|two souls kneeling in prayer in Purgatory|
454. In the life of Eusebius, Duke of Sardinia, who lived in the thirteenth century, we read the following extraordinary occurrence. Not content with praying for the Suffering Souls, he had devoted the tenth part of his income to suffrages for their release. Compelled to engage in war with Ostorgius, king of Sicily, he was so hard pressed by the army of his foe, that he was about to leave the city. That very morning he saw a mighty army come to his assistance—an army numbering apparently about forty thousand warriors, horse and foot, all clad in white uniforms. Ostorgius, too, saw them and was seized with such consternation, that he sued for peace. Eusebius thanked God and his strange allies for the help he had received, when the leader of the unknown army addressed him as follows: ' ' Know, Eusebius, that the soldiers you see here are souls who were, nearly all of them, released by you from Purgatory. The Lord of hosts has sent us to your aid. Continue in your devotion to the Holy Souls. The more souls you release from Purgatory, the more protectors you will have in heaven, where they will continually implore God for your welfare."—Father Louis Monaco, a canon regular, had a similar experience.—Once while travelling alone, he recited the rosary for the deceased, as was his custom to do on every such occasion. Two robbers, seeing him approach, intended to murder him. But the grateful souls came from Purgatory to protect and assist their benefactor. They surrounded him as a guard; and the robbers, seeing the priest suddenly encircled by soldiers, fled in precipitate haste.
455. The following incident also occurred in the middle ages—that eventful period, when Italy was convulsed with internal strife, when might triumphed over right, when blood was profusely spilt in private feuds. There was a soldier who amid all this tumult of war and personal hatred had persevered in piety, rectitude and purity of morals. He was a devout patron of the Holy Souls, and had even made a vow never to pass a cemetery without entering it if possible, and spending some time in prayer for the faithful departed. One day while taking a solitary walk he was met by a party of the enemy's soldiers. Being entirely without weapons to ward off an attack, he betook himself to flight. Scaling a wall in his way, he found himself in a cemetery. He remembers his vow; but if he tarries one moment he is lost, for his pursuers are at his heels. Nevertheless his faith and devotion assert their power. "For the love of God and the Holy Souls," he says; and then he kneels down to recite his customary prayer. But lo, his enemies have espied him; they too scale the wall and are astonished to see him kneeling devoutly in prayer. Still they push on, thinking it impossible for him to escape. But what is this ? In a moment the cemetery is alive with soldiers. They form in line of battle, attack the enemy arid put him to flight. All this happened in a few moments. The pious soldier had heard a disturbance going on behind him, but had not interrupted his prayer to look around. Having finished his devotion, he arose to continue his flight; but no enemy was to be seen.—Soon afterwards peace was declared between the opposing factions, and then the soldier received an explanation of the sudden disappearance of his pursuers. They told him how bravely he had been defended. Considering all the circumstances, there was no doubt that the Holy Souls had come to defend their benefactor, who prayed for them even while his life was in the greatest peril.
456. A still more marvellous occurrence is related of another friend of the Holy Souls. This man had some enemies—as even the best of men sometimes may have. He was a devout client of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and had a great love for the Suffering Souls. It was his practice to say every evening the Litany of the Blessed Virgin for the relief of the Poor Souls. One night, after saying his accustomed prayer, he retired as usual to his bed-room; and soon after he was profoundly asleep. Meanwhile his enemies forced their entrance into the house, went to his room, saw his clothing on a chair, and looked for their man in the bed. But it is empty; he is nowhere to be seen. To save his life God had rendered him invisible to the miscreants. Perplexed and angry at having missed their opportunity, the intruders left the house. After some days they returned. In the evening the man retired to his room and began his usual prayer. But he was drowsy, sleep overcame him ; and after saying one-half of the Litany he went to bed. Meanwhile his enemies were watching him. This time he is surely in bed and shall not escape them. They enter the room and advance to the bed. Yes, he is there; —but what is this ? From head to foot his body is divided into halves, and one half is gone! Full of terror at the sight, yet thinking that some other enemy had done his work before them, they hastened away. God had renewed His miracle in favor of His servant ;^ but as he had said only half of his prayer, He had rendered only one-half of his body invisible. The next morning his enemies met the man in the street alive and sound. They regarded him with great consternation, believing to see a ghost. Explanations were made, and a reconciliation was effected. Then they confessed their attempts on his life. Neither he nor they doubted in the least that he owed his life to the protection of the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Souls.
