Golden Legend – Commemoration of All Souls

Here followeth the Commemoration of All Souls.

The memory of the departing of all christian souls is stablished to be solemnised in the church on this day, to the end that they may have general aid and comfort, whereas they may have none special, like as it is showed in the foresaid revelation. And Peter Damian saith that in Sicily, in the isle of Vulcan, Saint Odille heard the voices and the howlings of devils, which complained strongly because that the souls of them that were dead were taken away from their hands by alms and by prayers, and therefore he ordained that the feast and remembrance of them that be departed out of this world should be made and holden in all monasteries the day after the feast of All Hallows, the which thing was approved after of all holy church. And thereof we may specially touch two things; first, of the purgation of those souls, and secondly, of their suffrages. Of the first is to be considered three things, first, who be they that be purged, secondly, by whom they be purged, thirdly, where they be purged. The first be they that die tofore ever they have done satisfaction of the penance that hath been enjoined to them. Nevertheless if they had so much contrition in the heart that it had sufficed to efface the sin, they should have freely passed to the life perdurable, howbeit that they had not accomplished their will ne satisfaction, for contrition is right great satisfaction of their sins, and putting away of sin. And hereof saith Saint Jerome: The length of time availeth not so much as of sorrow, ne the abstinence of meats availeth not so much as the mortification of vices, but now they that die without this contrition tofore to accomplishing of their penance be grievously punished in purgatory, but if it happen that the satisfaction of them be done of some of their friends. But to this, that such mutation of the satisfaction may avail, four things be required. The first is of the authority of the changer, for it ought to be done of the authority of the priest. The second is of his part for whom this mutation is of the satisfaction, that is the necessity of him. For he may be in such estate that he may not well do satisfaction for that other, that is to say in charity, for he ought to be in charity. The third is on his side on whom the commutation is made of satisfaction for that other, that is to say of charity. For it is requisite that he be in charity, by which he maketh satisfaction to be meritorious and sufficient. The fourth thing is proportion, that is to wit, that the lesser pain be proportioned in to greater, for the proper pain of the sinner satisfieth more to God than of a stranger, and always is he tormented in purgatory, but for the pain that he suffereth and that other payeth for him, he is the sooner delivered, for God accounteth his pain and the pain of that other. For if he were condemned to suffer the pain of two months in purgatory, he might so be holpen that he should be delivered in a month, but he shall never be taken thence till the debt be paid. And when it is paid that ought to be paid, after, it is converted into the weal of him that had done it, and if he have no need, it is turned into the weal of others that be in purgatory. The second that be in purgatory be they that have accomplished their penance, but always by the negligence or ignorance of the priest which confessed them it was not sufficient. And if they have not right contrition that may suffice for their sin, they shall accomplish all that there, because of the little penance doing in this life, for our Lord that knoweth the manner and the measure of pains and of sins, he giveth pain sufficient in such wise that there remaineth not one sin unpunished. Then the penance that is enjoined, either it is greater, or equal, or less. If it be greater, they that have done more it shall turn to the increasing of glory; if it be equal, then it shall suffice to the remission of his sin; if it be less, then that which lacketh shall be fulfilled by the virtue of the divine puissance and justice. Of them that repent them at the last, hearken what Augustine saith: He that is baptized, and at that hour goeth out of this world, he goeth surely. A man well living and so dieth, goeth surely. A man doing penance at the last and reconciled, if he go surely, I am not sure, therefore hold the certain way and leave the uncertain way. This saith Saint Austin, for such do penance more for need than of will, and rather for dread of pain, than for love of glory. The third that go into purgatory be they that bear wood, hay, and stubble. These be they that, notwithstanding they love God, yet they have carnal affection to their riches, their wives, and possessions, yet they love nothing tofore God. And these be tormented in purgatory after the manner of their long or short being therein, as the wood in long burning, as the hay less, or the stubble least and shortest. And Saint Augustine saith: Though this fire be not perdurable yet it is grievous marvellously, so that it surmounteth all the pain that any man suffered ever in this world. For so grievous pain was never found in the flesh, howbeit that martyrs have suffered great pains. The second is to wit by whom they be purged, or by whom punition is made. It is done by the evil angels and not by the good. For the good angels torment not the good souls, but the good angels torment the evil angels, and the evil angels torment the evil christian souls. And it is well to believe that the good angels visit oft and comfort their brethren and their fellows, and warn them to suffer in patience. And yet have they another remedy of comfort of this that attend certainly the glory to come, for they be certain to have joy, less than they that be in their country, and more certainly than they that be in their life. For the certainty of them that be in their country is without abiding and dread, for they abide not that is for to come when they have it present and doubt nothing to lose it. But the certainty of them that be in the life is contrary, but the certainty of them that be in purgatory is moyenne, for they abide to have it and without dread, for they have free will without dread confirmed, that they may no more sin. And yet have they another comfort, that they ween always that there be made prayers and done alms for them; and peradventure it is more true that this punition is not made by evil angels, but by commandment of the divine justice, and by the force thereof succeeding. As to the third, it is to wit where they be purged. In a place by hell which is called purgatory, after the opinion of divers wise men, how be it that it seemeth to some other that it is in the air, in a place burning and round. But nevertheless there be ordained diverse places to diverse souls, and for many causes, and that is for light punition or for hasty deliverance, or for the sin committed in that place, or for the prayer of some saint. First, for the light punition, as it is showed to some, after that Saint Gregory saith: That some souls be purged in the shadow. Secondly, for their hasty deliverance, that they may show unto others how that they need to require aid, and thereby might hastily issue out of the pain.

