The Location of Purgatory and the Suffering Endured by the Souls in Purgatory

It has pleased God to show in spirit the gloomy abodes of Purgatory to some privileged souls, who were to reveal the sorrowful mysteries thereof for the edification of the faithful. Of this number was the illustrious St. Frances,foundress of the Oblates, who died in Rome in 1440. God favoured her with great lights concerning the state of souls in the other life. She saw Hell and its horrible torments; she saw also the interior of Purgatory, and the mysterious order —I had almost said hierarchy of expiations—which reigns in this portion of the Church of Jesus Christ.

In obedience to her superiors, who thought themselves bound to impose this obligation upon her, she made known all that God had manifested to her; and her visions, written at the request of the venerable Canon Matteotti, her spiritual director, have all the authenticity that can be desired in such matters. Now, the servant of God declared that, after having endured with unspeakable horror the vision of Hell, she came out of that abyss, and was conducted by her celestial guide into the regions of Purgatory. There reigned neither horror nor disorder, nor despair nor eternal darkness ; there divine hope diffused its light, and she was told that this place of purification was called also sojourn of hope. She saw there souls which suffered cruelly, but angels visited and assisted them in their sufferings.

Purgatory, she said, is divided into three distinct parts, which are as the three large provinces of that kingdom of suffering. They are situated the one beneath the other, and occupied by souls of different orders. These souls are buried more deeply in proportion as they are more defiled and farther removed from the time of their deliverance.

The lowest region is filled with a fierce fire, but which is not dark like that of Hell ; it is a vast burning sea, throw- ing forth immense flames. Innumerable souls are plunged into its depths : they are those who have rendered themselves guilty of mortal sin, which they have duly confessed, but not sufficiently expiated during life. The servant of God then learned that, for all forgiven mortal sin, there remains to be undergone a suffering of seven years. This term cannot evidently be taken to mean a definite measure, since mortal sins differ in enormity, but as an average penalty. Although the souls are enveloped in the same flames, their sufferings are not the same; they differ accord- ing to the number and nature of their former sins.In this lower Purgatory the saint beheld laics and persons consecrated to God. The laics were those who, after a life of sin, had had the happiness of being sincerely converted; the persons consecrated to God were those who had not lived according to the sanctity of their state.

At that same moment she saw descend the soul of a priest whom she knew, but whose name she does not reveal. She remarked that he had his face covered with a veil which concealed a stain. Although he had led an edifying life, this priest had not always observed strict temperance, and had sought too eagerly the satisfactions of the table.

The saint was then conducted into the intermediate Purgatory, destined for souls which had deserved less rigorous Chastisement.It had three distinct compartments, one resembled an immense dungeon of ice, the cold of which was indescribably intense; the second, on the contrary, was like a huge caldron of boiling oil and pitch,

the third had the appearance of a pond of liquid metal resembling molten gold or silver.The upper Purgatory, which the saint does not describe, is the temporary abode of souls which suffer little, except the pain of loss, and approach the happy moment of their deliverance.

Such, in substance, is the vision of St. Frances relative to Purgatory.

The following is an account of that of St. Magdalen de Pazzi, a Florentine Carmelite, as it is related in her Life by Father Cepare. It gives more of a picture of Purgatory, whilst the preceding vision but traces its outlines.

Some time before her death, which took place in 1607, the servant of God, Magdalen de Pazzi, being one evening with several other Religious in the garden of the convent, was ravished in ecstasy, and saw Purgatory open before her. At the same time, as she made known later, a voice invited her to visit all the prisons of Divine Justice, and to see how truly worthy of compassion are the souls detained there.

At this moment she was heard to say, ” Yes, I will go.’ She consented to undertake this painful journey. In fact, she walked for two hours round the garden, which was very large, pausing from time to time. Each time she inter- rupted her walk, she contemplated attentively the sufferings which were shown to her. She was then seen to wring her hands in compassion, her face became pale, her body bent under the weight of suffering, in presence of the terrible spectacfe with which she was confronted.

She began to cry aloud in lamentation, ” Mercy, my God, mercy ! Descend, O Precious Blood, and deliver these souls from their prison. Poor souls ! you suffer so cruelly, and yet you are content and cheerful. The dungeons of the martyrs in comparison with these were gardens of delight. Nevertheless there are others still deeper. How happy should I esteem myself were I not obliged to go down into them.”

She did descend, however, for she was forced to continue her way. But when she had taken a few steps, she stopped terror stricken, and, sighing deeply, she cried, ” What ! Religious also in this dismal abode ! Good God ! how they are tormented! Ah, Lord ! ” She does not explain the nature

tormented of their sufferings ; but the horror which she manifested in contemplating them caused her to sigh at each step. She passed from thence into less gloomy places. They were the dungeons of simple souls, and of children in whom ignorance and lack of reason extenuated many faults. Their torments appeared to her much more endurable than those of the others. Nothing but ice and fire were there. She noticed that these souls had their angel-guardians with them, who fortified them greatly by their presence ; but she saw also demons whose dreadful forms increased their sufferings.

