturally, if in good health, a desire for food, would find himself, as long as he was kept from dying or falling sick, getting more and more hungry; for his craving would continue undiminished; he would know that the bread, and nothing but the bread, could satisfy him, and not being able to reach it, would remain in intolerable pain; the nearer he got to the bread without seeing it, the more ardently would he crave for it, and would direct himself wholly towards it, as being the only thing which would afford him relief, and if he were assured that he never see the bread he would have within him a perfect hell and become like the damned who are cut off from all hope of ever seeing God their Saviour, who is the true Bread.

The souls in purgatory, on the other hand, hope to see that Bread and satiate themselves to the full therewith; whence they hunger and suffer pain as great as will be their capacity for enjoying that Bread, which is Jesus Christ, the true God, our Saviour and our Love." (pp.196-197)

St. John Chrysostom

Excerpt from Thurston, Herbert, S.J. The Memory of Our Dead

(Chapter 1: The Early Centuries, pp. 24-25)

"Speaking of a man known to have died after a careless life he says:

'But even supposing that he did depart in his sins, we ought to rejoice on this account because his sins were cut short, and he could not add to his guilt, and we ought to help him, as far as possible, not by tears but by prayers and supplications, by alms and oblations (i.e., the Holy Sacrifice).'"

"Let us succor them according to our ability, let us devise some help for them, small though it be, yet still a possible help. How and in what way? By praying for them ourselves and encouraging others to offer prayers in their behalf, by constantly giving alms to the poor for them. Such an act has some consolation; for hear what God said, 'I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake and for my servant David's sake.' If the remembrance merely of a just man availed so much, how shall it not avail when deeds also are done in his behalf? Not in vain was this law laid down by the Apostles, that we should commemorate the departed during the dreadful Mysteries. They know that much gain, much advantage, accrues to the dead therefrom."