Like as it is read that some fishers of Saint Thibault that fished on a time in harvest, and took a great piece of ice instead of a fish. And they were gladder thereof than of a fish, because the bishop had a great burning of heat in his leg, and they laid that ice thereto and it refreshed him much. And on a time the bishop heard the voice of a man in the ice, and he conjured him to tell him what he was. And the voice said to him: I am a soul which for my sins am tormented in this ice, and may be delivered if thou say for me thirty masses continually together in thirty days. And the bishop emprised to say them, and when he had said half of them he made him ready to continue forth and say the other. And the devil made a dissension in thc city, that the people of the city fought each against other, and then the bishop was called for to appease this discord, and did off his vestments and left to say the mass. And on the morn he began all new again. And when he had said the two parts, him seemed that a great host had besieged the city, so that he was constrained by dread, and left to say the office of the mass. And after, yet he began again service, and when he had all accomplished except the last mass, which he would have begun, all the town and the bishop’s house were taken by fire. And when his servants came to him, and bade him leave his mass, he said: Though all the city should be burnt, I shall not Ieave to say the mass. And when the mass was done the ice was molten, and the fire that they had supposed to have seen was but a phantom and did no harm. Thirdly, for our infirmity that is, that we know what great pain is made ready to sinners after this mortal life. Also divers places be deputed to divers souls for our instruction, as it happed at Paris.

There was a master which was chancellor at Paris named Silo, which had a scholar sick, and he prayed him that after his death he should come again to him and say to him of his estate. And he promised him so to do, and after died. And a while after he appeared to him clad in a cope written full of arguments fallacious, and sophisms, and was of parchment, and withinforth all full of flame of fire. And the chancellor demanded him what he was. And he told to him: I am such one that am come again to thee. And the chancellor demanded him of his estate, and he said: This cope weigheth on me more than a mill-stone or a tower, and it is given me for to bear, for the glory that I had in my sophisms and sophistical arguments, that is to say, deceivable and fallacious. The skins be light, but the flame of fire withinforth tormenteth and all to-burneth me. And when the master judged the pain to be light, the dead scholar said to him, that he should put forth his hand and feel the lightness of his pain. And he put forth his hand, and that other let fall a drop of his sweat on it, and the drop pierced through his hand sooner than an arrow could be shot through, whereby he felt a marvellous torment. And the dead man said: I am all in such pain. And then the chancellor was all afeard of the cruel and terrible pain that he had felt, and concluded to forsake the world, and entered into religion with great devotion. Fourthly, for the sin that hath been committed in the place. As Saint Augustme saith: Sometimes souls be punished in the places where they have sinned, as appeareth by an ensample that Saint Gregory reciteth in the fourth book of his Dialogues, and saith that there was a priest which used gladly a bath, and when he came in to the bath he found a man whom he knew always ready for to serve him. And it happed on a day, that for his diligent service and his reward, the priest gave to him a holy loaf. And he weeping, answered: Father, wherefore givest thou me this thing? I may not eat it for it is holy. I was sometime lord of this place, but after my death, I was deputed for to serve here for my sins, but I pray thee that thou wilt offer this bread unto Almighty God for my sins, and know thou for certain that thy prayer shall be heard, and when then thou shalt come to wash thee, thou shalt not find me. And then this priest offered a week entire sacrifice to God for him, and when he came again he found him not. Fifthly, diverse places are deputed to diverse souls for the prayers of some saint, as it is read of Saint Patrick that he impetred a place of purgatory in Ireland for some, of which the history is written tofore in his life. And as to the third, that is suffrages, three things ought to be considered. First, the suffrages that be done. Secondly, of them for whom they be done. Thirdly, of them by whom they be done. About the suffrages that be done, it is to be noted that there be done four manner of suffrages, which profit unto them that be dead, that is to wit, prayers of good friends, giving of alms, singing of masses, and observation of fastings.

