The Descent of the Holy Ghost

The Descent of the Holy Ghost

By Fr McKenna O.P.


In this Third Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, we commemorate:

— the coming of the Divine Spirit upon the disciples of Christ,

— and the foundation of our Holy Mother the Church.

Pentecost gloriously completes the cycle of the work of the Triune God:

— in the Creation, we worship the almighty power of the heavenly Father;

— in the Redemption, we behold with wonder the sublime mission of the Eternal Son, who said: “The Father hath worked till now, now I work.” Jesus finished in Calvary’s awful hour the work which His Father gave Him to do; and now, after His Ascension, He and the Father send down the Holy Ghost to complete the work of the Blessed Trinity;

— thus, the Holy Ghost is especially the gift of the other two Divine Persons.  His mission is the sublime work of guiding the Church, illuminating her supreme pastors, inspiring her saints, filling her doctors and her confessors with His choicest gifts, and establishing the reign of God in the souls of the faithful.

It is true that the Holy Ghost was always in the world. The Spirit of God spoke by the mouth of the patriarchs and the prophets from the beginning; but on the great festival of Pentecost He came in a different manner, being, in the language of Scripture, poured out on the disciples to fit them for their exalted office.  His advent was the especial fruit of our Blessed Lord’s sufferings and death. The world had no right to His coming; it was unfitted for His sublime presence and work.

But Jesus merited for us this heavenly gift, and went before the Father in order to plead for it in our behalf. “If I go not,” He said, ” the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John xvi. 7). Presenting His sacred humanity before His heavenly Father, Our Lord besought Him through His adorable wounds to bestow this sublime gift upon His followers.

And why was this?  Why, we may ask, was the Paraclete sent to us?  It was to perfect the work which the Son of God came on earth to inaugurate.  He had come to establish His Church, He had come to build the Bark of Peter. During His public life Our Lord had collected the materials for that vessel. He had placed its timbers in their proper order; and, to use a figure employed by the early Fathers of the Church, having completed that Bark of Peter, it was destined to sail over every sea, to brave every storm, to be tried by every tempest, to be pursued by every piratical enemy.  Men and demons would do their utmost to destroy it; but it was not destined to perish, for on it depended the salvation of the world.

On the first glorious Feast of Pentecost St. Peter’s Bark was launched — the sails of that mighty vessel were first unfurled.  What, then, was needed but a skilled Pilot to guide her course and favorable winds to fill her sails?  To-day, she commences her glorious voyage ; to-day, the divine Pilot — the Holy Ghost— is on board!  To-day, the winds of heaven fill her sails; to-day, her crew begin to cast forth their net. St. Peter’s Bark will sweep over every sea and gather in all souls destined for a happy eternity!

Let us here reflect for a moment upon the disciples of Christ, who formed the crew of that vessel. Let us consider their condition before the coming of the Holy Ghost.

In the first place, we are told that they were hidden away in an upper chamber in Jerusalem, fearing the Jews. They were timid, cowardly men; their faith was yet weak: their hearts were trem­bling within them. They dreaded to proclaim publicly the glorious name of their Master, in whom they firmly believed; nay, more, they were poor laborers — ignorant, uneducated men, little skilled in public preaching.

But lo! at the sound from Heaven, “as of a rushing mighty wind which filled the whole house where they were sitting,” a great change came over them. “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost,” says the Scripture. That Divine Spirit appeared to them like tongues of fire, whereby their exalted mission as preachers of the Gospel was typified and emphasized. Instantly their cold hearts burned with the fire of the Apostolate! Fear and, cowardice departed forever.

The Apostles, having become in a manner new men, are now inflamed with the love of God and with the desire for the salvation of all mankind. They go forth immediately to proclaim the dignity, the power and the sanctity of that name which was so despised by the Jews, the glorious name of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus-Christ. Boldly declaring their belief in His divinity, these once timid men are now willing to die martyrs for their Faith and the cause of the Blessed Master. The effect of Peter’s first sermon on the day of Pentecost is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Three thousand were converted — “devout men out of every nation under heaven;” for at that time were gathered in Jerusalem, in order to celebrate the Pentecostal festival, Jews from nearly every part of the world whither the Hebrews had been scattered. All these were confounded, as the Acts testify, because every man with amazement heard the Apostles speak to him in his own tongue.

In creating this material world our heavenly Father was pleased not to leave it in darkness, but placed the sun in the heavens to shed light and heat over its surface, to bring fruits and flowers to perfection. And that sun is so exalted, so far removed from human influences, that no man or nation can interfere with its light. So, in creating His Church, our Blessed Lord gave to it His Holy Spirit, which is its true Light, abiding with it forever, and conducting its children to paradise by the way of Christian perfection. Nor can men or demons prevent that sublime mission:

— Following St. Peter, the first to claim the special indwelling of the Paraclete is the supreme Head of the Church, its visible ruler and vicegerent of Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost abides with our Holy Father the Pope, illuminating his counsels, filling him with divine wisdom, guarding him from error in his teachings, and, in short, making him what he is — the infallible guide for both pastors and people1.

— He, the Third Person of the Adorable Trinity, is with the Church in her councils, filling her hierarchy with zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of their people2. He directs their deliberations, illuminating their intellects so as to guard their people from all error and heresy.

— He is with the individual bishop, assisting him with the work of his diocese.

— He is with the pastor, instructing and enlightening his people. He is with the priest in the administration of the Sacraments. In the words of St. Augustine: “When I baptize, it is the Holy Ghost who purifies; when I pronounce the words of salvation, it is the Holy Ghost who cleanses from sin; when I speak the words of consecration, it is the Holy Ghost who changes bread into the Body of Our Lord, and wine into His Blood.”

