Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 15

Blessed Catherine of RacconigiArticle

Pains of Purgatory – The Brother of Saint Magdalen de Pazzi – Stanislaus Chocosca – Blessed Catherine de Racconigi

Saint Magdalen de Pazzi, in her celebrated vision where the different prisons of Purgatory were shown to her, saw the soul of her brother, who had died after having led a most fervent Christian life. Nevertheless, this soul was detained in suffering for certain faults, which it had not sufficiently expiated upon earth. These, says the saint, are the most intolerable sufferings, and yet they are endured with joy. Ah! why are they not understood by those who lack the courage to bear their cross here below? Struck with this frightful spectacle which she had just contemplated, she ran to her Prioress, and casting herself upon her knees, she cried out, “O my dear Mother, how terrible are the pangs of Purgatory! Never could I have believed it, had not God manifested it to me…. And, nevertheless, I cannot call them cruel; rather are they advantageous, since they lead to the ineffable bliss of Paradise.” To impress this more and more upon our minds, it has pleased God to give certain holy persons a small share in the pains of expiation, like a drop of the bitter cup which the poor souls have to drink, a spark of the fire which consumes them.

The historian Bzovius, in his History of Poland, under the date 1598, relates a miraculous event which happened to the Venerable Stanislaus Chocosca, one of the luminaries of the Order of Saint Dominic in Poland. (Cf. Rossign., Merv., 67). One day, whilst this Religious, full of charity for the departed, recited the Rosary, he saw appear near him a soul all enveloped in flames. As she besought him to have pity on her, and to alleviate the intolerable sufferings which the fire of Divine Justice caused her to endure, the holy man asked her if this fire was more painful than that of earth? “Ah!” she cried, “all the fires of earth compared to that of Purgatory are like a refreshing breeze” (Ignes alii levis aurce locum tenent si cum ardore meo comparentur). Stanislaus could scarcely believe it. “I wish,” he said, “to have a proof. If God will permit, for your relief, and for the good of my soul, I consent to suffer a part of your pains.” “Alas! you could not do this. Know that no human being could endure such torment and live. However, God will permit you to feel it in a light degree. Stretch forth your hand.” Chocosca ex tended his hand, and the departed let fall a drop of sweat, or at least of a liquid which resembled it. At the same instant the Religious uttered a piercing cry and fell fainting to the ground, so frightfully intense was the pain. His brethren ran to the spot and hastened to give him the assistance which his condition required. When restored to consciousness, he related the terrible event which had occurred, and of which they had a visible proof. “Ah! my dear Fathers,” he continued, “if we knew the severity of the Divine chastisements, we should never commit sin, nor should we cease to do penance in this life, in order to avoid expiation in the next.”

Stanislaus was confined to his bed from that moment, He lived one year longer in the most cruel suffering caused by his terrible wound; then, for the last time, exhorting his brethren to remember the rigors of Divine Justice, he peacefully slept in the Lord. The historian adds that this example reanimated fervor in all the monasteries of that province.

We read of a similar fact in the Life of Blessed Catherine de Racconigi. (Diario Dominicano, Sept. 4; cf. Rossig., Merv., 63). One day, when suffering so intensely as to need the assistance of her sisters in religion, she thought of the souls in Purgatory, and, to temper the heat of their flames, she offered to God the burning heat of her fever. At that moment, being rapt in ecstasy, she was conducted in spirit into the place of expiation, where she saw the flames and braziers in which the souls are purified in great torture. Whilst contemplating, full of compassion, this piteous spectacle, she heard a voice which said to her, “Catherine, in order that you may procure most efficaciously the deliverance of these souls, you shall participate, in some manner, in their torments.” At that same moment a spark detached itself from the fire and settled upon her left cheek. The sisters present saw the spark distinctly, and saw also with horror that the face of the sick person was frightfully swollen. She lived several days in this state, and, as Blessed Catherine told her sisters, the suffering caused by that simple spark far surpassed all that she had previously endured in the most painful maladies. Until that time Catherine had always devoted herself with charity to the relief of the souls in Purgatory, but from thenceforward she redoubled her fervor and austerities to hasten their deliverance, because she knew by experience the great need in which they stood of her assistance.

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