Thursday, 4 June 2015
The Condition of the Suffering souls in Purgatory, by Rev. John A. Nageleisen. § 61. The Suffering Souls Assist Their Benefactors in Death and at the Tribunal of Judgment.
472. The renowned historian Cardinal Baronius relates: A man of great virtue was approaching his end and was violently assaulted by the evil spirits surrounding his death-bed. Suddenly he saw the heavens open and thousands of warriors in white garments coming to his aid. They told him that they were sent to defend him and to gain the victory for him. The dying man was greatly relieved and implored his heavenly defenders to tell him who they were. They replied, "We are the souls whom you released. We come to reward your charity, and to conduct your soul to heaven." After receiving this assurance he died.
St. Margaret of Cortona died on the 22d of February, 1297. At the very hour of her death a saintly religious in a distant city saw her soul ascend to heaven in the company of a great number of souls whom our Lord had released in consideration of the merits of His holy spouse.
473. The following remarkable occurrence was related a few years ago in the Italian newspaper L'Unita Cattolica: Two gentlemen, Parrini and De Witt, fought a duel in which the former was mortally wounded. Parrini was a freemason, as is evidenced from his will made two years before the duel, as follows:
FLORENCE, March 13, 1882. To the Grand Master and the Masonic Brethren of the R:, L:. La Concordia.
Sound of mind and body, I hereby declare, on this the 13th day of March, 1882, my last will, and ordain by it as follows :
1) That no priest, of whatever rite or cult, shall enter my room in case I should be in danger of death by illness. 2) That after my death no religious fraternity, no priest, etc., but solely my brethren, friends and acquaintances shall attend my funeral. 3) That 500 francs be taken from my estate to be distributed at the pleasure of the Grand Master of the lodge Concordia amongst the poor widows and orphans of brethren of the said lodge 4) That the execution of this my last will be entrusted to the Orient of said lodge, in whose secret archives a copy of it shall be preserved.
On the morning of July 18th, 1884, the day of the duel, Parrini wrote another will which related solely to the settlement of his estate. In it he revoked nothing of the arrangements made in the former will relative to his death.—After sixteen or more rounds had been fought, he fell mortally wounded. He was brought in a dying condition to the Villa Torrigiani.
When informed of his approaching end, he said to one of his lady friends, "Call a priest as quickly as possible ; I desire to have a priest! I promised it to you, and you know that I keep my word. Call a priest!" When the vicar of the parish, Don Louis Millinesi, entered the room, the dying man received him as a messenger from heaven. After the vicar had been alone with him for a few moments, he went to the door and called for two witnesses. In presence of these the vicar read a revocation covering everything necessary to obtain absolution from the censures incurred by joining the freemasons, engaging in a duel, and calumniating the Church in newspaper articles and pamphlets. After the reading of this document Parrini declared over the crucifix on his breast that he made solemn revocation; and then he added,. "I pardon everybody the same as I implore pardon of God." The act of revocation is preserved in the archiepiscopal archives. After these preliminaries he made his confession, and everything was prepared for the ministration of the holy Viaticum. Meanwhile the dying man, still pressing the crucifix to his lips, continued to pray and to commend himself to the mercy of God. He received the last sacraments with all signs of piety and faith, so that all present, a non-Catholic included, were moved to tears. While the vicar administered Extreme Unction, Parrini continued in adoration of the Lord whom he had just received, and audibly repeated the acts of faith, hope, charity and contrition, and implored the aid of the Blessed Virgin. Soon after receiving Extreme Unction he expired with the name of Jesus on his lips and the crucifix on his breast.
Whence this miraculous change of heart in this man Parrini? The answer to this question is found in the fact that in his heart he had never abandoned the faith of his youth instilled into his mind by a pious mother. His apparent unbelief had proved no obstacle to his charity. The poor, as also the Suffering Souls, ever found in him their constant friend. He gave bountifully in aid of both. During all the years of his association with the masonic fraternity he had never neglected to say every day the De profundis for the faithful departed. Whenever one of his friends died, he was sure to say the De profundis for him. That this charity, although wanting in supernatural merit, was nevertheless pleasing to God, is proved by his happy death, which blessing was obtained for him by the intercession of the Holy Souls.
474. Brother Henry, a native of Louvain in Belgium, had finished his studies in Paris. After receiving holy orders he was sent to Germany as professor of theology and to be a preacher of the word of God. Wherever he went he proved himself to be a steadfast friend of the Suffering Souls; and he often experienced their gratitude. Once while in Cologne, after assisting at the funeral of a Franciscan, he continued in prayer for the soul of the religious and other departed souls, when the lately deceased Brother appeared to him, saying, "Thanks to thee, Father Henry, thanks to thee! It is due to thy fervent prayer that I was only half a day in Purgatory; and now I ascend to heaven in the company of twenty-four other souls, whom thy prayer has released from Purgatory together with myself." When this same Father Henry was sent to Wimpfen as professor of theology, his brethren related to him the recent death of a nobleman, who had ordained in his last will that he should be interred in the Dominican church at Wimpfen. They also informed him that the deceased had been a great benefactor of the Order. Good Father Henry was so moved at this recital that he thenceforth remembered the pious nobleman's soul every day in prayer. On the anniversary of his death the deceased appeared to one of his relatives who was just praying for him, and said, "Fear not; I am your cousin. Know that by the prayer of Father Henry, professor at Wimpfen, I am released from Purgatory. Go and thank him in my name for his great charity." At last the good Father's time to die arrived. He was suffering from a very painful illness, but not unexpectedly; for it had been revealed to him long before that he would have to endure this trial. He peacefully expected the visit of his dear Mother Mary and of the Holy Souls; for he knew that they would not forsake him in death after appearing to him so often in life; and he was confident too that they would not permit him to remain long in Purgatory. And the fulfilment of his hope was revealed to a pious old lady at the moment of his death. She saw the soul of Father Henry ascend to heaven in the company of three hundred and thirty six other souls.