— The Holy Ghost is with the nun in the schoolroom, with the mother in the Christian home, teaching the child the simple but sublime truths of our holy religion. He is with the faithful, welding them together, uniting them, as the grains of wheat in the bread, into that glorious body of believers of which Jesus Christ is the Head3.

Sublime mission of the Holy Ghost! Wonderful gift of God to a sinful world! For nineteen hundred years4 has that sublime Spirit continually remained with the Bark of St. Peter, bringing and preserving therein all the children of God in the unity of faith and in the bond of charity.

From these marvelous conditions and results shall not all men, not willfully blind to the light of truth, believe and testify that the Church is the spotless Spouse of Christ, the immaculate Bride of the Lamb? “By this shall all men know,” says Christ, “that you are my disciples— if you have love one for another;” and again, in the discourse at the Last Supper: “I pray for them that they all may be one, as Thou, Father in me, and I in Thee” (John xvii. 21).

Proceeding to reflect upon the work of the Holy Ghost in the individual soul, we should, each of us, consider here the infinite debt we owe to that Divine Spirit for the precious graces which He has bestowed on us through the holy Sacraments:

— First of all, should we gratefully acknowledge the gift of Faith — that gift which is so inestimably precious that without it it is impossible to please God, as St. Paul emphatically declares.

Though the Holy Ghost, according to Sacred Scripture, is most prodigally shed abroad throughout the whole universe, how many are there, alas, who place obstacles to that divine Luminary and prevent its rays from penetrating their souls! Ignorance, prejudice, and the corruption of gross vices are as so many dense clouds which prevent the rays of that divine Light from illumining the soul. It is true that Faith is a free gift of God, and that God may and can, and often does, bestow that gift, even unasked, upon persons leading a life of sin. Thus, He enlightened Saul on the road to Damascus, and made him an apostle at the very time that he was breathing threats against the Christians. But, as a rule, the priceless gift of Faith must be asked of God, and the means of obtaining it must be employed by those who desire to possess it, one of those means being the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism is not only the door to the other Sacraments, but it gives us a spiritual right to the Holy Ghost. It infuses into the heart of the recipient the gift of divine Faith, which is to the soul what sight is to the body; and it enables even a child, as reason dawns, to grasp the lofty teachings of the Church. Later on in the Christian life, the Holy Ghost is given to the children of God in the Sacrament of Confirmation, by which, in the language of St. Paul, we become the temples of the Holy Ghost, and should (as he tells us) glorify and bear God in our body. The work of the Holy Ghost in the individual soul is to form Jesus Christ in it. Hence, again says the Apostle of the Gentiles, “The Holy Ghost is laboring with unceasing groaning that Jesus Christ be formed in you.” And if, true to His guidance, the soul advances from perfection to perfection, becoming more and more enlightened, more and more inflamed with the love of God, it at last arrives at that sublime state to which Christ called all His followers when He enjoined upon them: “Be ye perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

According to St. Paul, there are three ways of opposing the Holy Ghost in His action on the soul:

The first is our resistance to His divine influence when we do not cooperate with His loving designs in the work of our sanctification. He is ever laboring with unceasing groaning (says the Apostle) to form Christ in us. He is urging us to more fervent and frequent prayer, to more manly self-denial, more frequent and profitable approach to the Sacraments, more earnest imitation of our Blessed Lord, who counsels us to renounce ourselves, and daily to take up our cross and follow Him.

It grieves this Blessed Spirit of God to behold us so careless and indifferent in the great work of our own sanctification. We are like a lazy farmer who, possessed of rich soil which if well cultivated would produce luscious and abundant fruit, fails to improve his opportunities. We also fail to cooperate with our gracious Lord in producing a golden harvest. We also fail to obey Him who tells us to lay up treasures in heaven, where the rust cannot destroy, nor moths consume, nor thieves break through and steal.

— The second way in which we oppose the Holy Ghost is when we grieve Him by deliberately committing venial sin. Venial sin does not kill the soul, but it often seriously wounds it. It defiles it, and, in a manner, paralyzes it by weakening its energies and leaving it faint and sickly. Just as neglect of a trifling malady often leads to the death of the body, so venial sin too often leads the soul to mortal sin.

Alas, for the careless Christian whose life abounds in many willful venial sins! By undue indulgence of the appetite, slothfulness in prayer and other religious duties; by slight fits of anger, or of impatience; and, what is far more serious, by frequenting dangerous company, and giving the eyes, the tongue and the mind liberties that are dangerous to modesty, how often do men and women seriously wound the soul, even though they do not actually cause her death!

— But the greatest of all evils occurs when the sinner utterly quenches the light of the Holy Ghost by willful mortal sin. “Know you not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost?” “He who defileth the temple of God,” says St. Paul, “him shall the Lord destroy.” It is true that although the sentence of death is passed upon deadly sin, through the infinite mercy of God, its execution is often deferred. Though the Holy Ghost is driven away from the soul by one mortal sin, and the temple of God is horribly deformed and devastated, like a beautiful structure charred and blackened by fire, yet, praise be to God! the Holy Ghost does not yet abandon the unworthy Christian. By many gentle and loving means He still strives to bring back the sinner to repentance. Even as the dove, driven from its little cote by the serpent which has entered and defiled its nest, hovers around, waiting for the venomous intruder’s departure, in order to return and cleanse its nest and again dwell in its cherished home, or as the poor Irish mother, driven from the loved cottage of her youth by the emissary of the landlord, does not abandon the home of her heart, but sits by the roadside with her children till the intruder has withdrawn, and then goes back to her dwelling, rekindling the fire upon her humble hearth and making bright again her little cottage, so the Holy Spirit does not completely abandon the soul when it falls into mortal sin, but mercifully endeavors to excite it to remorse. Sometimes He makes use of sickness, of loss of temporal goods or friends; sometimes, of the sudden death of a companion in sin. Or, it may be by a mission, a sermon, or a word of advice that the transgressor is induced to enter into himself, to forsake his sinful life, and return once more to his God.

