Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 40

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Louis Bertrand stained glass window, date and artist unknown; swiped with permission from the flickr account of Father Lawrence Lew, OPArticle

Matter of Expiation – Lack of Charity and of Respect towards our Neighbor – Saint Louis Bertrand and the Departed Soul asking Pardon – Father Nieremberg – Blessed Margaret Mary and the Benedictine Religious

True Charity is humble and indulgent towards others, respecting them as though they were their superiors. Her words are always friendly, and full of consideration for others, having nothing of bitterness nor coldness, nothing savoring of contempt, because she is born of a heart that is meek and humble like that of Jesus. She also carefully avoids all that could disturb unity; she takes every means, makes every sacrifice to effect a reconciliation, according to the words of our Divine Master, If thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee, leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift. (Matthew 5:23).

A Religious having wounded Charity in regard to Saint Louis Bertrand, received a terrible chastisement after death. He was plunged into the fire of Purgatory, which he had to endure until he had made satisfaction to Divine Justice; nay, more, he could not be admitted into the abode of the elect until he had accomplished an act of exterior reparation, which should serve as an example to the living. The fact is thus related in the Life of the saint:

When Saint Louis Bertrand, of the Order of Saint Dominic, resided at the convent of Valencia, there was a young Religious in the community who attached too much importance to profane science. Doubtless letters and erudition have their value, but, as the Holy Ghost declares, they should yield to the fear of God and the science of the saints. Non super timentem Dominion – “There is none above him that fears the Lord.” (Ecclus. 25:13). This science of the saints, which Eternal Wisdom came to teach us, consists in Humility and Charity. The young Religious of whom we speak, while but little advanced in Divine science, allowed himself to reproach Father Bertrand with his little knowledge, and said to him, “One can see, Father, that you are not very learned!” “Brother replied the saint with meek firmness,” Lucifer was very learned, and yet he was damned.

The brother who had committed this fault did not think of repairing it. Nevertheless, he was not a bad Religious, and some time after, falling dangerously sick, he received the last Sacrament in very good dispositions, and expired peacefully in the Lord. A considerable time elapsed, and meanwhile Louis was nominated Prior. One day, having remained in choir after Matins, the deceased appeared to him enveloped in flames, and prostrating humbly before him, said, “Father, pardon me the offensive words which I formerly addressed to you. God will not permit me to see His face until you shall have pardoned my fault and offered Holy Mass for me.” The saint willingly forgave him, and the next morning celebrated Mass for the repose of his soul. The following night, being again in choir, he saw the deceased brother reappear, but radiant with glory and going up to Heaven.

Father Eusebius Nieremberg, Religious of the Company of Jesus, author of the beautiful book, Difference between Time and Eternity, resided at the College of Madrid, where he died in the odor of sanctity in 1658. This servant of God, who was singularly devout towards the souls in Purgatory, was praying one day in the church of the college for a Father who had recently died. The deceased, who for a long time had been a professor of theology, had proved himself to be as good a Religious as he was a learned theologian; he had been distinguished for his great devotion to the Blessed Virgin, but one vice had crept in among his virtues – he was uncharitable in his words, and frequently spoke of the faults of his neighbor. Now, whilst Father Nieremberg was recommending his soul to God, this Religious appeared, and revealed to him the state of his soul. He was condemned to frightful torments for having frequently spoken against charity. His tongue, the instrument of his fault, was tortured by a devouring fire. The Blessed Virgin, in recompense for the tender devotion which he had cherished towards her, had obtained permission for him to come and ask for prayers; he was, at the same time, to serve as an example to others, that they might learn to be guarded in all their words. Father Nieremberg, having offered many prayers and penances for him, finally obtained his deliverance.

The Religious of whom mention is made in the Life of Blessed Margaret Mary, and for whom that servant of God suffered so terribly for the space of three months, among other faults, was also punished for his sins against Charity. The revelation is thus related:

Blessed Margaret Mary, we read in her Life, being one day before the Blessed Sacrament, suddenly saw before her a man totally enveloped in fire, the intense heat of which seemed about to consume herself The wretched state in which she saw this poor soul caused her to shed tears. He was a Benedictine Religious of the monastery of Cluny, to whom she had formerly confessed, and who had done good to her soul by ordering her to receive Holy Communion. In reward for this service, God had permitted him to address himself to her, that he might find some alleviation in his sufferings.

The poor departed asked that all she should do and suffer for the space of three months might be applied to him. This she promised, after having obtained permission. Then he told her that the principal cause of his intense suffering was for having sought his own interests before the glory of God and the good of souls, by attaching too much importance to his reputation. The second was his want of charity towards his brethren. The third, the natural affection for creatures to whom, through weakness, he had yielded, and to which he had given expression in his spiritual intercourse with them, “this being,” he added, “very displeasing to God.”

It is difficult to say all that the Blessed Sister had to suffer during the three months following. The deceased never left her. On the side where he stood she seemed all on fire, with such excruciating pain, that she could not cease to weep. Her Superior, touched with compassion, ordered her penances and disciplines, because pain and suffering greatly relieved her. The torments which the Sanctity of God inflicted upon her were insupportable. It was a specimen of the suffering endured by the poor souls.

MLA Citation