Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 15

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Relief of the Holy Souls – Eugenie Wybo – Lacordaire and the Polish Prince

Nothing is more conformable to the Christian spirit than to have the Holy Sacrifice offered up for the relief of the souls departed, and it would be a great misfortune should the zeal of the faithful cool in this respect. God seems to multiply prodigies in order to prevent us from falling into so fatal a relaxation. The following incident is attested by a worthy priest of the diocese of Bruges, who received it from its primitive source, and whose testimony bears all the certainty of an eyewitness with regard to the fact: On 13 October 1849, there died at the age of fifty- two, in the parish of Ardoye, in Flanders, a woman named Eugenie Van de Kerckove, whose husband, John Wybo, was a farmer. She was a pious and charitable woman, giving alms with a generosity proportionate to her means. She had, to the end of her life, a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and abstained in her honor on the Friday and Saturday of each week. Although her conduct was not free from certain domestic faults, she otherwise led a most exemplary and edifying life.

A servant named Barbara Vennecke, aged twenty-eight years, a virtuous and devoted girl, and who had assisted her mistress in her last sickness, continued to serve her master, John Wybo, the widower of Eugenie.

About three weeks after her death, the deceased appeared to her servant under circumstances which we are about to relate. It was in the middle of the night; Barbara slept soundly, when she heard herself called distinctly three times by her name. She awoke with a start, and saw before her her mistress, sitting on the side of her bed, clad in a working dress, consisting of a skirt and short jacket. At this sight, strange to say, although seized with astonishment, Barbara was not at all frightened, and preserved her presence of mind. The apparition spoke to her: “Barbara, ” she said, simply pronouncing her name. “What do you desire, Eugenie?” replied the servant. “Take,” said the mistress, “the little rake which I often told you to put in its place; stir the heap of sand in the little room; you know to which one I refer. You will there find a sum of money; use it to have Masses said, two francs for each, for my intention, for I am still suffering.” “I will do so, Eugenie,” replied Barbara, and at the same moment the apparition vanished. The servant, still quite calm, fell asleep again, and reposed quietly until morning.

On awaking, Barbara believed herself the sport of a dream, but she had been so deeply impressed, so wide awake, she had seen her old mistress in a form so distinct, so full of life, she had received from her lips such precise directions, that she could not help saying, “It is not thus that we dream I saw my mistress in person; she presented herself to my eyes and spoke to me. It is no dream, but a reality.”

She therefore went and took the rake as directed, stirred the sand, and drew out a purse containing the sum of five hundred francs.

In such strange and extraordinary circumstances the good girl thought it her duty to seek the advice of her pastor, and went to relate to him all that had happened. The venerable Abbe R., then parish priest of Ardoye, replied that the Masses asked by the departed soul must be celebrated, but, in order to dispose of the sum of money, the consent of the farmer, John Wybo, was necessary. The latter willingly consented that the money should be employed for so holy a purpose, and the Masses were celebrated, being given two francs for each Mass.

We call attention to the circumstance of the fee, because it corresponded with the pious custom of the deceased. The fee for a Mass fixed by the diocesan tariff was about a franc and a half, but the wife of Wybo, through consideration for the clergy, obliged at that time of scarcity to relieve a great number of the poor, gave two francs for each Mass she had been accustomed to have celebrated.

Two months after the first apparition, Barbara was again awakened during the night. This time her chamber was illuminated with a bright light, and her mistress, beautiful and fresh as in the days of her youth, dressed in a robe of dazzling whiteness, appeared before her, regarding her with an amiable smile. “Barbara, ” she said in a clear and audible voice, “I thank you; I am delivered. ” Saying these words, she disappeared, and the chamber became dark as before. The servant, amazed at what she had seen, was transported with joy. This apparition made the most lively impression upon her mind, and she preserves to this day the most consoling remembrance of it. It is from her that we have these details, through the favor of the venerable Abbe L., who was curate at Ardoye when these facts occurred.

The celebrated Father Lacordaire, in the be ginning of the conferences on the immortality of the soul, which he addressed a few years before his death to the pupils of Soreze, related to them the following incident:

The Polish prince of X., an avowed infidel and materialist, had just composed a work against the immortality of the soul. He was on the point of sending it to press, when one day walking in his park, a woman bathed in tears threw herself at his feet and in accents of profound grief said to him, “My good Prince, my husband has just died. . . . At this moment his soul is perhaps suffering in Purgatory. … I am in such poverty that I have not even the small sum required to have a Mass celebrated for the dead. In your kindness come to my assistance in behalf of my poor husband.”

Although the gentleman was convinced that the woman was deceived by her credulity, he had not courage to refuse her. He slipped a gold piece into her hand, and the happy woman hastened to the church, and begged the priest to offer some Masses for the repose of her husband’s soul. Five days later, towards evening, the prince, in the seclusion of his study, was reading over his manuscript and retouching some details, when, raising his eyes, he saw, close to him, a man dressed in the costume of the peasants of the country. “Prince,” said the unknown visitor, “I come to thank you, I am the husband of that poor woman who besought you the other day to give her an alms, that she might have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered for the repose of my soul. Your charity was pleasing to God: it was He who permitted me to come and thank you.”

These words said, the Polish peasant disappeared like a shadow. The emotion of the prince was indescribable, and in consequence he consigned his work to the flames, and yielded himself so entirely to the conviction of truth that his conversion was complete. He persevered until death.

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