Yes, it is the Holy Ghost who, acting thus upon the sinner’s soul, urges upon him this vital change. And when at length the unfortunate one yields to this Divine Spirit, immediately like a skillful architect, divine love and mercy begin to purify and sanctify the soul, to rebuild its beautiful temple, to adorn it, and make it once more His dwelling place, causing the angels in heaven to rejoice over the sinner doing penance.

Such is the mission and the work of the Holy Ghost. We should then labor earnestly to cooperate with Him in that blessed work of our sanctification:

— Let us be fervent in prayer for this is the will of God that we watch and pray without ceasing, lest we enter into temptation.

— Frequently, too, let us approach the Sacraments of Penance and the Blessed Eucharist, for they are the great channels through which the Holy Ghost directly acts on our souls.

— Let us not grieve the Holy Spirit by exposing ourselves to sin or the occasions of sin, but faithfully correspond to His graces, and grate fully thank Him for the gift of Faith, which infinitely surpasses all the riches and treasure of this world.

(From the book of Fr. Charles-Hyacinth McKenna O.P.,  The Treasures of the Rosary, New York, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1917  (written 1835)

The Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven

The Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven

By Fr McKenna O.P.


The sanctuary of PONTCHÂTEAU in France, a place of pilgrimage founded by Saint Louis-Mary Grignion de Montfort ; representing the Ascension


And He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands, He blessed them. And it came to pass, whilst He blessed them, He departed from them and was carried up to heaven.  And they, adoring, went back into Jerusalem with great joy.— Luke xxiv, 50.

The Second Glorious Mystery makes known to us how our Blessed Lord, having appeared to His disciples on many occasions after His Resurrection, ascended at last in their sight to Heaven.  It was meet, in order to elevate their hearts to a desire of the blessed life beyond the grave, that He should show them a part of that glory which is His from all eternity.

Oh, how consoling it is to the Christian soul to meditate on the happiness of Heaven: to know that, after this life of peril and trial, of suffering and sorrow, there is prepared for us through the Passion and death of our Lord and Saviour, a glorious home, where we shall rejoice with Him in never-ending happiness! Were it not for this divine Faith, which supports us in the midst of our daily troubles, how many would sink into dark despair, and curse the hour that they came into life!  But when we realize, in the light of Faith, that our true home is in our Father’s kingdom, beyond the grave, when we firmly believe that He hath prepared a place for us there, in one of His many mansions, an abode of everlasting happiness, in the blissful company of His saints and angels, where we will see God face to face — then, indeed, we can cheerfully take up our daily crosses and patiently bear them onward, in the glad expectation of that revelation of His glory, of that coming of His kingdom, of that eternal rest in the bosom of our God.

Before the clear and explicit teachings of our Blessed Lord concerning the life beyond the grave, mankind entertained very confused conceptions of the joys of Heaven.

* It was His own divine lips that told us of the many mansions in His Father’s kingdom.

* It was He who declared that He departed from earth in order to prepare a place for us above, where, as He said, we should be with Him forever and share in His glory, where we should even eat and drink at His table — at the marriage feast of the Lamb.

* It was He who declared that the blessed in heaven should be as the angels, pure and spiritual, neither marrying nor giving in marriage; and that, with the angels, they should see the face of His Father and thereby enjoy eternal happiness.

Before the coming of Christ the ancient patriarchs, it is true, had some knowledge of a life beyond the grave. They expected vaguely to enjoy a lasting happiness in a future existence. Holy Job has said:

For I know that my Redeemer liveth; . . . that in my flesh I shall see my God, whom I myself shall see and my eyes shall behold and not another. This my hope is laid up in my bosom.” (Job xix. 25).

The mother of the Machabees and the holy priest, Nicanor, spoke of the joys of heaven; David, in his Psalms, tells us how his heart thirsted for the courts of the Lord; and he extolled the happiness of those who dwelt in the house of the Lord forever.

Yet beyond this, mankind in general entertained gloomy and depressing views regarding the life after death.

* The ancient Romans believed in the Elysian fields; yet how sad were their conceptions of a land where departed spirits moved silently among kindred shades in a land of darkness!

* The Indian believed in a happy hunting-ground.

* The Mohammedan, in a paradise of sensual pleasures.

The Christian alone, through the teaching of Our Lord and the light which the Holy Ghost has given to the Church, is able to grasp clear conceptions of that Heavenly City, of that New Jerusalem depicted by St. John and the Evangelists, where the elect enjoy ineffable peace and joy. It was our Blessed Lord who led captivity captive, and opened for the souls in Limbo and all His blessed followers the glorious kingdom of eternal happiness.

Let us approach in spirit the scene of the Ascension.

Mary, our Blessed Mother, and the disciples were assembled that solemn day on Mount Olivet. Jesus had given to them His last instructions, after which He lovingly blessed His Mother and His disciples, and told them not to depart from Jerusalem until the Comforter should come to them. As He was yet speaking, He began gradually to ascend before them, through the limpid air, until a cloud received Him out of their sight. All remained, looking upward, transfixed in adoring silence.

The disciples rejoiced in the glory and the triumph of their Blessed Master, yet their hearts grew heavy at His departure. How lonely was that mountain solitude without Him!