As touching to that that the prayers of friends profit to them, it appeareth by ensample of Paschasius, of whom Gregory telleth in the fourth book of his Dialogues, and saith that there was a man of great holiness and virtue, and two were chosen for to have been popes, but nevertheless at the last the church accorded unto one of them, and this Paschasius always by error suflered that other, and abode in this error unto the death. And when he was dead the bier was covered with a cloth named a dalmatic, and one that was vexed with a devil was brought thither and touched the cloth, and anon he was made whole. And a long time after, as Saint Germain, bishop of Capua, went to wash him in a bath for his health, he found Paschasius deacon there and served. And when he saw him he was afeard, and enquired diligently what thing so great and so holy a man made there. And he said to him that he was there for none other cause but for that he held and sustained more than right required in the cause aforesaid, and said: I require thee that thou pray our Lord for me. And know that thou shalt be heard, for when thou shalt come again, thou shalt not find me here. And then the bishop prayed for him, and when he came again he found him not.

And Peter, abbot of Cluny, saith that there was a priest that sung every day mass of requiem for all christian souls, and hereof he was accused to the bishop, and was suspended therefor of his oflice.

And as the bishop went on a day of great solemnity in the churchyard, all the dead arose up against him, saying: This bishop giveth to us no mass, and yet he hath taken away our priest from us, now he shall be certain but if he amend he shall die. And then the bishop assoiled the priest, and sang himself gladly for them that were passed out of this world. And so it appeareth that the prayers of living people be profitable to them that be departed, by this that the chanter of Paris rehearseth.

There was a man that always as he passed through the churchyard he said De profundis for all christian souls. And on a time he was beset with his enemies, so that for succour he leapt into the churchyard. And they followed for to have slain him, and anon all the dead bodies arose, and each held such an instrument in his hand that they defended him that prayed for them, and chased away his enemies, putting them in great fear. And the second manner of suffrages is for to give alms, and that helpeth them that be in purgatory, as it appeareth in the book of Maccabees, where it is read that Judas, the most strong man, made a collection and sent to Jerusalem twelve thousand drachmas of silver, there to be offered for the sins of dead men, remembering rightfully and religiously of the resurrection. And how much to give alms availeth for them that be departed, it appeareth by ensample, that Saint Gregory putteth in his fourth book of Dialogues.

