Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 37

detail of stained glass window of Saint-Hugues de Semur, church of Saint Hilaire, Semur-en-Brionnais, France; date and artist unknown; photographed on 3 January 2011 by Jackydarne; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Matter of Expiation – Intemperance of the Tongue – The Dominican Father – Sisters Gertrude and Margaret – Saint Hugh of Cluny and the Infringer of the Rule of Science

We have just seen how immoderation in the use of words is expiated in Purgatory. Father P. Rossignoli speaks of a Dominican Religious who incurred the chastisements of Divine Justice for a like defect. This Religious, a preacher full of zeal, a glory to his Order, appeared after his death to one of his brethren at Cologne. He was clad in magnificent robes, wearing a crown of gold upon his head, but his tongue was fearfully tormented. These ornaments represented the recompense of his zeal for souls and his perfect exactitude in all the points of his Rule. Nevertheless, his tongue was tortured because he had not been sufficiently guarded in his words, and his language was not always becoming the sacred lips of a priest and a Religious.

The following instance is drawn from Cesarius. In a monastery of the Order of Citeaux, says this author, lived two young Religious, named Gertrude and her sister Margaret. The former, although otherwise virtuous, did not sufficiently watch over her tongue; she frequently allowed herself to transgress the rule of silence prescribed, sometimes even in choir, before and after the chanting of the Office. Instead of recollecting herself with the reverence due to that holy place, she addressed useless words to her sister, who was placed next to her, so that, besides her violation of the rule of silence and her lack of piety, she was a subject of disedification to her companion. She died whilst still young, and a very short time after her death. Sister Margaret, on going to Office, saw her come and place herself in the same stall she had occupied whilst living.

At this sight the sister was almost about to faint. When she had sufficiently recovered from her astonishment, she went and told the Superior what she had just seen. The Superior told her not to be troubled, but, should the deceased appear again, to ask her, in the name of God, why she came.

She reappeared the next day in the same way, and, according to the order of the Prioress, Margaret said to her, “My dear Sister Gertrude, whence do you come, and what do you want?” “I come,” she said, “to satisfy the Justice of God in this place where I have sinned. It was here, in this holy sanctuary, that I offended God by words, both useless and contrary to religious respect, by disedification to all, and by the scandal which I have given to you in particular. Oh, if you knew,” she added, “what I suffer! I am devoured by flames, my tongue especially is dreadfully tormented.” She then disappeared, after having asked for prayers.

When Saint Hugh, who succeeded Saint Odilo in 1049, governed the fervent monastery of Cluny, one of his Religious, who had been careless in the observance of the rule of silence, having died, appeared to the holy Abbot to beg the assistance of his prayers. His mouth was filled with frightful ulcers, in punishment, he said, for idle words. Hugh imposed seven days of silence upon his community. They were passed in recollection and prayer. Then the deceased reappeared, freed from his ulcers, his countenance radiant, and testifying his gratitude for the charitable succor he had received from his brethren. If such is the chastisement of idle words, what will be that of words more culpable?

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