Did not Mary feel the departure of the visible presence of her adorable Son? Had she not, perhaps, tenderly implored Him that she might accompany Him? Whither will He go without His Blessed Mother? Might she not, now that her mission was accomplished, depart with Him to share in His heavenly glory, as she had shared so profoundly in His earthly sufferings and sorrows?

No, Blessed Mother, your time has not yet come; you have still a grand and important task to accomplish! The infant Church needs your care; you are to guide and direct it, even as you tended and watched over your adorable Son in His infancy. The Apostles need your maternal presence, your advice, your encouragement; the Evangelists need your wise instructions. You are yet to tell St. Luke all the beautiful truths connected with the mysteries of the Annunciation, the visit of St. Elizabeth, the birth of Our Lord, and the coming of the shepherds and the Wise Men. You must reveal the incidents of your Divine Child’s flight into Egypt; of His presentation in the Temple; of your finding Him there after the three days’ loss, and all the other wonderful happenings of His infancy, childhood and youth, which were known to you and Joseph alone.

Let us now follow in spirit our ascended Redeemer to the celestial realms.

It is a day of triumph and rejoicing in Heaven: The King of Glory goes to enter into His rest, to take possession of the Kingdom prepared for Him from all eternity.

He brings with Him the trophies of His victory: all the souls in Limbo arise to join Him in that glorious procession, where He goes forth as a conqueror and demands admittance at the celestial gates for Himself and His ransomed followers.

The infinite debt has been paid; death and Hell have been conquered; divine justice is satisfied, the kingdom of salvation has been bravely fought for and gloriously won! As He said to His disciples at Emmaus: “Was it not meet that the Son of Man should thus suffer, and so enter into His glory?” (Luke xxiv. 26).

Valiantly did He struggle and suffer for us, and now He goes to enter upon His glory. In that hour of immortal triumph were fulfilled the words of David, when he saw in prophetic vision this glorious Ascension of the world’s Redeemer.

Hearken to the angels who accompany Our Lord, as they demand admittance into heaven! Hear them cry aloud:

Lift up your gates, ye princes, and be ye lifted up, oh, eternal gates, and the King of Glory shall enter in!

And the angels within the portals having demanded:

Who is this King of Glory?

Lo! the angels of the procession reply:

The Lord God of Heaven, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your gates, ye princes, and be ye lifted up, oh, eternal gates, and the King of Glory shall enter in!

Then for the first time those everlasting gates were opened to ransomed humanity, and that glorious procession, headed by our Blessed Lord, entered the mansions of eternal bliss. There did He take possession of His eternal throne, to rule and govern His mighty kingdom forever.

Behold our human nature seated at the right hand of the Father! Behold that body, once torn by scourges and lacerated by thorns and nails! Once covered with blood and wounds, it is brighter than ten thousand suns, filling all the empyrean with its glory! How joyously the angels must have come to welcome Him, to adore and praise Him, to thank Him for opening heaven to our fallen race! Then were the patriarchs and prophets who accompanied Our Lord received into the mansions of eternal bliss; and for the first time since the fall of the angels the empty thrones of Lucifer and his hosts were filled with ransomed captives. Two thousand years have now passed.

How many blessed spirits have since entered Heaven!

How many glorious martyrs, who suffered and bled and died for Him, have followed their Blessed Master into His kingdom and received from Him their imperishable crown!

For us, also, a brief period in this land of exile, devoted to the faithful service of our King and our God, shall purchase an eternity of bliss. Oh, how all Christians, and especially members of the Rosary Confraternity, should rejoice in the recitation of this Second Glorious Mystery!

The blissful Ascension of our Redeemer is the forerunner, the guarantee, of our own; for one day we, too, if faithful to His commandments, shall ascend to that glorious kingdom and participate in His rewards.

— Let us, therefore, unite with the angels and the saints in congratulating Our Lord on His triumph over death and Hell, ever humbly thanking Him for the immortal victory that He has gained for Himself and for us.

Let us congratulate those ancient patriarchs and prophets, those illustrious apostles, martyrs, and virgins who share with Him now the joys of heaven, and ask that whilst they continue to praise and bless our Redeemer, they may beseech Him to conduct us, in His own good time, to those everlasting mansions of bliss which He has prepared for His elect.

During our pilgrimage here below we are often visited by trials and crosses, pains of body and mind, of heart and of soul. Our good God has His wise designs in sending us these sufferings. If accepted in a Christian spirit, they accomplish a great work in our souls; if borne patiently for the love of our crucified Master, they merit an eternal reward. All such tribulations detach our hearts from the pleasures of this life. They force us to pray, and to seek help from on high. Above all, they make us turn our eyes and hearts to that blessed home, where sorrow never enters, and they enable us to lay up treasures there which naught of earth can destroy nor thief break in and steal.

Lately there died a woman of great sanctity, who had spent forty-five long years under the stress of bitter sorrow and persecution. She had been induced by her mother, contrary to her own inclination, to marry a man of wealth, who was many years her senior. He was of a cruel temper, often dissipated, insanely jealous, and seemed to delight in making the life of his devoted wife miserable. Though reared a Catholic, he had abandoned both Church and Sacraments, and did what he could to prevent his family from practicing their religious duties.  Like St. Monica, his faithful companion constantly prayed for her husband’s conversion.  To that end her Communions, her Masses, her Rosaries, and Stations of the Cross were continually offered; and as her children became capable of praying and of attending to their religious duties, they were carefully taught to offer all their good works for the conversion of their father.  Often her neighbors said to her:

Why not get a divorce?  He is rich; you could have a good living from him!

Her answer was always:

Ah, no; I married him for better or for worse.

