Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 43

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Catherine of Siena, artist unknown, date unknown, Anglican church of Saint Giles, Cambridge, England; swiped with permission off the flickr site of Father Lawrence Lew, OPArticle

Motives of Justice – Prayer for Departed Parents – Saint Catherine of Siena and her Father, Jacomo

Saint Catherine of Siena has left us a similar example. It is thus related by her biographer, Blessed Raymond of Capua. “The servant of God,” he writes, “had an ardent zeal for the salvation of souls. I will first speak of that which she did for her father, Jacomo, of whom we have already made mention. This excellent man had remarked the sanctity of his daughter, and was filled with respectful tenderness towards her; he advised everyone in his house never to oppose her in anything, but to leave her perfect liberty in the practice of her good works. Thus the affection which united father and daughter increased day by day. Catherine constantly prayed for her father’s salvation; Jacomo took a holy delight in the virtues of his daughter, hoping through her merits to obtain favor before God.

“The life of Jacomo finally approached its end, and he was confined to bed by a dangerous illness. Seeing his condition, his daughter, as was her custom, betook herself to prayer, beseeching her Heavenly Spouse to cure him whom she so tenderly loved. He answered that Jacomo was at the point of death, and that to live longer would not be profitable to him. Catherine then went to her father, and found him so perfectly resigned to leave this world, and without any regret, that she thanked God with all her heart.

“But her filial love was not content; she re turned to prayer in order to obtain from God, the Source of all grace, to grant her father not only the pardon of all his faults, but also that at the hour of his death he might be admitted into Heaven, without so much as passing through the flames of Purgatory. She was answered that Justice could not sacrifice its rights; that the soul must be perfectly pure to enter the glory of Paradise. ‘Your father,’ said Our Lord, ‘has led a good life in the married state, and has done much that was very pleasing in My sight; above all, his conduct towards you has been most agreeable to Me; but My Justice demands that his soul should pass through fire, in order to purify it from the stains which it contracted in the world.’ ‘O my loving Saviour,’ replied Catherine, ‘how can I bear the thought of seeing him who has nourished me, who has brought me up with such tender care, who has been so good to me during his whole life, tormented in those cruel flames? I beseech Your Infinite Goodness not to permit his soul to leave his body until in some way or another it shall have been so perfectly cleansed that it shall have no need to pass through the fires of Purgatory.'”

Admirable condescension! God yielded to the prayer and desire of His creature. The strength of Jacomo was exhausted, but his soul could not depart as long as the conflict lasted between Our Lord, who alleged His Justice, and Catherine, who implored His Mercy. Finally, Catherine resumed: “If I cannot obtain this grace without satisfying Thy Justice, let, then, that Justice be exercised upon me; I am ready to suffer for my father all that Thy Goodness may be pleased to send me.” Our Lord consented. “I will accept thy proposal,” He said,” on account of thy love for Me I exempt thy father’s soul from all expiation, but thou shaft suffer as long as thou livest the pain that was destined for him.” Full of joy, Catherine cried out, “Thanks for Thy word, O Lord, and may Thy will be done!”

The saint immediately returned to her father, who had just entered upon his agony. She filled him with courage and joy by giving him, on the part of God, the assurance of his eternal salvation, and she left him not until he had breathed forth his soul.

At the same moment that the soul of her father was separated from the body, Catherine was seized with most violent pains, which remained until her death, without allowing her one moment of repose. “She herself,” adds Blessed Raymond, “often assured me of this, and indeed it was evident to all who saw her. But her patience was greater than her malady. All that I have related I learned from Catherine, when, touched at the sight of her sufferings, I asked her the cause thereof. I must not forget to say that at the moment her father expired she was heard to cry out, her face beaming with joy and a smile upon her lips, ‘May God be praised! My dear father, how I wish I were like you.’ During the celebration of the funeral obsequies, when all were in tears, Catherine seemed transported with delight. She consoled her mother and everyone as though unaffected by her father’s death. It was because she had seen that beloved soul come forth triumphant from the prison of the body and pass without any hindrance into eternal beatitude. This sight had inundated her with consolation, because a short time previous she herself had tasted the joys of eternal light.

“Let us here admire the wisdom of Providence. The soul of Jacomo could surely have been purified in another manner, and have been immediately admitted into Heaven, like the good thief who confessed our Saviour on the Cross. But God willed that his purification should be effected through the sufferings of Catherine, as she herself had requested, and this not to try her, but to increase her merits and her crown.

“It was fitting that this holy maid, who so ardently loved the soul of her father, should receive some recompense for her filial affection; and since she had preferred the salvation of his soul to that of her own body, her bodily suffering contributed to the happiness of her soul. Thus she always spoke of her sweet, her dear sufferings. And she was right, for these afflictions augmented the sweetness of grace in this life and the delights of glory in the next. She confided to me that long after his death her father Jacomo continually came to thank her for the happiness she had procured for him. He revealed many hidden things to her, warned her of the snares of the demon, and preserved her from all danger.”

MLA Citation