Why is this saint nicknamed the “thief of purgatory”?

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Saint John Macias is called the “thief of purgatory” because he is often depicted “stealing” souls from purgatory with his rosary.

A Spanish Dominican friar from the 16th century, Saint John Macias had a particular devotion to the rosary which he prayed constantly, especially for the souls in purgatory. During his life, Jean Macias devoted himself to the most deprived who came to his convent to ask for material and spiritual help. He often welcomed more than 200 people a day. 

Beyond his joyful and contagious character, Jean Macias became known for the sometimes miraculous nature of his service to the poor. Indeed, when he went to collect donations for poor people, he often came back empty-handed. Despite this, he never refused anything to those who came to him for help and, inexplicably, he was always able to help them.

Jean Macias was a friend of the Dominican religious Martin Porres. They met often on their daily rounds around town and became close friends spiritually. They were a constant source of ideas and encouragement to each other and supported each other in prayer. They were beatified together in a single ceremony by Pope Gregory XVI in 1837.

During his life, Saint John Macias frequently prayed for the souls in purgatory with the rosary that his mother had left him as an inheritance. Because of his constant prayer for the souls in purgatory, iconography depicts him freeing souls using his rosary. His biographers called him the “thief of purgatory”. His example reminds us of the need to always pray for the souls in purgatory and the power of intercessory prayer.

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