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The Truth about Purgatory Header

 By Luis and Gustavo Solimeo


"Oh! If people only knew what Purgatory is!"


In 1870, Belgium fought as an ally with France against Germany.

In September of that year, Sister Maria Serafina, a Redemptorist nun in Malines, Belgium, was suddenly seized with inexplicable sadness.

Soon after, she received the news that her father had died in that war.

From that day on, Sister Maria repeatedly heard distressing groans and a voice saying, "My dear daughter, have mercy on me!"

Subsequently, she was besieged with torments, which included unbearable headaches. While laying down one day, she saw her father surrounded with flames and immersed in profound sadness.

He was suffering in Purgatory and had received permission from God to beseech prayers from his daughter and relate Purgatory's suffering to her. Thus he said:

I want you to have Masses, prayers and indulgences said on my behalf. Look how I am immersed in this fire-filled hole! Oh! If people knew what Purgatory is, they would suffer anything to avoid it and alleviate the suffering of souls here. Be very holy, my daughter, and observe the Holy Rule, even in its most insignificant points. Purgatory for religious is a terrible thing!

Sister Maria saw a pit full of flames, spewing black clouds of smoke. Her father was immersed in the pit where he was burning, horribly suffocated and thirsty. Opening his mouth she saw that his tongue was entirely shriveled.

"I am thirsty, my daughter, I am thirsty."

Angel leading people our of purgatoryThe next day, her father visited her again saying, "My daughter, it has been a long time since I saw you last."

"My father, it was just yesterday . . ."

"Oh! It seems like an eternity to me. If I stay in Purgatory three months, it will be an eternity. I was condemned for many years, but, due to Our Lady's intercession, my sentence was reduced to only a few months."

The grace of coming to earth was granted to him through his good works during his life and because he had been devoted to Our Lady receiving communion on all her feast days.

During these visions, Sister Maria Serafina asked her father several questions:

"Do souls in Purgatory know who is praying for them, and can they pray for us?"

"Yes, my daughter."

"Do these souls suffer, knowing that God is offended in their families and in the world?"

"Yes."

Directed by her confessor and her superior, she continued to question her father:

"Is it true that the sufferings of Purgatory are much greater than all the torments of earth and even of the martyrs?"

"Yes, my daughter, all this is very true."

Sister Serafina then asked if everyone who belongs to the Scapular Confraternity of Carmel (those who wear the scapular), is freed from Purgatory on the first Saturday after death:

"Yes," he answered, "but only if they are faithful to the Confraternity's obligations."

"Is it true that some souls must stay in Purgatory for as long as five hundred years?"

"Yes. Some are condemned until the end of the world. These souls are very guilty and entirely abandoned."

"Three main things draw God's malediction over men: failure to observe the Lord's Day through work, the very widespread vice of impurity, and blasphemy. Oh my daughter, how these blasphemies provoke the wrath of God!"

For over three months, Sister Serafina and her community prayed and offered penance for the soul of her tormented father who often appeared to her. During the elevation of the Host at Christmas Mass, Sister Maria saw her father shining like a sun with matchless beauty.

"I finished my sentence, and have come to thank you and your sisters for your prayers and pious exercises. I will pray for you in Heaven."

If Purgatory did not exist to remove the stain of sin from imperfect souls, the only alternative would be Hell. Therefore, Purgatory is a necessary place of expiation.

All personal sin carries two consequences: blame (which, in the case of mortal sin, destroys sanctifying grace and leads to Hell) and temporal punishment warranted by the offense to God. Although Confession frees us from blame and part of the punishment, we must still make additional reparation to God. In this life, this can be done through prayer, Mass intentions, alms, penance and acquiring indulgences. One who dies in a state of venial sin or without sufficient reparation goes to Purgatory.


A Place of Expiation

We have seen that Purgatory is a place of expiation.

Souls in Purgatory endure a two-fold suffering: they experience a temporary pain of loss, since they are temporarily deprived of the Beatific Vision and they also feel sensible sufferings, or pain of sense. Unlike the damned in Hell where punishments provoke hatred, those in Purgatory find punishment evokes a profound love of God.

