Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 13

marble statue 'Vision of Saint Nicholas', by Alessandro Algardi, 1651-55, San Nicola da Tolentino, Rome, ItalyArticle

Relief of the Souls – Holy Mass – Saint Elizabeth and Queen Constance – Saint Nicholas of Tolentino and Pellegrino d’Osimo

We read in the Life of Saint Elizabeth of Portugal that after the death of her daughter Constance she learned the pitiful state of the deceased in Purgatory and the price which God exacted for her ransom. The young princess had been married but a short time previous to the King of Castile, when she was snatched away by sudden death from the affection of her family and her subjects. Elizabeth had just received these tidings, and set out with the King, her husband, for the city of Santarem, when a hermit, coming forth from his solitude, ran after the royal cortege, crying that he wished to speak to the Queen. The guards repulsed him, but the saint, seeing that he persisted, gave orders that the servant of God should be brought to her.

As soon as he came into her presence, he related that more than once whilst he was praying in his hermitage Queen Constance had appeared to him, urgently entreating him to make known to her mother that she was languishing in the depths of Purgatory, that she was condemned to long and terrible suffering, but that she would be delivered if for the space of a year the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated for her every day. The courtiers who heard this communication ridiculed him aloud, and treated the hermit as a visionary, an impostor, or a fool.

As to Elizabeth, she turned towards the King and asked him what he thought of it. “I believe,” replied the Prince, “that it is wise to do that which has been pointed out to you in so extraordinary a manner. After all, to have Masses celebrated for our dear deceased relatives is nothing more than a paternal and Christian duty.” A holy priest, Ferdinand Mendez, was appointed to say the Masses.

At the end of the year Constance appeared to Saint Elizabeth, clad in a brilliant white robe. “Today, dear mother,” said she, “I am delivered from the pains of Purgatory, and am about to enter Heaven.” Filled with consolation and joy, the saint went to the church to return thanks to God. There she found the priest Mendez, who assured her that on the previous day he had finished the celebration of the three hundred and sixty-five Masses with which he had been charged. The Queen then understood that God had kept the promise which He had made to the pious hermit, and she testified her gratitude by distributing abundant alms to the poor.

But thou hast saved us from them that afflict us, and thou hast put them to shame that hate us. (Psalm 43). Such were the words addressed to the illustrious Saint Nicholas of Tolentino by the souls that he had delivered in offering for them the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. One of the greatest virtues of that admirable servant of God, says Father Rossignoli, was his charity, his devotion to the Church Suffering. (Merv., 21; Vie de Saint Nic. de Tolentino, Sept. 10). For her he frequently fasted on bread and water, inflicted cruel disciplines upon himself, and wore about his loins a chain of sharp-pointed iron. When the sanctuary was thrown open to him, and his superiors wished to confer the priesthood upon him, he hesitated a long time before that sublime dignity, and nothing could make him decide to receive holy orders but the thought that by daily celebrating the Holy Sacrifice he could most efficaciously assist the suffering souls in Purgatory. On their part, the souls whom he relieved by so many suffrages appeared to him several times to thank him or to recommend themselves to his charity.

He lived near Pisa, entirely occupied with his spiritual exercises, when one Saturday during the night he saw in a dream a soul in pain, who besought him to celebrate Holy Mass on the following morning for her and several other souls that suffered most terribly in Purgatory. Nicholas recognized the voice, but could not distinctly call to mind the person who spoke to him. “I am,” said the apparition, “your deceased friend Pellegrino d’Osimo. By the Divine Mercy I have escaped eternal chastisement by repentance; not so the temporal punishment due to my sins. I come in the name of many souls as unfortunate as myself to entreat you to offer Holy Mass for us tomorrow; from it we expect our deliverance, or at least great alleviation.” The saint replied, with his usual kindness, “May Our Lord deign to relieve you by the merits of His precious Blood! But this Mass for the dead I cannot say tomorrow; I must sing the Conventual Mass in choir.” “Ah! at least come with me,” cried the departed soul, amid sighs and tears; “I conjure you, for the love of God, come and behold our sufferings, and you will no longer refuse; you are too good to leave us in such frightful agonies.”

Then it seemed to him that he was transported into Purgatory. He saw an immense plain, where a vast multitude of souls, of all ages and conditions, were a prey to divers tortures most horrible to behold. By gestures and by words they implored most piteously his assistance. “Behold,” said Pellegrino, “the state of those who sent me to you. Since you are agreeable in the sight of God, we have confidence that He will refuse nothing to the oblation of the Sacrifice offered by you, and that His Divine Mercy will deliver us.”

At this pitiful sight the saint could not repress his tears. He immediately betook himself to prayer, to console them in their sorrow, and the following morning went to the Prior, relating to him the vision he had had, and the request made by Pellegrino concerning the Mass for that day. The Father Prior, sharing his emotion, dispensed him for that day, and for the rest of the week, from saying the conventual Mass, that he might offer the Holy Sacrifice for the departed, and devote himself entirely to the relief of the suffering souls. Delighted with this permission, Nicholas went to the church and celebrated Holy Mass with extraordinary fervor. During the entire week he continued to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice for the same intention, besides offering day and night prayers, disciplines, and all sorts of good works.

At the end of the week Pellegrino again appeared, but no longer in a state of suffering; he was clad in a white garment and surrounded with a celestial light, in which he pointed out a large number of happy souls. They all thanked him, calling him their liberator; then rising towards Heaven, they chanted these words of the Psalmist, Salvasti nos de affligentibus nos, et odientes nos confudisti – “Thou hast saved us from them that afflict us, and thou hast put them to shame that hate us.” (Psalm 43). The enemies here spoken of are sins, and the demons who are their instigators.

MLA Citation