Poor Souls in Purgatory / St. Martin de Porres /
Providence of God / Meditation on Divine Providence
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
MP3 Disc 11 Received from Breslin
These Sermons were taped by Daniel Peper who
traveled and taped Fr. Hardon from 1990 to 1995
(Transcriber comments, 02-28-08: The CD recording begins with, what appears to be, the end of a meditation
or homily. There are three homilies on the CD: The Poor Souls in Purgatory
(given on November 2), St. Martin de Porres (given on November 3) and the
Providence of God. There is one meditation: Divine Providence.
The CD recording ends in the middle of the meditation on Divine Providence.)
- Homily on the Poor Souls in Purgatory
- Homily on the Feast of St. Martin de Porres
- Homily on the Providence of God
- Meditation on the Divine Providence of God
a grace, no more temptations, no more struggles, but that everlasting joy
for which we were made. We were not made, thanks dear Lord, we were not made
for this world, we were made for the everlasting happiness in the embrace of
the Holy Trinity and the company of our Blessed Mother. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
1. Homily on the Poor Souls in Purgatory (November 2)
Masses immediately after this one, which is the priests privilege on All
Souls Day. You are welcome, if you can, to stay for at least one or both Masses.
There will be no homilies at the second and third Mass. And also the intentions:
this Mass, of course, being offered for the intention that was announced. The
second Mass will be for the intentions of the Holy Father and the third for
all the poor souls. And you may receive a second time at a second Mass, but
not three times.
We should ask ourselves, I think, three very simple questions. Who are the
poor souls? Second, why do we pray for the poor souls? And third, how should
we practice devotion to the poor souls in purgatory?
The poor souls, as we call them, also the faithful departed, are those who
having died in Gods friendship, without unrepentant mortal sin, but who have
died with still venial sins on their souls, expiate for an undetermined length
of time the punishment that was still due to their sins. We call them poor
souls, because they cannot merit, thats the key word, they cannot merit for
themselves. We call them the faithful departed, because although dead in body,
they are very much alive in soul, having remained faithful to God before their
souls left their bodies.
Why? Why do we pray for the poor souls? Because, they need our prayers.
One of the most devastating and tragic effects of the so-called Protestant Reformation
in the 16th century, that Protestants stopped praying for the poor
While teaching at Western Michigan University for five years, a friend
of mine called me up, five in the morning, to tell me, The night before I went
to the wake of a Protestant minister. After consoling the family, I knelt down
and said some prayers for the soul of the faithful departed as I trusted of
this minister. I left, and the ministers daughter; she told her friend, who
called me up. I couldnt fall asleep. I thought to myself, if that priest
could pray for the soul of my father, so can I. Gee, Ive never done this before.
I got out of bed and knelt down and prayed for the repose of the soul of my
father, the Protestant minister.
We believe the souls of those who have died in Gods grace should be prayed
for. We call them suffrages for the poor souls.
Finally, how, how should we practice, and the language is correct, how should
we practice devotion to the poor souls?
First of all, we should pray for them. Over the years its been my custom,
first thing in the morning when I get up and the last thing at night before
I fall asleep, to pray for the poor souls. Not a bad idea by the way, because,
when we die, well want somebody to pray for us. And, you can be sure, the
first people who will pray for us are those who we have prayed for when they
were in purgatory.
Secondly, we should practice mortification: things go wrong, something we
dont like enters our lives, somebody says something that hurts us, we have
a pain, whatever the inconvenience, we offer that for the poor souls. Then
most surprisingly, but all good Catholic doctrine, we should invoke the poor
souls. They cannot help themselves, but they can help us, and lets be honest,
we need all the help we can get.
Finally, I never realized this before; it dawned on me and it is again, good
Catholic piety, we should not only invoke the poor souls, but talk to the poor
I lost my father when I was just a year old; never knew him. Lost my mother
a year after my ordination. Immediately after her death I was sent to Rome
for my graduate studies in theology; talked to the Rector, said, Look start
talking to your mother, this is real. Engage in conversation especially with
our dearly beloved whom we had known during their lives on earth because you
see we form one big family, otherwise known as the communion of saints, composed
of those on earth, those in purgatory, and those in heaven. Converse with them,
share your trials and difficulties with them. Ask for their help, but be sure
to give them your help too.
