Before we leave the month of November behind us, where we have taken a bit more time to reflect on Purgatory, to now enter into the season of Advent, we wish to dwell once more on the most effective way we, the Church Militant, can help the Church Suffering to obtain release from their pains. What better Christmas gift could we give our loved ones, and all those forgotten souls who have no one to pray for them, than to ask for the offering of the holy redeeming Sacrifice of the Mass?
St Padre Pio’s visionof the souls in Purgatory
In May, 1922, Padre Pio testified the following to the Bishop of Melfi, His Excellency Alberto Costa and also the superior of the friary, Padre Lorenzo of San Marco along with five other friars. One of the five friars, Fra Alberto D’ Apolito of San Giovanni Rotondo wrote down the account as follows:
“While in the friary on a winter afternoon after a heavy snowfall, he was sitting by the fireplace one evening in the guest room, absorbed in prayer, when an old man, wearing an old-fashioned cloak still worn by southern Italian peasants at the time, sat down beside him. Concerning this man Pio states: ‘I could not imagine how he could have entered the friary at this time of night since all the doors are locked. I questioned him: ‘Who are you? What do you want?’
The old man told him, “Padre Pio, I am Pietro Di Mauro, son of Nicola, nicknamed Precoco.” He went on to say, “I died in this friary on the 18th of September, 1908, in cell number 4, when it was still a poorhouse. One night, while in bed, I fell asleep with a lighted cigar, which ignited the mattress and I died, suffocated and burned. I am still in Purgatory. I need a holy Mass in order to be freed. God permitted that I come and ask you for help.”
According to Padre Pio: “After listening to him, I replied, ‘Rest assured that tomorrow I will celebrate Mass for your liberation.’ I arose and accompanied him to the door of the friary, so that he could leave. I did not realise at that moment that the door was closed and locked: I opened it and bade him farewell The moon lit up the square, covered with snow. When I no longer saw him in front of me, I was taken by a sense of fear, and I closed the door, reentered the guest room, and felt faint.”
A few days later, Padre Pio also told the story to Padre Paolino, and the two decided to go to the town hall, where they looked at the vital statistics for the year I908 and found that on September 18 of that year, one Pietro Di Mauro had in fact died of burns and asphyxiation in Room Number 4 at the friary, then used as a home for the homeless.
The following accounts are taken from among many related in the excellent book “Purgatory –Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints” by Father F.X. Schouppe, S.J., Tan Books, 1986:
On October 13, 1849, there died at the age of fifty-two, in the parish of Ardoye, in Flanders, a woman named Eugenie Van de Kerckove, whose husband, John Wybo, was a farmer. She was a pious and charitable woman who generously gave to charity in proportionate to her means. She had, to the end of her life, a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and abstained from meat in her honour on the Friday and Saturday of each week. Although her conduct was not free from certain faults, she otherwise led a exemplary and edifying life.
Eugenie had a servant named Barbara Vennecke, aged twenty-eight, who was known as a virtuous and devoted girl, and who had assisted her mistress in her last sickness, and after Eugenie’s death, she continued to serve her master, John Wybo, the widower of Eugenie.
About three weeks after her death, the deceased appeared to her servant under circumstances which we will now relate. It was in the middle of the night; Barbara slept soundly, when she heard herself called distinctly three times by her name. She awoke with a start, and saw Eugenie before her, sitting on the side of her bed, clad in a working dress, consisting of a skirt and short jacket. At this remarkable sight, Barbara was seized with astonishment. The apparition spoke to her: “Barbara,” she said, simply pronouncing her name. “What do you desire, Eugenie?” replied the servant.‘
Please take,” said the mistress, “the little rake which I often told you to put in its place; stir the heap of sand in the little room; you know to which one I refer. You will find there 500 franks; use it to have Masses said, two francs for each Mass, for my intention, for I am still suffering.” “I will do so, Eugenie,” replied Barbara, and at the same moment the apparition vanished. After awhile she fell asleep again, and reposed quietly until morning:
On awaking, Barbara thought that maybe it was all just a dream, but yet she had been so deeply impressed, so wide awake, she had seen her old mistress in a form so distinct, so full of life and she had received from her lips such precise directions, that she could not help saying, “This cannot have been a dream. I saw my mistress in person; she presented herself to my eyes and she surely spoke to me. It is no dream, but a reality.”
She therefore immediately went and took the rake as directed, stirred the sand, and drew out a purse containing the sum of five hundred francs.
