Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 13

Article

Pains of Purgatory – Brother Antony Pereyra – The Venerable Angela Tholomei

To the two preceding facts we shall add a third, taken from the Annals of the Company of Jesus. We speak of a prodigy which was wrought in the person of Antony Pereyra, Brother Coadjutor of that Company, who died in the odor of sanctity at the College of Evora, in Portugal, 1 August 1645. Forty-six years previous, in 1599, five years after his entrance into the novitiate, this brother was attacked by a mortal malady on the island of Saint Michael, one of the Azores. A few moments after he had received the Last Sacraments, in presence of the whole community, who assisted him in his agony, he appeared to breathe forth his soul, and soon became as cold as a corpse. The appearance, though almost imperceptible, of a slight beating of the heart, alone prevented them from interring him immediately. He was therefore left for three entire days upon his bed, and his body already gave evident signs of decomposition, when suddenly, on the fourth day, he opened his eyes, breathed, and spoke.

He was then obliged by obedience to relate to his superior, Father Louis Pinheyro, all that had passed within him since the last terrible moments of his agony. We here give an abridged account of it, as written by his own hand.

“I saw first,” he says, “from my deathbed my Father, Saint Ignatius, accompanied by several of our Fathers from Heaven, who came to visit his sick children, seeking those whom he thought worthy to be offered by him and his companions to Our Lord. When he drew near to me I believed for a moment that he would take me, and my heart thrilled with joy; but soon he pointed out to me that of which I must correct myself before obtaining so great a happiness.”

Then, nevertheless, by a mysterious disposition of Divine Providence, the soul of Brother Pereyra separated itself momentarily from his body, and immediately a hideous troupe of demons rushing towards him filled him with terror. At the same moment his guardian angel and Saint Antony of Padua, his countryman and patron, descended from Heaven, put to flight his enemies, and invited him to accompany them to take a glimpse of, and taste for a moment, the joys and sufferings of eternity. “They led me then by turns,” he adds, “towards a place of delights, where they showed me a crown of incomparable glory, but which I had not as yet merited; then to the brink of an abyss, where I saw the reprobate souls fall into the eternal fire, crushed like the grains of wheat cast upon a millstone that turns without intermission. The infernal gulf was like one of those lime kilns where, at times, the flames are, as it were, stifled by the mass of materials thrown into them, but which feeds the fire that it may burst forth with more terrible violence.” Led from thence to the tribunal of the Sovereign Judge, Antony Pereyra heard himself condemned to the fire of Purgatory; and nothing, he assures us, can give an idea of what is suffered there, nor of the state of agony to which the souls are reduced by the desire and the delay of the enjoyment of God and of His sacred presence.

When, by the command of God, his soul had been reunited with his body, the renewed tortures of his malady for six entire months, with the additional torture of fire and iron, caused the flesh (already incurably tainted with the corruption of his first death) to fall in pieces; yet not this, nor the frightful penances to which he unceasingly delivered himself, so far as obedience permitted, during the forty-six years of his new life, could appease his thirst for suffering and expiation. “All this,” he said, “is nothing in comparison with what the justice and infinite mercy of God has caused me not only to witness, but also to endure.”

In fine, as an authentic seal upon so many marvels, Brother Pereyra discovered to his superior in detail the secret designs of Providence regarding the future restoration of the kingdom of Portugal, more than half a century before it happened. But we may add without fear that the highest guarantee of all these prodigies was the astonishing degree of sanctity to which Brother Pereyra ceased not to elevate himself from day to day.

Let us relate a similar instance which confirms in every point that which we have just read. We find it in the Life of the venerable servant of God, Angela Tholomei, a Dominican nun. She was raised from the dead by her own brother, and gave a testimony of the rigor of God’s judgments exactly conformable to the precedent.

Blessed John Baptist Tholomei, whose rare virtues and the gift of miracles have placed on our altars, had a sister, Angela Tholomei, the heroism of whose virtue has also been recognized by the Church. She fell dangerously sick, and her holy brother by earnest prayer besought her cure. Our Lord replied, as He did formerly to the sister of Lazarus, that He would not cure Angela, but that He would do more; He would raise her from the dead, for the glory of God and the good of souls. She died, recommending herself to the prayers of her holy brother.

Whilst she was being carried to the tomb, Blessed John Baptist, in obedience, no doubt, to an inspiration of the Holy Spirit, approached the coffin, and, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, commanded his sister to come forth. Immediately she awoke as from a profound slumber, and returned to life.

That holy soul seemed struck with terror, and related such things concerning the severity of God’s judgments as make us shudder. She commenced, at the same time, to lead a life which proved the truth of her words. Her penance was frightful. Not content with the ordinary practices of the saints, such as fasting, watching, hair shirts, and bloody disciplines, she went so far as to cast herself into flames, and to roll herself therein until her flesh was entirely burnt. Her macerated body became an object of pity and of horror. She was censured and accused of destroying, by her excess, the idea of true Christian penance. She continued, nevertheless, and contented herself with replying, “If you knew the rigors of the judgments of God, you would not speak thus. What are my trifling penances compared with the torments reserved in the other life for those infidelities which we so easily permit ourselves in this world? What are they? What are they? Would that I could do a hundred times more!”

There is no question here, as we see, of the tortures to which great sinners converted before death are subjected, but of the chastisements which God inflicts upon a fervent Religious for the slightest faults.

MLA Citation