I have some thoughts on this passage, but I'll wait and share them after the results are in. What do you think? Vote in the poll (in my sidebar) and let me know. Also, don't forget to click the "Explain your vote" link underneath the poll and tell me why you voted the way you did.
That said, here are the results from the previous poll:
I was pleasantly surprised by these results! My experience has been that Purgatory is one of the more difficult doctrines for most Catholics to defend, but it looks like most of you are able to say at least something in it's defense. Of course, that doesn't mean you're all experts, especially since 36% of you answered "Kinda sorta" and that could mean a lot of things!
If you want to beef up your knowledge on Purgatory, make sure you check out my previous post "In Honor of the Souls in Purgatory." Also, if poetry speaks to you more than theological or apologetical works do, there is an amazing poem by John Henry Cardinal Newman that is very illustrative of the doctrine of Purgatory.
I've always known about this poem, but it just dawned on me today that Newman's The Dream of Gerontius is an excellent indirect apologetic that might appeal to a person's love of prose and placate his disdain for debate or a more direct apologetical approach.
Basically, The Dream of Gerontius is about a soul's journey from this mortal world to the feet of the Just Judge, where the soul will receive it's purgation. An angel accompanies the soul on his journey, and it is in their conversation that the poem becomes truly edifying. The entire poem is worth your read (it is not very long), but I will provide here the portion that most directly bears upon the doctrine of Purgatory.
As the month of November comes to an end, be sure to give the souls in Purgatory your most heart-felt intercession.
ps: I know the poll results are kinda hard to see, but that's the best I can do.
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by John Henry Cardinal Newman
The Fifth Phase
ANGEL: They sing of thy approaching agony,
Which thou so eagerly didst question of:
It is the face of the Incarnate God
Shall smite thee with that keen and subtle pain;
And yet the memory which it leaves will be
A sovereign febrifuge to heal the wound;
And yet withal it will the wound provoke,
And aggravate and widen it the more.
SOUL: Thou speakest mysteries; still methinks I know
To disengage the tangle of thy words:
Yet rather would I hear thy angel voice,
Than for myself be thy interpreter.
ANGEL: When then—if such thy lot—thou seest thy Judge,
The sight of Him will kindle in thy heart,
All tender, gracious, reverential thoughts.
Thou wilt be sick with love, and yearn for Him,
And feel as though thou couldst but pity Him,
That one so sweet should e’er have placed Himself
At disadvantage such, as to be used
So vilely by a being so vile as thee.
There is a pleading in His pensive eyes
Will pierce thee to the quick, and trouble thee.
And thou wilt hate and loathe thyself; for, though
Now sinless, thou wilt feel that thou hast sinned,
As never thou didst feel; and wilt desire
To slink away, and hide thee from His sight;
And yet wilt have a longing aye to dwell
Within the beauty of His countenance.
And these two pains, so counter and so keen,—
The longing for Him, when thou seest Him not;
The shame of self at thought of seeing Him,—
Will be thy veriest, sharpest purgatory.
[. . .]
SOUL: Go before my Judge, Angel.
ANGEL: Praise to His name!
The eager spirit has darted from my hold,
And, with the intemperate energy of love,
Flies to the dear feet of Emmanuel;
But, ere it reached them, the keen sanctity,
Which with its effluence, like a glory, clothes
And circles round the Crucified, has seized,
And scorched, and shrivelled it; and now it lies
Passive and still before the awful Throne.
O happy, suffering soul! for it is safe,
Consumed, yet quickened, by the glance of God.
SOUL: Take me away, and in the lowest deep
There let me be,
And there in hope the lone night-watches keep,
Told out for me.
There, motionless and happy in my pain,
Lone, not forlorn,—
There will I sing my sad perpetual strain,
Until the morn.
There will I sing, and soothe my stricken breast,
Which ne’er can cease
To throb, and pine, and languish, till possest
Of its Sole Peace.
There will I sing my absent Lord and Love:—
Take me away,
That sooner I may rise, and go above,
And see Him in the truth of everlasting day.