A year before he died, the long-desired, long-prayed-for change occurred. The unworthy husband became a true penitent, and in his last days craved for no other attendant save his patient, loyal wife.  He died, at last, an edifying, consoling death.  After his funeral the priest said to her:

How happy you should be in the beautiful death of your husband!”  “Ah, yes, Father,” she said.  “I knew it would come.  I knew our heavenly Father would not refuse my prayers and the prayers of our children.  Father, the neighbors long-wanted me to put the poor man away and get a divorce; but I knew that had I done so he would have died a wretched death, and I could never have forgiven myself for it.  Father,”  she added,  “I have great confidence in the Rosary of our Blessed Mother.  To her I constantly appealed during the dark years of the past.  I felt she would not abandon me, but would some day lift the cross that was crushing me.”

Let us likewise be faithful to the Rosary; and though we may not obtain our petitions immediately after presenting them through the hands of the Mother of God, let us, like this good woman, valiantly persevere.  Let us have her unwavering confidence that, sooner or later, our prayers will be answered.  Through Mary we can obtain all necessary graces for ourselves and others in this life; and, what is more, we shall one day merit, through her powerful intercession, to follow our ascended Lord into His kingdom of light and peace. With her, the saints and the angels, we shall then behold forevermore the glory of our Blessed Redeemer, triumphantly seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

(From the book of Fr. Charles-Hyacinth McKenna O.P.,  The Treasures of the Rosary, New York, P.J. Kennedy & Sons, 1917  – written 1835)

November Lists of the Dead

November Lists of the Dead

Several of you have asked if we accept “November Lists of the Dead”.

This pious custom consists in giving a list of names of deceased loved ones to a priest, who will then keep the list on the altar each time he celebrates Mass throughout the month of November.

If you send us such a list, we will be happy to perform this duty to the Poor Souls.  To send us a list, simply visit our “Contact Us” page, and use the little form at the bottom of that page to send us a message.

Prayer for the souls in Purgatory is a devotion that has always been in honor in the Dominican Order.

Thank you!

Charity for the poor souls

Charity for the poor souls

by Fr Garrigou-Lagrange O.P.



1. What is the foundation of the charity for the souls who are in Purgatory?

Saint Thomas Aquinas gives us the principle :

All the faithful in the state of grace are united with another by charity.  They are all members of one sole body, that is, of the Church.  Now in an organism each member is aided by all others.  Thus every Christian is aided by the merits of all Christians. 1.

[…] Charity loves God, loves all who are now children of God, and all who are called to be His children.  But the suffering souls are children of God and will be His children forever.  The Blessed Trinity dwells in them, Jesus lives in them intimately.  And whereas we love them all, we have special duties to the souls of our dead relatives.

The poor souls can do nothing for themselves.  They can no longer merit or give satisfaction or receive the sacraments or gain indulgences.  They can only accept and offer their own suffering.  Hence they have a special right to be aided by others.

The foundress of the Helpers of the Poor Souls2, while still a child, said to her friends :

If one of us were in a fiery prison and we could deliver him by a word, would we not say that word quickly?  The poor souls are in fiery prison, and our good God, to open that prison, asks only a prayer from us.  Can we refuse this prayer?

[…] Father Faber remarks that work for the suffering souls is sure of success.  As they cannot be lost, our work for them must bear fruit.  To obtain for these souls the greatest of all gifts, God seen face to face, will, at the same time, increase the accidental joy of Our Lord, of His blessed Mother, and of the saints.

2. How shall we exercise this charity?

We exercise this charity by praying for the dead, that is, by offering our merits, our prayers, our satisfactions, our deeds of almsgiving, by gaining indulgences, and above all by offering Holy Mass for their repose.

The Church Herself gives us the example.  During each Mass she prays for them in the Memento of the Dead.  Further, she opens her treasures, the merits of Christ and of the saints, in the form of indulgences applicable to the poor souls.

Indulgences, says saint Thomas, offer chief value to him who accomplishes the good work.  But they have a secondary value, for those for whom this work is done.  Nothing hinders the Church from applying indulgences to the souls in Purgatory. […]

Perseverance, too, is necessary.  Many believe too easily in the prompt deliverance of their dear ones, and after a period, say of a month, no longer pray for them.

3. Fruits of this charity

Masses, prayers, etc. offered for these souls in Purgatory increase our own store of merits : God is pleased to reward our least service.

And these souls, too, will not fail to aid us by their own gratitude in Heaven.  Even before their deliverance, they pray for their benefactors.  They have charity, which indeed excludes no one, but which imposes on them a special duty toward those friends.  Their prayers are efficacious even if they do not know in detail our condition, just as our prayers for them are efficacious though we do not know their condition.

May we also pray to the poor souls?  The liturgy does not pray to them [but only prays FOR them].  But we are not forbidden to pray to them, though we must give preference to prayer for them.  Here is a sentence from saint Thomas Aquinas :

The souls in Purgatory are not in the state of praying, but in the state of being prayed for.” […]

The parable of the Good Samaritan may serve as summary.  He is moved by the misery of his neighbor, and reacts in the most efficacious manner.  Hence he, too, merits the mercy of God :  « Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy » (Mt 5, 7).

(From the book of Fr Garrigou-Lagrange O.P., Life everlasting, Saint-Louis [Missouri], Herder Book, 1952).

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

a text of Fr Garrigou-Lagrange O.P.


1. What is meant by the Assumption ?

The whole Church understands by the term that the Blessed Virgin Mary, soon after her death and glorious resurrection, was taken up body and soul to Heaven to be forever enthroned above the angels and saints.