Lord Jesus, we believe, that the souls of your faithful departed do not yet
see Your face, but they believe and theyre absolutely sure they are reaching
heaven. Give us, dear Savior, such a great love for the poor souls, here on
earth, that if it is your will, we oh dear Savior, we hope, that when you call
us from this life into eternity we will not have to be in purgatory, but enter
from the sorrows of this life, enter the joys prepared for those who love You
on earth with their whole heart. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
2. Homily on the Feast of St. Martin de Porres (November 3)
Today, for the Feast of St. Martin de Porres, we could not of had a better
gospel than the one we just read:
Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who
humble themselves will be exalted.
St. Martin de Porres, a Peruvian, Dominican lay brother, was a very humble
man. His father was a Spanish nobleman, and his mother, a descendant of one
of the African slaves. All his life, St. Martin did menial jobs unknown to
the outside world; satisfied with the least in the community and treated humiliatingly.
If there is one virtue that especially we in the wealthiest, the most prosperous
nation in human history, it is one virtue we need, beginning with the speaker,
is humility. Humility is prayerful. A humble person recognizes that before
God, he is absolutely dependent and helpless.
Why does God send us difficulties, trials, suffering, disappointment, sickness,
failure? For one fundamental reason, so we might get down on our knees and
Humility is obedient; obedient to legitimate authority, as St. Martin de Porres
was; a model of humility; obedient to the mysterious designs of Gods providence.
Humility is patient. A person who is truly humble is willing to accept anything,
and the word is anything, from the hands of God, no matter how painful,
recognizing Ive got it coming. I deserve it.
Humility works; it labors. Martin de Porres was an example. For those days,
sixty years was a long life span. Sixty years, and most of those spent in simple,
menial, humble labor.
How I can identify with Martin de Porres. My father died when I was a year
old. Mother had only me. She worked literally till the day of her death.
Oh, how many people run away from work. A cynic defined work is that which
a man would rather not be doing if he could be doing something else.
We were born to labor. I must say it, America is a lazy nation, compared with
the hard work that most of the human race has to make even to earn a simple,
humble living. Most of the human race goes to bed hungry every night.
What an examination of conscience, and Ill begin with the speaker. We need
to ask ourselves daily: Lord, how humble have I been? How patiently have I
accepted the difficulties, humiliations youve sent me? How much have I prayed
and how hard have I worked?
On the last day we shall be judged by the one single virtue that our Lord told
us to imitate him in practicing: Learn of me, because I am meek and humble
Dear Jesus, bend these proud minds of ours to acknowledge our complete, constant
dependence on you. Bend these knees of ours in prayer. And above all, dear
Jesus, protect us from, ever for a moment, deliberately indulging in self-admiration,
self-adulation, self-adoration. Only You, our God, deserve to be honored and
praised. Help us, dear Jesus, to be as You were, our God, meek and humble of
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
3. Homily on the Providence of God
But, we know when the Church tells us, Christ meant, we are to trust God in
everything in our lives.
Lets put this into the context in which it belongs. This is the end of the
sixth chapter of Matthew.
By this time Christ had given
many commandments to those who believe in him and want to follow him.
And some were very demanding laws. Summarily, Jesus concluded, I want
you to be concerned only about the things of heaven. For where thy treasure
is, there also will thy heart be. He told his followers, only on keeping
the laws of God. Seek only the Kingdom of God and his justice. And then God
will provide everything else you need.
I wont quote all ten verses, just the start and the end. Therefore,
says Christ, I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, what you shall
eat, nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. And he forbids his
followers to be anxious five times. I counted them in ten verses. Do not
And then that beautiful statement, if only we were courageous enough to follow
Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have
anxieties of its own. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Christ had no doubts, none whatever, that to follow him faithfully would mean
trial, trouble, and the cross.
