Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 8

detail of a stained glass window of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, by Syrius Eberle, date unknown; parish church of Saint Benedict in Odelzhausen, Dachau, Bayern, Germany; photographed on 17 October 2015 by GFreihalter; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Location of Purgatory – Saint Gregory the Great – The Deacon Paschasius and the Priest of Centumcellae – Blessed Stephen, a Franciscan, and the Religious in his Stall – Theophilus Renaud and the Sick Woman of Dole

According to Saint Thomas and other doctors, as we have previously seen, Divine Justice, in particular cases, assigns a special place upon earth for certain souls. This opinion we find confirmed by several facts, among which we quote the two mentioned by Saint Gregory the Great in his Dialogues. (Dialog., 4, 40). “Whilst I was young and still a layman, I heard told to the seniors, who were well-informed men, how the Deacon Paschasius appeared to Germain, Bishop of Capua. Paschasius, Deacon of the Apostolic See, whose books on the Holy Ghost are still extant, was a man of eminent sanctity, devoted to works of charity, zealous for the relief of the poor, and most forgetful of self. A dispute having arisen concerning a pontifical election, Paschasius separated himself from the Bishops, and joined the party disapproved by the Episcopacy. Soon after this he died, with a reputation for sanctity which God confirmed by a miracle: an instantaneous cure was effected on the day of the funeral by the simple touch of his dalmatic. Long after this, Germain, Bishop of Capua, was sent by the physicians to the baths of Saint Angelo. What was his astonishment to find the same Deacon Paschasius employed in the most menial offices at the baths! “I here expiate,” said the apparition, “the wrong I did by adhering to the wrong party. I beseech of you, pray to the Lord for me: you will know that you have been heard when you shall no longer see me in these places.”

Germain began to pray for the deceased, and after a few days, returning to the baths, sought in vain for Paschasius, who had disappeared. “He had but to undergo a temporary punishment,” says Saint Gregory, “because he had sinned through ignorance, and not through malice.”

The same Pope speaks of a priest of Centumcellae, now Civita Vecchia, who also went to the warm baths. A man presented himself to serve him in the most menial offices, and for several days waited upon him with the most extreme kindness, and even eagerness. The good priest, thinking that he ought to reward so much attention, came the next day with two loaves of blessed bread, and, after having received the usual assistance of his kind servant, offered him the loaves. The servant, with a sad countenance, replied, “Why, Father, do you offer me this bread? I cannot eat it. I, whom you see, was formerly the master of this place, and, after my death, I was sent back to the condition in which you see me for the expiation of my faults. If you wish to do me good, ah! offer up for me the Bread of the Eucharist.”

At these words he suddenly disappeared, and he, whom the priest had thought to be a man, showed by vanishing that he was but a spirit.

For a whole week the good priest devoted himself to works of penance, and each day offered up the Sacred Host in favor of the departed one; then, having returned to the same baths, he no longer found his faithful servant, and concluded that he had been delivered.

It seems that Divine Justice sometimes condemns souls to undergo their punishment in the same place where they have committed their sins. We read in the chronicles of the Friars Minors that Blessed Stephen, Religious of that Order, had a singular devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, so that he passed a part of the night in adoration before it. On one occasion, being alone in the chapel, the darkness broken only by the faint glimmer of the little lamp, he suddenly perceived a Religious in one of the stalls. Stephen approached him, and asked if he had permission to leave his cell at such an hour. “I am a deceased Religious,” he replied. “Here, by a decree of God’s Justice, must I undergo my Purgatory, because here I sinned by tepidity and negligence at the Divine Office. The Lord permits me to make known my state to you, that you may assist me by your prayers.” (Book 4, chap. 30; cf. Rossignoli, Merveilles du Purgatoire).