The term Assumption is used rather than Ascension since, unlike Jesus who ascended to Heaven by his own power, Mary was lifted up by God to the degree of glory for which she had been predestined. […]

2. Was the Assumption revealed ?

Without a divine revelation, the Assumption would not be capable of being defined a dogma of faith, since the motive of faith is the authority of God in revelation. […]

Hence, that the Assumption should have been known as certain and capable of being proposed to the whole Church for acceptance, a public revelation must have been made to the Apostles, or at least to one of them – Saint John, for example.  Note that this revelation must have been made to an apostle since the deposit of common and public revelation was completed with the death of the last apostle [Saint John].  It may have been made explicitly or implicitly. […]

3. Was the privilege of the Assumption explicitly revealed ?

Everything tends to indicate that the privilege of the Assumption was explicitly revealed to the Apostles, or at least to one of them ; and this was transmitted subsequently by the oral Tradition of the liturgy ; otherwise there is no explanation of the universal Feast of the Assumption, found so clearly from the 7th century on, by which time the Assumption itself was already the object of the ordinary magisterium of the Church. […]

4. Is the Assumption implicitly revealed in the Holy Scripture ?

— From the words of Gabriel the Archangel at the Annunciation and from St Elisabeth at the Visitation :

* « Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee ; blessed art thou amongst women » (Lc 1, 28) ;

* « Blessed art thou amongst women » (Lc 1, 42).

we can conclude that the Assumption was implicitly revealed in the Holy Scripture :

Mary received fullness of grace and was blessed by God among women in an exceptional way.  But this exceptional blessing negatives the divine malediction to bring forth children in pain and to return to dust (Gen 3, 16-19).   Mary was therefore preserved through it from corruption in her body: her body would not return to dust but would be restored to life in an anticipated resurrection. […]

— « Thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through Our Lord Jesus-Christ » (1 Co 15, 57) ; « Through death, [Jesus-Christ] might destroy him who had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil »   5 Hebr 2, 14).

Christ ‘s perfect victory over Satan included victory over sin and death.  But Mary, the Mother of God, was most intimately associated with Jesus on Calvary in His victory over Satan.  Hence she was associated with Him in His victory over death by her anticipated resurrection and her Assumption.

5. What are the consequences of this dogma for our soul ?

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin along with the Ascension of Our Blessed Lord, crowns our faith in the objective completion of the work of the Redemption, and gives our hope a new guarantee.

Finally, the just man lives by his faith.  Hence he finds in the solemn definition of a revealed truth a form of spiritual nourishment which increases his faith, strengthens his hope, and makes his charity more fervent.

(Fr Garrigou-Lagrange O.P., The Mother of the Saviour and Our Interior Life ; St-Louis, Missouri ; B. Herder Book Company ; 1948 ; Part one, Chapter IV, Article II, « The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin », extracts.)



A meditation of Fr Mortier O.P.

There is an admirable harmony in the work of the salvation of the world.

The Hebrew people had their Pascal time, in remembrance of their deliverance from the Egyptian oppression, by the blood of the lamb, prophetic figure of the Christian Easter which is the deliverance from the oppression of the world under the yoke of Satan, by the blood of the true Lamb, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Fifty days after the Hebrews left Egypt, they received on Mount Sinai the Law which would govern them, and make of them, in the midst of the Gentiles, the People of God. It was also the first Pentecost, prophetic figure of the second, the Christian Pentecost. But the Christian Pentecost doesn’t call to mind the thunder and lightning of Sinai. She only brings to mind that 50 days after the Resurrection of Our Savior, the Holy Ghost descended, under the form of tongues of fire, upon the Apostles united in the Cenacle. This is no longer the terrifying promulgation of the Law which enchained the Hebrew people in its observance by the fear of chastisements; rather, it is the gift of light and of force which must spread the Charity of God throughout the entire world, and by this Charity, the practice of the Evangelical Law.

With the Holy Ghost, it is substantial Charity which takes possession of the world to bring it back to God. And once descended upon the earth, this Charity will not leave it again. It will permeate all peoples, it will insinuate itself in all souls, Divine conqueror, and little by little, under His gentle and strong impulsion, it was found that the world was Catholic. Work of Charity, this wonderful transformation which cast at the feet of Jesus so many Peoples and taught them to say to God: Our Father! Cry of filial love, cry of the Holy Ghost in souls.

It is this taking possession of the world by Charity that we celebrate on this day of Pentecost. And so our hearts rejoice: Profusis gaudiis totus in orbe terrarum mundus exultat, as sings the Preface. (Wherefore does the whole world rejoice with exceeding great joy.)

Let us elevate our souls to these heights to celebrate with devotion, with gratitude the descent of Charity upon the earth.

It took place at Jerusalem, in the Cenacle, where the Disciples of Jesus were reunited around His Holy Mother. Even the hour is mentioned, because it was a solemn moment, decisive for the salvation of souls: the hour of Terce according to the ancient manner of dividing the day, which corresponds to around 9:00 in the morning.

In Her Liturgy, the Church, who lives by the Holy Ghost, daily commemorates this hour of eternal Charity which has become her treasure, by the hymn that the priests recite at Terce. It is the perpetual invocation to the perpetual descent of Divine Charity.

There came up a violent wind around the Cenacle and in the entire City, and at the same time tongues of fire appeared above the Apostles.

It is the impetuosity of Charity, which manifests itself by this gust of wind. It signifies that those who receive the Holy Ghost, who live in His presence, who allow themselves to be conducted by Him, must give themselves without reserve. Charity is without measure. If it calculates, it is no longer Charity. It goes its way and none can stop it, just like no one can stop a storm. Divine Charity would throw the Apostles into an irresistible whirlwind throughout the world, as it ought always throw into a whirlwind all those who love God, either by the apostolate of preaching, or by that of penance and of prayer.