Advancing a few paces, she saw souls still more unfortu- nate, and she was heard to cry out, ” Oh ! how horrible is this place ; it is full of hideous demons and incredible tor- ments ! Who, O my God, are the victims of these cruel tortures ? Alas ! they are being pierced with sharp swords, theyarebeingcutintopieces.” She was answered that they were the souls whose conduct had been tainted with hypocrisy.

Advancing a little, she saw a great multitude of souls which were bruised, as it were, and crushed under a press and she understood that they were those souls which had been addicted to impatience and disobedience during life. Whilst contemplating them, her looks, her sighs, her whole attitude betokened compassion and terror.

A moment later her agitation increased, and she uttered a dreadful cry. It was the dungeon of lies which now lay open before her. After having attentively considered it, she cried aloud, ” Liars are confined in a place in the vicinity of Hell, and their sufferings are exceedingly great. Molten lead is poured into their mouths ; I see them burn, and at the same time tremble with cold.”

She then went to the prison of those souls which had sinned through weakness, and she was heard to exclaim Alas ! I had thought to find you among those who have

sinned through ignorance, but I am mistaken for you

you burn with an intenser fire.”

Farther on, she perceived souls which had been too much

attached to the goods of this world, and had sinned by avarice.” What blindness,” said she, ” thus eagerly to seek a perishable fortune.Those for whom riches could not sufficiently satiate are here gorged with torments.They are smelted like metal in the furnace”.

From thence she passed into the place where those souls were imprisoned which had formerly been stained with impurity. She saw them in so filthy and pestilential a dungeon that the sight produced nausea. She turned away quickly from that loathsome spectacle. Seeing the ambi- tious and the proud, she said, ” Behold those who wished to shine before men ; now they are condemned to live in this frightful obscurity.”

Then she was shown those souls which had been guilty of ingratitude towards God.. They were a prey to unutteraable torments, and, as it were, drowned in a lake of molten lead, for having by their ingratitude dried up the source of piety.

Finally, in a last dungeon, she was shown souls that had not been given to any particular vice, but which, through lack of proper vigilance over themselves, had committed all kinds of trivial faults. She remarked that these souls had share in the chastisements of all vices, in a moderate degree, because those faults committed only from time to time rendered them less guilty than those committed through habit.

After this last station the saint left the garden, begging God never again to make her witness of so heartrending a spectacle : she felt that she had not strength to endure it. Her ecstasy still continued, and, conversing with Jesus, she said to Him, ” Tell me, Lord, what was your design in discovering to me those terrible prisons, of which I knew so little nd comprehended still less? Ah! I now see; you wished to give me the knowledge of your infinite sanctity, and to make me detest more and more the least stain of sin, which is so abominable in your eyes.”

~Source:”Purgatory Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints”

St.Teresa of Avila Aids the Holy Souls in Purgatory

St. Teresa had great charity towards the souls in Purgatory, and assisted them as much as lay in her power by her prayers and good works. In recompense, God frequently showed her the souls she had delivered; she saw them at the moment of their release from suffering and of their entrance into Heaven. Now, they generally came forth from the bosom of the earth. I received tidings she writes, of the death of a Religious who had formerly been Provincial of that province, and afterwards of another. I was acquainted with him, and he had rendered me great service. This intelligence caused me great uneasiness. Although this man was commendable for many virtues, I was apprehensive for the salvation of his soul, because he had been Superior for the space of twenty years, and I always fear much for those who are charged with the care of souls.

Much grieved, I went to an oratory; there I conjured ourDivine Lord to apply to this Religious the little good I had done during my life, and to supply the rest by His infinite merits, in order that this soul might be freed from Purgatory.Whilst I besought this grace with all the fervour of which I was capable, I saw on my right side this soul come forth from the depths of the earth and ascend into Heaven in transports of joy. Although this priest was advanced in years, he appeared to me with the features of a man who had not yet attained the age of thirty, and with a countenance resplendent with light.

This vision, though very short, left me inundated with Joy, and without a shadow of doubt as to the truth of what I had seen. As I was separated by a great distance from

the place where this servant of God had ended his days,it was some time before I learned the particulars of his edifying death ; all those who were witnesses of it could not behold without admiration how he preserved consciousness to the last moment, the tears he shed, and the sentiments of humility with which he surrendered his soul to God.

