Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 28

1890 engraving of Saint Lydwina of SchiedamArticle

Matter of Expiation – The Remains of Mortal Sin – Lord Stourton – Sins of Lust not fully Expiated upon Earth – Saint Lidwina

We have said that the total amount of the debt of suffering for Purgatory comes from all the faults not atoned for upon earth, but especially from mortal sins remitted to their guilt. Now men who pass their whole lives in a habitual state of mortal sin, and who delay their conversion until death, supposing that God grants them that rare grace, will have to undergo the most frightful punishment. The example of Lord Stourton gives them good cause for reflection. Lord Stourton, an English nobleman, was at heart a Catholic, although, to retain his position at court, he regularly attended the Protestant service. He kept a Catholic priest concealed in his house, at the risk of great danger, promising himself to make good use of his ministry by being reconciled with God at the hour of his death. But he met with a sudden accident, and, as often happens in such cases, by a just decree of God, he had not the time to realize his desire of tardy conversion. Nevertheless Divine Mercy, taking into consideration what he had done for the persecuted Catholic Church in England, vouchsafed him the grace of perfect contrition, and consequently secured his salvation. But he had to pay dearly for his culpable negligence.

Years passed by. His widow married again and had children. It was one of her daughters, Lady Arundel, who relates this fact as an eyewitness:

“One day my mother asked F. Cornelius, a Jesuit of much merit, and who later died a martyr (he was betrayed by a servant of the Arundel family, and was executed at Dorchester in 1594), to say Mass for the repose of the soul of John, Lord Stourton, her first husband. He promised to do so; and whilst at the altar, between the Consecration and the Memento for the dead, he paused for a long time as if absorbed in prayer. After Mass, in an exhortation which he addressed to those present, he told them of a vision which he had just had during the Holy Sacrifice. He had seen an immense forest stretched out before him, but entirely on fire, forming one vast cauldron. In the midst of it was the deceased nobleman, uttering lamentable cries, bewailing the guilty life he led in the world and at court. Having made a full Confession of his faults, the unfortunate man ended with these words, which Holy Scripture places in the mouth of Job: Have pity on me! Have pity on me, at least you my friends, for the hand of the Lord hath touched me. He then disappeared.

“Whilst relating this, F. Cornelius shed abundance of tears, and we all, members of the family, to the number of twenty-four persons, wept also. Suddenly, whilst the Father was still speaking, we perceived upon the wall against which the altar stood what seemed to be the reflection of burning coals.”

Such is the recital of Dorothy, Lady Arundel, which may be read in the History of England by Daniel.

Saint Lidwina saw in Purgatory a soul that suffered also for mortal sins not sufficiently expiated on earth. The incident is thus related in the Life of the saint. A man who had been for a long time a slave of the demon of impurity, finally had the happiness of being converted. He confessed his sins with great contrition, but, prevented by death, he had not time to atone by just penance for his numerous sins. Lidwina, who knew him well, prayed much for him Twelve years after his death she still continued to pray, when, in one of her ecstasies, being taken into Purgatory by her angel guardian, she heard a mournful voice issuing from a deep pit. “It is the soul of that man,” said the angel, “for whom you have prayed with so much fervor and constancy.” She was astonished to find him so deep in Purgatory twelve years after his death. The Angel, seeing her so greatly affected, asked if she was willing to suffer something for his deliverance. “With all my heart,” replied the charitable maiden. From that moment she suffered new pains and frightful torments, which appeared to surpass the strength of human endurance. Nevertheless, she bore them with courage, sustained by a charity stronger than death, until it pleased God to send her relief. She then breathed as one restored to a new life, and, at the same time, she saw that soul for which she had suffered so much come forth from the abyss as white as snow and take its flight to Heaven.

MLA Citation