According to Saint Thomas and Saint Augustine, the least pain of Purgatory is worse than the greatest of this life. This is due to the intensity of the desire souls have for God, Whose privation is extremely painful, and the magnitude of sensible pain, which, touching the soul directly, is worse than anything felt by the senses.

St Michael in purgatory

Suffering Encouraged by Hope

However rigorous the punishments of Purgatory may be, they are soothed by hope.

Saint Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510), a mystic who suffered Purgatory's torments on earth explained that one suffers simultaneously unspeakable torment and indescribable happiness.

She described the torment as stemming from a continually consuming interior fire, kindled by separation from God, for Whom the soul is aflame with love. This suffering is so intense that it transforms each instant into a martyrdom of pain.

Although surpassing all earthly suffering, it cannot be compared with the anguish of Hell where suffering is a despairing fruit of hatred while the suffering of Purgatory is a hope-filled suffering of love.

Consequently, Saint Catherine said that only in Heaven itself is there greater happiness than that amidst the torments of Purgatory. This is because the soul knows it is saved, in friendship with God, surrounded by holy souls, and thus aflame with love of God.

Saint Catherine explained:

I believe no happiness can be found worthy to be compared with that of a soul in Purgatory except that of the saints in Paradise; and day by day this happiness grows as God flows into these souls, more and more as the hindrance to His entrance is consumed. Sin's rust is the hindrance, and the fire burns the rust away so that more and more the soul opens itself up to the divine inflowing. A thing which is covered cannot respond to the sun's rays, not because of any defect in the sun, which is shining all the time, but because the cover is an obstacle; if the cover be burnt away, this thing is open to the sun; more and more as the cover is consumed does it respond to the rays of the sun.

It is in this way that rust, which is sin, covers souls, and in Purgatory is burnt away by fire; the more it is consumed, the more do the souls respond to God, the true sun. As the rust lessens and the soul is opened up to the divine ray, happiness grows; until the time be accomplished the one wanes and the other waxes. Pain however does not lessen but only the time for which pain is endured. As for will: never can the souls say these pains are pains, so contented are they with God's ordaining with which, in pure charity, their will is united.

 

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The Duration of Purgatory

The amount of time spent in Purgatory is very difficult to express in human terms. In accounts of private visions, we read of souls condemned for a number of years or even until the end of the world. Indeed, Our Lady revealed to the seers of Fatima that a girl who died shortly before the apparitions would remain there until the end of time.

Theologians explain that time in Purgatory can be gauged in two ways. The first is positive and corresponds to time as we measure it on earth; the other is fictitious or imaginary since it corresponds to the amount of time that souls judge they suffered which is distorted since this very suffering causes them to lose track of time.

Thus, we see souls, who after mere hours in Purgatory complain about years or even centuries of suffering.

Saint Anthony tells the story of a sick person who suffered so atrociously that he considered it beyond human nature and thus continually prayed for death. One day, an angel appeared to him and said, "God sent me here to offer you a choice. You can spend one year of suffering on earth, or one day in Purgatory." Choosing the latter, he died and went to Purgatory.

When the angel went to console him, he was greeted with this groan of pain, "Deceitful angel! At least twenty years ago, you said that I would spend only one day in Purgatory . . . My God, how I suffer!"

To this the Angel responded, "Poor deluded soul, your body is not even buried yet."


Devotion to the Souls in Purgatory

Devotion to souls in Purgatory originated in the early Church, based on the dogma of the Communion of Saints. Although these souls cannot gain merit, they are in friendship with God, Who willingly applies merits offered for them.

Therefore it is an act of charity to pray, offer Masses, sacrifices and indulgences for them.

This devotion was ingrained so deeply in the faithful that even Luther dared not abolish it. He understood the importance of proceeding towards his insidious goals with caution.

Supported by Scripture and Tradition, the Church defined the dogma of the Communion of Saints, which encourages devotion to the holy souls. This devotion not only encourages the practice of charity but also enlivens faith and consoles those who have lost loved ones.


The Powerful Intercession of the Souls in Purgatory

Besides being a spiritual work of mercy and a powerful reminder of the afterlife, devotion to souls in Purgatory also affords us invaluable intercession as demonstrated by Church Tradition.