There was a knight that lay dead and his spirit taken from him, and a while after the soul returned to the body again. And what he had seen done he told, and said there was a bridge, and under that bridge was a flood, foul, horrible, and full of stench, and on that other side of the bridge was a meadow, sweet, odorous, and adorned full of all manner of flowers. And there on that side of the bridge were people assembled, clad all in white, that were filled with the sweet odour of the flowers. And the bridge was such that if any of the unjust would pass over the bridge, he should slide and fall into that stinking river, and the righteous people passed over lightly and surely into that delectable place. And this knight saw there a man named Peter, which lay bound and great weight of iron upon him, which when he asked why he lay so there, it was said to him of another: He suffereth because if any man were delivered to him to do vengeance, he desired it more to do it by cruelty than by obedience. Also he said he saw there a pilgrim that, when he came to the bridge, he passed over with great lightness and shortly, because he had well-lived here and purely in the world, and without sin. And he saw there another named Stephen, which when he would have passed, his foot slid that he fell half over the bridge, and then there came some horrible black men and did all that they might to draw him down by the legs, and then came other right fair creatures and white, and took him by the arms and drew him up. And as this strife endured, this knight that saw these things returned to his body and knew not which of them vanquished. But this way we understand that the wicked deeds that he had done strove against the works of alms, for by them that drew him by the arms upward it appeared that he loved alms, and by the other that he had not perfectly lived against the sins of the flesh. The third manner of suffrages is the oblation and offering of the holy sacrament of the altar, which profiteth much to them that be departed, as it appeareth by many examples.

Like as Saint Gregory recounteth, in the fourth book of his Dialogues, that one of his monks named Justus when he came to his last end, he showed that he had hid three pieces of gold, and thereof sorrowed sore, and anon after he died. And then Saint Gregory commanded his brethren that they should bury his body in a dunghill, and the three pieces of gold with him, saying: Thy money be to thee in perdition. Nevertheless, Saint Gregory commanded one of his brethren to say for him every day mass, thirty days long, and so he did. And when he had accomplished his term, the monk that was dead appeared on the thirtieth day to one which demanded how it was with him, and he answered to him: I have been evil at ease unto this day, but now I am well. I have this day received communion, and thie sacrifice of the altar profiteth not only to them that be dead, but also to them that be living in this world. It happed there was a man which was with others, laboured in a rock for to dig for silver, and suddenly the rock fell on them and slew them all save this one man, which was saved in a crevice of the rock, but for all that he might not issue ne go out, and his wife supposed that he had been dead, and did do sing every day a mass for him, and bare every day to the offering a loaf and a pot of wine and a candle. And the devil which had envy thereat appeared three days continually to this woman in form of a man, and demanded her whither she went, and when she had said to him, he said to her: Thou goest in vain, for the mass is done. And thus she left the mass three days that she did not sing for him. And after this another man digged in the same rock for silver, and heard under this the voice of this man, which said to him: Smite softly and spare thine hand, for I have a great stone hanging over my head. And he was afeard, and called more men to him for to hear this voice, and began to dig again, and then they heard semblably that voice, and then they went more near and said: Who art thou? And he said: I pray you to spare your smiting, for a great stone hangeth over my head. And then they went and digged on that one side till that they came to him and drew him out all whole. And they enquired of him in what manner he had so long lived there. And he said that every day was brought to him a loaf, a pot of wine, a candle, save these three days. And when his wife heard that, she had great joy, and knew well that he had been sustained of her offering, and that the devil had deceived her that she had do sing no mass those three days.

And as Peter, the abbot of Cluny, witnesseth and saith that, in the town of Ferrara in the diocese of Grationopolitana, that a mariner was fallen into the sea by a tempest, and anon a priest sang mass for him, and at the last he came out of the sea all safe. And when he was demanded how he escaped, he said that when he was in the sea and almost dead, there came to him a man which gave to him bread, and when he had eaten he was well comforted, and recovered his strength, and was taken up of a ship that passed by. And that was found that it was the same time that the priest offered to God the blessed sacrament for him. And the fourth manner of suffrages that profiteth to them that be dead is fasting. Saint Gregory, in speaking of this matter and of three others, witnesseth it and saith: The souls of them that be departed be assoiled in four manners, by the oblation of priests, by the prayers of saints, by the alms of friends, and by the fastings of their kinsmen.

That the penance done for them by their friends is available to them, is showed by a solemn doctor which rehearseth that, there was a woman which had her husband dead, and she was in great despair for poverty. And the devil appeared to her, and said that he would make her rich if she would do as he would say to her, and she promised to do it. And he enjoined her that the men of the church that she should receive into her house, that she should make them do fornication. Secondly, that she should take into her house by daytime poor men, and in the night drive them out void, and having nothing. Thirdly, that she should in the church let prayers by her jangling, and that she should not confess her of none of all these things. And at the last, as she approached towards her death, her son warned her to be confessed, and she discovered to him what she had promised, and said that she might not be shriven, and that her confession should avail her nothing. But her son hasted her, and said he would do penance for her. She repented her, and sent for to fetch the priest, but tofore ere the priest came, the devils ran to her and she died by the horribleness of them. Then the son confessed the sin of the mother and did for her seven years penance, and that accomplished he saw his mother, and she thanked him of her deliverance. And in likewise avail the indulgences of the church.

