Yes, sometimes they come back … Do we have to be afraid or thankful?
We do not hear much more about purgatory nowadays, which is a pity: most of us, after all, will be very lucky if we have to go there before we get to heaven instead of falling straight and always in hell.
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And so that no one complains that God is “evil” for sending people to hell (or purgatory), it is good to remember that this depends entirely on ourselves and our use of free will.
What a gift (scary, but wonderful) we would gain if one night we were awakened by the presence of a deceased relative or friend asking us for prayers, sacrifices and masses to free ourselves from purgatory! And it would have been especially good if this suffering soul had left us some perceptible and lasting sign, so that in the light of day we might be assured that this visit was not merely a nightmare occasioned by some excess at dinner …
In the parable of poor Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16: 19-31), the latter, after dying and going to hell , begs for Abraham to send “one from the dead” to warn his brothers still alive and make them regret while there is time. Abraham answers, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if one rises from the dead.” The reference, of course, was to Jesus’ own resurrection, but in his great mercy our Lord also sent the living on several occasions some emissaries from the dead. And they left evidence of their visit.
By “evidence” I do not refer to the many written testimonies that so many saints have given us about purgatory and hell: St. Margaret Mary of Alacoque, St. Gertrude, St. Bridget of Sweden, St. John Mary Vianney, St. Mary Faustina, St. Catherine of Sena, Santa Catarina of Genoa … Not to mention seers like the children of Fatima or Kibeho, Medjugorje and Garabandal.
I speak of tangible material proofs, such as those that are guarded in a small room next to the sacristy of a church in Rome, that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Prati. Also called “Sacro Cuore del Suffragio” or Sacred Heart of Suffrage, this neo-Gothic church, whose construction was completed in 1917, is situated on the banks of the Tiber, a mere ten minutes from St. Peter’s Square. It is quite peculiar because it houses the “Piccolo Museo del Purgatorio”, ie the Little Museum of Purgatory .
The mission of the Order of the Sacred Heart, founded in 1854 in France, was to pray and offer masses for the souls of purgatory. The chapel of the Order in Rome, dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, was severely destroyed by the flames on September 15, 1897. After the fire, the priest assigned to the chapel, Father Victor Jouet, was astonished to see the image of a suffering face that seemed to be from a soul from purgatory on one of the walls struck by fire. He asked for and obtained after that episode the permission of Pope Pius X to travel throughout Europe to collect relics that would serve as indications of other visits made by souls from purgatory to our “living world.”
One of the relics exhibited today at the museum shows a piece of wood from the table that had belonged to the venerable mother Isabella Fornari, abbess of the monastery of the Poor Clares of San Francisco in Todi. Mother Isabella had been visited by the late Father Panzini on November 1, 1731. To show her that she was suffering in purgatory, he placed his left hand “on fire” on her desk, leaving his burned hand there, and engraved on the wood of the table a cross with his equally burning index finger. In addition, he placed his hand on the sleeve of the abbess’s robe, burning her arm to the point of bleeding. After reporting the fact to the confessor, Father Isidoro Gazata, the latter requested that the nun cut off those parts of the robe and hand them over to his custody along with the small table.
In 1815, Margherite Demmerlé, who lived in the diocese of Metz, was visited by a soul who identified herself as her deceased mother-in-law thirty years before giving birth. She asked Margherite to go on a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mariental and ask her to celebrate Masses for her. Margherite asked for a sign and the soul put her hand on the book she was reading, “The Imitation of Christ”: the hand was printed on the open page. The mother-in-law returned after the pilgrimage, when the requested masses had already been recited, to thank and tell that she had been released from purgatory.
In 1875, Luisa Le Sénèchal, who had been dead for two years, appeared to her husband Luigi at his home in Ducey, France. Asked for prayers, she left the incandescent mark of her five fingers on her robes, as well as requesting that the couple’s daughter order masses for the eternal rest of her soul.
About a dozen other relics marked by similar supernatural events can be seen in the Small Museum of Purgatory.
These examples are not meant to shock or scare. Many others can be found, for example, in books authored by the renowned French Jesuit priest of the nineteenth century, François Xavier Schouppe, as “The Purgatory Explained.” He wrote: “In giving us this kind of warning, God shows us His great mercy. He exhorts us most effectively to help the poor souls who suffer and to remain vigilant in regard to our own. ”
Anyone who thinks of the four “newest” or “last four things” ( death , judgment, hell and paradise) may be curious about purgatory. Although the Church does not claim to know the nature of the suffering afflicting souls in purgatory, the comments of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the writings of St. Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510), especially his “Treatise on Purgatory,” are illuminating . She described purgatory not as a place engulfed in flames but as a state in which souls experience the torment of the inner flames by recognizing their deep sinfulness in the face of the perfection of holiness and God’s love toward them.
Blessed John Henry Newman composed a beautiful prayer for the souls of purgatory. In this month dedicated to the deceased faithful , it would be well to recite this prayer many times.
Prayer of Blessed John Henry Newman for the deceased faithful:
O God of the spirits of all flesh, Jesus, lover of souls, we commend to you the souls of all your servants, who have departed with the sign of faith and sleep the sleep of peace . We beseech you, O Lord and Savior, that as in your mercy towards them you have become a man, so also make haste and admit them into your presence.
Remember, Lord, that they are creatures of yours, made not by strange gods, but by You, the only living and true God; for there is none other God but you, and there is none that can equal your works. Let your souls rejoice in your light and do not impute to them your old iniquities, which you have committed because of the violence of the passion or the corrupt habits of your fallen nature. Although they have sinned, they have always firmly believed in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and before they died they were reconciled with you by the true contrition and sacraments of your Church.
O Lord of grace, we beseech you: remember not the sins of their youth and their ignorance against them, but according to your great mercy, be attentive to them in your heavenly glory.
Let the heavens be opened unto them, and let the angels rejoice with them. May the Archangel Michael lead you to you. May your holy angels come to meet you and lead you to the city of the heavenly Jerusalem. May St. Peter, to whom you have given the keys of the kingdom of the heavens, receive them. May St. Paul, the vessel of election, give them support. May St. John, the beloved disciple who was given the revelation of the secrets of heaven, intercede for them. May all the Holy Apostles, who have received from you the power to turn on and off, pray for them. May all the saints and elect of God, who in this world have suffered torments for your name, befriend them. May you be freed from the lower prison, be admitted into the glory of the kingdom in which you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit as the only God for ever and ever.
Come to your aid, all of you, O saints of God; gain their liberation from their place of punishment; go to him, all of you, O angels; Receive these holy souls and present them before the Lord.
Give them, O Lord, everlasting rest and everlasting light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.