§ 15. The Location of Purgatory.
58. The general opinion of scholastic theologians, adhered to also by Bellarmine, is that Purgatory is located in the interior of the earth, very near to hell. This, also the common belief of the faithful, is confirmed by the liturgical prayers of the Church, and by the testimony of Holy Scripture.
The Church prays: "Deliver, O Lord, the souls of the faithful departed from the punishment of hell and from the deep abyss." In this passage she calls Purgatory "hell," that is, a deep subterraneous cavern next to the hell of the damned. St. Thomas teaches explicitly, "Purgatory is connected with hell, and this in such a manner that the same fire torments the damned and purifies the just." Hell, however, according to the unanimous acceptance of theologians, is locatecTin the interior of our earth. St. Augustine finds this quite appropriate, and in support of this theory he quotes Ecclesiasticus: "I will penetrate to all the lower-parts of the earth, and will behold all that sleep, and will enlighten all that hope in the Lord." (Eccli. xxiv. 45.) St. Bridget, speaking of the severity of the punishments of Purgatory, refers to its location as follows: ''The severest pains and torments are above hell, in its neighborhood, where the devils also trouble the souls." Venerable Bede also notices, in his history of England, the well-known revelation of Brother Drycthelm, by which the general opinion is confirmed, that Purgatory proper is in the interior of the earth.
59. Nevertheless we must not view Purgatory as being always one and the same local prison. In the visions of many saintly persons are mentioned various places where the Holy Souls are purified and suffer their Purgatory. Faber observes: "Some revelations relate of souls that are not confined in a local prison, but undergo their punishment in the air, or next to their graves, or near the altars of the Blessed Sacrament, or in the rooms of those praying for them, or amid the scenes of their former frivolity and vanity." According to the St. Benedict's Stimmen, the Venerable Sister Frances of the Blessed Sacrament had visions of Sisters who were sentenced to suffer in their former homes, in their convent cells, in choir, or in other places where they had committed faults. The Venerable Bernard Colnago, S. J. saw at Rome a soul that expiated its faults for forty-three years in one of the streets. According to the opinion of most spiritual writers the souls suffering in various places by far outnumber those of the Church militant. Hence Our Lord said in a vision to St. Marina, "Do not tife astonished, but know that in proportion to those that remain in Purgatory the number of souls you are to liberate is like a drop of water in a mighty stream." Declaring that scholastic theologians generally coincide with this view concerning the great number of souls sentenced to suffer in various places, Bautz says : "St. Thomas remarks that the opinion of the saints and numerous revelations render the acceptance of a two-fold place of purification probable. Purgatory proper is located in the depth, adjacent to hell. But by divine decree there are other places of purification, for we read that Suffering Souls were found here and there on earth, God has so disposed: first, for the conversion of the living, that they might learn from such evidence how sin is punished in after-life; secondly, for the relief of the departed, in order that the living might be reminded of the needs of these souls and hasten to come to their aid." . What a view is opened to us in this phase of future life! Such a number of souls suffering in so many places of purification! And again, the multitude in Purgatory proper, in that silent, quiet abode of sufferers, presided over by the Mother of Mercy, the Blessed Virgin Mary, where angels are the ever willing ministers of her clemency! For these souls the suffrage of our prayers is asked, that their deliverance may be hastened by the application of the expiatory merits of Jesus Christ and His saints.—Christian soul, what part have you hitherto taken in their deliverance ? Were you intent, at least to some degree, on coming to their aid by prayer, alms-deeds and Holy Masses?—"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." (Matth. v. 7.)