A Religious of my community, a great servant of God,had been dead not quite two days. We were saying the Office for the Dead for her in choir, a sister was reading the lesson, and I was standing to say the versicle. When half of the lesson had been said, I saw the soul of this Religious come forth from the depths of the earth, like the one of which I have just spoken, and go to Heaven.

” In this same monastery there died, at the age of eighteen or twenty years, another Religious, a true model of fervour, regularity, and virtue. Her life had been but at issue of maladies and sufferings patiently endured. I had no doubt, after “having seen her live thus, that she had more than sufficient merits to exempt her from Purgatory. Nevertheless, whilst I was at office, before she was interred, and about a quarter of an hour after her death, I saw her soul likewise issue from the earth and rise to Heaven.”

~Source:”Purgatory:Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints”

St.Teresa of Avila’s Visions of the Souls Suffering in Purgatory

St. Teresa had great charity towards the souls in Purga-tory, and assisted them as much as lay in her power by herprayers and good works. In recompense, God frequently showed her the souls she had delivered; she saw them at the moment of their release from suffering and of their entrance into Heaven. Now, they generally came forth from the bosom of the earth.

I received tidings ” she writes,” of the death of a Religious who had formerly been Provincial of that province, and afterwards of another. I was acquainted with him, and he had rendered me great service. This intelligence caused me great uneasiness. Although this man was commendable for many virtues, I was apprehensive for the salvation of his soul, because he had been Superior for the space of twenty years, and I always fear much for those who are charged with the care of souls.

Much grieved, I went to an oratory; there I conjured our Divine Lord to apply to this Religious the little good I had done during my life, and to supply the rest by His infinite merits, in order that this soul might be freed from Purga-tory. “Whilst I besought this grace with all the fervour of which I was capable, I saw on my right side this soul come forth from the depths of the earth and ascend into heaven on transports of joy. Although this priest was advanced in years, he appeared to me with the features of a man who had not yet attained the age of thirty, and with a countenance resplendent with light. ”

This vision, though very short, left me inundated with Joy, and without a shadow of doubt as to the truth of what

I had seen. As I was separated by a great distance from the place where this servant of God had ended his days,it was some time before I learned the particulars of his edifying death ; all those who were witnesses of it could not behold without admiration how he preserved consciousness to the last moment, the tears he shed, and the sentiments of humility with which he surrendered his soul to God.”

A Religious of my community, a great servant of God,had been dead not quite two days. We were saying the Office for the Dead for her in choir, a sister was reading the lessons, and I was standing to say the versicle. When half of the lesson had been said, I saw the soul of this Religious come forth from the depths of the earth, like the one of which I have just spoken, and go to Heaven. ”

In this same monastery there died, at the age of Eighteen or twenty years, another Religious, a true modelof fervour, regularity, and virtue. Her life had been but at issue of maladies and sufferings patiently endured. I had no doubt, after having seen her live thus, that she had more than sufficient merits to exempt her from Purgatory. Nevertheless, whilst I was at office, before she was interred, and about a quarter of an hour after her death, I saw her soul likewise issue from the earth and rise to Heaven.”

A like instance is recorded in the Life of St. Louis Bertrand, of the Order of St. Dominic. This Life, written by Father Antist, a Religious of the same Order, and who lived with the saint, is inserted in the Acta Sanctorum on the10th of October. In the year 1557, whilst St. Louis Bertrand resided at the convent of Valentia, the pest broke out in that city. The terrible plague spread rapidly, threatening to exterminate the inhabitants, and each one trembled for his life. A Religious of the community, wishing to prepare himself fervently for death, made a general confession ofhis whole life to the saint; and on leaving him said, Father, if it should now please God to call me, I shall return and make known to you my condition in the other life.” He died a short time afterwards, and the following night he appeared to the saint. He told him that he was detained in Purgatory on account of a few slight faults which remained to be expiated, and begged the saint to-recommend him to the community. St. Louis communicated the request immediately to the Prior, who hastened to recommend the soul of the departed to the prayers and Holy Sacrifices of the brethren assembled in chapter. Six days later, a man of the town, who knew nothing of what had passed at the convent, came to make his confession to Father Louis, and told him “that the soul of Father Clement had appeared to him. He saw, he said, the earth open, and the soul of the deceased Father come forth all glorious and it resembled, he added, a resplendent star, which rose through the air towards Heaven.”

~Source:”Purgatory Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints”

St.Margaret Mary’s Visions of the Souls in Purgatory

We read in the Life of St. Margaret Mary of many incidents where souls that were imprisoned in Purgatory, were allowed by God to appear to her in order to seek the help of her prayers and suffrages.

One such soul was tortured in a bed of torments on account of her indolence during life; at the same time she was subjected to a particular torture in her heart, on account of certain wicked sentiments, and in her tongue, in punishment of her uncharitable words. Moreover, she had to endure a frightful pain of an entirely different nature, caused neither by fire nor iron, but by the sight of a condemned soul. Let us see how the St. Margaret-Mary describes it in her writings.

