When Our Lady came to Fatima, she confirmed the existence of three supernatural realms: heaven, hell and purgatory.
When asked by the three shepherd children from where she had come, she matter-of-factly replied, “I am from heaven,” while pointing to the sky.
On 13 July 1917, during her third visit to the children, she showed them a vision of hell. Lucia described it as:
“Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear.”
What about purgatory? When asked about the soul of Amelia, a 16-year-old girl who had recently died, Our Lady replied, “She will be in purgatory until the end of the world.” A very sobering thought indeed.
Purgatory? Prove it!
Other than the words of the Queen of Heaven, what proofs are there of the existence of a place we call purgatory? Is there any actual physical proof, that tangible evidence so required by those of our scientific age?
Taken from the book, Hungry Souls, by Gerard van den Aardweg, (who is from Holland and active in the pro-life movement) this story is just one of many such recounts of burn marks left by those souls from purgatory imploring aid or simply making their existence known. The “burned in hand of Czestochowa” is preserved in the monastery of the Paulinian Order located within the Polish city of Jasna Gora, or “bright hill.” The basilica of Jasna Gora has long been a place of pilgrimage for those faithful intent on honouring the beautiful image of Our Lady there called The Black Madonna.
Though the exact time and date of this supernatural manifestation has not been recorded in any official capacity, the oldest testimony was made in 1890 by one Father Reichel, the parish priest of Hundsfeld, near Wroclaw. Father Reichel writes:
“I was with two confreres in Czestochowa. When a friar of the monastery…he led us also into an adjoining vault…remarking that this was done only exceptionally…. We saw lying in it a corporale* on which a human hand that must have been red hot had been impressed. The upper layers of the linen were totally burnt through, the lower were browned, increasingly more lightly. … The following had occurred:
“Two clerics of the monastery (of the Paulinian Order) had promised one another many years ago that the one who would die first would give the other one a sign from the beyond. Now one of them was dead already a long time and never had given a sign. This was what the other one was thinking about, when one day he had just finished Holy Mass and, as usual, was folding together the corporale before him, in nine folds. Then the evil doubt went through his head that perhaps there would be no survival after death at all. At that moment, a hand appears, lays itself on the corporale, and immediately disappears again. How much it was ablaze through and through, however, it shown clearly enough by the combustion of the nine times folded up linen, exactly in the form of a hand.”
The Saints and Purgatory
In addition to many physical pieces of evidence confirming the existence of Purgatory, of which the above is just one example, we have the testimony of many canonized saints of the Church.
Among the most well-known 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, and Padre Pio.
The book, “The Life of St. Gemma Galgani” by Venerable Father Germanus Ruoppolo C.P., provides an account of the influence that the prayers of Saint Gemma (1878-1903) had in releasing a holy soul from Purgatory.
God had revealed to Gemma that in the Convent of Passionist Nuns at Corneto, Italy, there was a religious sister very dear to Him who was near death. After her death, this soul appeared to Saint Gemma full of sorrow, imploring her help as she was undergoing great torments in Purgatory. From that moment Gemma gave herself no rest: she fervently offered prayers, tears and loving petitions to Our Lord.
This is what Saint Gemma wrote in her diary regarding this suffering soul:
“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.’
“All this happened while I was awake and fully aware of myself. Then she added: ‘Continue still, because I still have a few days of suffering.’ And in so saying she caressed me and then went away. Her countenance, I must say, inspired much confidence in me. From that hour I redoubled my prayers for her soul, so that soon she should reach her objective; but my prayers are too weak; how I wish that for the souls in Purgatory my prayers should have the strength of the saints.”
Several weeks later, Saint Gemma revealed the following to her confessor:
“Toward half-past one it seemed to me that the Blessed Mother herself came to tell me that the holy hour I was making was drawing to an end. Then almost immediately I thought I saw Sr. Maria Teresa coming toward me clad as a Passionist, accompanied by her Guardian Angel and by Jesus. Oh, how she was changed since the day I first saw her! Smiling, she drew close to me and said: ‘I am truly happy, and I go to enjoy my Jesus forever.’ She thanked me again. Then she made sign of bidding me good-bye with her hand, several times, and with Jesus and her Guardian Angel she flew to Heaven.”
Greedy for Graces
At a time in our history as the One True Church founded by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the doctrine of Purgatory has become lost in the post-Vatican II shuffle. “Many modern Catholics don’t know what purgatory is anymore,” said Father Longenecker, who blogs at Standing on My Head. “They’ve bought into the idea that sin has no consequences, that everyone goes to heaven because God is too nice to send anyone anywhere else.”
It is our intent at SANOL to remind our readers of this “forgotten doctrine” and restore this teaching as the doctrine of true hope and mercy it has always been. Purgatory offers every imperfect human the hope that he or she may “Be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). The doctrine of Purgatory is very much in keeping with our belief in a God Who is at once just, as well as merciful.
Referred to as “the Church Suffering,” the Holy Souls in Purgatory cannot do anything for themselves, but they can help you and I, members of the Church Militant. Susan Tassone, author of seven books on purgatory, writes “We have such great intercessors in the holy souls.
They’re interested in our salvation. They want to help ensure that we understand the malice of sin and the importance of conforming our lives to God’s will, so that we can go straight to heaven when we die.”
And what can we do in return? “We need to be greedy for graces for the souls in purgatory,” said Tassone. “When the soul leaves the body, the time for merit is up. The soul is helpless. That’s why they need our prayers — the Rosary, adoration, the Way of the Cross and, most of all, the Mass. The Masses we have offered for the souls in purgatory are the best thing we can do for our beloved dead. That’s because the Mass is the highest form of worship, the highest form of prayer.”
In conclusion, we leave you with a powerful prayer revealed by Our Lord to Saint Gertrude the Great. It was promised that each time this prayer is said with confidence in God’s mercy 1,000 souls would be released from Purgatory.
I offer You the most precious blood
of thy Divine Son, Jesus,
in union with the Masses said
throughout the world today,
for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory,
for sinners everywhere,
for sinners in the universal Church,
for those in my own home,
and in my family. Amen.”
By Tonia Long
*A square white linen cloth upon which the chalice and paten, and also the ciborium containing the smaller hosts for the Communion of the laity, are placed during the celebration of the Catholic Eucharist (Mass).