CAN ALL THIS BE TRUE?
The existence of Purgatory is so certain that no Catholic has ever entertained a doubt of it. It was taught from the earliest days of the Church and was accepted with undoubting faith wherever the Gospel was preached.
The doctrine is revealed in Holy Scripture and has been handed down by Tradition, taught by the infallible Church and believed by the millions and millions of faithful of all times.
Yet, as we have remarked, the ideas of many are vague and superficial on this most important subject. They are like a person who closes his eyes and walks deliberately over the edge of a yawning precipice.
They would do well to remember that the best means of lessening our term in Purgatory ? or of avoiding it altogether ? is to have clear ideas of it, to think well on it and to adopt the means God offers for avoiding it.
Not to think of it is fatal. It is nothing else than preparing for themselves a fearfully long and rigorous Purgatory.
THE POLISH PRINCE
A Polish prince who, for some political reason, had been exiled from his native country bought a beautiful castle and property in France.
Unfortunately, he had lost the Faith of his childhood and was at the time of our story engaged in writing a book against God and the existence of a future life.
Strolling one evening in his garden, he came upon a poor woman weeping bitterly. He questioned her as to the cause of her grief.
“Ah! Prince,” she replied, “I am the wife of Jean [John] Marie, your former steward, who died two days ago. He was a good husband to me and a faithful servant to Your Highness. His sickness was long and I spent all our savings on the doctors, and now I have nothing left to get Masses said for his soul.”
The Prince, touched by her grief, said a few kind words and, though professing no longer to believe in a future life, gave her some gold coins to have Masses said for her husband’s soul.
Some time after, it was again evening, and the Prince was in his study working feverishly at his hook.
He heard a loud rap at the door and without looking up called out to the visitor to come in. The door slowly opened and a man entered and stood facing the Prince’s writing table.
On glancing up, what was not the Prince’s amazement to see Jean Marie, his dead steward, looking at him with a sweet smile.
“Prince,” he said, “I come to thank you for the Masses you enabled my wife to have said for my soul. Thanks to the saving Blood of Christ, which was offered for me, I am now going to Heaven, but God has allowed me to come and thank you for your generous alms.”
He then added impressively: “Prince, there is a God, a future life, a Heaven and a Hell.”
Having said these words he disappeared.
The Prince fell upon his knees and poured forth a fervent Credo (I believe in God).
ST. ANTONINUS AND HIS FRIEND
Here is a narrative of a different kind, but not less instructive.
St. Antoninus, the illustrious Archbishop of Florence, relates that a pious gentleman had died, who was a great friend of the Dominican Convent in which the Saint resided. Many Masses and suffrages were offered for his soul.
The Saint was very much afflicted when, after the lapse of a long time, the soul of the poor gentleman appeared to him, suffering excruciating pains.
“Oh, my Dear Friend,” exclaimed the Archbishop, “are you still in Purgatory, you who led such a pious and devout life?”
“Yes, and I shall remain there still for a long time,” replied the poor sufferer, “for when on Earth I neglected to offer suffrages for the souls in Purgatory. Now, God by a just judgment has applied the suffrages which have been offered for me to those souls for whom I should have prayed.”
“But God, too, in His Justice, will give me all the merits of my good works when I enter Heaven; but first of all, I have to expiate my grave neglect in regard to others.”
So true are the words of Our Lord: “By that measure with which you measure, it will be measured to you again.”
Remember, you who read these lines, that the terrible fate of this pious gentleman will be the fate of all those who neglect to pray for and refuse to help the Holy Souls.