Thursday, 18 June 2015
Apparitions of a Suffering Soul in 1870.
536. In conclusion of these treatises on Purgatory we append the following description of the apparitions of a soul from Purgatory, which occurred in the year 1870, and were published first in 1872 by the Rev. G. M. Curique, priest of the diocese of Metz, with the approbation of his Ordinary. The authenticity of these apparitions is established beyond doubt, and the account thereof may serve to confirm many of the theories advanced in this book.
Sister Mary Seraphine, member of a religious community in Malines, Belgium, was suddenly attacked, in 1870, by a great spiritual depression. She was at a loss to what cause to ascribe this melancholy, which with her was quite a new experience; and she did her utmost to overcome it. Formerly of a social, cheerful disposition, she had become silent and morose; and despite all her efforts she could not shake off the burden that oppressed her mind. It seemed to her that she was continually haunted by some invisible shadow which followed her everywhere, to the choir, refectory, etc., never permitting her to rest by day or night. She often felt this invisible power pulling at her scapular—a burden '' like a leaden weight," she remarked, was pressing her right shoulder. She acquainted her Superioress and the mistress of novices with all these occurrences. Finally, on the 29th of July a letter arrived from France informing her that on the 17th her father had died. This explained all.
537. Thenceforth, while the Sister's depression continued, she often heard moanings and exclamations like those by which her father had been wont to relieve himself when suffering. She also continually heard a voice saying distinctly, "Dear daughter, have mercy on me, have mercy on me!" On the 4th of October her pains were increased; she now had to suffer also from ah excruciating headache.. On the evening of the 14th, when the Sister had retired to bed in the dormitory of the novitiate, and was just about to fall asleep, she suddenly saw her father between the wall and the bed. He looked very sorrowful and was enveloped in flames. She was so affected at the sight that she called loudly for help. It seemed to her that the flames were scorching her, too.
538. Next evening, on the 15th, and at the same hour, the Sister was kneeling at her bed-side saying the Salve Regina before retiring, when she again saw her father in the same place and condition. From that time on till his deliverance she saw him every evening. On this second occasion she thought that perhaps her father, was suffering for some act of injustice committed in business. But answering her unexpressed thought, he said, "No, I am not guilty of any injustice; I suffer for my continual impatience, and for other faults which I cannot mention."
She then inquired whether he had received no relief from the many Masses that his family had ordered to be celebrated for him. "O yes," he replied; "my soul is soothed every morning by a refreshing dew.
But that is not sufficient. I am in need of the Stations of the Cross."
When the Sister was asked what she felt during the apparitions, she replied, "I feel as if I heard a certain rustling near me, and then I suddenly see my father. His aspect fascinates me, so that I forget where I am. I see and hear only him."
The mistress of novices often found her kneeling at her bed-side, with hands folded and eyes open, and so oblivious of all around her, that nothing could engage her attention.
539. On The 16th of October the soul appeared again. The Sister had been instructed to say, "All good spirits praise the Lord!" As she received no reply she thought it was an evil spirit. But reading her thoughts, her father replied, "No, no. I am not a devil!"—She answered, "Then say with me, Praise be to Jesus Christ and Mary !' " He repeated this ejaculation twice, and then added the words of the Gospel of St. John, "Et Verbum caro factum est! And the Word was made flesh." Then he continued, "Alas, alas, I am over six years in Purgatory, and you have no compassion for me!" "Poor father," the Sister replied, "how can you speak thus, when it is scarcely three months since you died ?"—"Oh, you do not know what eternity is ! The soul, once having seen God, is consumed with an ardent desire of remaining in His presence. I am sentenced to Purgatory for six months; but if your community would pray perseveringly for me, my punishment would be reduced by one half. God has permitted me to implore you continually for my release.—How senseless I was to have opposed your vocation. Now I am relieved only in your presence. The rest of my children think I am in heaven, and scarcely one of them now and then says a De profundis for me. Poor Joanna (an old servant) alone continues to pray for me and thereby helps me."
This was really so. His children thought he was in heaven, and expressed themselves thus in a letter to the Sister : "Father died like a saint, and is now in heaven."—How often we are in a like delusion concerning the fate of our dear ones!
"Poor father," the Sister replied, "I am entirely at your service. You may trouble me at will, if only the rest of the community are not disturbed. I will have many prayers said for you. Tell me what you particularly desire." He replied, "I wish that ten Masses be celebrated, and that the Stations of the Cross be visited for me often." The Sister asked him whether her mother was still in Purgatory. "No; on entering eternity I was informed that she went straight to heaven after her death. You sacrificed your health by nursing her in her last illness, and now I come to trouble you for my deliverance."
