Monday, November 2, 2015

Weekly Geek! All Souls and Purgatory

We are going to get our geek going with a more somber topic than our last Weekly Geek.  We covered Halloween and the fun traditions that originated from both Pagan and Christian origins.  Today, we are going to take a closer look at Matthew Clairmont's faith a bit. And maybe we'll be able to gain some insight into what has troubled the man for so many years...

Today is All Souls' Day.  We're celebrating Matthew Clairmont's birthday (as opposed to his re-birthday) this week!  Matthew is a a Scorpio born on the day the Catholic Church has designated as a day of prayer for all of the souls in Purgatory (as opposed to All Saints' Day which honors those who have gone to Heaven).  Coincidence, much?  The poster boy for self-loathing was born on All Souls' Day(!)   His vampiric life, up to the point he meets Diana, is for all intents and purposes, something he sees as his personal Purgatory.  The best (and by best, we actually mean ironic) part is we, as readers, finally learn this after he finally learns to forgive himself.


*Begin Daemonic Lesson: Given that this Daemon's Vatican II driven Catechism class was concentrated more on macaroni crosses and guitar mass than hard core theological instruction, we will rely on for a simple explanation of Purgatory.  Simply stated, if one dies in a state of Sanctifying Grace – that is, if they are “saved” when they pass to the next life – there remains the possibility of “spending time in” Purgatory before entering Heaven.  It is important to recognize that Purgatory is not a “second chance” at salvation.  If one should die separated from God, there is no second chance. “Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27).

Fresco depicting souls leaving Purgatory by Luca Signorelli
God’s mercy is not supposed to overlook imperfections and sin; it's purpose is to remove them and repair the damage.  The Merciful Father welcomed home the Prodigal Son, and his sins were forgiven.  This is usually seen in relation to our conversion, repentance and forgiveness received on earth in this life.  We can also see elements that can point to Purgatory.  Consider the son’s anguished journey home, arising and traveling a great distance from that “far country.”  Seen in the context of the next life, there is not necessarily an immediate admittance to the Beatific Vision.  A painful journey, or cleansing, may still be in our future. The Father waits with open arms, but we must still travel to Him (does this remind you of certain journey Matthew made to Philippe?).  The son was forgiven from the moment he sought forgiveness, but the journey home was not yet complete.  Doesn’t Sacramental Confession remove sin?  Aren’t we forgiven?

Yes, we are forgiven.  Our sins are absolved when we make a good confession, however there are two punishments due to sin.  Which punishment does Confession remit?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say: "To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the "eternal punishment" of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the "temporal punishment" of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain." (CCC 1472)

So, there are two types of punishment due to sin, eternal and temporal.  It is the eternal punishments that are forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  The doctrine of Purgatory is a dogma of the Church and must be given the assent of faith.  Those who die in a state of grace, but who still suffer from unforgivable venial sins, attachments to sin, or any temporal punishment due to sin, are cleansed of these imperfections in Purgatory by God’s love.

All Souls' Day

Candles being lit for lost souls.
In the Roman Catholic Church, All Souls' commemorates the dead who currently reside in Purgatory, being cleansed of their venial sins, and receiving the temporal punishments for the mortal sins that they had confessed to and are atoning for (before entering fully into Heaven).  On All Souls' Day, Catholics not only remember the dead, but petition for their release from Purgatory through prayer, almsgiving, and Mass.  While the actions are performed by the living, the merits of the indulgences are applicable only to the souls in Purgatory. <-------- By the way, this was one of the many things Martin Luther was not down with, but that's not important to our story today!

According to, praying for the dead is a Christian obligation.  In the modern world, where many doubt the existence of Purgatory and the church's teachings regarding it, the need for such prayers has only increased, so much so that the Catholic Church devotes the month of November to prayer for the souls in Purgatory.  *End of Daemonic Lesson  :)


So, for the longest time, the All Souls - as in the All Souls Trilogy - has been interpreted as referring to the themes of inclusiveness and tolerance laced through the story, and driving the journey of the main characters.  But in the back of this Daemon's mind was the odd pattern of connections between Matthew and All Souls (layered in a series that was essentially driven by Diana's evolution).  His college at Oxford.  His birthday.  In researching this Geek, it became clear to this Daemon that perhaps the All Souls ties were actually clues tying together Matthew and the concept of Purgatory.

As a staunch Catholic in a vampiric family consisting of many pagans, his belief in Purgatory (and relationship to it) further fueled his estrangement from his family.  It's just one more aspect of his "otherness".  He goes so far as to physically separate himself from his family when he thinks he sins.  His Presbyterian son, Marcus, doesn't always understand his dear old dad, Matthew.  Philippe even goes so far as to comment on it:

"When you or I have done wrong, we settle our accounts with the gods and return to living with the hope of doing better in future. Ysabeau’s son confesses his sins and atones again and again—for his life, for who he is, for what he has done. He is always looking backward, and there is no end to it.” “That’s because Matthew is a man of great faith, Philippe.” There was a spiritual center to Matthew’s life that colored his attitudes toward science and death.“Matthew?” Philippe sounded incredulous. “He has less faith than anyone I have ever known. All he possesses is belief, which is quite different and depends on the head rather than the heart. Matthew has always had a keen mind, one capable of dealing with abstractions like God. It is how he came to accept who he had become after Ysabeau made him one of the family."

When they time walked to 1590, even Diana noticed that Matthew seemed happier and more relaxed, attributing it to being with his friends again.  Well, he was in Protestant England at the time - in a society that outwardly eschewed the idea of Purgatory.  Perhaps that also contributed to his peace of mind?  He didn't truly become the man that Hamish warned Diana of until they landed at Mont St. Michel.

Mont St. Michel - Photo © Philippe CABARET on Flickr
"Your husband has been too long among heretics. An extended period spent kneeling on a cold stone floor will remind him who he truly is.”My face must have shown my dismay at being alone in such a place.“Pierre will stay with you,” Matthew assured me before he bent and pressed his lips to mine. “We ride out when the tide turns.”And that was the last glimpse I had of Matthew Clairmont, scientist. The man who strode toward the door was no longer an Oxford don but a Renaissance prince. It was in his bearing, the set of his shoulders, his aura of banked strength, and the cold look in his eyes. Hamish had been right to warn me that Matthew would not be the same man here. Under Matthew’s smooth surface, a profound metamorphosis was taking place. Somewhere high above, the bells tolled the hours. Scientist. Vampire. Warrior. Spy. The bells paused before the final knell.  Prince."

It took landing in Catholic France, and seeing Cardinal Joyeuse to trigger his change.  It wasn't just the resumption of his identity as a de Clermont prince; it was also coming back to an openly Catholic country that required the acknowledgement of his beliefs, the need to confess his sins, and the obligation to pray for his absolution that played a rather large part of his metamorphosis.

Deb has said that Matthew embodies the history of Western Europe. And just as the Catholic Church shaped Western Europe, it has shaped Matthew de Clermont.

Here is some reading to feed your souls with:

Purgatory - Kathryn A. Edwards /Oxford Bibliographies
Purgatory: - Purgatory

*Daemonosity Zone is a place where theories, ideas and whimsy often run rampant!  We warn, because we want to make sure that the reader knows that much of the understanding, theories, and conclusions reached are based on our research, our interpretation, and our sense of what may be happening in the story - and really it's all just educated guessing at this point (try it!  It's fun!).  None of this has been author confirmed, and as usual she is the bottom-line authority when it comes to her intent while writing the story.  As this is fiction, stories can be interpreted in numerous ways.  We warn that you are entering this zone of speculation, but we welcome all into the Daemonosity Zone and our addled minds.  :)

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