457. The Oratorian, Father Maganti, also experienced the gratitude of the Suffering Souls. They obtained many extraordinary favors and graces for him; for instance knowledge of the future, of secret faults, triumphs over the wiles of the % devil, etc. He attributed all these supernatural gifts to the intercession of the souls in Purgatory. One day while travelling from Loretto he arrived in the town of Nocera; and immediately he went to a church of the Blessed Virgin to say Mass. Afterwards he continued his journey in company with some other travelers. The road led past a dangerous place where some days before several murders had been committed. Meanwhile a party of brigands lay in ambush for the pious pilgrims. They attacked them when they arrived, overwhelmed them and bound them fast to trees. All at once two children appeared on the hill overlooking the road and began to call so loudly and perseveringly for help, as if they intended to arouse the whole country. The brigands, who are about twelve in number, take no notice of this, except to point their muskets at the children. But the children continue to call for help; they even advance boldly towards the robbers. Seeing this the bandits become afraid and betake themselves to flight; for they are convinced that they have witnessed a supernatural apparition. The children go from tree to tree, loosen the bonds of the pilgrims, and then disappear. The companions of Father Maganti are quite bewildered; but he simply informs them, "We owe our deliverance to two Holy Souls from Purgatory. God permitted them to appear in the form of children, to remind us of the word of our Divine Master, "Unless you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matth. xviii. 3.)
458. The life of a petty prince of the middle ages furnishes us another notable example of the gratitude of the Suffering Souls,towards their benefactors. This nobleman had for a time led a rather dissolute life with his courtiers. But the grace of God did not desert him—he was converted quite unexpectedly. He settled his affairs, and devoted a considerable portion of his income to foundations for the relief of the Suffering Souls. The sycophant courtiers, seeing themselves thus deprived of their customary amusements and revels, were very indignant, and conspired with a neighboring prince to rob their converted master of his estates. When he sought the aid of his former friends, they jeeringly replied, "Go to your Mass-priests and prayer-reciters among whom you have distributed your wealth. We have neither the power nor the will to help you." Abandoned by almost everyone the good prince retired to one of his castles, resolved to defend himself to the best of his ability. But his troops were greatly inferior in number to those of his adversary, who had meanwhile invaded his territory, and was now advancing with his army to drive him forth from his citadel. One morning, when his distress was at its height, he was informed that a stranger desired his presence in the court yard. Arrived there, the prince was met by the leader of a great army, who thus addressed him, "Fear not! We are come to help you, and victory shall be ours. We are the souls that were released by means of your pious foundations. God sends us to your aid. Continue in your prayers for the faithful departed in order that on the day of battle our number may be still greater." With these words the leader and his whole army disappeared. The prince returned to his apartments and informed his servants of what had occurred, encouraging them like a second Machabee with the hope of victory. A few days later the enemy's arm}' appeared, but to the great consternation , of the troops the small remnant of their adversary's adherents were reinforced by a great host of unknown soldiers formed in battle array. The enemy lost courage and sued for peace. After the treaty was signed to the satisfaction of both parties, the prince was asked whence came the unexpected assistance that had so opportunely appeared in his defense. He told of his supernatural visitors and their promise. But when his opponent wished to see them they had vanished. When this miraculous occurrence became known, it served greatly to increase the devotion to the Holy Souls.