However, without denying the obvious, following the Master is demanding on
human nature. So, its not easy, but Dont be anxious, dont worry. Trust
Now our only concern should be to do the will of God as Jesus told us, to:
Seek only the Kingdom of Heaven and His justice. And then all these earthly
things will be provided for.
One more aspect to our reflections on Divine Providence; a living faith in
the providence of God; although Christ spoke as we said explicitly, only about
food, drink and clothing; He meant that we should not be anxious about anything
in the world.
Now to bring this home, how to make sure that this is not a theological lecture,
but a retreat conference. What must we do?
First, we must be sincerely detached from the things of this world. Our hearts
must be open to do the will of God.
Ive given too many retreats. Ive counseled too many souls. Ive struggled
in my own life with too many problems and crosses that the Lord in His mercy
has sent me. One thing I know, and I share it with you, we must be absolutely,
nakedly honest before God.
Lord, I want to do your will and I mean it. In other words, we must
be internally free from the tyranny of our natural desires and fears.
All this talk about Providence is not just sophisticated theology or much less
reading a novel. This is not fiction; it is fact. God is running the
world. He is in charge of everything.
But watch it, part of Gods providence is our exercise of prudence. Gods
providence over the sun, moon and stars, over the mountains and seas, over the
animals and trees; Gods providence for them is quite different from His providence
If we are to live this providence and be able to trust God as the Psalmist
did; that He will provide, and He will provide, but we must allow Him
to provide; we must master our naturally sinful impulses.
First condition, second: If we are to live out this providence of God in our
lives; trusting him absolutely and being anxious about nothing besides, and
he will help us, but we must do it; we must shed ourselves of all our inordinate
attachments and fears. Youve got yours. Ive got mine.
Second: If we are to live out our faith in the providence of God we must pray;
constantly pray, always. Why? Because we constantly need the grace that only
God can give us to put our faith in Gods providence into practice. In other
words, anxieties will come, but they must always be seen as temptations. Worries
will come, but we must not give into them, rather we must use them; use them
as means for deepening our child-like trust in God. And every act of confidence
in Gods providence that we make strengthens us to face new problems, as we
call them, and to overcome new troubles and anxieties that God will send us.
Talk about providence; I made just a moments aspiration; sure enough, the
Lord came through. I was still writing these notes at eight minutes to eight
before Mass. I said, Lord, Ive got about four minutes, help me. I need a
good, nice prayer. I did a prayer of total reliance on Gods providence and
I am supposed to give a conference on Divine Providence. Where can I find a
good prayer? So as Providence would have it, this prayer book which was written,
I cant believe it: 1963! 25th anniversary of the publication of
this prayer book. I was asked to write it by my Jesuit superiors; to write a
prayer book in English for all the English-speaking Jesuits in the world. I
was told to do it, so I wrote it. But then, after awhile, the book was published,
but I forgot all the things that were in that book. Divine Providence book
is not too heavy. Ill take it from Detroit to New Mexico. It might just
possibly have something I need. So, eight minutes to go, I look up P
in the index, Providence of God, page 150-51. Wonderful! Hope theres something
there that I can use; kept looking at the clock; page 150, Providence of God.
O Lord, thanks! Just what I need. I didnt even have time to transcribe this
prayer, so I brought the prayer book along.
Lets close, with a prayer of my confrere, Blessed (now Saint) Claude la Colombiere,
the spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary.
Says, Blessed Claude:
Loving and tender providence of my God, into your hands I commend my spirit;
to You I abandon my hopes and fears, my desires and repugnances, my temporal
and eternal prospects. To you I commit the wants of my perishable body; to
You I commit the more precious interests of my immortal soul, for whose lot
I have nothing to fear as long as I do not leave Your care. Though my faults
are many, my misery great, my spiritual poverty extreme, my hope in You surpasses
all. It is superior to my weakness, greater than my difficulties, stronger
Though temptations should assail me, I will hope in You; though I break my
resolutions, I will look to You confidently for grace to keep them at last.
