Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 17

Blessed Stephana de QuinzanisArticle

Pains of Purgatory – Blessed Quinziani – The Emperor Maurice

In the Life of Blessed Stephana Quinziani, a Dominican nun (Auctore Franc. Seghizzo; cf. Merv., 42; Marchese, 2 Jan.), mention is made of a sister named Paula, who died at the convent of Mantua, after a long life of eminent virtue. The body was carried to the church and placed uncovered in the choir among the Religious. During the recitation of the Office, Blessed Quinziani knelt near the bier, recommending to God the deceased Religious, who had been very dear to her. Suddenly the latter let fall the crucifix which had been placed between her hands, extended the left arm, seized the right hand of Blessed Quinziani, and pressed it tightly, as a poor patient in the burning heat of fever would ask the assistance of a friend. She held it for a considerable time, and then, withdrawing her arm, sank back lifeless into the coffin. The Religious, astonished at this prodigy, asked an explanation of the Blessed Sister. She replied that, whilst the deceased pressed her hand, an inarticulate voice had spoken in the depths of her heart, saying, “Help me, dear sister, succor me in the frightful torture which I endure. Oh! if you knew the severity of the Judge who desires all our love, what atonement He demands for the least faults before admitting us to the reward! If you knew how pure we must be to see the face of God! Pray! pray, and do penance for me, who can no longer help myself.”

Blessed Quinziani, touched by the prayer of her friend, imposed upon herself all kinds of penances and good works, until she learned, by a new revelation, that Sister Paula was delivered from her sufferings, and had entered into eternal glory.

The natural conclusion which follows from these terrible manifestations of Divine Justice is that we must hasten to make satisfaction for our sins in this life. Surely a criminal condemned to be burned alive would not refuse a lighter pain, if the choice were left to him. Suppose it should be said to him: You can deliver yourself from that terrible punishment on condition that for three days you fast on bread and water; should he refuse it? He who should prefer the torture of fire to that of a light penance, would he not be regarded as one who had lost his reason? Now, to prefer the fire of Purgatory to Christian penance is an infinitely greater folly. The Emperor Maurice understood this and acted wisely. History relates that this prince, notwithstanding his good qualities, which had endeared him to Saint Gregory the Great, towards the close of his reign committed a grave fault, and atoned for it by an exemplary repentance. (Berault, Histoire Eccles., annee 602).

Having lost a battle against the Khan or King of the Avari, he refused to pay the ransom of the prisoners, although he was asked but the sixth part of a gold coin, which is less than a dollar of our money. This mean refusal put the barbarous conqueror into such a violent rage that he ordered the immediate massacre of all the Roman soldiers, to the number of twelve thousand. Then the Emperor acknowledged his fault, and felt it so keenly, that he sent money and candles to the principal churches and monasteries, to beg that God would be pleased to punish him in this life rather than in the next. These prayers were heard. In the year 602, wishing to oblige his troops to pass the winter on the opposite bank of the Danube, a mutiny arose among them; they drove away their general, and proclaimed as Emperor, Phocas, a simple centurion. The imperial city followed the example of the army. Maurice was obliged to fly in the night, after having divested himself of all marks of royalty, which now served but to increase his fears. Nevertheless, he was recognized. He was taken, together with his wife, five of his sons, and three daughters – that is to say, his entire family with the exception of his eldest son, whom he had already caused to be crowned Emperor, and who, thus far, had escaped the tyrant. Maurice and his five sons were unmercifully slaughtered near Chalcedon. The carnage began with the youngest of the princes, who was put to death before the eyes of the unfortunate father, without uttering a word of complaint. Remembering the pains of the other world, he esteemed himself happy to suffer in the present life, and throughout the massacre he spoke no other words than those of the Psalmist, Thou art just, O Lord, and Thy judgment is right. (Psalm 118)

MLA Citation