“I saw in a dream,” she says, “one of our sisters who had died some time previous. She told me that she suffered much in Purgatory, but that God had inflicted upon her a suffering which surpassed all other pains, by showing her one of her near relatives precipitated into Hell.

“At these words I awoke, and felt as though my body was bruised from head to foot, so that it was with difficulty I could move. As we should not believe in dreams, I paid little attention to this one, but the Religious obliged me to do so in spite of myself. From that moment she gave me no rest, and said to me incessantly: ‘Pray to God for me; offer to Him your sufferings united to those of Jesus Christ, to alleviate mine; and give me all you shall do until the first Friday in May, when you will please communicate for me!’ This I did, with permission of my superior.

“Meanwhile the pain which this suffering soul caused me increased to such a degree that I could find neither comfort nor repose. Obedience obliged me to seek a little rest upon my bed; but scarcely had I retired when she seemed to approach me, saying: ‘You recline at your ease upon your bed―look at the one upon which I lie, and where I endure intolerable sufferings.’  I saw that bed, and the very thought of it makes me shudder. The top and bottom was of sharp flaming points, which pierced the flesh. She told me then, that this was on account of her sloth and negligence in the observance of the rules. ‘My heart is torn,’ she continued, ‘and causes me the most terrible suffering for my thoughts of disapproval and criticism of my superiors. My tongue is devoured by vermin, and, as it were, torn from my mouth continually, for the words I spoke against charity and my little regard for the rule of silence. Ah! I would that all souls consecrated to God could see me in these torments! If I could show them what is prepared for those who live negligently in their vocation, their zeal and fervor would be entirely renewed, and they would avoid those faults which now cause me to suffer so much!’

“At this sight I melted into tears. ‘Alas!’ said she, ‘One day passed by the whole community in exact observance would heal my parched mouth; another passed in the practice of holy charity would cure my tongue; and a third passed without any murmuring or disapproval of superiors would heal my bruised heart; but no one thinks to relieve me!’

St. Margaret Mary adds: “After I had offered the Communion which she had asked of me, she said that her dreadful torments were much diminished, but she had still to remain a long time in Purgatory, condemned to suffer the pains due to those souls that have been tepid in the service of God. As for myself, I found that I was freed from my sufferings, which I had been told would not diminish until the soul herself should be relieved.”

We have already said that Divine Justice is extremely severe in regard to sins against charity. Charity is, in fact, the virtue which is dearest to the Heart of our Divine Master, and which He recommends to His disciples as that which must distinguish them in the eyes of men. “By this,” He says, “shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another” (John 13:35). It is, then, not astonishing that harshness towards our neighbor, and every other fault against charity, should be severely punished in the other life.

St. Margaret Mary, being one day before the Blessed Sacrament, suddenly saw before her a man totally enveloped in fire, the intense heat of which seemed about to consume herself. The wretched state, in which she saw this poor soul, caused her to shed tears. He was a Benedictine Religious of the monastery of Cluny, to whom she had formerly confessed, and who had done good to her soul, by ordering her to receive Holy Communion. In reward for this service, God had permitted him to address himself to her, that he might find some alleviation in his sufferings.

The poor departed begged that all Margaret-Mary would do and suffer for the space of three months, might be applied to him. This she promised, after having obtained permission. Then he told her that the principal cause of his intense suffering was for having sought his own interests before the glory of God and the good of souls, by attaching too much importance to his reputation. The second was his want of charity towards his brethren. The third, the natural affection for creatures to whom, through weakness, he had yielded, and to which he had given expression in his spiritual communications with them, “this being,” he added, “very displeasing to God.”

It is difficult to say all that the St. Margaret-Mary had to suffer during the three months following. The deceased never left her. On the side where he stood she seemed all on fire, with such excruciating pain, that she could not cease to weep. Her Superior, touched with compassion, ordered her penances and disciplines, because pain and suffering greatly relieved her. The torments which the Sanctity of God inflicted upon her were insupportable. It was a specimen of the suffering endured by the poor souls.

Of this we have several proofs, taken from the Life of St. Margaret-Mary. “I learned from Sister Margaret-Mary,” says Mother Greffier in her Memoirs, “that she one day prayed for two persons of high rank in the world who had just died. She saw them both in Purgatory. The one was condemned for several years to those sufferings, despite the great number of Masses which were celebrated for her. All those prayers and suffrages were by Divine Justice applied to the souls belonging to some of the families of her subjects, which had been ruined by their injustice and lack of charity. As nothing was left to those poor people to enable them to have prayers offered for them after their death, God compensated these poor people in the manner we have related. The other was in Purgatory for as many days as she had lived years upon earth. Our Lord made known to Sister Margaret-Mary that, among the good works which this person had performed, He had taken into special consideration the charity with which she had borne the faults of her neighbor, and the pains she had taken to overcome the displeasure they had caused her.”