It was tongues of fire which descended upon the Apostles. “I am come to cast fire on the earth,” said Our Lord, “and what will I, but that it be kindled?” (Luke 12, v. 49).

It is done. The fire is descended, it has been cast, the gust will flame the fire throughout the entire world. Who can escape from its Divine sparks? Today as well we burn with this fire when we love God; when, to prove it to Him we resist evil; when we feel within us the immense and insatiable desire to love Him more; when we would make Him known, make Him loved by those around us, by those far from us and everywhere. Then, it is the fire of Divine Charity which embraces us. To keep it for oneself is not possible. Whosoever would keep it to himself has but a little bit. This fire wishes to be communicated, to be spread. Whoever possesses it in himself feels the imperious need of giving it to others.

(Fr Mortier O.P., La Liturgie dominicaine [ The Dominican Liturgy], Paris, DDB, 1922, t. 5, p. 240-241.)


Meditation for Passiontide

…according to saint Thomas Aquinas

Our Lord said, when His Passion was drawing near:  “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out: and I, if I be lifted up from this earth, will draw all things to myself” (John 12, 31).

Now He was lifted up from earth by His Passion on the Cross. Therefore, by His Passion, the devil was deprived of his power over man.

There are three things to be considered regarding the power which the devil exercised over man previous to Christ’s Passion:

  1. The first is on man’s own part, who by his sin deserved to be delivered over the devil’s power, and was overcome by his tempting.
  2. Another point is on God’s part, Whom man had offended by sinning, and Who with justice left man under the devil’s power.
  3. The third is on the devil’s part, who from his most wicked will hindered man from securing his salvation.

AS TO THE FIRST POINT, by Christ’s Passion, man was delivered from the devil’s power, in so far as the Passion is the cause of the forgiveness of sin.

AS TO THE SECOND, it must be said that Christ’s Passion freed us from the devil’s power inasmuch as it reconciled us with God.

BUT AS TO THE THIRD, Christ’s Passion delivered us from the devil inasmuch as in Christ’s Passion he exceeded the limit of power assigned him by God, by conspiring to bring about Christ’s death, Who, being sinless did not deserve to die. Hence saint Augustine says:

“The devil was vanquished by Christ’s justice; because, while discovering in Him nothing deserving of death, nevertheless he slew Him. And it is certainly just that the debtors whom he held captive should be set at liberty, since they believed in God, Whom the devil slew, though He was not debtor.”

The devil is said even now to exercise such power over men, that with God’s permission, he can still tempt men’s souls and assault their bodies; yet there is a remedy provided for man through Christ’s Passion, whereby he can safeguard himself again the enemy’s assaults, so as not to be dragged down into the destruction of everlasting death. And all who resisted the devil previous to the Passion were enabled to do so through faith in the Passion, although it was not as yet accomplished. Yet in one respect no one was able to escape the devil’s hands – that is, so as not to descend into hell. But after Christ’s Passion, men can defend themselves from hell by the power of Our Lord’s Passion.

God permits the devil to deceive men by certain persons, and in time and places, according to the hidden motives of His judgments; still, there is always a remedy provided through Christ’s Passion, for defending themselves against the wicked snares of the demons, even in Antichrist’s time.  But if any man neglects to make use of this remedy, it detracts nothing from the efficacy of Christ’s Passion. (III, q. 49, ad. 2)

[From the book of Fr E. C. McENIRY O.P., Saint Thomas Aquinas Meditations for every day, Columbus (Ohio), Long’s College Book Company, 1951, p. 166.]

It is by the virtue of faith and by the sacraments of the holy Catholic Church, that we are united to the Passion of Our Lord.



By Fr. Mortier, O.P.

Beginning with Ash Wednesday, we are once again in a short transitory period. Liturgically it is more solemn than the period of Septuagesima, but less so than Lent itself.

We will fully enter into Lent with first vespers of the First Sunday of Lent.

It is useful to explain the sense of this time a little more, so that pious souls can draw what is most divine from this so solemn and so serious liturgy.

The dominant theme of Lent, the principal and first goal of the Church, is preparation for Easter. First of all, the Church sees the divine Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ. She thinks of Him; she looks at Him; she follows Him step by step. Her look is fixed on Him. He is the object of this entire liturgy. The Church walks with Him along the way of sorrow, climbs Calvary with Him, weeps at the foot of the Cross, and with an infinite enthusiasm, joyfully, triumphantly greets Jesus, her Master, her spouse, her life, her God, at the moment of His glorious Resurrection.

As previously stated, this main sense explains the abstinence, the fasting, the lengthy prayers which are, taken together, our incorporation to Jesus crucified, in preparation for our incorporation to Jesus glorified.

So first comes the thought of Jesus, then the union of souls with Him, who go with Him via the way of sorrow. The literal sense is Jesus suffering and glorious, the mystical sense is the application to our souls of the Passion and the Resurrection of the Savior.

This application is for three categories of people: faithful Christians, penitents or Christians who have fallen and are repenting, and catechumens or aspirants to the Christian life through baptism.

The faithful receive a greater abundance of grace, the penitents obtain pardon, and the catechumens are substantially united to Christ when they become His members through baptism. For all of them it becomes an incorporation—whether more intimate, renewed or commenced—so that the Savior’s Passion and Resurrection will have a profound influence on these three groups. Thus the liturgy of Lent, which prepares souls for the celebration of and graces of the Passion and Resurrection, corresponds to these different states through its prayers and readings. The faithful find there an affirmation of their faith and a more ardent surge of love. The penitents find an assured hope of pardon. The catechumens find the teaching and training necessary to detach themselves from idolatry and to build the desire for union with Christ the Savior.

