Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Saint for All Time...and Our Response...

Our Lord once told us that it is a good thing to pray for the dead. Throughout history, there are so many examples of the benefits of this devotion that this would make it impossible to list them all I won't even try.
But one example, a Saint whose well-known acts of charity are celebrated today, his Feast Day, is St. Martin of Tours.
Born in the early part of the 4th century, probably in or about the year 316, Martin was the son of a Roman tribune, who was transferred to Pavia, Italy, when his son was a young boy. Martin went with his father and as soon as he was old enough he was initiated into the service of the Emperor. But, touched by grace from his early childhood, Martin knew that someday he would leave the military the meantime, he became a Catechumen and studied the Faith to which he had been attracted all his life.
There is a famous story about him that supposedly occurred just before his Baptism: After his regiment had been transferred to France (Gaul in those days), on his way through the gates of the city on a very cold day Martin met a beggar who was half-naked and shivering with the cold. So he took his sword and cut his cloak in half, giving a part to the beggar...and later, Our Lord told him that He, Himself, was that beggar...and who could doubt this, since He has also told us that whatever we do for the least of His brethren, we do for Him?!?
The half that Martin kept for himself is now kept in the oratory of the kings of France, and is a highly venerated relic.
So too, in keeping with the virtue of Charity, we must remember to do all that we possibly can to relieve the suffering of others, especially those who are less fortunate than we are, or who may not even have anyone else to help them ~ unless we come to their aid!
This is what brings me to the Suffering Souls in Purgatory...during this month of November, which is their month, and how we might be of help to them.
There is an organization to which I belong that is dedicated to the relief of the suffering that these people endure, as they await their entrance into the Heavenly Presence of the Eternal God ~ and that is the Friends of the Suffering Souls ~ their website is listed to the right of this page, under the heading 'My Favorite Links'.
Who knows how many thousands, perhaps millions of souls are languishing in Purgatory at this very moment while we sit here at our computers, drinking our coffee, munching on our snacks, listening to a CD perhaps, or a ballgame on the radio? How easy would it be for each one of us to go to this website, donate $5 or $10 to having a Holy Mass said for the suffering ones who will pray for us when they get to Heaven? How many of us can say we have enough friends, that we don't need anyone else?
I, for my part, would not dream of turning down a chance to do something so simple, which could have such an everlasting and amazing impact on the fate of my immortal soul! If I had unlimited funds, I would want to have a Holy Mass said for them every day of the year ~ and maybe someday I will ~ but when I first joined all they required of me was one Holy Mass per year, to be said on or about my birthday...a simple enough request, easy to remember and easy to execute.
I certainly don't come to this Blog to brag about anything I have done, believe me ~ only God knows how little I have really done and all that I could be doing ~ and I pray that He will have mercy on my soul...but, in the meantime, I can do at least this much.
There are many indulgences one can gain during the month of November, and maybe I will be able to accomplish some of them before the time runs out...but I do know this: there is a reason why the Church picks certain days of the year to accentuate the Feasts of different Saints, and the reason why someone like St. Martin of Tours is celebrated during this time.
Even after he had left the military life to follow St. Hilary into the religious life, he continued to influence others with his pious lifestyle ~ acts of Charity wherever he went, austerity in all things, following the Benedictine rule...and the founding of more than one Abbey in his wake.
By the time Martin died, about the age of 81 years, he had become a legend in his own time, working many miracles and converting many to the True Faith, the Faith he had embraced to himself as a young boy all those years ago.
His dedication to helping others, both by example, preaching and virtuous acts, and the example we see in him for our own benefit, especially on this, his Feast Day, is a wonderful way to observe this month of November, the month of the Holy Souls.
Why wait until we ourselves are among them? Why not follow the words of another great Saint, who, when the thought occurred to him that time was running out for service to God, exclaimed:
'What am I lying here for? God will certainly have heard the prayers of so many good men. Fetch me my shoes and stick!...' ~ St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, who was also a soldier at one time in his life, became a leader in the Church, just like St. Martin...although he is celebrated more in Great Britain and Ireland.
But I think the message is clear: while we still have the time, while God in His Mercy has deigned to grant us this time, we must act! And what better time is there to help these Poor Souls than now, during this month dedicated to their release from suffering forever?!?

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