540. On the 17th her father appeared to her in great sorrow, but without flames, and complained that he had been less refreshed on the previous day. "Dear father, do you not know that the Sisters Cannot pray all day? According to our rule we must devote part of our time to our various tasks and labors."—"I do not expect that they pray continually, but they might direct their intentions to my release. Every work, even the least, performed in the state of grace and offered to God, is meritorious and of atoning value, and serves to lessen our punishment. If the Sisters do not come to my aid, I shall continue to trouble you, for the Lord has given me permission. My dear daughter, remember the sacrifice you made on the day of your investment; now you must bear the consequences. Behold the fiery cistern in which I am confined. There are several hundreds of us in it.—Oh, if people would but know what Purgatory is ! They would then suffer everything in order to escape it and to release the Poor Souls confined in it. You must become a holy religious; you must faithfully observe all the rules, even those that may seem to be immaterial. The Purgatory of religious is terrible."
The Sister really saw a fiery cistern from which dense clouds of smoke arose. She said, "The impression it made on me is indelibly inscribed on my memory."—Her father showed her his parched tongue, saying, "I thirst! I thirst!"
541. The next time he said, "It is long since I came to you."—"Poor father," she replied, "you were here last evening."—"If I shall have to remain in Purgatory three months more it will seem an eternity. At first I was sentenced to Purgatory for many years; and I owe it to "the intercession of the Blessed Virgin that my time was reduced to a few months."
"This grace to come and ask me for aid," the Sister explained to the community, "was granted to my father in reward for his good works. Moreover he was a devout client of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in whose honor he received the sacraments on all her feasts. He was also very charitable; he spared no trouble when there was question of assisting the unfortunate. He even begged from door to door to assist in establishing a home for the Little Sisters of the Poor.
542. Sometimes the Sister asked her father questions which he was not permitted to answer. One evening she gave him her hand and a book, the "Imitation of Christ," saying, "You see me so perplexed, dear father, because I am always afraid of delusion, thinking these apparitions every evening might be productions of the imagination. Therefore leave the imprint of your hand on mine on this book,'so that I may know that it is really you whom I see."—"No," he replied, "I will not do it. The pain you feel is according to the will of God, and your uncertainty is to hasten my deliverance."
Later he nevertheless twice touched her, once on the right shoulder, and the next time over her heart, causing intense pain. But strange to say, though no indication appeared on her habit, her skin on both places had a black spot, as she modestly informed her confessor.
543. To her great consolation the Sister received full confirmation of the reality of these apparitions in the following manner: One evening a religious of the community suffered terribly from toothache, and Sister Seraphine suggested to her to pray for her father and in return to ask him to obtain relief for her. Scarcely had the Sister done so, when her pain vanished and she slept peacefully.
544. On the 30th of October, by command of her confessor, she asked her father what prayers would be most appropriate to be said on All Souls day. He replied, "Alas, the world does not believe that the fire of Purgatory is similar to that of hell. If a person could but once visit Purgatory, he would nevermore commit the least sin, so rigorously are the souls punished." Another time she asked him if he had been released from the cistern, as she had not seen him in it the last three days, "Oh, no," he answered ; "see the proof!" And immediately she beheld the cistern, dense clouds of smoke and flames of fire ascending from it. And sorrowfully the poor man exclaimed, "To-day we all were greatly relieved, and a great number of souls was admitted to heaven."
545. About the same time he appeared to another Sister, who was greatly troubled because her father had died without the sacraments after long neglecting his religious duties. He said to her, "Your father is saved; but he is sentenced to suffer in Purgatory for twenty years; for your consolation, however, I am permitted to inform you, that your sister N. was released from the flames a short time ago, and is now in heaven." The girl referred to had died sixteen years before, when she was only eight years old; and yet she had to suffer so long in Purgatory. Concerning the salvation of her father, the Sister ascribed it rightly to his great charity towards the poor to whom he had always been most liberal, and to the persevering prayer of his wife and children.
Sister Seraphine asked her father to appear again to this Sister, and to inform her concerning the state of her father; but he gave no answer. Nevertheless the Sister soon received full knowledge of it in some other way.
546. Sister Seraphine also questioned her father concerning other souls. For instance she asked him one day about the state of a Sister to whom she had been greatly attached. "She is in heaven already for some time," he replied. Then she inquired whether any Sisters of her community were at present in Purgatory ; but he confessed that he was not permitted to answer.—"Do the souls in Purgatory ,know who prays for them, and are they permitted to pray for the faithful on earth ?" He answered in the affirmative "Do the souls also suffer for ...... ?" and she mentioned some faults of daily occurrence. "Yes" he replied, "they are punished for them." He then related to her that on leaving this world he had seen the; infinite majesty of God, the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and that this vision had left in him a continually increasing and most ardent yearning to see them again. He also told her that St. Joseph was present at his judgment, and that he had since repeatedly visited Purgatory in company with the Blessed Virgin to console him ; also, that he often saw his guardian angel who came to comfort him.
