Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 30

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Francis of Assisi; date unknown, artist unknown; Church of Sainte Marguerite, Le Vésinet, Yvelines, France; photographed on 21 August 2012 by Reinhardhauke; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Relief of the Holy Souls – Almsgiving – Christian Mercy – Saint Francis de Sales and the Widow at Padua

Christian almsgiving, that mercy which Jesus Christ so much recommends in the Gospel, comprises not only corporal assistance given to the needy, but also all the good we do for our neighbor by working for his salvation, supporting his defects, and pardoning his offenses. All these works of charity may be offered to God for the dead, and contain great satisfactory virtue. Saint Francis de Sales relates that at Padua, where he pursued part of his studies, there existed a detestable custom The young men amused themselves by running through the streets at night armed with arquebuses, and crying out to all those they met, “Who goes there?”

People were obliged to answer, for they fired upon those who gave no reply, and many persons were thus wounded or killed. It happened one evening that a student, not having responded to the question, was struck in the head by a ball and mortally wounded. The perpetrator of this deed, seized with terror, took to flight and sought refuge in the house of a good widow whom he knew, and whose son was his fellow student. He confessed to her with tears that he had just killed someone unknown to him, and begged her to give him an asylum in her house. Touched with compassion, and not suspecting that she had before her the murderer of her son, the lady concealed the fugitive in a place of safety where the officers of justice would be unable to discover him.

Half an hour had not elapsed, when a tumultuous noise was heard at the door; a corpse was carried in and placed before the eyes of the widow. Alas! it was her son who had been killed, and whose murderer now lay concealed in her house. The poor mother broke forth into heart rending cries, and entering the hiding place of the assassin, “Miserable man,” said she, “what had my son done to you that you should thus cruelly have murdered him?”

The guilty wretch, learning that he had killed his friend, cried aloud, tearing his hair, and wringing his hands in despair. Then throwing himself upon his knees, he asked pardon of his protectress, and besought her to deliver him up to the magistrate, that he might expiate so horrible a crime.

The disconsolate mother remembered at this moment that she was a Christian, the example of Jesus Christ praying for His executioners stimulated her to heroic action. She replied that provided he asked pardon of God and amended his life, she would let him go, and stay all legal proceedings against him.

This pardon was so agreeable to God, that He wished to give the generous mother a striking proof thereof. He permitted that the soul of her son should appear to her, resplendent with glory, saying that he was about to enjoy eternal beatitude. “God has shown mercy to me, dear mother,” said the blessed soul, “because you showed mercy towards my assassin. In consideration of the pardon which you granted, I have been delivered from Purgatory, where, without the assistance which you have afforded me, I should have had to undergo long years of intense suffering.”

MLA Citation