Our Lady looking upon those in purgatoryAccording to the dogma of the Communion of Saints, they form a part of the Church (called the Church Suffering) and are therefore united to us, and can intercede for us.

Examples of this abound in Church History and many readers have undoubtedly experienced such intercession. We will relate a few examples below.

The Countess of Stratford, an English protestant, having doubts about the existence of Purgatory, consulted the Bishop of Amiens, France. Hearing her objection, he answered, "Tell the Bishop of London (an Anglican) that I will leave the Faith and become an Anglican if he can prove that Saint Augustine never celebrated Mass or prayed for the dead, especially his mother."

Following his advice, the Countess wrote the Anglican bishop of London. Seeing that he did not respond, she converted.

At a certain point during her reform of the Carmelites, Saint Teresa was in need of a convent. A noble named Bernadine of Toledo responded to her need and donated a place for the convent. He died shortly afterwards. Saint Theresa received the revelation that he would remain in Purgatory until the first Mass was celebrated in the convent he had donated. She thus hastened to establish its foundation. During communion of this first Mass, she saw his soul radiant with splendor at the side of the priest. Thanks to that Mass which had been said for him, he was freed from Purgatory.

Whenever Saint Catherine of Bologna's prayers seemed unanswered, she would call upon the intercession of the souls in Purgatory. She affirmed that these prayers were always answered.


A Moving Example

The cases of intercession of the souls in Purgatory are so numerous that several books would not be enough to relate them all.

The following one, which is among the best known and most moving, happened in Paris in 1817.

A domestic servant, who had the pious habit of having a Mass said every month for the souls in Purgatory, became ill and having to be hospitalized, lost her job.

Upon leaving the hospital, she went to a church to pray, where she remembered that she had failed to have Mass said for the poor souls that month. However due to her unemployment, she could not afford a Mass offering since it would leave her penniless. After hesitating, she gave the offering.

Leaving the church, she met a young man who seemed to be a noble. He unexpectedly asked her if she needed employment and gave her the address of a house, which needed a maid.

When she arrived at the house, the owner, who had just dismissed her maid, wondered who could have known that she needed help. While describing the young man at the Church, the servant saw a painting of him on the wall.

Hearing this, the owner exclaimed, "That is my son, who died two months ago!"

Then both realized that God wanted to reward the maid's charity and reveal the power of a suffering soul's intercession.

  


 *Taken from “Life After Death” by Luis and Gustavo Solimeo
 
 
 
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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for May 18, 2021

Our Lord loves you and loves you tenderly; and if He does no...

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May 18

 

Our Lord loves you
and loves you tenderly; and
if He does not let you feel the sweetness of His love,
it is to make you more humble and abject in your own eyes.

St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Eric IX of Sweden

The king’s zeal for the faith was far from pleasing to his...

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St. Eric IX of Sweden

Eric the Holy or Erik the Saint was acknowledged king in most provinces of Sweden in 1150, and his family line subsisted for a hundred years. He did much to establish Christianity in Upper Sweden and built or completed at Old Uppsala the first large church to be erected in the country. It is said that all the ancient laws and constitutions of the kingdom were, by his orders, collected into one volume, which came to be known as King Eric’s Law or The Code of Uppland.

The king soon had to take up arms against the heathen Finns. He vanquished them in battle, and at his desire, St. Henry, Bishop of Uppsala, who had accompanied him on the expedition, remained in Finland to evangelize the people.

The king’s zeal for the Catholic Faith was far from pleasing to his nobles, and we are told that they entered into a conspiracy against him with Magnus, the son of the king of Denmark. King Eric was hearing Mass on the day after the feast of the Ascension when news was brought that a Danish army, swollen with Swedish rebels, was marching against him and was close at hand. With unwavering calm he answered, “Let us at least finish the sacrifice; the rest of the feast I shall keep elsewhere”. After Mass was over, he recommended his soul to God, and marched forth in advance of his guards. The conspirators rushed upon him, beat him down from his horse, and beheaded him. His death occurred on May 18 in 1161.

