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Devotion to the Poor Souls
During this homily, I would like to ask three questions and share with you a short answer on what our Catholic faith teaches about devotion to the Poor Souls in purgatory. Who are the Poor Souls? Why are the Poor Souls in purgatory? How are we to practice our devotion to the souls in purgatory?
Bellarmine on the Mystical Body of Christ
Shortly after his defection from Rome, Johann Döllinger bitterly reproached the Vatican Council with "doing nothing but defining the private opinions of a single man — Cardinal Robert Bellarmine." The accusation is false but suggestive, because it leads us to investigate the teaching of St. Robert on the organization of the Catholic Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. Most of the Council's business had to deal with the origin and nature of the one true Church. Moreover, Bellarmine's ecclesiology was the main source from which the Fathers of the Council drew their decrees and definitions. Consequently, with the current interest even among non-Catholics in the Church of Christ as the Mystical Body, we should not overlook what Robert Bellarmine has to say about a subject in which the Church herself considers him the outstanding authority.
A Comparative Study of Bellarmine's Doctrine on the Relation of Sincere Non-Catholics to the Catholic Church
Bellarmine represents a landmark in the history of Catholic theology. His life of seventy-nine years, from 1542 to 1621, spanned the time immediately following the Protestant Revolt. Luther died in 1546, Henry VIII in 1547, Melanothon in 1560, Calvin in 1564. St. Robert was therefore a contemporary of the original rebels against the authority of the Church and historically became the first comprehensive exponent of Catholic doctrine against the attacks of the Protestants. This fact is important to keep in mind in studying his doctrine on the relation of non-Catholics to the Church. Living during the period of a mass rebellion against Papal authority and having personal experience for many years in Northern Europe with first generation apostates from the faith, it was inevitable that his attitude toward non-Catholics should be one of uncompromising rigor in opposing their errors, softened only by his love for them as "the straying sheep" with whom he pleaded to return, at the cost of salvation, to their Father’s house.
The Church as the Mystical Body of Christ
The historical origins of the adjective "Mystical" to describe the Church as the Body of Christ may be traced to the first Apostles Peter and Paul. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle of the Gentiles urges them to "preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit," and to the Philippians he describes the Christian community as "a fellowship in the Spirit." St. Peter is somewhat more explicit when he calls the Church "a spiritual home."





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