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CHAPTER XIII.

ON THE PAINS OF PURGATORY.

ST. BRIDGET heard the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God say as follows: “I am the Mother of God and the Mother of all who are in purgatory; because all the pains which they have to suffer for their sins are at some time, in some way, mitigated through my prayers. I am the Mother of all the just, and also of all sinners who wish to amend, whom I cease not to defend and to save from every danger that threatens their salvation.”

The holy Angels also, (as saith the Blessed Mechtildis), afford to the souls detained in purgatory, the light of knowledge, solace, and assistance. St. Bridget saw the soul of a certain king, who had led an evil life, hut being urged by the grace of God in the last 279moments of his life, bad thus reflected within himself, “Woe is me that I have most audaciously offended my Creator! that even one little hour might be granted me, in which I might wholly turn to God, and give Him thanks for His benefits! The sins which I have committed against God torment me more than the pain I sulfur in my body. Even if I could never attain to heaven, I would yet wish to serve my most gracious Creator and Redeemer.” Wherefore Christ the Judge said to the devil and to the guardian Angel of that soul: “Thou, O devil, shalt trouble this soul, but thou, My Angel, shalt console it, until it be brought forth into the light of glory.” And to the soul itself He said: “It is permitted to thee to be hold the holy Angel, and to receive consolation from him, and to be a partaker of My Blood, and of the prayers of My Mother and of Holy Church.” Therefore the devil said to the soul which he was about to torture: “Because thou hast fallen into my hands full of food and ill-gotten riches, I will now empty thee in my press.” And then placing the king’s head between his knees, he pressed it so violently that all the substance of his brains became no thicker than a leaf. Then he said again to the soul: “Because the place where virtues ought to be is vacant in thee, I will fill it; and inserting, as it were, the pipe of a bellows into the king’s mouth, he blew into it so hard that the king’s veins and nerves were miserably burst asunder, being filled with a fetid and horrible wind.” Again the devil said to the soul: “Because thou wast merciless to thy subjects, who ought to have been, as 280it were, thy children, and didst oppress them, my arms shall bind thee round like serpents, and most cruelly rend and tear thee.” But when the devil, repeating these punishments, would have increased them, St. Bridget saw the Angel of God stretching forth his hand, and forbidding him to aggravate them as before. In this manner the Angel mitigated the pains at every repetition of the punishment. And the soul after each suffering raised its eyes to the Angel, saying nothing, but by its gestures showing that it had received consolation from him and would soon be liberated.

Some souls in purgatory appeared to St. Gertrude in the form of most hideous toads, burning in horrible flames. There also appeared to her the soul of a certain soldier who had died before the age of fourteen, in the form of a huge beast suspended from a stake over the mouth of hell, and direfully tortured by receiving into itself the pains of hell. St. Gertrude understood that the stake by which the soul was prevented from falling into hell, signified the good will which that soldier had sometimes (though rarely) had during his life.

A certain very pious monk, who had seen in a vision the torments of purgatory, said on returning to himself: “No tongue of man can express, nor imagination conceive, the variety, multiplicity, and severity of the tortures which I have seen the souls in purgatory endure,, God is my witness that if any man had inflicted on me, and on all those dear to me, all the injuries and pains that can be inflicted in this 281life, or had even put them to death, and that I saw him given over to the torments I have beheld, I should be ready (if it were possible) to die a thousand times for his deliverance; so far do those pains which I have seen in purgatory exceed in degree and in kind all the pain, distress, bitterness, and misery of this life. Those, however, who are so direfully tormented, pass on by degrees to more tolerable pains.”

St. Gertrude saw the soul of a certain man of a religious order well known to her, as it were sitting at a table, sad, and with a dejected countenance, as not being yet purified nor worthy to enjoy the blissful contemplation of God. On this table were presented all the Masses, the Office of the Church, the prayers, and other pious works that were offered for that soul, and by these the soul was wonderfully strengthened. The Lord also, moved by his own loving-kindness, and the supplication of intercessors, always added something, in virtue of which that soul rejoiced, being greatly strengthened and relieved. In like manner the Blessed Virgin Mary seemed to place something upon it, that the soul might receive more consolation, which had, while it was in the body, worshipped her with especial devotion. Those also of the Saints whom the soul had more particularly venerated on earth, added to the table in proportion as the soul being in the body had deserved by its greater or less labour and devotion. By all which means the soul, becoming more and more soothed from hour to hour, began more and more to lift its eyes to the most sweet light of the Divinity, which to behold in open 282vision is in truth to have laid aside the sad memory of all sorrows, and to have found the abundance of all good and of all joy.

When St. Bridget was praying for a certain hermit of especial and tried virtue, whose body had been brought into the church to be buried, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her, and said: “daughter, the soul of this hermit, my friend, would have gone immediately to heaven, if in death he had had a perfect desire of attaining to the presence and vision of God; because he had it not, it is now detained in the purgatory of desire, where there is no pain except the desire of attaining to God. Know, however, that it will be introduced into the glory of heaven before his body is laid in the earth.”

On Easter Day St. Gertrude prayed for the souls detained in purgatory, and immediately many were delivered by her prayers and translated to a place of very grateful refreshment; when she saw that they were not yet brought forth into full beatitude, she prayed again, and they were at once put in possession of everlasting bliss.

