Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 24


Relief of the Holy Souls – Holy Communion – Saint Magdalen de Pazzi delivering her Brother – General Communion in the Church

If ordinary good works procure so much relief for the souls, what will not be the effects of the holiest work a Christian can accomplish, I mean Holy Communion? When Saint Magdalen de Pazzi saw her brother in the sufferings of Purgatory, touched with compassion, she melted into tears and cried in a lamentable voice, “Oh, afflicted soul, how terrible are your pains! Why are they not understood by those who lack the courage to carry their cross here below? Whilst you were still in this world, my dear brother, you would not listen to me, and now you desire so ardently that I should hear you. Poor victim! what do you require of me?” Here she stopped and was heard to count up to the number one hundred and seven; then she said aloud that this was the number of Communions which he begged in a tone of supplication. “Yes,” she said to him, “I can easily do what you ask, but, alas! what a length of time it will take me to pay that debt! Oh, if God permitted, how willingly would I go where you are, to deliver you, or to prevent others from descending into it.”

The saint, without omitting her prayers and other suffrages, made with the greatest fervor all the Communions which her brother desired for his deliverance.

It is, says Father Rossignoli, a pious custom established in the churches of the Society of Jesus to offer each month a general Communion for the benefit of the souls in Purgatory, and God has deigned to show by a prodigy how agreeable this practice is to Him.

In the year 1615, when the Fathers in Rome celebrated this monthly Communion in the church of Our Lady in Trastevere, a crowd of persons was present. Amongst the fervent Christians there was one great sinner, who, although taking part in the pious ceremonies of religion, had for a long time led a very wicked life. This man, before entering the church, saw coming out and advancing towards him a man of humble appearance, who asked of him an alms for the love of God. He at first refused, but the poor man, as is customary with beggars, persisted, asking for the third time in a most pitiful tone of supplication. Finally, yielding to a good inspiration, our sinner recalled the mendicant and gave him a piece of money.

Then the poor man changed his entreaties into other language. “Keep your money,” said he; “I stand in no need of your liberality; but you yourself greatly need to make a change in your life. Know that it was to give you this salutary warning that I came from Mount Gargano to the ceremony which was to take place in this church today. It is now twenty years since you have been leading this deplorable life, provoking the anger of God instead of appeasing it by a sincere Confession. Hasten to do penance if you would escape the stroke of Divine Justice ready to fall upon your head.”

The sinner was struck by these words: a secret fear took possession of him when he heard the secrets of conscience revealed, which he thought were known to God alone. His emotion increased when he saw the poor man vanish like smoke before his eyes. Opening his heart to grace, he entered the church, cast himself upon his knees and shed a torrent of tears. Then sincerely repenting, he sought a confessor, made an avowal of his crimes and asked pardon. After Confession, he related to the priest what had happened to him, begging him to make it known in order that devotion towards the holy souls might be increased; for he had no doubt that it was a soul just delivered that had obtained for him the grace of conversion.

It may here be asked who was that mysterious mendicant that appeared to this sinner in order to convert him? Some have believed that it was none other than the Archangel Michael, because he said that he came from Mount Gargano. We know that this mountain is celebrated throughout Italy for an apparition of Saint Michael, in whose honor a magnificent shrine has been erected. However this may be, the conversion of this sinner by such a miracle, and at the same moment when prayers and Holy Communion were being offered for the faithful departed, shows plainly the excellence of this devotion and how pleasing it must be in the sight of God.

Let us therefore conclude in the words of Saint Bernard, “May charity lead you to communicate, for there is nothing more efficacious for the eternal repose of the dead.”

MLA Citation