Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 21

detail from 'Saint Bernardino' by El Greco, 1603, oil on canvas, Museo del Greco, Toledo, SpainArticle

Diversity of the Pains – Blasio Raised from the Dead by Saint Bernardine – Venerable Frances of Pampeluna and the Pen of Fire – Saint Corpreus and King Malachy

The celebrated Blasio Massei, who was raised from the dead by Saint Bernardine of Siena, saw that there was great diversity in the pains of Purgatory. The account of this miracle is given at length in the Acta Sanctorum.

A short time after the canonization of Saint Bernardine of Siena, there died at Cascia, in the kingdom of Naples, a child aged eleven years, named Blasio Massei. His parents had inspired him with the same devotion which they themselves had towards this new saint, and the latter was not slow to recompense it. The day after his death, when the body was being carried to the grave, Blasio awoke as from a profound slumber, and said that Saint Bernardine had restored him to life, in order to relate the wonders which the saint had shown him in the other world.

We can easily understand the curiosity which this event produced. For a whole month young Blasio did nothing but talk of what he had seen, and answer the questions put to him by visitors. He spoke with the simplicity of a child, but at the same time with an accuracy of expression and a knowledge of the things of the other life far above his years.

At the moment of his death, he said, Saint Bernardine appeared to him, and taking him by the hand, said, “Be not afraid, but pay great attention to what I am going to show you, so that you may remember, and afterwards be able to relate it.”

Now the saint conducted his young protege successively into the regions of Hell, Purgatory, Limbo, and finally allowed him to see Heaven.

In Hell, Blasio saw indescribable horrors, and the diverse tortures by which the proud, the avaricious, the impure, and other sinners are tormented. Amongst them he recognized several whom he had seen during life, and he even witnessed the arrival of two who had just died, Buccerelli and Frascha. The latter was damned for having kept ill-gotten goods in his possession. The son of Frascha, struck by this revelation as by a thunderbolt, and knowing well the truth of the statement, hastened to make complete restitution; and not content with this act of justice, that he might not expose himself to share one day the sad lot of his father, he distributed the rest of his fortune to the poor and embraced the monastic life.

From thence conducted into Purgatory, Blasio there saw the most dreadful torments, varied according to the sins of which they were the punishment. He recognized a great number of souls, and several begged him to acquaint their parents and relatives with their suffering condition; they even indicated the suffrages and good works of which they stood in need. When interrogated as to the state of a departed soul, he answered without hesitation, and gave the most precise details. “Your father,” said he to one of his visitors, “has been in Purgatory since such a day; he charged you to pay such a sum in alms, and you have neglected to do so.” “Your brother,” he said to another “asked you to have so many Masses celebrated; you agreed to do so, and you have not fulfilled your engagement; so many Masses remain to be said.”

Blasio also spoke of Heaven, the last place into which he had been taken; but he spoke almost like Saint Paul, who, having been ravished to the third Heaven, whether with his body or without his body he knew not, there heard mysterious words which no mortal tongue could repeat. What most attracted the attention of the child was the immense multitude of angels that surrounded the throne of God, and the incomparable beauty of the Blessed Virgin Mary, elevated above all the choirs of angels.

The life of Venerable Mother Frances of the Blessed Sacrament, a Religious of Pampeluna {La Vie par le F. Joachim; cf. Merv., 26), presents several facts which show that the pains of Purgatory are suited to the faults to be expiated. This venerable servant of God had the most intimate communication with the souls in Purgatory, so that they came in great numbers and filled her cell, humbly awaiting each one in turn to be assisted by her prayers. Frequently, the more easily to excite her compassion, they appeared with the instruments of their sins, now become the instruments of their torture. One day she saw a Religious surrounded by costly pieces of furniture, such as pictures, armchairs, etc., all in flames. She had collected these things in her cell contrary to her vow of religious poverty, and after her death they became her torment.

A notary appeared to her one day with all the insignia of his profession. Being heaped around him, the flames which issued therefrom caused him the most intense suffering. “I have used this pen, this ink, this paper,” said he, “to draw up illegal deeds. I also had a passion for gambling, and these cards which I am forced to hold continually in my hands now constitute my punishment. This flaming purse contains my unlawful gains, and causes me to expiate them.” From all this we should draw great and salutary instruction. Creatures are given to man as a means to serve God; they must be the instruments of virtue and good works. If he abuse them, and make them instruments of sin, it is just they should be turned against him, and become the instruments of his chastisement.

The Life of Saint Corpreus, an Irish Bishop, which we find in the Bollandists on March 6, furnishes us with another example of the same kind. One day, whilst this holy prelate was in prayer after the Office, he saw appear before him a horrible specter, with livid countenance, a collar of fire about his neck, and upon his shoulders a miserable mantle all in tatters. “Who are you?” asked the saint, not in the least disturbed. “I am a soul from the other life.” “What has brought you to the sad condition in which I see you?” “My faults have drawn this chastisement upon me. Notwithstanding the misery to which I now see myself reduced, I am Malachy, formerly King of Ireland. In that high position I could have done much good, and it was my duty to do so. I neglected this, and therefore I am punished.” “Did you not do penance for your faults?” “I did not do sufficient penance, and this is due to the culpable weakness of my confessor, whom I bent to my caprices by offering him a gold ring. It is on this account that I now wear a collar of fire about my neck.” “I should like to know,” continued the Bishop, “why you are covered with these rags?” “It is another chastisement. I did not clothe the naked. I did not assist the poor with the charity, respect, and liberality which became my dignity of king and my title of Christian. This is why you see me clothed like the poor and covered with a garment of confusion.” The biography adds that Saint Corpreus with his chapter united in prayer, and at the end of six months obtained a mitigation of the suffering, and somewhat later the entire deliverance of King Malachy.

MLA Citation