Touched with these words, Blessed Stephen immediately knelt down to recite the De Profundis and other prayers; and he noticed that whilst he prayed, the features of the deceased bore an expression of joy. Several times, during the following nights, he saw the apparition in the same manner, but more happy each time as it approached the term of its deliverance. Finally, after the last prayer of Blessed Stephen, it arose all radiant from the stall, expressed its gratitude to its liberator, and disappeared in the brightness of glory The following incident is so marvelous, that we should hesitate to reproduce it, says Canon Postel, had it not been narrated by Father Theophilus Renaud, theologian and controversialist, who relates it as an event which happened in his time, and almost under his very eyes.

The Abbe Louvet adds that the Vicar General of the Archbishop of Besancon, after having examined all the details, recognized its truth. In the year 1629, at Dole, in Franche-Compte, Hugette Roy, a woman of the middle station in life, was confined to bed by inflammation of the lungs, which endangered her life. The physician considering it necessary to bleed her, in his awkwardness cut an artery in the left arm, which speedily reduced her to the last extremity. The following day, at dawn, she saw enter into her chamber a young girl clad in white, of most modest deportment, who asked her if she was willing to accept her services and to be nursed by her. The sick person, delighted with the offer, answered that nothing could give her greater pleasure; and instantly the stranger lighted the fire, approached Hugette, and placed her gently on the bed, and then continued to watch by her and serve her like the most devoted infirmarian. But, oh wonder! contact with the hands of the unknown one was so beneficial that the dying person found herself greatly relieved, and soon felt entirely cured. Then she would absolutely know who the amiable stranger was, and called her that she might question her; but she with drew, saying that she would return in the evening. In the meantime astonishment and curiosity were extreme when the tidings of this sudden cure spread abroad, and nothing was spoken of in Dole but this mysterious event.

When the unknown visitor returned in the evening, she said to Hugette, without trying to disguise herself, “Know, my dear niece, that I am your aunt, Leonarde Collin, who died seventeen years ago, leaving you an inheritance from her little property. Thanks to the Divine bounty, I am saved, and it was the Blessed Virgin, to whom I had great devotion, who obtained for me this happiness. Without her I was lost. When death suddenly struck me, I was in the state of mortal sin, but the merciful Virgin Mary obtained for me perfect contrition, and thus saved me from eternal damnation. Since that time I am in Purgatory, and our Lord permits me to finish my expiation by serving you during fourteen days. At the end of that time I shall be delivered from my pains if, on your part, you have the charity to make three pilgrimages for me to three holy sanctuaries of the Blessed Virgin.”

Hugette, astonished, knew not what to think of this language. Not being able to believe the reality of the apparition, and fearing some snare of the evil spirit, she consulted her confessor, Father Antony Roland, a Jesuit, who advised her to threaten the unknown person with the exorcisms of the Church. This menace did not disturb her; she replied tranquilly, that she feared not the prayers of the Church, “They have no power,” she added, “but against the demons and the damned; none whatever against predestined souls, who are in the grace of God as I am.” Hugette was not yet convinced. “How,” said she to the young girl, “can you be my Aunt Leonarde? She was old and worn, disagreeable and whimsical, whilst you are young, gentle, and obliging?” “Ah, my dear niece,” replied the apparition, “my real body is in the tomb, where it will remain until the resurrection; this one which you see is one miraculously formed from the air to allow me to speak to you, to serve you, and obtain your suffrages. As regards my irritable disposition, seventeen years of terrible suffering have taught me patience and meekness. Know, also, that in Purgatory we are confirmed in grace, marked with the seal of the elect, and therefore exempt from all vice.”

After such explanation, incredulity was impossible. Hugette, at once astounded and grateful, received with joy the services rendered during the fourteen days designated. She alone could see and hear the deceased, who came at certain hours and then disappeared. As soon as her strength permitted, she devoutly made the pilgrimages which were asked of her.

At the end of fourteen days the apparition ceased. Leonarde appeared for the last time to announce her deliverance; she was then in a state of incomparable glory, brilliant as a star, and her countenance bore an expression of the most perfect beatitude. In her turn, she testified her gratitude to her niece, promised to pray for her and her whole family, and advised her ever to remember, amid the sufferings of this life, the end of our existence, which is the salvation of our soul.

MLA Citation