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When Souls in Purgatory Return from the Dead

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Susan E. Wills - published on 10/31/14


– “The Imitation of Christ” – leaving her hand print on the open page. Her mother-in-law returned to her after the pilgrimage and Masses had been said to thank her and tell her that she’d been released from Purgatory.

In 1875, Luisa Le Sénèchal, who had been dead for two years, appeared to her husband Luigi in their home in Ducey, France. Asking for his prayers, she left scorch marks of her five fingers on his night-cap, as concrete proof for their daughter of her request to have Masses said for the repose of her soul.   

About a dozen more artifacts of this nature can be seen in the Little Museum of Purgatory.

These examples are not meant to shock or frighten, and many, many more can be found in books authored by the renowned 19th Century French Jesuit, Father F.X. Schouppe,“Purgatory Explained,” for example. He wrote:

In giving us a warning of this kind, God shows us a great mercy. He urges us, in the most efficacious manner, to assist the poor suffering souls, and to be vigilant in our [own] regard.

Those who do think about the Four Last Things, may entertain a curiosity about Purgatory. While the Church does not claim to know the nature of the suffering endured by the souls in Purgatory, comments by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the writings of St. Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510), especially her “Treatise on Purgatory,” are instructive. She described Purgatory not as a place engulfed in flames, but rather a state in which souls experience the torment of interior flames as they recognize their profound sinfulness in the face of the perfection of God’s holiness and love for them.

Blessed John Henry Newman composed a beautiful prayer for the souls in Purgatory. In this month dedicated to the faithful departed, we’d do well to recite this often:  

Prayer for the Faithful Departed by Blessed John Henry Newman

O GOD of the Spirits of all flesh, O Jesu, Lover of souls, we recommend unto Thee the souls of all those Thy servants, who have departed with the sign of faith and sleep the sleep of peace. We beseech Thee, O Lord and Saviour, that, as in Thy mercy to them Thou became man, so now Thou would hasten the time, and admit them to Thy presence above. Remember, O Lord, that they are Thy creatures, not made by strange gods, but by Thee, the only Living and True God; for there is no other God but Thou, and none that can equal Thy works. Let their souls rejoice in Thy light, and impute not to them their former iniquities, which they committed through the violence of passion, or the corrupt habits of their fallen nature. For, although they have sinned, yet they always firmly believed in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and before they died, they reconciled themselves to Thee by true contrition and the Sacraments of Thy Church.

O Gracious Lord, we beseech Thee, remember not against them the sins of their youth and their ignorances; but according to Thy great mercy, be mindful of them in Thy heavenly glory. May the heavens be opened to them, and the Angels rejoice with them. May the Archangel St Michael conduct them to Thee. May Thy holy Angels come forth to meet them, and carry them to the city of the heavenly Jerusalem. May St Peter, to whom Thou gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven, receive them. May St Paul, the vessel of election, stand by them. May St John, the beloved disciple, who had the revelation of the secrets of heaven, intercede for them. May all the Holy Apostles, who received from Thee the power of binding and loosing, pray for them. May all the Saints and elect of God, who in this world suffered torments for Thy Name, befriend them; that, being freed from the prison beneath, they may be admitted into the glories of that kingdom, where with the Father and the Holy Ghost Thou lives and reigns one God, world without end.

Come to their assistance, all ye Saints of God; gain for them deliverance from their place of punishment; meet them, all ye Angels; receive these holy souls, and present them before the Lord. Eternal rest give to them, O Lord. And may perpetual light shine on them.

May they rest in peace. Amen.

Susan E. Wills
is spirituality editor of Aleteia’s English language edition.
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