Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 60

detail of a painting of San Pedro Damiani, 18th century by Andrea Barbiani; currently in the Classense Library, Ravenna, Italy; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Means to Avoid Purgatory – Charity and Mercy – The Prophet Daniel and the King of Babylon – Saint Peter Damian and John Patrizzi

We have just seen the first means of avoiding Purgatory, a tender devotion towards Mary; the second consists in Charity and works of Mercy of every kind. Many sins are forgiven her, said Our Lord, speaking of Magdalen, because she hath loved much. (Luke 7:47). Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:1) Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven. (Luke 6:37) If you forgive men their offences, your Heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. (Matthew 6:14). Give to every one that asketh of thee: give, and it shall be given to you: for with the same measure that you shall mete withal, it shall be measured to you again. (Luke 6:30,38) Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity, that when you shall fail [when you leave this world] they may receive you into everlasting dwellings. (Luke 16:9) And the Holy Ghost says by the mouth of the Royal Prophet, Blessed is he that understandeth concerning the needy and the poor: the Lord will deliver him in the evil day. (Psalm 40)

All these words indicate clearly that [for our] Charity, Mercy, and Benevolence, whether towards the poor or towards sinners, towards our enemies and those who injure us, or towards the departed who are in great need of our assistance, we shall find mercy at the tribunal of the Sovereign Judge.

The rich of this world have much to fear. Woe to you that are rich, says the Son of God, for you have had your consolation. Woe to you that are filled: for you shall hunger. Woe to you that laugh now: for you shall mourn and weep. (Luke 6:24). Certainly, these words of God should cause the wealthy votaries of this world to tremble; but if they wished, their wealth itself could become for them a great means of salvation; they might redeem their sins and pay their terrible debts by abundant alms. Let my counsel, O king, be acceptable to thee, said Daniel to the proud Nabuchodonosor, and redeem thy sins with alms, and thy iniquities with works of mercy to the poor. (Daniel 4:24). For alms deliver from all sin and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness. Alms shall be a great confidence before the Most High God to all them that give it, said Tobias to his son. (Tobit 4:11- 12). Our Saviour confirms all this, and goes even further when He says to the Pharisees, But yet that which remains, give alms; and behold all things are clean unto you. How great, then, is the folly of the rich, who have in hand so easy a means of ensuring their future spiritual welfare, and yet neglect to employ it! What folly not to make a good use of that fortune of which they shall have to render an account to God! What folly to go and burn in Hell or Purgatory, and leave a fortune to avaricious and ungrateful heirs, who will not bestow upon the departed so much as a prayer, a tear, or even a passing thought! But, on the contrary, how happy are those Christians who understand that they are but the dispensers, before God, of the goods which they have received from Him, who think only of disposing of them according to the designs of Jesus Christ, to whom they must render an account, and, in fine, who make use of them only to procure friends, defenders, and protectors in eternity!

Saint Peter Damian, in one of his treatises, relates the following. A Roman lord, named John Patrizzi, died. His life, although Christian, had been like that of the generality of the rich, far different from that of his Divine Master, poor, suffering, crowned with thorns. Fortunately, however, he had been very charitable towards the poor, even so far as to give away his garments to clothe them. A few days after his death, a holy priest, being in prayer, was rapt in ecstasy, and transported to the Basilica of Saint Cecilia, one of the most celebrated in Rome. He there saw a number of heavenly virgins, Saint Cecilia, Saint Agnes, Saint Agatha, and others, grouped around a magnificent throne, upon which sat the Queen of Heaven, surrounded by angels and blessed spirits.

At this moment appeared a poor woman, dressed in a miserable garment, but having a cape of costly fur upon her shoulders. She knelt humbly at the feet of the Heavenly Queen, and joining her hands, her eyes filled with tears, she said with a smile, “Mother of Mercy, in the name of thy ineffable goodness, I beg thee to have pity on the unfortunate John Patrizzi, who has just died, and who suffers most cruelly in Purgatory.” Three times she repeated the same prayer, each time with more fervor, but without receiving any answer. “You know well, O most merciful Queen, that I am that beggar who, at the entrance to your great Basilica, asked alms in the depth of winter with nothing to cover me but my rags. Oh, how I trembled with cold! Then John, whom I petitioned in the name of Our Lady, took from his shoulder this costly fur and gave it to me, depriving himself of it in order to give it to me. Does so great an act of charity, performed in thy name, O Mary, not merit some indulgence?”

At this touching appeal the Queen of Heaven cast a glance of love upon the supplicant. “The man for whom you pray,” she replied, “is condemned for a long time to the most terrible suffering, on account of his numerous sins. But since he had two special virtues, mercy towards the poor and devotion for my altars, I will condescend to give him my assistance.” At these words the holy assembly testified its joy and gratitude towards the Mother of Mercy. Patrizzi was brought in; he was pale, disfigured, and loaded with chains, which had made deep wounds. The Holy Virgin looked upon him for a moment with tender compassion, then ordered that his chains should be taken off, and garments of glory be put upon him, in order that he might join the saints and blessed spirits who surrounded her throne. This order was immediately executed, and all disappeared.

The holy priest who had enjoyed this vision ceased not from that moment to preach the clemency of Our Lady towards the poor suffering souls, especially towards those who had been devoted to her service, and who had had great charity towards the poor.

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