On another occasion our Lord showed St. Margaret-Mary a large number of souls in Purgatory, who, for not having been united with their Superiors during their life, and for having had some misunderstanding with them, had been severely punished and deprived, after death, of the aid of the Blessed Virgin and the Saints, and also of the visits of their guardian-angels. Several of those souls were destined to remain for a long time in horrible flames. Some even among them had no other token of their predestination than that they did not hate God. Others, who had been in religion, and who, during life, showed little charity towards their sisters, were deprived of their suffrages, and received no assistance whatsoever.

Let us add one more extract from the Memoirs of Mother Greffier. “It happened whilst Sister Margaret-Mary was praying for two deceased Religious, that their souls were shown to her in the prisons of Divine Justice, but one suffered incomparably more than the other. The former regretted greatly that by her faults against mutual Charity, and the holy friendship that ought to remain in religious communities, she had in part deprived herself, among other punishments, of the suffrages which were offered for her by the community. She received relief only from the prayers of three or four persons of the same community for whom she had had less affection and inclination during her life. This suffering soul reproached herself also for the too great facility with which she took dispensations from the rules and exercises of the community. Finally, she deplored the care which she had taken upon Earth to procure for her body so many comforts and commodities. She made known at the same time to our dear Sister that, in punishment for three faults, she had to undergo three furious assaults of the demon during her last agony, and that each time believing herself lost, she was on the point of falling into despair, but by the Blessed Virgin, towards whom she had borne great devotion during her life, she had been snatched three times from the claws of the enemy.”

Suffering to Free the Souls in Purgatory

St.Robert Bellarmine recounts the story of St.Christine the Admirable,advocate of the Holy Souls in Purgatory

Christine was born to a peasant family, the youngest of three daughters. After being orphaned at the age of fifteen, she worked taking the herds to pasture.

She suffered a massive seizure when she was in her early 20’s. Her condition was so severe that witnesses assumed she had died. A funeral was held, but during the service, she arose full of vigor, stupefying with amazement the whole city of Saint-Trond, which had witnessed this wonder.

She levitated up to the rafters, later explaining that she could not bear the smell of the sinful people there.

The learned and devout cardinal, St. Robert Bellarmine, relates the history of St. Christine the Admirable,  who lived in Belgium at the close of the twelfth century, and whose body is preserved today in St. Trond, in the church of the Redemptorist Fathers. The Life of this illustrious virgin was, he says, written by Thomas de Cantimpré, a Religious of the Order of St. Dominic, an author worthy of credit and contemporary with the saint. Cardinal James de Vitry, in the preface to the Life of Maria d’Ognies, speaks of a great number of holy women and illustrious virgins; but the one whom he admires above all others is St. Christine, of whom he relates the most wonderful deeds.

Christina renounced all comforts of life, reduced herself to extreme destitution, dressed in rags, lived without home or hearth, and not content with privations she eagerly sought all that could cause her suffering. At first, she fled human contact; and suspected of being possessed, was jailed. Upon her release, she took up the practice of extreme penance.

This servant of God, having passed the first years of her life in humility and patience, died at the age of thirty-two.  When she was about to be buried, and the body was already in the church resting in an open coffin, according to the custom of the time, she arose full of vigor, stupefying with amazement the whole city of St. Trond, which had witnessed this wonder. The astonishment increased when they learned from her own mouth what had happened to her after her death. Let us hear her own account of it.

“As soon,” said she, “as my soul was separated from my body, it was received by angels, who conducted it to a very gloomy place, entirely filled with souls. The torments which they there endured appeared to me so excessive, that it is impossible for me to give any idea of their rigor.  I saw among them many of my acquaintances, and, deeply touched by their sad condition, I asked what place it was, for I believed it to be Hell. My guide answered me that it was Purgatory, where sinners were punished who, before death, had repented of their faults, but had not made worthy satisfaction to God. From thence I was conducted into Hell, and there also I recognized among the reprobates some whom I had formerly known.

“The angels then transported me into Heaven, even to the throne of the Divine Majesty. The Lord regarded me with a favorable eye, and I experienced an extreme joy, because I thought to obtain the grace of dwelling eternally with Him.

But my Heavenly Father, seeing what passed in my heart, said to me these words: ‘Assuredly, my dear daughter, you will one day be with Me. Now, however, allow you to choose, either to remain with Me henceforth from this time, or to return again to earth to accomplish a mission of charity and suffering.  In order to deliver from the flames of Purgatory those souls which have inspired you with so much compassion, you shall suffer for them upon Earth; you shall endure great torments, without, however, dying from their effects. And not only will you relieve the departed, but the example which you will give to the living, and your life of continual suffering, will lead sinners to be converted and to expiate their crimes. After having ended this new life, you shall return here laden with merits.