It happed that a legate of the pope prayed a noble knight, that he would make war in the service of the church and ride to the Albigeois, and he would therefor give pardon to his father which was dead. And the knight rode forth, and abode there a whole Lent, and that done his father appeared to him more clear than the day, and thanked him for his deliverance. And as to the third, that is to say for whom the suffrages be done, there be four things to be considered. First, who be they to whom it may profit; secondly, wherefore it ought to profit them; thirdly, it must be known if it profit to all equally; fourthly, how they may know the suffrages that be done for them. As to the first, who be they to whom the suffrages may profit ? It is to be known, as Saint Austin saith: That all they that depart out of this world, or they be right good or right evil, or between both. Then the suffrages that be done for the good, be for to yield thankings for them. And they that be done for the evil, be some comfort to them that live. And they that be done for them that be middle and between both, they be cleansings to them. And they that be right good be they that an anon fly to heaven, and be quit of the fire of purgatory and of hell also. And there be three manners of this people; that be, children baptized, martyrs, and perfect men, these be they that perfectly maintained the love of God, the love of his neighbour, and good works, and thought never to please the world but to God only. And if they had done any venial sin, it was anon put away by the love of charity, like as a drop of water in a furnace, and therefore they bear nothing with them that ought to be burnt. And who that prayeth for any of these three manner people, or doth any suffrages for them, he doth to them wrong. For Saint Augustine saith: He doth wrong that prayeth for a martyr, but if one pray for one that is right good, of whom he doubteth that he be in heaven, then of his orisons be given thankings, and they come to the profit of him that prayeth, like as David saith: My prayer shall be turned into my bosom. And to these manner of people is the heaven anon open when they depart, ne they feel no fire of purgatory, and this is signfied to us by the three to whom the heaven was opened. It was first opened to Jesu Christ when he was baptized and praying, by which is signified that the heaven is open to them that be baptized, be they young or aged, if they die, anon they flee into heaven. For baptism is cleansing of all original sin and mortal, by the virtue of the passion of Jesu Christ. Secondly, it was opened to Saint Stephen when he was stoned, whereof it is said in the Acts of the Apostles: I see the heavens open. And in this is signified that it is open to all martyrs, and they flee anon to heaven as soon as they depart. Thirdly, it was open to Saint John the Evangelist, which was right perfect, whereof is said in the Apocalypse: I beheld, and lo! the door was open in heaven. By which it appeared that it is open to perfect men that have all accomplished their penance, and have in them no venial sins, or if any happen to be committed, anon it is consumed and extinct by the ardour of charity. And thus heaven is open to these three manner of people which enter lightly in for to reign perpetually. The right evil and wicked men be they that anon be plunged into the fire of hell, for whom if their damnation be known there ought no suffrages to be done for them, after that Saint Augustine saith: If I knew my father to be in hell I would no more pray for him than for the devil, but if any suffrages were done for a damned man, of whom were doubt that he so were, nevertheless they should not profit him to his deliverance, ne that is to say from the pains, ne to the mitigation of them, ne lessing of it, ne shorting of time. For as Job saith: In hell is no redemption. They that be middle good, be they that have with them something to be burnt and purged, that is to say wood, hay, and stubble, or else they that be surprised with death before they might have accomplished their penance in their life, nor they be not so good but that they need have suffrages of their friends, ne they be not so evil but that suffrages might profit and ease them. And the suffrages that be done for them be cleansings for them, and these be they to whom suffrages only may profit. And in doing such manner suffrages, the church is accustomed to observe three manner days, that is the seventh day, the thirtieth day, and the anniversary. And the reason of these three days is assigned in the book of office. The seventh day is kept and observed that the souls should come to the Sabbath of everlasting rest, or because that all the sins that they have committed in their life be forgiven, which they have done by seven days, or that all the sins that they have committed in their body, which is made of four complexions, and in their soul, in which be three powers, may be forgiven. The trental is kept, which is in three dizains, that they may be purged of all such things as they have sinned in the Trinity and breaking of the ten