Though You should kill me, even then I will trust in You, for You are my Father,
my God, the support of my salvation. You are my kind, compassionate, and indulgent
parent, and I am Your obedient child, who cast myself into Your arms and beg
Your blessing. I put my trust in You, and so trusting, I shall not be confounded.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
4. Meditation on the Divine Providence of God
This is our second conference on the Providence of God.
First, by way of summary, of what weve so far seen, we saw something of the
meaning of Divine Providence, the teaching of Sacred Scripture and especially
of Christ. Throughout the Bible, if there is one sustained theme; it is trust
in God: be not anxious, do not worry, be not despondent, be not desolate, trust,
have confidence. And Christs crowning exhortation, Do not be afraid, I
have overcome the world.
However, there are two sides to Divine Providence; the one we have seen; just
remind ourselves; Providence is, it emphatically is, the foundation of our virtue
of hope. We our confident that because God loves us he will provide, hence,
providence, he will provide whatever we need to do his will, provided we honestly
want to do it.
Providence on that first level is trustful confidence on our part that the
Lord will provide all the means we need on earth to reach heaven in the life
to come. However, providence is not only the foundation of our hope, which
it is, it is also the foundation of our Faith. Our Faith, as lived out in this
world. And that is the scope of our meditation now.
In order to grasp something of the profound revealed meaning of Divine Providence
as the bedrock of our Faith to be lived out I would like to cover the following
points, and I am numbering them as I go along.
First: In order to reach heaven, we need supernatural grace from God, better,
supernatural graces, because we need them constantly.
Second: In His ordinary providence God communicates his supernatural graces
through what we call the external graces that envelop our daily lives.
Third: These external graces are nothing mysterious. They are all the creatures
that God puts into our lives; get that verb, puts; all the creatures
that God puts into our lives and that he wants, these are the creatures, to
be the means for our obtaining the supernatural graces we need to be saved and
Fourth: While all the creatures that enter our lives are meant to be channels
of supernatural grace, all of them, question, all of them, exclamation mark;
not all, however, are meant by God to be sources of grace in the same way.
Fifth: As a result, our task in life, frankly, our main task in life, is to
examine these creatures; look at them, study them, and during the retreat, be
very courageous in sifting these creatures in order to find out how, thats
the key adverb, how God wants me to use the creatures in my life as channels
of His grace.
Sixth: And here we will be in very familiar territory. Some of these creatures,
all meant to be graces, all of them, but some of these creatures are to be possessed
and enjoyed. Others are to be, you know the verb, endured. Still others, put
there by God, but they are to be removed. And finally, some creatures God puts
into our lives that we might, though we dont have to under pain of sin that
we might surrender, in other words sacrifice, in order to show our love for
And then, a concluding prayer.
First then, no one is saved without Divine Grace. One of my favorite definitions
when over the years Ive been teaching a supernatural life: grace is that which
we need beyond what we have to reach our eternal destiny; grace is that which
we need beyond what we have to reach the eternal destiny for which we were made.
That which we have we call nature. That which we need we call grace.
On the board, depending on what level Im teaching, I would put n + G =
H: n standing for nature, G for Grace and H for Heaven.
Nature is all that we have when we come into the world; ourselves, the world
around us, all of that is nature. But none of that is sufficient to get us into
Heaven; to believe that is to be a Catholic; not to know that is to be an unenlightened
Catholic. Thats simple and has been defined so many times by the Church it
is simply, bread and butter for the nourishment of our supernatural life. We
need grace. In fact, thats what the adjective supernatural means. What
is supernatural? Well, what do you think? That which is super, then pause
and take a breath, natural. Everything above, beyond, more than, we ourselves;
all the whole wide world can of itself provide us is nature, and that cannot
get us into heaven.
Secondly, Gods ordinary providence
END of CD (transcribers comment: 02-28-08)
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