“At these words, seeing the great advantages offered to me for souls, I replied, without hesitation, that I would return to life, and I arose at that same instant. It is for this sole object, the relief of the departed and the conversion of sinners, that I have returned to this world. There fore be not astonished at the penances that I shall practice, nor at the life that you will see me lead from henceforward.  It will be so extraordinary that nothing like to it has ever been seen.”

All this was related by the saint herself; let us now see what the biographer adds in the different chapters of her Life.

“Christine immediately commenced the work for which she had been sent by God. Renouncing all the comforts of life, and reduced to extreme destitution, she lived without house or fire, more miserable than the birds of the air, which have a nest to shelter them. Not content with these privations, she eagerly sought all that could cause her suffering. She threw herself into burning furnaces, and there suffering so great torture that she could no longer bear it, she uttered the most frightful cries. She remained for a long time in the fire, and yet, on coming forth, no sign of burning was found upon her body.

“In winter, when the River Meuse was frozen, she plunged herself into it, staying in that cold river not only hours and days, but for entire weeks, all the while praying to God and imploring His mercy. Sometimes, whilst praying in the icy waters, she allowed herself to be carried by the current down to a mill, the wheel of which whirled her round in a manner frightful to behold, yet without breaking or dislocating one of her bones.

“On other occasions, followed by dogs, which bit and tore her flesh, she ran, enticing them into the thickets and among the thorns, until she was covered with blood; nevertheless, on her return, no wound or scar was to be seen.”

Such are the works of admirable penance described by the author of the Life of St. Christine. “This writer was a Bishop, a suffragan of the Archbishop of Cambray; and we have,” says St. Robert Bellarmine, “reason for believing his testimony, since he has for guarantee another grave author, James de Vitry, Bishop and Cardinal, and because he relates what happened in his own time, and even in the province where he lived.

“Besides, the sufferings of this admirable virgin were not hidden. Every one could see that she was in the midst of the flames without being consumed, and covered with wounds, every trace of which disappeared a few moments afterwards. But more than this was the marvelous life she led for forty-two years after she was raised from the dead, God clearly showing that the wonders wrought in her by virtue from on high. The striking conversions which she effected, and the evident miracles which occurred after her death, manifestly proved the finger of God, and the truth of that which, after her resurrection, she had revealed concerning the other life.”

Therefore, St. Robert Bellarmine argues, “God willed to silence those libertines who make open profession of believing in nothing, and who have the audacity to ask in scorn, Who has returned from the other world? Who has ever seen the torments of Hell or Purgatory? Behold two witnesses!  They assure us that they have seen them, and that they are dreadful. What follows, then, if not that the incredulous are inexcusable, and that those who believe and nevertheless neglect to do penance are still more to be condemned?”

“A Quarter of An Hour Seems Like Over A Year”

The following is taken from a pious author quoted by Father Rossignoli. (Merveilles, 17).  Two Religious, of eminent virtue, vied with each other in leading a holy life. One of them fell sick, and learned in a vision that he should soon die, that he should be saved, and that he should remain in Purgatory only until the first Mass should be celebrated for the repose of his soul. Full of joy at these tidings, he hastened to impart them to his friend, and entreated him not to delay the celebration of the Mass which was to open Heaven to him.

He died the following morning, and his holy companion lost no time in celebrating the Holy Sacrifice. After Mass, whilst he was making his thanksgiving, and still continuing to pray for his departed friend, the latter appeared to him radiant with glory, but in a tone sweetly plaintive he asked why that one Mass of which he stood in need had been so long delayed.

“My blessed brother,” replied the Religious, “I delayed so long, you say? I do not understand you.”  “What! did you not leave me to suffer for more than a year before offering Mass for the repose of my soul.”  “Indeed, my dear brother, I commenced Mass immediately after your death; not a quarter of an hour had elapsed.”  Then, regarding him with emotion, the blessed soul cried out, “How terrible are those expiatory pains, since they have caused me to mistake minutes for a year. Serve God, my dear brother, with an exact fidelity, in order that you may avoid those chastisements. Farewell! I fly to Heaven, where you will soon join me.”

We find in the Annals of the Friar Minors, under the year 1285, a fact which is also related by St. Antoninus in his Summa. (Part 4, § 4).  A religious man suffering for a long time from a painful malady, allowed himself to be overcome by discouragement, and entreated God to permit him to die, that he might be released from his pains. He did not think that the prolongation of his sickness was a mercy of God, who wished to spare him more severe suffering. In answer to his prayer, God charged His angel-guardian to offer him his choice, either to die immediately and submit to the pains of Purgatory for three days, or to bear his sickness for another year and then go directly to Heaven. The sick man, having to choose between three days in Purgatory and one year of suffering upon earth, did not hesitate, but took the three days in Purgatory.