459. Another example: A merchant had laid in a full supply of goods, but they remained unsold for several years, so that bankruptcy seemed inevitable. In this strait he promised to have a number of Masses said for the Souls in Purgatory, and behold, in a short time he had sold out his entire stock.—A patron of the Holy Souls recited the Office of the Dead everyday for fifty years, and as a result he was successful in all his temporal affairs. He was assisted by the Holy Souls in many dangers, was comforted by them in his trials, and experienced their effective help in several law-suits.—A servant girl who was suffering much from rheumatism, and who had for a long time used all kinds of remedies without relief, at last had recourse to the intercession of the Holy Souls. She had three Masses said for them and was at once restored to health.—A man affected in the same way promised to have a picture of the Suffering Souls erected near a much frequented place of pilgrimage, and immediately his illness disappeared.
460. Concerning personal services rendered by the Holy Souls, and their interest in our bodily comfort, St. Gregory the Great relates the following incident, which occurred during his time in the diocese of Civita Vecchia. A worthy priest, who had been advised by his physician to use steam baths, was served every time most attentively by an unknown man. To reward him the priest one day offered him two loaves of blessed bread, which at that time it was customary to distribute among the faithful at Mass. Sorrowfully the man refused them, saying, "O Father, why dost thou offer me this ? This is holy bread, and I cannot partake of it. I was once proprietor of this place, and was sentenced after death to come back here. If you wish to release me, offer this bread for me to the Almighty, and thus you will aid me in atoning for my sins. In token that you were heard I will not appear to you again after I shall have been released." With these words he disappeared. The priest said Mass for him every day for a week; and when he returned on the morning of the eighth day, he found him no more.
461. Keller, in his book "Mirror for Earnest Christians," relates the following: At the beginning of the sixties a devout young lady intended to found a religious community. A number of pious maidens had declared their intention of joining her, and an appropriate house had been selected, but the necessary sum for its purchase was wanting. Nevertheless, trusting in God and relying on the help of pious benefactors, the place was bought, the new community thereby incurring a heavy debt. While looking about for a loan, the Superioress was delayed on one of her journeys, so that it was already late in the night when she arrived at the railroad station nearest the town she was traveling to. As she had to be at the place early next morning, she resolved to proceed at once on foot. The road led through a dense forest, and she was very much afraid. Reassuring herself she began to say the rosary for the Suffering Souls, when all at once she beheld at her side a young man with a lantern, who asked her to permit him to accompany her. After regarding his rather pale face for a moment she assented. On the way her guide asked her concerning the object that brought her there, and she confided to him all her doubts and anxieties. He replied with a few encouraging words. Arrived at the end of the forest he showed her a house at which she should not fail to call; and then he was suddenly gone. Next morning she related the occurrence to the priest, asking him whether he thought it advisable to apply at that house for the loan of the sum she needed. He replied, "You may try, but you will get nothing."
Nevertheless she went there, but was received very coldly. Then she related how she had been directed to this house, and described the appearance of the young man. Immediately the behavior of the man and his wife changed. The wife began to weep, while the husband hastened from the room. But he soon returned with the desired sum, saying that he could not but show himself grateful to the benefactress of his deceased son; for it was he that conducted her through the forest and directed her to his house.
462. It is impossible to condense into one volume an account of all the instances in which the Holy Souls gratefully rendered assistance to their benefactors in the manifold relations of life—help in war and personal danger, in illness, and in distress of all kinds. But what was related above is sufficient to convince even the most sceptical of the efficiency of their intercession ; and together with the examples adduced from Holy Scripture these instances of their gratitude ought not to fail in moving us to charity for them. Their intercessions for their benefactors on earth are graciously heard by Him who declares that he considers as done to Himself what we do to others. In making this declaration our Lord confesses Himself our debtor, provided we exercise this charity in behalf of the Poor Souls. By our suffrages for them we secure for ourselves not only their own gratitude, but God Himself will be grateful to us for the help we have given to these Souls so pleasing to Him. He hears their prayers even when they pray to obtain temporal blessings for us.