Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 24


Duration of Purgatory – The Duellist – Father Schoofs and the Apparition at Antwerp

The following example shows not only the long duration of the punishment inflicted for certain faults, but also the difficulty to inclining Divine Justice in favor of those who have committed faults of this nature.

The history of the Order of the Visitation mentions, among the first Religious of that Institute, Sister Marie Denise, called in the world Mdlle. Marie Martignat. She was most charitably devoted to the souls in Purgatory, and felt herself particularly drawn to recommend to God in a special manner those who had held high positions in the world, for she knew by experience the dangers to which their positions exposed them. A certain prince, whose name is not given, but who it is believed belonged to the House of France, was killed in a duel, and God permitted him to appear to Sister Denise to ask of her the assistance of which he stood so greatly in need. He told her that he was not damned, although his crime merited damnation. Thanks to an act of perfect contrition which he had made at the moment of death, he had been saved; but, in punishment for his guilty life and death, he was condemned to the most rigorous chastisement in Purgatory until the Day of Judgment.

The charitable sister, deeply touched by the state of this soul, generously offered herself as a victim for him. But it is impossible to say what she had to suffer for many years in consequence of that heroic act. The poor prince left her no repose, and made her partake of his torments. She completed her sacrifice by death; but before expiring she confided to her Superior that, in return for so much expiation, she had obtained for her protege the remission of but a few hours of pain. When the Superior expressed her astonishment at this result, which seemed to her entirely disproportionate with what the sister had suffered, Sister Denise replied, “Ah! my dear Mother, the hours of Purgatory are not computed like those of earth; years of grief, weariness, poverty, or sickness in this world are nothing compared to one hour of the suffering of Purgatory. It is already much that Divine Mercy permits us to exercise any influence whatever over His Justice. I am less moved by the lamentable state in which I have seen this soul languish, than by the extraordinary return of grace which has consummated the work of his salvation. The act in which the prince died merited Hell; a million others might have found their eternal perdition in the same act in which he found his salvation. He recovered consciousness but for one instant, just time sufficient to co-operate with that precious movement of grace which disposed him to make an act of perfect contrition. That blessed moment seems to me to be an excess of the goodness, clemency, and infinite love of God.”

Thus spoke Sister Denise; she admired at once the severity of God’s Justice, and His infinite Mercy. Both one and the other shone forth in this example in the most striking manner.

Continuing the subject of the long duration of Purgatory, we will here relate an instance of more recent occurrence.

Father Philip Schoofs, of the Company of Jesus, who died in Fouvain in 1878, related the following fact, which happened in Antwerp during the first years of his ministry in that city. He had just preached a mission, and had returned to the College of Notre Dame, then situated in the Rue l’Empereur, when he was told someone asked for him in the parlor. Descending immediately, he found there two young men in the flower of their age, with a pale and sickly child of about ten years. “Father,” said they, “here is a poor child that we have adopted, and who deserves our protection because he is good and pious. We feed and educate him and, for more than a year that he has formed part of our family, he has been happy and enjoyed good health. It is only for the last few weeks that he has commenced to grow thin and pine away, as you now see him.” “What is the cause of this change?” asked the Father. “It is fright,” they replied; “the child is awakened every night by apparitions. A man, he assures us, presents himself before him, and he sees him as distinctly as he sees us in full daylight. This is the cause of his continual fear and uneasiness. We come, Father, to ask of you some remedy.” “My friends,” replied Father Schoofs, “with God there is a remedy for all things. Begin, both of you, by making a good Confession and Communion, beg God to deliver you from all evil, and fear nothing. As for you, my child, say your prayers well, then sleep so soundly that no ghost can awake you.” He then dismissed them, telling them to return in case anything more should happen. Two weeks passed, and they again returned. “Father,” said they, “we have followed your orders, and yet the apparitions continue as before, The child always sees the same man appear.” “From this evening,” said Father Schoofs, “watch at the door of the child’s room, provided with paper and ink with which to write the answers. When he warns you of the presence of that man, ask in the name of God who he is, the time of his death, where he lived, and why he returns.”

The following day they returned, carrying the paper on which was written the answers which they had received. “We saw,” they said, “the man that appears to the child.” They described him as an old man, of whom they could but see the bust, and he wore a costume of the olden times. He told them his name, and the house in which he had dwelt in Antwerp. He had died in 1636, had followed the profession of banker in that same house, which in his time comprised the two houses which today may be seen situated to the right and left of it. Let us remark here that certain documents which prove the accuracy of these indications have since been discovered in the archives of the city of Antwerp. He added that he was in Purgatory and that few prayers had been said for him. He then begged the persons of the house to offer Holy Communion for him, and finally asked that a pilgrimage might be made for him to Notre Dame des Fievres, and another to Notre Dame de la Chapelle in Brussels. “You will do well to comply with all these requests,” said Father Schoofs, “and if the spirit returns, before speaking to him, require him to say the Pater, Ave, and Credo.”

They accomplished the good works indicated with all possible piety, and many conversions were effected. When all was finished, the young men returned. “Father, he prayed,” they said to Father Schoofs, “but in a tone of indescribable faith and piety. We never heard anyone pray thus. What reverence in the Our Father! What love in the Hail Mary! What fervor in the I Believe! Now we know what it is to pray. Then he thanked us for our prayers; he was greatly relieved, and would have been entirely delivered had not an assistant in our shop made a sacrilegious Communion. We have,” they continued, “reported these words to the person. She turned pale, acknowledged her guilt, then running to her confessor, hastened to repair her crime.”

“Since that day,” adds Father Schoofs, “that house has never been troubled. The family that inhabit it have prospered rapidly, and today they are rich. The two brothers continue to conduct themselves in an exemplary manner, and their sister became a Religious in a convent, of which she is at the present time Superior.”

Everything leads us to believe that the prosperity of that family was the result of the succor given to the departed soul. After two centuries of punishment there remained to the latter but a small part of the expiation, and the performance of some good works which he asked. When these were accomplished, he was delivered, and wished to show his gratitude by obtaining the blessings of God upon his benefactors.

MLA Citation