They Saw Purgatory

by Chris Sparks

Some people believe no one has ever seen Purgatory, that there is no evidence for its existence save through Scripture and the teaching of the Church.

They're wrong.

Saint Stanislaus Papczynski (1631–1701), the Founder of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, on several occasions had visions of the Holy Souls asking for prayer. In one account, at a gathering of family, friends, and religious, Fr. Stanislaus had a profound mystical experience of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. He later told his confreres: "Pray, brethren, for the souls in Purgatory, for they suffer unbearably." He then locked himself in his cell and spent three days praying for them.

He's not alone. Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), the Secretary and Apostle of Divine Mercy, on a number of occasions had visions of the Holy Souls in need of prayers. One night, Sr. Faustina was visited by the soul of a fellow religious sister who had recently passed away. In her Diary, she described the poor soul as being "in a terrible condition … with her face painfully distorted." In response, Sr. Faustina redoubled her prayers for the sister's soul.

The soul visited her the next night "in an even more horrible state," which astonished Sr. Faustina. In a conversation with the soul, she learned that her prayers seemed not to have helped the poor sister. Undeterred, Sr. Faustina kept on praying for the soul.

Some time later, the soul of the sister again visited Sr. Faustina during the night. Her face was now "radiant, her eyes beaming with joy." She said that Sr. Faustina "had a true love for [her] neighbor and that many souls had profited from [her] prayers." The radiant soul informed Sr. Faustina that she, the deceased sister, would not remain in Purgatory much longer. Before the soul left, she urged Sr. Faustina "not to cease praying for the souls in purgatory" (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 58).

In her account of another vision, St. Faustina describes Purgatory as a "great crowd of suffering souls" undergoing purification. Further, she says that the souls are "praying fervently, but to no avail, for themselves; only we can come to their aid" (Diary, 20).

Only we can come to their aid — and yet so many of us never even give a thought to the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Only we can come to their aid — and probably more people are in Purgatory and in need of aid than ever before.

We live in an age in which enormous numbers of people are dying every day. We are surrounded by a civilization that's largely lost any semblance of Christian faith, immersed in a culture that has wandered far from the truths of the Gospel. So people will perhaps need much purgation in order to be able to keep up with the eternal dance of life and love that is Heaven.

That means it's even more important than ever to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Pray for them every day, working that intention into your Rosary, especially since the Rosary is one of the most heavily indulgenced prayers in the history of the Church, as Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, explains in his book Champions of the Rosary. Offer the Divine Mercy Chaplet; pray the prayer attributed to St. Gertrude, as well as some of the many prayers with indulgences attached by the Church; offer up your Holy Communion, your sufferings, and your sacrifices for the Holy Souls. Make use of the plenary indulgences granted by the Church, especially the four daily plenary indulgences. Have Masses said for your deceased loved ones, for strangers, for the souls on the Marian Fathers' Purgatory Board, so that no soul goes without prayer.

And more than anything else, love the Holy Souls, for then you will remember them. Love will lead to prayer and sacrifice. Love will lead you rightly in their service, and in the service of Jesus and Mary.

Love the Holy Souls, for they are our brothers and sisters, all held in the spiritual therapy ward of Purgatory, working out their scars and wounds until they can, by God's grace, love the way that God loves, live the eternal life of Heaven, and joyfully participate in the communion of saints, in endless self-donation and receiving the gift of others.

Love the Holy Souls, and they will love you in return. Pray for the Holy Souls, and you will never find more faithful intercessors. Relieve their sufferings, and they will work hard on your behalf, now and at the hour of your death.

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