Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 5


Location of Purgatory – Revelations of the Saints – Saint Teresa – Saint Louis Bertrand – Saint Mary Magdalen de Pazzi

detail of a painting of Saint Teresa of Avila by Peter Paul Rubens, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, AustriaSaint Teresa had great charity towards the souls in Purgatory, and assisted them as much as lay in her power by her prayers and good works. In recompense, God frequently showed her the souls she had delivered; she saw them at the moment of their release from suffering and of their entrance into Heaven. Now, they generally came forth from the bosom of the earth. “I received tidings,” she writes, “of the death of a Religious who had formerly been Provincial of that province, and afterwards of another. I was acquainted with him, and he had rendered me great service. This intelligence caused me great uneasiness. Although this man was commendable for many virtues, I was apprehensive for the salvation of his soul, because he had been Superior for the space of twenty years, and I always fear much for those who are charged with the care of souls. Much grieved, I went to an oratory; there I conjured our Divine Lord to apply to this Religious the little good I had done during my life, and to supply the rest by His infinite merits, in order that this soul might be freed from Purgatory.

“Whilst I besought this grace with all the fervor of which I was capable, I saw on my right side this soul come forth from the depths of the earth and ascend into Heaven in transports of joy. Although this priest was advanced in years, he appeared to me with the features of a man who had not yet attained the age of thirty, and with a countenance resplendent with light.

“This vision, though very short, left me inundated with joy, and without a shadow of doubt as to the truth of what I had seen. As I was separated by a great distance from the place where this servant of God had ended his days, it was some time before I learned the particulars of his edifying death; all those who were witnesses of it could not behold without admiration how he preserved consciousness to the last moment, the tears he shed, and the sentiments of humility with which he surrendered his soul to God.

“A Religious of my community, a great servant of God, had been dead not quite two days. We were saying the Office for the Dead for her in choir, a sister was reading the lesson, and I was standing to say the versicle. When half of the lesson had been said, I saw the soul of this Religious come forth from the depths of the earth, like the one of which I have just spoken, and go to Heaven.

“In this same monastery there died, at the age of eighteen or twenty years, another Religious, a true model of fervor, regularity, and virtue. Her life had been but a tissue of maladies and sufferings patiently endured. I had no doubt, after having seen her live thus, that she had more than sufficient merits to exempt her from Purgatory. Nevertheless, whilst I was at Office, before she was interred, and about a quarter of an hour after her death, I saw her soul likewise issue from the earth and rise to Heaven.” Behold what Saint Teresa writes.

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Louis Bertrand stained glass window, date and artist unknown; swiped with permission from the flickr account of Father Lawrence Lew, OPA like instance is recorded in the Life of Saint Louis Bertrand, of the Order of Saint Dominic. This Life, written by Father Antist, a Religious of the same Order, and who lived with the saint, is inserted in the Acta Sanctorum on the 10th of October. In the year 1557, whilst Saint Louis Bertrand resided at the convent of Valentia, the pest broke out in that city. The terrible plague spread rapidly, threatening to exterminate the inhabitants, and each one trembled for his life. A Religious of the community, wishing to prepare himself fervently for death, made a general Confession of his whole life to the saint; and on leaving him said, “Father, if it should now please God to call me, I shall return and make known to you my condition in the other life.” He died a short time afterwards, and the following night he appeared to the saint. He told him that he was detained in Purgatory on account of a few slight faults which remained to be expiated, and begged the saint to recommend him to the community. Saint Louis communicated the request immediately to the Prior, who hastened to recommend the soul of the departed to the prayers and Holy Sacrifices of the brethren assembled in chapter.

Six days later, a man of the town, who knew nothing of what had passed at the convent, came to make his Confession to Father Louis, and told him “that the soul of Father Clement had appeared to him. He saw, he said, the earth open, and the soul of the deceased Father come forth all glorious; it resembled, he added, a resplendent star, which rose through the air towards Heaven.”

We read in the Life of Saint Magdalen de Pazzi, written by her confessor, Father Cepari, of the Company of Jesus, that this servant of God was made witness of the deliverance of a soul under the following circumstances: One of her sisters in religion had died some time previous, when the saint being one day in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, saw issue from the earth the soul of that sister, still captive in the dungeons of Purgatory. She was enveloped in a mantle of flames, under which a robe of dazzling whiteness protected her from the fierce heat of the fire; and she remained an entire hour at the foot of the altar, adoring in inexpressible annihilation the hidden God of the Eucharist.

This hour of adoration, which Magdalen saw her perform, was the last of her penance; that hour passed, she arose and took her flight to Heaven.

MLA Citation