Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 26

charcoal drawing of Saint Peter Claver, artist unknown, date unknownArticle

Duration of Purgatory – Venerable Catherine Paluzzi and Sister Bernardine – Brothers Finetti and Rudolfini – Saint Peter Claver and the two Poor Women

Let us cite some other examples which will serve to convince us still more of the long duration of the sufferings of Purgatory. We shall see therein that Divine Justice is relatively severe towards souls called to perfection, and who have received much grace. Does not Jesus Christ say in the Gospel, Unto whom much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more? (Luke 12:48)

We read in the Life of Venerable Catherine Paluzzi that a holy Religious, who died in her arms, was not admitted to eternal beatitude until after she had passed an entire year in Purgatory. Catherine Paluzzi led a holy life in the diocese of Nepi, in Italy, where she founded a convent of Dominicans. There lived with her a Religious named Bernardine, who was far advanced in the ways of the spiritual life. These two saints emulated each other in fervor, and helped each other to progress more and more in the perfection to which God called them.

The biographer of Venerable Catherine compares them to two live coals that communicate heat to each other; and again, to two harps tuned to harmonize together in one perpetual hymn of love to the greater glory of God.

Bernardine died; a painful malady, which she bore with Christian patience, carried her to her grave. When about to expire, she told Catherine that she would not forget her before God, and, if God so permitted, she would return to converse with her on such spiritual matters as would contribute to her sanctification.

Catherine prayed much for the soul of her friend, and at the same time besought God to allow her to appear to her. An entire year elapsed and the deceased did not return. Finally, on the anniversary of the death of Bernardine, Catherine being in prayer, saw a pit from whence issued volumes of smoke and flames; then she perceived coming out of the pit a form surrounded by dark clouds, By degrees these vapors were dispersed, and the apparition became radiant with an extraordinary brilliancy. In this glorious personage Catherine recognized Bernardine and ran towards her. “Is it you, my dearest sister?” said she. “But when do you come? What signifies this pit, this fiery smoke? Does your Purgatory end only today?” “You are right,” replied the soul; “for a year I have been detained in that place of expiation, and today, for the first time, shall I enter Heaven. As regards yourself, persevere in your holy exercises: continue to be charitable and merciful, and you will obtain mercy.”

The following incident belongs to the history of the Society of Jesus. Two scholastics or young Religious of that Institute, Brothers Finetti and Rudolfini, pursued their studies at the Roman College towards the end of the sixteenth century. Both were models of piety and regularity, both also received a warning from Heaven, which they disclosed, according to the Rule, to their spiritual director. God made known to them their approaching death and the suffering that awaited them in Purgatory. One was to remain there for two years; the other, four. They died, in fact, one after the other. Their brethren in religion immediately offered the most fervent prayers and all kinds of penances for the repose of their souls. They knew that if the Sanctity of God imposes long expiations upon His elect, they may be abridged and entirely remitted by the suffrages of the living. If God is severe towards those who have received much knowledge and grace, on the other hand He is very indulgent towards the poor and the simple, provided they serve Him with sincerity and patience.

Saint Peter Claver, of the Company of Jesus, Apostle of the Negroes of Carthagena, knew of the Purgatory of two souls, who had led poor and humble lives upon earth; their sufferings were reduced to a few hours. We find the following account of it in the Life of this great servant of God. He had persuaded a virtuous woman, named Angela, to take into her house another woman named Ursula, who had lost the use of her limbs and was covered with sores. One day when he went to visit them, as he did from time to time, to hear their Confessions and to carry them some little provisions, the charitable hostess told him with grief that Ursula was at the point of death. No, no, replied the Father, consoling her, she has yet four days to live, and she will not die until Saturday. When Saturday came, he said Mass for her intention, and went out to prepare her for death. After spending some time in prayer, he said to the hostess with an air of confidence, Be consoled, God loves Ursula; she will die today, but she will be only three hours in Purgatory. Let her remember me when she shall be with God, that she may pray for me and for the one who until now had been a mother to her. She died at noon, and the fulfillment of one part of the prophecy gave great reason for belief in the accomplishment of the other.

Another day, having gone to hear the Confession of a poor sick person whom he was accustomed to visit, he learned that she was dead. The parents were extremely afflicted, and he himself, who had not believed her to be so near her end, was inconsolable at the thought of not having been able to assist her in her last moments. He knelt down to pray by the corpse, then suddenly rising, with a serene countenance he said, Such a death is more worthy of our envy than of our tears; this soul is condemned to Purgatory, but only for twenty-four hours. Let us endeavor to shorten this time by the fervor of our prayers.

Enough has been said on the duration of the pains. We see that they may be prolonged to an appalling degree; even the shortest, if we consider their severity, are long. Let us endeavor to shorten them for others and to mitigate them for ourselves, or better still to prevent them altogether.

Now we prevent them by removing the causes. What are the causes? What is the matter of expiation in Purgatory?

MLA Citation