The soul of a certain .young Count appeared after his death to St. Mechtildis, by whom being questioned whether he suffered any pain, he answered that he felt no pain except that he did not see his most loving God, whom he longed to see with a huge and unspeakable desire. For he said that the soul while yet weighed down by the burden of the corruptible flesh, is greatly impeded by bodily necessities, by eating, sleeping, and conversing with men; but the pious soul that is released 283from the body, since it then becomes more aware that God is the supreme Good, burns with inconceivable desire of Him. The most learned doctors assert that the vision of God being delayed is an exceeding grief and pain to a soul freed from the body, as the Scripture saith: “Hope that is deferred afflicteth the soul (Prov. xiii. 12). St. Mechtildis also heard the soul of the same Count chanting these words: “I know, Lord, that Thou hast delivered me over to death for my salvation, joy, and consolation.” And she asking, “Who taught thee to chant those words?” The soul answered, “Those things I know which relate to the praise of my Creator.”

The same virgin Mechtildis was once carried in spirit into a most delightful garden near to heaven, where there was a great multitude of souls, who endured no other pain than that the worm of conscience was ever reproaching each one that he had not been faithful to his most sweet and gracious God, wherefore he had not deserved to attain to Him without impediment after death. And this worm departs not from the soul till it enters into the joy of its Lord. While St. Mechtildis was praying, these souls took their flight with great exultation to the glory of eternal bliss. And when the Lord afterwards showed to Mechtildis the torments of purgatory, she again prayed, and many souls were translated with joy from those pains into that beautiful garden.

A certain virgin of St. Gertrude’s monastery having died after passing all her youth in practising the virtues of holy religion, Gertrude saw her standing by 284Jesus Christ in brilliant light, and with various adornments; yet she, with eyes cast down like a modest spouse, strove to withdraw, not daring to lift her eyes to the glory of the Divine Majesty. Wherefore Gertrude, incited by compassionate zeal, said to our Lord, “O most benign God, why receivest Thou not this daughter to Thy sweet embraces, but permittest her to stand by Thee like a stranger?” At which words the Lord seemed with most gentle serenity to stretch forth His right Hand, as though about to embrace the soul. But she with delicate reverence avoided it. Whereat Gertrude greatly wondering, said to the soul: “Why dost thou withdraw from the embraces of so amiable a Spouse?” And she answered: “Because I am not yet purified, and some stains render me unmeet. Even if the entrance to heaven lay open to me, I would (following the dictates of justice) retire of my own will, while I know myself to be still unfit for so glorious a Spouse.” Then Gertrude said: “And yet thou seemest already almost glorified.” To which the soul replied: “No soul deserves to receive that glory of blessedness which the Saints for their full reward obtain from the vision and fruition of the Godhead, until, being perfectly purged from every stain, it enters into the joy of its Lord” (Matth. xxv. 21).

When the sister of this virgin died in the monastery of St. Gertrude (having also passed her life piously and religiously), Gertrude beheld in like manner her soul in a place, of resplendent light, and wonderfully adorned; moreover, the Lord Jesus stood 285near her, and by His five Wounds refreshed her senses with a new sweetness, and gently consoled her. Gertrude therefore said to the Lord, “How comes it that while Thou, the God of all consolation, showest to this one Thy loving serenity, she betrays by her sad countenance an interior affliction?” The Lord answered: “From this My presence the soul which thou seest receives only the delights of My humanity, by which it cannot be fully consoled; but when it shall have been purified from the negligence of its past life, T will perfectly console it in the presence of My most blissful Divinity.” Then she said, “Wherefore, my Lord, should Thy mercy not at once avail to liberate from all the impediments of her negligences this Thy daughter, to whom Thou didst give, from her childhood, a pious heart and a nature full of kindness towards all men?” The Lord answered, “I will most abundantly reward the piety of her heart and her good will; but it is fitting (according to the dictates of My justice) that she should be first purified from every stain.” And as it were caressingly touching the chin of the maiden, He added, “In this matter My spouse most willingly consents to what My justice requires, since when she shall be fully purified, she will most happily enter into the glory of My Divinity.”

To these words of the Lord she assented with a sweet countenance. Afterwards, when St. Gertrude offered for her during Mass the life-giving Host, which the priest was elevating, the soul said: “In truth I experience how certain it is that no good action of 286man, however trifling, is without reward, and that every fault, however small, must be expiated either before or after death. For because I willingly received Holy Communion while I lived on earth, I now obtain great relief from the Sacrament of the Altar being offered for me. And because I had such good will towards all men, the prayers said for me avail me much more quickly. Moreover, I also look for the eternal recompense which I shall receive in heaven.” And so the soul seemed to be borne on high, being raised up by the prayers of the Church. For she knew that when she had reached the appointed limit, the Lord would meet her with a crown of glory, and introduce her into eternal bliss. But although one who requires purgatory consents to the justice and will of God, he does not therefore love his pains; but he wishes to have; so lived as that nothing in him should deserve to be punished or purified. Yet he would rather endure the pains of purgatory with the certainty of attaining to God, than be still in this life with the danger of sinning against God.

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