commandments. The anniversary is observed, that they come from the years of calamity and maleurty unto the years of perdurability. And like as we solemnise every year the feast of a saint to their honour and our profit, right so we observe the anniversary of them that be dead unto their profit and our devotion. Of the second, that is wherefore the suffrages ought to profit to them, it is to wit that it ought to profit for three reasons. First, by reason of unity, for they be one body with them of the church militant, and therefore their goods ought to be common; secondly, by reason of dignity, by which they deserved when they lived that these suffrages should profit them. For they help other, and it is reason that they be holpen that have holpen other. Thirdly, by reason of necessity, for they be in the state in which they may not help themselves. As to the third, it is to wit if it profit to all equally. It is to wit that the suffrages, if they be done for some in special, they profit more to them for whom they be made than for others; and if they be done for the common, they profit more to them that have deserved most in this life; and if they be made equal, it profiteth them that have most need. Fourthly, that is to wit, if they know the suffrages that be done for them. After Saint Augustine they may know it by three manners: first, by divine revelation, that is when our Lord showeth to them such thing; secondly, by manifestation of good angels, which be always here with us, and consider all that we do, and may incontinent descend to them and anon show it to them. Thirdly, by intimation of souls that go hence and go thither, for the souls that go from hence out of this world may well tell such things and others. Fourthly, nevertheless they may know it by experience and by revelation, for when they feel themselves alleged and relieved of their pain, they know well that some suffrages have been done for them. Thirdly, it is to wit by whom these suffrages be made. That is to wit, that if these suffrages should profit, it behoveth that they be done by them that be in charity, for if they be done by evil and sinful persons, they may not profit to them. Whereof is read that when a knight lay in his bed with his wife, and the moon shone right clear which entered in by the crevices, he marvelled much wherefore man which was reasonable obeyed not to his Maker, when the creatures not reasonable obeyed to him. And then began to say evil of a knight which was dead, and had been familiar with him; and then this knight, ot whom they so talked, entered into the chamber and said to him: Friend, have none evil suspicion of any man, but pardon me if I have trespassed to thee. And when he had demanded him of his state, he answered: I am tormented of divers torments and pains, and especially because I defouled the churchyard and hurt a man therein, and despoiled him of his mantle which he ware, which mantle I bear on me and is heavier than a mountain. And then he prayed the knight that he would do pray for him. And then he demanded if he would that such a priest should pray for him, or such one, and the dead man wagged his head, and answered not, as he would not have him. Then he asked of him if he would that such a hermit should pray for him, and then the dead man answered: Would God that he would pray for me. And the living knight promised that he should pray for him, and then the dead man said: And I say to thee that this day two years thou shalt die, and so vanished away. And this knight changed his life into better and at the day slept in our Lord. That which is said, that suffrages done by evil men may not profit but if they be works sacramental, as is the celebration of the mass, for that may not be defouled of an evil minister. Or else if he that is dead left any goods to dispose by some evil man, and should anon have disposed them and did not, like as it is read that it happed:

As Turpin the archbishop of Rheims saith, that there was a noble knight that was in the battle with Charles the Great for to fight against the Moors, and prayed one that was his cousin that if he died in battle, that he should sell his horse and give the price thereof to poor people. And he died, and that other desired the horse and retained it for himself. And a little while after, he that was dead appeared to that other knight, shining as the sun, and said to him: Cousin, thou hast made me to suffer pain eight days in purgatory, because thou gavest not the price of my horse to poor people, but thou shalt not escape away unpunished. This day devils shall bear thy soul into hell, and I being purged go into the kingdom of heaven. And suddenly was a great cry heard in the air, as of bears, lions, and wolves, which bare him away. Then let every executor beware that he execute well the goods of them that they have charge of, and to beware by this ensample heretofore written, for he is blessed that can beware by other men’s harms. And let us also pray diligently for all christian souls, that by the moyen of our prayers, alms, and fastings, they may be eased and lessed of their pains. Amen.