Everything in the prayers and readings (which abound in teachings, deeds and examples) contributes to inspire a love first of all for the person of Our Lord, to participate in His sufferings and appreciate their infinitely beneficial value, to instill a desire for the joy of the Resurrection, and finally, through a return on us poor sinners, to bring about the divine transformation in our souls, at all levels, as the fruit of the Passion and Resurrection of the Savior.

This is the complete liturgical sense of Lent: preparation for Easter, preparation of the faithful to receive more graces, of the penitents to obtain pardon, of the catechumens to be incorporated in Christ through baptism. And since baptism is the most essential act, the primary and necessary act of uniting the soul to Christ, the Church focuses on it with more insistence during Lent, because originally she only baptized on Holy Saturday, during the Easter vigil, and then later on the vigil of Pentecost as well. But this preoccupation with baptism must not lead to the neglect of the faithful, of the penitents, nor most importantly, of the principal remembrance that dominates and vivifies the entire Lenten liturgy: Our Lord Jesus Christ, suffering and resurrected.

(Fr Mortier O.P., La liturgie dominicaine [The Dominican liturgy], Paris, DDB, 1921, p. 103 sq.)

Picture of the Sacred-Heart of Jesus drawn by saint Marguerit-Mary

Picture of the Sacred-Heart of Jesus drawn by Saint Marguerit-Mary



by Fr. Mortier, O.P.

So far we have followed Our Lord from the manger in Bethlehem to His public life, to the time when, baptized by John, He began and carried out His preaching about the kingdom of God. But the hour is approaching, His hour of suffering and dying for the salvation of men. He teaches divine doctrine; He proves His origin, His mission, His sovereign domain over all creatures, His absolute right as God made man to impose upon men, now become His brothers, the way to follow so as to gain eternal life. He increases the number of His miracles of good will for the infirm, of mercy for sinners, so that it will be well established that He is the dispenser of life and the master of man’s destiny. He presents Himself in the full light of truth and goodness, in such a way that the words of the prophet are realized in all justice: “They have hated me with an unjust hatred.”

This recounting of Our Lord’s public life continues in the Sundays from Septuagesima to Easter. We follow the Master step by step. But the Church is already troubled. She knows that His days have been reckoned. She too counts them. Starting this Sunday, she tells herself, “Seventy days, again!” In seventy days this Divine Mouth will be closed! In seventy days this so good, so compassionate, so merciful Heart will no longer beat! In seventy days He who is so beautiful, so holy, so true, He will die on a cross! And so the Church’s heart is troubled; it is moved; it is already in mourning.

In union with sorrowful longing of the ages, during Advent the Church puts on violet vestments. The joyful feasts of Christmas have adorned her in the splendor of gold and silver or simple white finery, the symbol of joy. The priestly vestments for the Sundays and ferias after Epiphany and Trinity Sunday are green. Innocent III explained the meaning. He said that the color green is an average color, quite ordinary, common, indeed, it may be found in profusion all over the earth. Thus he inferred that this common color is suitable for these Sundays of which the solemnity is comparatively inferior to those of Advent and those in preparation for Easter.

Therefore, beginning with Septuagesima Sunday — the first herald of the solemnities of the Passion of the Savior and of His resurrection — the Church, absorbed by such sorrowful remembrances, puts on violet vestments.

Seventy days! Not that this number is absolutely exact. Rather, it is better to say, “in the seventh decade [of days], in Septuagesima,” because, in reality, there are no more than sixty-three days in the nine weeks between Septuagesima and Easter, but the last “decade” is at least begun. The Church uses this round number in remembrance of the seventy years Babylonian captivity of the Jews, symbol of the captivity of all of humanity under Satan’s empire. Easter is the day of final deliverance. And this is why on this Sunday that figuratively marks the beginning of this captivity, the liturgy counts seventy days until the triumph of Christ 1.

This usage is very old. It can be traced back to Rome in the 8th Century, and even earlier in the East. But the method for counting the days and, consequently, of celebrating these Sundays has not been the same everywhere.

The three Sundays of Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima combine with Lent without taking on all the solemnity. They are the prelude for the preparation for Easter; they are not yet the preparation itself.

Nevertheless, starting with Septuagesima, signs of mourning are manifested throughout the liturgy; signs which become more and more numerous until the death of the Savior. It is not only through the exterior ornaments that the liturgy joins from afar with Our Lord’s Passion, the texts themselves are impregnated with it. The joyful cry of the Alleluia is immediately removed, in all the offices and the Mass; the Te Deum and the Gloria are also eliminated. In the Dominican rite a certain number of the Psalms are changed as well, in preference for those which have a more direct rapport with the Passion. Thus, beginning with Septuagesima, a shadow of sorrow shrouds the whole of the Divine Office. We follow the Master; we listen to Him, but in looking at Him, our hearts are moved to compassion. We know where He is going, and, like Him, we must “steadfastly set our faces” (St. Luke 9:51) to go up to Jerusalem. At the end is Calvary. Let us go with Him, without fear.

(Translated from: P. Mortier O.P., La Liturgie dominicaine [The Dominican liturgy], Paris, DDB, 1921, volume III, p. 7-9.)

1 Actually this explanation is incomplete. In the past, the Church counted down the days until the beginning of the Easter Triduum on Holy Friday. This Sunday was called Sunday “In Septuagesima” because it fell during the “seventh decade” of days before Holy Friday (61 days before). This also explains the names of the following Sundays: “In Sexagesima” (54 days before), “In Quinquagesima” (47 days before), and “In Quadragesima” (40 days before). Of course, this does not contradict the mystical signification of the “captivity” given by Fr. Mortier.