475. A pious Christian of Brittany in France, who amongst other virtues that he practiced excelled also in charity for the Suffering Souls, was fast approaching the hour of his death. The pastor was notified to give him the last sacraments, but on account of great fatigue he sent his curate. The curate administered the last rites of religion to the dying man, and then set out to return home. On passing the cemetery which adjoined the priest's house, the curate to his great astonishment heard a voice loudly calling out, "Arise, ye dead! Arise from your graves and hasten to the church to pray for the soul of our great benefactor who has just expired. We owe this to him in gratitude for the prayers he so often said for us." And like the prophet Ezechiel the curate had a vision. The church-door, which he had carefully closed before answering the sick-call, was wide open. In the sanctuary the lights were burning; and again he hears the voice, this time from the altar, calling the dead to prayer. At the same time he hears a great noise, the moving and rattling of bones in the graves. The dead come forth and go "in procession to the church. In the sanctuary they sit down in the choir-stalls and recite in mournful accents the Office of the Dead. After it is finished, they silently return to their graves. The candles on the altar extinguish of themselves, and silence reigns as before in the deserted church. Pale with terror the curate hastens to inform the pastor of what he had seen. The latter would not Relieve him, but ascribed the vision to his assistant's vivid imagination. "First of all," he said, "you must find out whether your patient died, which is scarcely probable." He had not yet ceased speaking, when a messenger appeared giving due notice of the good parishioner's death. The curate was so impressed with this vision that he became a religious in the monastery of St. Martin of Tours. Later, when elected prior, he stated the occurrence in detail to his brethren.
476. Ackermann, in his book on the Poor Souls, relates that the Jesuit lay-brother Simon, and Father John Fabricius, also a Jesuit, having been great benefactors of the Holy Souls in life, were assisted by them in death. A great number of souls whom they had released surrounded their death-beds to console them in their last moments and to conduct their souls to heaven.
But the Holy Souls are not content with assisting their friends in death; they also show their gratitude by releasing them from Purgatory.—A saintly religious in Naples, Paula of St. Theresa, in a vision saw our Lord descending into Purgatory and singling out souls here and there to release them from their punishment. When she asked Him why He selected these souls from among so many, our Lord replied, "Because these souls during their mortal lives were noted for their charity to the Suffering Souls. I reward like with like; and therefore I release them earlier from their torments according to My promise, 'The merciful shall obtain mercy.'" Thus we see the prayer of the wise Noemi fulfilled in behalf of those who are true friends of the Holy Souls: "The Lord deal mercifully with you, as you have dealt with the dead." (Ruth I, 8.)
477. From the foregoing we may conclude how profitable to us is our charity for the dead, and that we thereby suffer no loss, but are rewarded a hundredfold by the grateful souls themselves. If nevertheless there be Christians with hearts so indifferent and unfeeling as to be unmoved by all the motives hitherto adduced; and if these same Christians be so fortunate as to escape hell and to be imprisoned in Purgatory in order that they may cancel their debts—be assured, they will have to pay their indebtedness "to the last farthing;" for thus the Word of God clearly states,
"Judgment without mercy to him that hath not done mercy," (James ii. 13.)
The Venerable Archangela Panigarola, prioress of St. Martha's convent in Milan, on All Souls' day had an apparition of her guardian angel who led her in spirit through Purgatory. Among other souls she saw that of her father. As soon as he recognized her he exclaimed, "O Archangela, my daughter! How can you forget your unfortunate father, suffering so terribly here! I saw so many souls released by your prayers; but me, your father, to whom you owe so much, you have forgotten." Archangela was greatly agitated at hearing this plaintive reproach; but her guardian angel said to her, "God has permitted it thus, because thy father during his life neglected the care of his salvation and had no charity for the Suffering Souls."
478. Christian soul, be more charitable: it will be to your spiritual and temporal profit.—Let us resolve to do everything in our power for the Suffering Souls. If at times we know of no soul for whom we are bound to pray in particular, let us follow the example of many pious Christians, and set apart every day of the week for a certain class of souls for whom we offer up our suffrages. For instance, to-day for the souls that were most devout to the Blessed Virgin; to-morrow for those who had a great veneration for their guardian angels; the next day for the clients of St. Joseph; again, for the most fervent adorers of the Blessed Sacrament, etc. Charity is inventive, as the saying is. If true charity inspires us, we will find many ways of helping and ransoming the Suffering Souls. If we cherish a great love for the Suffering Souls, Noemi's prayer will be fulfilled in us: "The Lord deal mercifully with you, as you have dealt mercifully with the dead. ,, We shall experience this mercy in life and at our death; we shall praise it in Purgatory and glorify it forever in heaven.