The relics of St. Eric IX of Sweden are preserved in the Cathedral of Uppsala, and the saintly king's effigy appears on the coat of arms of the city of Stockholm.

Pope St. John I

The king had the pontiff arrested at Ravenna and thrown into...

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Pope St. John I

St. John I was a native of Siena in Tuscany and was one of the seven deacons of Rome when he was elected to the papacy at the death of Pope Hormisdas in the year 523.

At the time, Theodoric the Great ruled over the Ostrogoths in Italy and Justin I was the Byzantine Emperor of Constantinople. King Theodoric supported the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ.

Justin I, the first Catholic on the throne of Constantinople in fifty years, published a severe edict against the Arians, requiring them to return to orthodox Catholics the churches they had taken from them. The said edict caused a commotion among eastern Arians, and spurred Theodoric to threaten war.

Ultimately, he opted for a diplomatic solution and named Pope John, much against his wishes, to head a delegation of five bishops and four senators to Justin.

Pope John, refused to comply with Theodoric’s wishes to influence Justin to reverse his policies. The only thing he did obtain from Justin was for him to mitigate his treatment of Arians, thus avoiding reprisals against Catholics in Italy.

After the delegation returned, Theodoric, disappointed with the result of the mission, and growing daily more suspicious at reports of the friendly relations between the Pope and Justin I, had the pontiff arrested at Ravenna.

Pope John I died in prison a short time later as a result of ill treatment.

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As the century began anew, so did Catherine’s life. Cathe...

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The Rosary & True Beauty

As the century began anew, so did Catherine’s life.

Catherine was a young woman possessing great beauty. So much so, that she was known to those in Rome where she made her home as “Catherine the Beautiful.” Sadly, Catherine’s beauty went only skin deep, and she led a very sinful life.

One afternoon, strolling the streets of Rome, Catherine heard the voice of St. Dominic. This was the early 13th century and it was not unusual to cross paths with this great man of God.

On this particular day, he was preaching on the devotion to the Mother of God and the importance of praying her most holy Rosary. Caught up in the moment, Catherine had her name inscribed in the book of the confraternity and began to recite the Rosary. Though praying the Rosary gave her a sense of calmness she had not known before, Catherine did not abandon her sinful ways.

One evening, a youth, apparently a nobleman, came to her house. Catherine invited the handsome young man to stay to dine with her. When they were at supper, she saw drops of blood falling from his hands while he was breaking a piece of bread. Moments later, she observed, much to her discomfort, that all the food he took was tinged with blood.

Gathering up some courage to appease her curiosity, she asked him what that blood meant. With a firm but gentle look in his eyes, the youth replied that a Christian should take no food that was not tinged with the blood of Jesus Christ and sweetly seasoned with the memory of His passion.

Amazed at this reply, Catherine asked him who he was. "Soon," he answered, "I will show you." The rest of their meal passed uneventfully, yet always the drops of red catching Catherine’s eye, causing her to wonder about this man she supped with.

After dinner, when they had withdrawn into another room, the appearance of the youth changed. To Catherine’s stunned gaze, he showed himself crowned with thorns, his flesh torn and bleeding.

With the same firm but gentle gaze he said to her: “Do you wish to know who I am? Do you not know me? I am your Redeemer. Catherine, when will you cease to offend me? See how much I have suffered for you. You have grieved me enough, change your life."

Catherine began to weep bitterly, and Jesus, encouraging her, said: "Now begin to love me as much as you have offended me; and know that you have received this grace from me, on account of the Rosary you have been accustomed to recite in honor of my mother." And then he disappeared.

Catherine went in the morning to make her confession to St. Dominic, whose preaching on the Rosary had brought so marvelous a grace into her life. Giving to the poor all she possessed, from that day forward Catherine led so holy and joyful a life that she attained to great perfection.

It could now be said of her among the inhabitants of Rome that Catherine was indeed beautiful, but her beauty was no longer skin deep; her loveliness radiated from the depths of her soul.

The Most Holy Virgin often appeared to her; and Jesus himself revealed to St. Dominic, that this penitent had become very dear to him.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

As the century began anew, so did Catherine’s life. Catherine was a young woman possessing great beauty.

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