In such strange and extraordinary circumstances the good girl thought it her duty to seek the advice of her pastor before spending the 500 francs on having Masses said, and went to relate to him all that had happened. The venerable Abbe R., then parish priest of Ardoye, replied that the Masses asked by the departed soul absolutely must be celebrated, but, in order to dispose of the sum of money, the consent of the husband, John Wybo, was necessary, since the money was found in his house. The latter willingly consented that the money should be employed for so holy a purpose, and the Masses were celebrated, being given two francs for each Mass.
We call attention to the circumstance of the Mass donations, because it corresponded with the pious custom of the deceased. The fee for a Mass fixed by the diocese at that time was a franc and a half, but during her lifetime Eugenie-through consideration and charity for the clergy, many of whom were quite poor- always gave two francs for each Mass that she made offerings for. Thus the extra 1/2 a frank Mass offering that she normally made was an act of charity and additional financial support for the priests who celebrated them.
Two months after the first apparition, while Masses were still being said for Eugenie’s intentions, Barbara was again awakened during the night. This time her chamber was illuminated with a bright light, and her mistress appeared before her with a radiant smile, beautiful and fresh in appearance as in the days of her youth, and was dressed in a robe of dazzling whiteness—“Barbara,” she said in a clear voice, “I thank you! For I am now delivered from the place of purification.’ Saying these words, she disappeared, and the chamber became dark as before.
The servant, amazed at what she had just seen, was full of joy, and she soon spread the remarkable story to everyone about the town . This apparition made the most lively impression upon her mind, and she preserves to this day the most consoling remembrance of it. It is from her that we have these details, through the favour of the venerable Abbe L., who was curate at Ardoye when these facts occurred.
This is but one of the many stories in regards to the power and efficacy of the Holy Mass wherein the Son of God Himself offers Himself upon the altar for the forgiveness of our sins, for it is a fact that of all that we can do in favour of the souls in Purgatory, there is nothing more powerful and precious than the offering of immolation of our Divine Saviour upon the altar. Besides being the express doctrine of the Church as manifested in her Councils, there are many miraculous facts, properly authenticated, which leave no room for doubt in regard to this point.
In evidence to this we now provide another incident, related by the historian Ferdinand of Castile. From 1324-1327 there was at Cologne two Dominican Religious of distinguished talent, one of whom was Blessed Henry Suso (1295-1366). They shared the same studies, the same kind of life, and above all the same desire for sanctity, which had caused them to form an close friendship.
When they had finished their studies, seeing that they were about to be separated to return each one to his own convent, they agreed and promised one another that the first of the two who should die should be assisted by the other for a whole year by the celebration of two Masses each week–on Monday a Mass of Requiem, as was customary, and on Friday that of the Passion, in so far as the Rubrics would permit. They promised each other that they would do this, gave each other the kiss of peace, and left Cologne.
For several years they both continued to serve God with the most edifying fervour. The priest religious whose name is not mentioned was the first to be called away, and Father Suso received the news with sentiments of resignation to the Divine will. As to the contract they had made, time had caused him to forget it. However, he prayed much for his friend, imposing new penances upon himself and many other good works, but he did not think of offering the Masses which he had promised a number of years previously.
One morning, while meditating in retirement in the chapel, he suddenly saw appear before him the soul of his departed friend, who, regarding him with tenderness, reproached him with having been unfaithful to his word from which he had a perfect right to rely upon with confidence. Blessed Suso, surprised, excused his forgetfulness by relating the many prayers and mortifications which he had offered, and still continued to offer, for his friend, whose salvation was as dear to him as his own.
“Is it possible, my dear brother;’ he added, “that so many prayers and good works which I have offered to God do not suffice for you?” “Oh no,” dear brother, replied the suffering soul, “these are not yet sufficient. It is the Blood of Jesus Christ that is needed to extinguish the flames by which I am consumed; it is the Holy Sacrifice which will deliver me from these frightful torments. I implore you to keep your word, and refuse me not that which in justice you owe me.”
Blessed Suso hastened to respond to the appeal of the suffering soul; he contacted as many priests as possible and urged them to say Masses for his friends intentions and, to repair his fault, he celebrated, and caused to be celebrated, a large number of Masses that very same day. On the following day several priests, at the request of Father Suso, united with him in offering the Holy Sacrifice for the deceased, and he continued his act of charity for several days.
After a short time the priest friend of Suso again appeared to him, but now in a very different condition; his countenance was joyful, and he was surrounded with beautiful light. “Thanks be to you, my dear friend” he said “behold, by the Blood of my Saviour I am delivered from my sufferings. I am now going to Heaven to contemplate Him whom we so often adored together under the Eucharistic veil.”
Afterwards, Blessed Suso prostrated himself to ‘thank the God of infinite mercy, because he now understood more than ever the inestimable value of the Mass.’