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”