After the lapse of an hour, his angel went to visit him in his sufferings. On seeing him, the poor patient complained that he had been left so long in those torments. “And yet,” he added, “you promised that I should remain here but three days.”  “How long,” asked the angel, “do you think you have already suffered?” “At least for several years,” he replied, “and I had to suffer but three days.” “Know,” said the angel, “that you have been here only one hour. The intensity of the pain deceives you as to the time; it makes an instant appear a day, and an hour years.”  “Alas! then,” said he with a sigh, “I have been very blind and inconsiderate in the choice I have made. Pray God, my good angel, to pardon me, and permit me to return to earth. I am ready to submit to the most cruel maladies, not only for two years, but as long as it shall please Him. Rather six years of horrible suffering than one single hour in this abyss of unutterable agonies.”

This severity of Divine Justice in regard to the most fervent souls is explained by the infinite Sanctity of God, who discovers stains in that which appears to us most pure.  The Annals of the Order of St. Francis speak of a Religious whose eminent sanctity had caused him to be surnamed Angelicus. (Chronique des Frères Min., p. 2, I, 4. c. 8; cf. Rossignoli) He died in odor of sanctity at the monastery of the Friars Minors in Paris, and one his brethren in religion, a doctor in theology, persuaded that, after a life so perfect, he had gone directly to Heaven, and that he stood in no need of prayers, omitted to celebrate for him the three Masses of obligation which, according to the custom of the Institute, were offered for each departed member.

After a few days, whilst he was walking and meditating in a retired spot, the deceased appeared before him enveloped in flames, and said to him, in a mournful voice, “Dear master, I beg of you have pity upon me!”  “What! Brother Angelicus, do you need my assistance?”  “I am detained in the fires of Purgatory, awaiting the fruit of the Holy Sacrifice which you should have offered three times for me.”  “Beloved brother, I thought you were already in possession of eternal glory. After a life so fervent and exemplary as yours had been, I could not imagine that there remained any pain to be suffered.”  “Alas! alas!” replied the departed, “no one can believe with what severity God judges and punishes His creatures. His infinite Sanctity discovers in our best actions defective spots, imperfections which displease Him. He requires us to give an account even to the last farthing.

The Power of the Mass for the Poor Souls in Purgatory

The immense power of the Mass for the souls in Purgatory

On October 13, 1849, there died at the age of fifty-two, in the parish of Ardoye, in Flanders, a woman named Eugenie Van de Kerckove, whose husband, John Wybo, was a farmer. She was a pious and charitable woman who generously gave to charity in proportionate to her means. She had, to the end of her life, a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and abstained from meat in her honor on the Friday and Saturday of each week. Although her conduct was not free from certain faults, she otherwise led a exemplary and edifying life.

Eugenie had a servant named Barbara Vennecke, aged twenty-eight, who was known as a virtuous and devoted girl, and who had assisted her mistress in her last sickness, and after Eugenie’s death, she continued to serve her master, John Wybo, the widower of Eugenie.

About three weeks after her death, the deceased appeared to her servant under circumstances which we will now relate. It was in the middle of the night; Barbara slept soundly, when she heard herself called distinctly three times by her name. She awoke with a start, and saw Eugenie before her, sitting on the side of her bed, clad in a working dress, consisting of a skirt and short jacket. At this remarkable sight, Barbara was seized with astonishment. The apparition spoke to her: “Barbara,” she said, simply pronouncing her name. “What do you desire, Eugenie?” replied the servant.

‘Please take,” said the mistress, “the little rake which I often told you to put in its place; stir the heap of sand in the little room; you know to which one I refer. You will find there 500 franks; use it to have Masses said, two francs for each Mass, for my intention, for I am still suffering.” “I will do so, Eugenie,” replied Barbara, and at the same moment the apparition vanished. After awhile she fell asleep again, and reposed quietly until morning:

On awaking, Barbara thought that maybe it was all just a dream, but yet she had been so deeply impressed, so wide awake, she had seen her old mistress in a form so distinct, so full of life and she had received from her lips such precise directions, that she could not help saying, “This cannot have been a dream. I saw my mistress in person; she presented herself to my eyes and she surely spoke to me. It is no dream, but a reality.”

She therefore immediately went and took the rake as directed, stirred the sand, and drew out a purse containing the sum of five hundred francs.

