Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.




Last week I suggested a thought about the Saints. Today I am writing to you about the souls who have finished the stage of probation in this world and who have gone on to the stage of purgation in the next world.

Life in this world is plunged in warfare. Saint Paul has told us about it. “I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

Remember that a Saint wrote this. It ought to help us to understand the sympathy of the Saints. If Saints can be as humble and simple and as friendly as this, we ought to be humble and simple and friendly. If religion ever seems to us to be harsh and forbidding and discouraging, it is because we ourselves are not sufficiently humble and simple and friendly.

We must see and we must never forget that every human being is in a state of interior warfare. In every person there is a law in. the members warring against the law of the mind, and bringing into captivity to the law of sin which is in the members. God only knows how hard and bitter and terrifying this war is.

When a person is suffering under a temporary defeat, such a person may instinctively seek refuge in a protective armour of seeming stolidity. But inside the soul is crying “0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” It is at such moments that the Saints come to the rescue to inspire the courage which will arouse the cry, “I thank God through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ Our Lord.”

This is the way we must think of our dead. This is the only judgment of the dead which we may permit our minds to harbor. We must see them as the Saints see them. It will make all the difference in the world to them and to us if we do. The more vividly we sense their struggle in the time of their probation, the more fervently we shall be moved to pray for them in the time of their purgation. We shall pray for our dead in hope. And we shall pray in peace.

What shall we do for them? Keep on doing what we always did for them. Think about them. Love them. Be loyal to them. Try to be good for their sake. Pray for them. See that the Holy Sacrifice is offered for them. Give them a share in our Communions.

What good will this do them? The same good that it always did. We helped them more than they or we ever knew while they were in their state of probation. We ourselves are being helped more than we know by people who pray for us and remember us at their Communions. We all need to be helped in our way of probation. In our state of probation we make deliberate choice and register our aspirations. In our state of purgation we shall be free to advance unhindered toward the things we have always desired. There will he no more temptations. There will be the cleansings and the corrections and the refinings which will speed us on toward perfection. It will be a new experience. Purgations are always accompanied by pains. But the pains are growing pains. They are life-giving, and peace-giving and joy-giving. We have had some experience of this here on earth. We have had foretastes in deep and searching adventures in penitence. We have learned more than once that the way to a happy Easter traces its course through a purifying Lent. So it is for faithful souls in Purgatory. The sure hope of Heaven illumines the path. The prayers of friends give aid and comfort.

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury