St Padre Pio’s visions of the souls in Purgatory
The old man told him, "Padre Pio, I am Pietro Di Mauro, son of Nicola, nicknamed Precoco." He went on to say, "I died in this friary on the 18th of September, 1908, in cell number 4, when it was still a poorhouse. One night, while in bed, I fell asleep with a lighted cigar, which ignited the mattress and I died, suffocated and burned. I am still in Purgatory. I need a holy Mass in order to be freed. God permitted that I come and ask you for help."
According to Padre Pio: "After listening to him, I replied, 'Rest assured that tomorrow I will celebrate Mass for your liberation.' I arose and accompanied him to the door of the friary, so that he could leave. I did not realize at that moment that the door was closed and locked: I opened it and bade him farewell The moon lit up the square, covered with snow. When I no longer saw him in front of me, I was taken by a sense of fear, and I closed the door, reentered the guest room, and felt faint.”
A few days later, Padre Pio also told the story to Padre Paolino, and the two decided to go to the town hall, where they looked at the vital statistics for the year I908 and found that on September 18 of that year, one Pietro Di Mauro had in fact died of burns and asphyxiation in Room Number 4 at the friary, then used as a home for the homeless.
One evening, when I was absorbed in prayer in the choir of the little church I was shaken and disturbed by the sound of footsteps, and candles and flower vases being moved on the main altar. Thinking that someone must be there, I called out, "Who is it?"
No one answered. Returning to prayer, I was again disturbed by the same noises. In fact, this time I had the impression that one of the candles, which was in front of the statue of Our Lady of Grace, had fallen. Wanting to see what was happening on the altar, I stood up, went close to the grate and saw, in the shadow of the light of the Tabernacle lamp, a young confrere doing some cleaning. I yelled out, "What are you doing in the dark?" The little friar answered, "I am cleaning."
"You clean in the dark?" I asked. "Who are you?"
The little friar said, ‘I am a Capuchin novice, who spends his time of Purgatory here. I am in need of prayers.’ and then he disappeared,"
Padre Pio stated that he immediately began praying for him as requested, and it is not known if he had any further dealings with this particular soul. However, in regards souls in Purgatory it is very interesting to note that later in life Padre Pio once said that ‘As many souls of the dead come up this road [to the monastery] as that of the souls of the living.” Without a doubt, many souls from Purgatory visited Padre Pio seeking his prayers, sacrifices and sufferings to obtain their release.
From the manuscript of Sister M. de L.C., written from 1874-1890
To get an idea of how Purgatory is arranged, we can get a good glimpse of it from a nun from France who had died on February 22, 1871 at the age of 36, and 2-1/2 years later (in November 1873) she began appearing from Purgatory to a fellow nun in her convent, named Sister M. de L.C (name kept anonymous in the manuscript to protect the nuns identity, as the manuscript was published while the nun was still living) as related in the booklet “An Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory” published by The Reparation Society of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Inc., 2002:
“I can tell you about the different degrees of Purgatory because I have passed through them. In the great Purgatory there are several stages. In the lowest and most painful, it is like a temporary hell, and here there are the sinners who have committed terrible crimes during life and whose death surprised them in that state. It was almost a miracle that they were saved, and often by the prayers of holy parents or other pious persons. Sometimes they did not even have time to confess their sins and the world thought them lost, but God, whose mercy is infinite, gave them at the moment of death the contrition necessary for their salvation on account of one or more good actions which they performed during life. For such souls, Purgatory is terrible. It is a real hell with this difference, that in hell they curse God, whereas we bless Him and thank Him for having saved us.
Next to these come the souls, who though they did not com¬mit great crimes like the others, were indifferent to God. They did not fulfill their Easter duties and were also converted at the point of death. Many were unable to receive Holy Communion. They are in Purgatory for the long years of indifference. They suffer unheard of pains and are abandoned either without prayers or if they are said for them, they are not allowed to profit by them. There are in this stage of Purgatory religious of both sexes, who were tepid, neglectful of their duties, indifferent towards Jesus, also priests who did not exercise their sacred ministry with the reverence due to the Sovereign Majesty and who did not instill the love of God sufficiently into the souls confided to their care. I was in this stage of Purgatory.
In the second Purgatory are the souls of those who died with venial sins not fully expiated before death, or with mortal sins that have been forgiven but for which they have not made entire satisfaction to the Divine Justice. In this part of Purgatory, there are also different degrees according to the merits of each soul.
Thus the Purgatory of the consecrated souls or of those who have received more abundant graces, is longer and far more painful than that of ordinary people of the world.
Lastly, there is the Purgatory of desire which is called the Threshold. Very few escape this. To avoid it altogether, one must ardently desire Heaven and the vision of God. That is rare, rarer than people think, because even pious people are afraid of God and have not, therefore, a sufficiently strong desire of going to Heaven. This Purgatory has its very painful martyrdom like the others. The deprivation of the sight of our loving Jesus adds to the intense suffering.”
Another explanation of the levels in Purgatory from this same book:
Retreat, August 1878: “Great sinners who were indifferent towards God, and religious who were not what they should have been are in the lowest stage of Purgatory. While they are there [in the lowest realms of Purgatory], the prayers offered up for them are not applied to them. Because they have ignored God during their life, He now in His turn leaves them abandoned [without the aid of the prayers of others] in order that they may repair their neglectful and worthless lives. While on earth one truly cannot picture or imagine what God really is, but we (in Purgatory) know and understand Him for what He is, because our souls are freed from all the ties that fettered them and prevented them from realizing the holiness and majesty of God and His great mercy. We are martyrs, consumed as it were by love. An irresistible force draws us towards God who is our center, but at the same time another force thrusts us back to our place of expiation.
We are in the state of being unable to satisfy our longings. Oh, what a suffering that is, but we desire it and there is no murmuring against God here. We desire only what God wants. You on earth, however, cannot possibly understand what we have to endure. I am much relieved as I am no longer in the fire. I have now only the insatiable desire to see God, a suffering cruel enough indeed, but I feel that the end of my exile is at hand and that I am soon to leave this place where I long for God with all my heart. I know it well, I feel more at ease, but I cannot tell you the day or the hour of my release. God alone knows that. It may be that I have still many years of longing for Heaven. Continue to pray; I will repay you later on, though I do pray a great deal for you now.”
Why is it that I pray for you with less fervor than I pray for others and that often I forget to recommend you?
Do not trouble yourself about that. It is a punishment for me.
Even if you prayed more I should not be any the more relieved. God wills it thus. If He wants you to pray more He will inspire you to do so. I repeat again, do not be worried about me. You will never see me in my sufferings. Later on, when your soul is stronger, you will see souls in Purgatory and very awful ones, but let this not frighten you. God will then give you the necessary courage and all that you need to accomplish His holy will.
Is this not a punishment?
No, certainly not, I am here for my relief and for your sanctification. If you would but pay a little more attention to what I say.
That is true but these happenings are so extraordinary that I do not know what to make of them; it is not an ordinary thing to hear you in this way.
Next, from the excellent book “Purgatory –Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints” by Father F.X. Schouppe, S.J., Tan Books, 1986 we read the following accounts which highlight the power and importance of offering holy Masses for the departed. The following is a sincere testimony from the person who experienced several visits from a soul in purgatory, and thus she provides a detailed and frank eye-witness account with regard to the facts:
On October 13, 1849, there died at the age of fifty-two, in the parish of Ardoye, in Flanders, a woman named Eugenie Van de Kerckove, whose husband, John Wybo, was a farmer. She was a pious and charitable woman who generously gave to charity in proportionate to her means. She had, to the end of her life, a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and abstained from meat in her honor on the Friday and Saturday of each week. Although her conduct was not free from certain faults, she otherwise led a exemplary and edifying life.
Eugenie had a servant named Barbara Vennecke, aged twenty-eight, who was known as a virtuous and devoted girl, and who had assisted her mistress in her last sickness, and after Eugenie’s death, she continued to serve her master, John Wybo, the widower of Eugenie.
About three weeks after her death, the deceased appeared to her servant under circumstances which we will now relate. It was in the middle of the night; Barbara slept soundly, when she heard herself called distinctly three times by her name. She awoke with a start, and saw Eugenie before her, sitting on the side of her bed, clad in a working dress, consisting of a skirt and short jacket. At this remarkable sight, Barbara was seized with astonishment. The apparition spoke to her: “Barbara," she said, simply pronouncing her name. “What do you desire, Eugenie?" replied the servant.
|Power of the Mass for souls in Purgatory|
On awaking, Barbara thought that maybe it was all just a dream, but yet she had been so deeply impressed, so wide awake, she had seen her old mistress in a form so distinct, so full of life and she had received from her lips such precise directions, that she could not help saying, “This cannot have been a dream. I saw my mistress in person; she presented herself to my eyes and she surely spoke to me. It is no dream, but a reality."
She therefore immediately went and took the rake as directed, stirred the sand, and drew out a purse containing the sum of five hundred francs.
In such strange and extraordinary circumstances the good girl thought it her duty to seek the advice of her pastor before spending the 500 francs on having Masses said, and went to relate to him all that had happened. The venerable Abbe R., then parish priest of Ardoye, replied that the Masses asked by the departed soul absolutely must be celebrated, but, in order to dispose of the sum of money, the consent of the husband, John Wybo, was necessary, since the money was found in his house. The latter willingly consented that the money should be employed for so holy a purpose, and the Masses were celebrated, being given two francs for each Mass.
We call attention to the circumstance of the Mass donations, because it corresponded with the pious custom of the deceased. The fee for a Mass fixed by the diocese at that time was a franc and a half, but during her lifetime Eugenie-through consideration and charity for the clergy, many of whom were quite poor- always gave two francs for each Mass that she made offerings for. Thus the extra 1/2 a frank Mass offering that she normally made was an act of charity and additional financial support for the priests who celebrated them.
Two months after the first apparition, while Masses were still being said for Eugenie’s intentions, Barbara was again awakened during the night. This time her chamber was illuminated with a bright light, and her mistress appeared before her with a radiant smile, beautiful and fresh in appearance as in the days of her youth, and was dressed in a robe of dazzling whiteness—“Barbara," she said in a clear voice, “I thank you! For I am now delivered from the place of purification.' Saying these words, she disappeared, and the chamber became dark as before.
The servant, amazed at what she had just seen, was full of joy, and she soon spread the remarkable story to everyone about the town . This apparition made the most lively impression upon her mind, and she preserves to this day the most consoling remembrance of it. It is from her that we have these details, through the favor of the venerable Abbe L., who was curate at Ardoye when these facts occurred.
This is but one of the many stories in regards to the power and efficacy of the Holy Mass wherein the Son of God Himself offers Himself upon the altar for the forgiveness of our sins, for it is a fact that of all that we can do in favor of the souls in Purgatory, there is nothing more powerful and precious than the offering of immolation of our Divine Saviour upon the altar. Besides being the express doctrine of the Church as manifested in her Councils, there are many miraculous facts, properly authenticated, which leave no room for doubt in regard to this point.
In evidence to this we now provide another incident, related by the historian Ferdinand of Castile. From 1324-1327 there was at Cologne two Dominican Religious of distinguished talent, one of whom was Blessed Henry Suso (1295-1366). They shared the same studies, the same kind of life, and above all the same desire for sanctity, which had caused them to form an close friendship.
When they had finished their studies, seeing that they were about to be separated to return each one to his own convent, they agreed and promised one another that the first of the two who should die should be assisted by the other for a whole year by the celebration of two Masses each week--on Monday a Mass of Requiem, as was customary, and on Friday that of the Passion, in so far as the Rubrics would permit. They promised each other that they would do this, gave each other the kiss of peace, and left Cologne.
For several years they both continued to serve God with the most edifying fervor. The priest religious whose name is not mentioned was the first to be called away, and Father Suso received the news with sentiments of resignation to the Divine will. As to the contract they had made, time had caused him to forget it. However, he prayed much for his friend, imposing new penances upon himself and many other good works, but he did not think of offering the Masses which he had promised a number of years previously.
One morning, while meditating in retirement in the chapel, he suddenly saw appear before him the soul of his departed friend, who, regarding him with tenderness, reproached him with having been unfaithful to his word from which he had a perfect right to rely upon with confidence. Blessed Suso, surprised, excused his forgetfulness by relating the many prayers and mortifications which he had offered, and still continued to offer, for his friend, whose salvation was as dear to him as his own.
"Is it possible, my dear brother;' he added, "that so many prayers and good works which I have offered to God do not suffice for you?" "Oh no," dear brother, replied the suffering soul, "these are not yet sufficient. It is the Blood of Jesus Christ that is needed to extinguish the flames by which I am consumed; it is the Holy Sacrifice which will deliver me from these frightful torments. I implore you to keep your word, and refuse me not that which in justice you owe me."
Blessed Suso hastened to respond to the appeal of the suffering soul; he contacted as many priests as possible and urged them to say Masses for his friends intentions and, to repair his fault, he celebrated, and caused to be celebrated, a large number of Masses that very same day. On the following day several priests, at the request of Father Suso, united with him in offering the Holy Sacrifice for the deceased, and he continued his act of charity for several days.
After a short time the priest friend of Suso again appeared to him, but now in a very different condition; his countenance was joyful, and he was surrounded with beautiful light. "Thanks be to you, my dear friend” he said “behold, by the Blood of my Saviour I am delivered from my sufferings. I am now going to Heaven to contemplate Him whom we so often adored together under the Eucharistic veil."
Afterwards, Blessed Suso prostrated himself to ‘thank the God of infinite mercy, because he now understood more than ever the inestimable value of the Mass.’
|Eugenie von der Leyen|
As to Saints and Blesseds, so far we have shared stories from St Padre Pio and Blessed Henry Suso. But there are many more canonized Saints who have been great helpers of the suffering souls. The most well known and recognized are St John Macias (who was known to have released literally thousands of souls from Purgatory during his holy lifetime), St. Augustine, St. Dominic, St. Francis Xavier, St. Victor, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Nicolas of Tolentino, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, St. Catherine of Genoa, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Gregory the Great, St. Odilon of Cluny, St. Francesca Romana, St. Bridget of Sweden, St. Ambrose, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Efraim, St. Peter Damian, St. Francis de Sales, St. Catherine of Genoa, and in modern times the recently canonized saints Gemma Galgani, St. Padre Pio, and St Faustina Kowalska, to name but a few.
Since many of the stories of Purgatory from the above mentioned Saints are well known, the emphasis here is to provide the lesser known and nonetheless fascinating stories from sources and individuals not widely known or read, because in His infinite mercy, history is full of “everyday” persons whom on occasion God has permitted to assist the souls in Purgatory. I will say however that the one notable thing about such occurrences is that seers of souls from Purgatory are often reported to be especially good and pious persons, which is logical, for God permits a soul to appear so that it can be released from Purgatory, or at least, that its suffering be greatly lessened, and a pious, compassionate person is more likely to respond to its requests by the offering of fervent sacrifices, sufferings and prayers which are the means which help the poor souls. In other words, such souls are “saintly” persons, without of course ever becoming canonized Saints.
One such soul is Eugenie von der Leyen (1867-1929) who kept a diary of the appearances of the souls in Purgatory to her. Eugenie was a well educated woman of high German nobility; in fact Eugenie bore the title of princess and lived in the ancestral castle at Waal, Bavaria, Germany. By order of her confessor, she kept diary of her contacts with the poor souls, which after her death was handed over to Bishop Eugenio Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII.
The Shepherd named Fritz –From the diary of Eugenie von der Leyen, 1923.
June 11, 1923. At awakening, a long grayish form over me, completely nebulous; I can't say whether man or woman, but unsympathetic; I am very frightened.
June 14. The phantom was already in my room when I wanted to sleep. Then I said my evening-prayer aloud, during which it came very near to me. If it hadn't been for his arms, it rather would seem a walking tree-trunk. It stayed perhaps twenty minutes, then came back at four o'clock.
June 16. It was very bad. It shook my shoulder. That is a horrible moment. I struck him and said: "You may not touch me!" Whereupon it withdrew in a corner. At my push, I didn't feel a body, it was like a humid, warm towel. I believed I couldn't stand such terror any longer.
June 18. Again this horrible thing; it wanted to clasp my neck. I prayed in fear and took the particle of the Cross [a holy relic she possessed] in my hand. Then it remained with me, staying upright and big before me. It didn't answer questions." then it went out through the door, which it left open.
June 19. I can recognize now that it is a man; he was only there for a short while.
June 21. The horrible man more than an hour during the night, went back and forth continuously. He has disheveled black hair and horrific eyes.
June 22. This man from one o'clock until past five with me, it was very bad. He repeatedly bowed over me and sat down at my bedside. I really wept for fear, then prayed the "hours" so that I didn't need to see him. Then he went again back and forth and moaned horribly. Now it seems to me I must know him, however I cannot find out who it is. I have become very cowardly, for many times it is really a decision for me to go to my room in the evening. Yet ordinarily I am able to fall asleep very well.
June 24. He came back, seized me at my shoulder. I said: "Now tell me what you want and then don't come back."
No answer; he went again through the room a couple of times and then was gone. My rest however was completely destroyed. At six in the morning he came back. In daylight he even looks more horrific, makes a disgusting impression, belongs to the dirtiest category of ghosts who have already come. I said: "Don't disturb me, I want to prepare myself for holy Communion!" Then he drew very near to me and lifted his hands imploringly. I was so sorry for him that I promised him a lot. Then I said: "Can't you speak?" Whereupon he shook his head. "Do you have much to suffer?" Now he moaned terribly. I gave him much holy water" and then he was gone.
June 27. He was there again, in the night. Seems to know me; I racked my brains as to who he might be. He is very unsympathetic.?
June 29. He was again in the room when I went to bed. It could be the murdered shepherd Fritz. I asked him at once, but he didn't react. I prayed with him, during which he fixed his eyes on me so angrily that I was really frightened. I asked him to go and then he went indeed.
June 30. He came very briefly; his moaning waked me up.
July 1. Again, I really believe it is shepherd Fritz. However his face is so black that I have difficulty recognizing him. But figure, nose, and eyes are wholly "he," as I saw him so many times in life.
July 2. He came back, didn't look so terribly wild anymore and stayed not for a long time. I addressed him as "shepherd Fritz," which he apparently found quite natural.
July 3. He came very briefly. I asked: ''Are you the murdered shepherd Fritz?" Then he said distinctly: "Yes!"
July 4. He came to me in the morning, looked sadly at me and went away soon, answered nothing, too.
July 5. Now it struck me that everything about him is clearer. During prayer, he made the Sign of the Cross.
July 6. I am very happy for he can speak now. I asked him: "Why do you always come to me?" He: "Because you have always prayed for me." (That is right, for I had always been sorry for the poor fellow; he always looked so particular, even as a boy.) I: "Then what saved you?" He: "Insight and repentance." I: "Weren't you dead immediately?" He: "No." I: "Will you be released soon?" He: "Not by far." Then I gave him permission to continue coming to me, if it does him well. How remarkable it is, that someone who was so rude in life speaks like that when separated from his body. Now I am not frightened by him anymore, and would like to help him as best I can. How merciful is the good Lord!
July 8. He came very briefly.
July 11. Only came very briefly.
July 12. We prayed together," then I: "Then what do you have to suffer?" He: "I am burning!" Then he came up to me and before I could defend myself, he pressed a finger on my hand. I was frightened so much and it hurt me so much, that I screamed. Now I have a red burn which I hope will heal soon. It is a very strange feeling, to have this visible mark from the other world.
July 24. Shepherd Fritz and the other one came two times in the night, all silent, but [the new one] not very pleasant.
July 29. Nothing special to mention. Now these two are coming every night. The new one looks horrible, while shepherd Fritz becomes ever more bright!!
August 10. Shepherd Fritz drew so near to me again, but looked very friendly. So I said to him, "Don't you have to suffer so much anymore?" He: "No." and I: "Can you pray for me yet?" He: "No." and I: "Where are you then all the time?" He: "In the forlornness." I: "Will you still come often to me?" He: "No." and I: "Why not?" He: "I am not allowed to any more!" and I: "Have I been able to help you?" He: "Yes." Then he was gone….
To close this remarkable account, Father Sebastian Wieser, Eugenie's parish priest and confessor, comments:
“The behavior of this apparition is like the echo of his earthly life. I have known shepherd Fritz well -he was like a "billygoat" in the parish. In him, the greatness of the mercy of God really manifests itself. Rarely did he come to church. He had an only son, who in school became well known for his meanness, falsehood, and deceptions and caused many troubles to his teachers and those in authority over him. When the boy had to be punished at school, the father pulled out all the stops of his indignation over the schoolmaster and priest. I prophesied at that time that someday the father himself would get a beating from this only son!
When this son was seventeen years old and was big and quite strong, he beat his father to death at around midnight .... Nobody knew if Fritz was dead immediately or if he came to for a moment. The latter seems to have been the case. The murderer had knocked him down in the hay-barn and abandoned him to his fate. Only in the morning was the dead man discovered ....On the sixth of July he states that: "…insight and repentance" have saved him from damnation! On the twelfth day of July he says, "I am burning!" and presses a finger on the hand of the princess, which leaves a red burn which I have seen myself.” –Father Sebastian Wieser
Another modern account: St Gemma Galgani obtains the relief of a soul in Purgatory
The final account in this article will go to the webmasters favorite Saint: St Gemma Galgani (1878-1903). It is taken from the excellent book “The Life of St Gemma Galgani” by Venerable Father Germanus Ruoppolo C.P.:
"Gemma knew by Divine inspiration that in the Convent of Passionist Nuns at Corneto [Italy] there was a Religious Sister very dear to God who was near death. She asked me about it, and on my answering that it was so, she at once began to implore of Jesus to make that particular Religious expiate all her faults on her deathbed, so that breathing her last she might enter Paradise at once. Her prayer, at least in part, was heard. The Sister suffered greatly and died in a few months. Gemma told those in her home of it in order that they might pray for the deceased, and she gave her name, Maria Teresa of the Infant Jesus, as she was not known in Lucca. After her death, this soul appeared to her full of sorrow, imploring her help as she was undergoing great torments in Purgatory for certain defects.
Nothing more was needed to set all the fibers of Gemma's heart in motion. From that moment she gave herself no rest: she fervently offered prayers, tears and loving petitions to Our Lord.
"Jesus, save her," she was overheard to exclaim. "Jesus, take Maria Teresa to Paradise without delay. She is a soul that is most dear to Thee. Let me suffer much for her; I want her to be in heaven."
And during this time Gemma writes the following in her Diary:
"It was around 9:30 and I was reading; all of a sudden I am shaken by a hand resting gently on my left shoulder. I turn in fright; I was afraid and tried to call out, but I was held back. I turned and saw a person dressed in white; I recognized it was a woman; I looked and her expression assured me I had nothing to fear: "Gemma," she said after some moments, "do you know me?" I said no, because that was the truth; she responded: "I am Mother Maria Teresa of the Infant Jesus: I thank you so very much for the great concern you have shown me because soon I shall be able to attain my eternal happiness."