In such strange and extraordinary circumstances the good girl thought it her duty to seek the advice of her pastor before spending the 500 francs on having Masses said, and went to relate to him all that had happened. The venerable Abbe R., then parish priest of Ardoye, replied that the Masses asked by the departed soul absolutely must be celebrated, but, in order to dispose of the sum of money, the consent of the husband, John Wybo, was necessary, since the money was found in his house. The latter willingly consented that the money should be employed for so holy a purpose, and the Masses were celebrated, being given two francs for each Mass.

We call attention to the circumstance of the Mass donations, because it corresponded with the pious custom of the deceased. The fee for a Mass fixed by the diocese at that time was a franc and a half, but during her lifetime Eugenie-through consideration and charity for the clergy, many of whom were quite poor- always gave two francs for each Mass that she made offerings for. Thus the extra 1/2 a frank Mass offering that she normally made was an act of charity and additional financial support for the priests who celebrated them.

Two months after the first apparition, while Masses were still being said for Eugenie’s intentions, Barbara was again awakened during the night. This time her chamber was illuminated with a bright light, and her mistress appeared before her with a radiant smile, beautiful and fresh in appearance as in the days of her youth, and was dressed in a robe of dazzling whiteness—“Barbara,” she said in a clear voice, “I thank you! For I am now delivered from the place of purification.’ Saying these words, she disappeared, and the chamber became dark as before.

The servant, amazed at what she had just seen, was full of joy, and she soon spread the remarkable story to everyone about the town . This apparition made the most lively impression upon her mind, and she preserves to this day the most consoling remembrance of it. It is from her that we have these details, through the favor of the venerable Abbe L., who was curate at Ardoye when these facts occurred.

This is but one of the many stories in regards to the power and efficacy of the Holy Mass wherein the Son of God Himself offers Himself upon the altar for the forgiveness of our sins, for it is a fact that of all that we can do in favor of the souls in Purgatory, there is nothing more powerful and precious than the offering of immolation of our Divine Saviour upon the altar. Besides being the express doctrine of the Church as manifested in her Councils, there are many miraculous facts, properly authenticated, which leave no room for doubt in regard to this point.

In evidence to this we now provide another incident, related by the historian Ferdinand of Castile. From 1324-1327 there was at Cologne two Dominican Religious of distinguished talent, one of whom was Blessed Henry Suso (1295-1366). They shared the same studies, the same kind of life, and above all the same desire for sanctity, which had caused them to form an close friendship.

When they had finished their studies, seeing that they were about to be separated to return each one to his own convent, they agreed and promised one another that the first of the two who should die should be assisted by the other for a whole year by the celebration of two Masses each week–on Monday a Mass of Requiem, as was customary, and on Friday that of the Passion, in so far as the Rubrics would permit. They promised each other that they would do this, gave each other the kiss of peace, and left Cologne.

For several years they both continued to serve God with the most edifying fervor. The priest religious whose name is not mentioned was the first to be called away, and Father Suso received the news with sentiments of resignation to the Divine will. As to the contract they had made, time had caused him to forget it. However, he prayed much for his friend, imposing new penances upon himself and many other good works, but he did not think of offering the Masses which he had promised a number of years previously.

One morning, while meditating in retirement in the chapel, he suddenly saw appear before him the soul of his departed friend, who, regarding him with tenderness, reproached him with having been unfaithful to his word from which he had a perfect right to rely upon with confidence. Blessed Suso, surprised, excused his forgetfulness by relating the many prayers and mortifications which he had offered, and still continued to offer, for his friend, whose salvation was as dear to him as his own.

“Is it possible, my dear brother;’ he added, “that so many prayers and good works which I have offered to God do not suffice for you?” “Oh no,” dear brother, replied the suffering soul, “these are not yet sufficient. It is the Blood of Jesus Christ that is needed to extinguish the flames by which I am consumed; it is the Holy Sacrifice which will deliver me from these frightful torments. I implore you to keep your word, and refuse me not that which in justice you owe me.”

Blessed Suso hastened to respond to the appeal of the suffering soul; he contacted as many priests as possible and urged them to say Masses for his friends intentions and, to repair his fault, he celebrated, and caused to be celebrated, a large number of Masses that very same day. On the following day several priests, at the request of Father Suso, united with him in offering the Holy Sacrifice for the deceased, and he continued his act of charity for several days.

After a short time the priest friend of Suso again appeared to him, but now in a very different condition; his countenance was joyful, and he was surrounded with beautiful light. “Thanks be to you, my dear friend” he said “behold, by the Blood of my Saviour I am delivered from my sufferings. I am now going to Heaven to contemplate Him whom we so often adored together under the Eucharistic veil.”

Afterwards, Blessed Suso prostrated himself to ‘thank the God of infinite mercy, because he now understood more than ever the inestimable value of the Mass.’

~Source:Purgatory –Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints” by Father F.X. Schouppe, S.J~