Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 42

detail of the painting 'Estasi di santa Margherita'; 18th century by Jacopo Alessandro Calvi; photographed 9 August 2005 by Pietro Diotti; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Motives of Justice – Barren Tears – Thomas of Cantimpre and his Grandmother – Blessed Margaret of Cortona

We have just spoken of the obligation of Justice which is incumbent upon heirs for the execution of pious legacies. There is another duty of strict Justice which regards children; they are obliged to pray for their deceased parents. Reciprocally in their turn parents are bound by natural right not to forget before God those of their children who have preceded them into eternity. Alas! there are parents who are inconsolable at the loss of a son or of a dearly beloved daughter, and who, instead of praying for them, bestow upon them nothing but a few fruitless tears. Let us hear what Thomas of Cantimpre relates on this subject; the incident happened in his own family.

The grandmother of Thomas had lost a son in whom she had centered her fondest hopes. Day and night she wept for him and refused all consolation. In the excess of her grief she forgot the great duty of Christian love, and did not think of praying for that soul so dear to her. The unfortunate object of this barren tenderness languished amid the flames of Purgatory, receiving no alleviation in his sufferings. Finally God took pity on him. One day, whilst plunged in the depths of her grief, this woman had a miraculous vision. She saw on a beautiful road a procession of young men, as graceful as angels, advancing full of joy towards a magnificent city. She understood that they were souls from Purgatory making their triumphal entry into Heaven. She looked eagerly to see if among their ranks she could not discover her son. Alas! the child was not there; but she perceived him approaching far behind the others, sad, suffering, and fatigued, his garments drenched with water. “Oh, dear object of my grief,” she cried out to him, “how is it that you remain behind that brilliant band? I should wish to see you at the head of your companions.”

“Mother,” replied the child in a plaintive tone, “it is you, it is these tears which you shed over me that moisten and soil my garments, and retard my entrance into the glory of Heaven. Cease to abandon yourself to a blind and useless grief. Open your heart to more Christian sentiments. If you truly love me, relieve me in my sufferings; apply some indulgences to me, say prayers, give alms, obtain for me the fruits of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is by this means that you will prove your love; for by so doing you will deliver me from prison where I languish, and bring me forth to eternal life, which is far more desirable than the life terrestrial which you have given me.”

Then the vision disappeared, and that mother, thus admonished and brought back to true Christian sentiments, instead of giving way to immoderate grief, applied to the practice of every good work which could give relief to the soul of her son.

The great causes of this forgetfulness, this indifference, guilty neglect, and injustice towards the dead, is lack of faith. For do we not see that true Christians, those animated by a spirit of faith, make the most noble sacrifices in behalf of their departed friends? Descending in spirit into those penal flames, there contemplating the rigors of Divine Justice, listening to the voice of the dead who implore their compassion, they think only how to give relief to those poor souls, and consider it their most sacred duty to procure for their parents and departed friends all the suffrages possible, according to their means and condition. Happy are those Christians; they show their faith by their works; they are merciful, and in their turn they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed Margaret of Cortona was at first a great sinner; but after she had been sincerely converted, she blotted out her past disorders by great penances and works of mercy. Her charity towards the poor souls knew no bounds; she sacrificed everything, time, repose, satisfactions, to obtain their deliverance from Almighty God. Understanding that devotion towards the holy souls, when well directed, has for its first object our parents, her father and mother being dead, she never ceased to offer for them her prayers, mortifications, vigils, sufferings, Communions, and the Masses at which she had the happiness to assist. In reward for her filial piety, God revealed to her that by all her prayers she had shortened the long term of suffering which her parents would have had to endure in Purgatory; that she had obtained their complete deliverance and entrance into Paradise.

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