547. On the 23d of November the Sister saw her father as usual; but this time he seemed closer to her, and her own suffering was thereby greatly increased. She felt as if she were all on fire. He informed her that if the community persevered in prayer as hitherto, he would be released during the Christmas holydays.—We must here observe that he was aware of the most secret suffrages offered for the Suffering Souls, and immediately felt their beneficial effect. For example he saw all the pious exercises one of the Sisters had performed for him during her retreat; and he declared that she had aided him greatly by her zeal and heroic charity.
Always obeying the directions of her confessor and of her Superioress, Sister Seraphine asked her father whether it was true that the torments of Purgatory surpassed in their intensity the sufferings of the martyrs. "It is but too true," was his reply. Then she inquired whether all members of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel that wore the scapular are released from Purgatory on the first Saturday after their death. "Yes," he replied, "if they have faithfully fulfilled all the conditions." To the question, "Is it true that some souls must remain in Purgatory for fifty years?" he answered, "Yes; and there are souls that are sentenced to atone in it till the end of the world. These souls are the ones most tormented and the most forsaken."
548. On the 30th of November he said to his daughter, "It seems an eternity to me since I arrived in Purgatory. At present my greatest torment is the intense longing to behold God and to enjoy His possession. I feel continually elevated towards Him and am at the same time repulsed and cast into the abyss. Sometimes I am on the edge of the cistern seemingly about to be released from it, when I immediately feel divine justice detaining me because I have not sufficiently atoned."
For two weeks the Sister had not seen the cistern. She now implored her father again, as he had done repeatedly before, to obtain for her the grace of perseverance amid so many interior and external sufferings. "I have already prayed for you," he replied, "and I shall continue to pray for you, my dear daughter. But you will have to suffer still more before I am released."
549. On the 3rd of December she saw him again. Still sorrowful, he nevertheless appeared greatly relieved. He described to her the intense love of God that he felt and the increasing desire of beholding Him. Some time before she had asked him to repeat to her some of the acts of love which the souls in Purgatory made. He had not complied with her request then, but now he said, "I continually make these three acts of love: "O my God, grant me the love with which the Seraphim art enflamed! O my God, grant me still more: grant me the love which inflames the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary! O my God, why can I not love Thee as Thou lovest Thyself?" Then he assured her that he implored for her the love of the Seraphim, adding, "Dear daughter, I am permitted to inform you, that though you are very weak—you will nevertheless have to suffer great pain between now and Christmas, on which day I shall be released."—"And then, dear father, what then? Shall I regain my strength, so as to be able to serve God according to our holy rule?"—"That is a mystery not revealed by God," he replied.
550. Thenceforth, from the 3d of December till the evening of the 12th, the apparitions ceased. On the 12th and the two following evenings he appeared again, brighter every time. From the 14th to the 25th he came no more. Meanwhile the good Sister suffered so intensely that she was scarcely able to visit the chapel. Nevertheless on Christmas night she succeeded in her effort to assist at the Midnight Mass, which she ascribed to the assistance obtained for her by her father, from whom she expected to receive the announcement of his deliverance on that blessed night. And so it happened. Between the first and second elevation of the sacred species, he appeared to her in supernal splendor and said, "My punishment is ended.
I come to thank you and your community for all the prayers said for me. Henceforth I shall pray for you all."
On her return to her room he appeared to her again for the last time to convince her of his release; and again he thanked her. She implored him to obtain for her sufficient strength and health to observe the rule. "I will ask for you perfect resignation to the will of God, and the grace of entering heaven without having to suffer Purgatory." Then he vanished to appear no more. During this last apparition he was so resplendent that her eyes could scarcely bear the dazzling light. Her joy and happiness were now supreme. She felt an ineffable peace of soul, and she was glad to have the assurance that she had not been the victim of an illusion.
551. Thenceforth Sister Seraphine was affected with an illness scarcely known to our age—with homesickness for heaven. Her father's yearning desire for the possession of God seemed to have been bequeathed to her. She became a victim of consumption; and after six months of intense suffering, borne with a martyr's fortitude, her pure soul was called to its eternal reward. She died on Friday, June 23d, the octave of the feast of the Sacred Heart, at the early age of twenty-eight.