(The following article was originally written by a
young woman living in the seclusion of the Alps and, then, was translated
from German into English by Rev. Bernard Doyls, S.V.D. It was first
published in 1955 with the Imprimatur of Cardinal Stritch.)
PURGATORY IS A PLACE OF MERCY
"I am not afraid of Purgatory. I know that I am
not worthy to enter that place of expiation with those holy souls. But I
know, also, that the fire of Love is more sanctifying than the fire of
Purgatory." (St. Therese, Little Flower of Jesus)
Purgatory is a place of mercy and of goodness. Never
would I have imagined that God is so infinitely good to the suffering
souls. It is His tender mercy toward them which is, and always was, the
greatest cause of astonishment to me. Nowhere have I seen merciful love
pour itself out so freely as there. In that cleansing fire, I have found
the goodness and mercy of God, as my soul sought it.
It seems to me as if the soul asks God, "May I
live once more? Can I yet make amends?" Then God says, "Yes,
you are now entering the novitiate of Heaven. You must suffer now and
expiate all your sins. Thereby you will be made pure and worthy to enter
Oh, with what gratitude does the soul accept its
Purgatory! It rejoices because God is so good as to send it to such a
place of purification. How much does the soul thank the Precious Blood,
through which Purgatory has been merited! Truly it is a place of
redemption, where souls have gathered at the brink of the abyss; it is the
last place of refuge – an invention of Merciful Love.
Purgatory is also a place of realization. There souls
awake from sleep and see, in a split second, how lovable and good and
great God is. They realize then how very often they have spurned His
tremendous love and infinite mercy, and how they have thereby grieved
their Savior. They see the great benefits which have been bestowed on them
in life; they see all the squandered graces and lost opportunities of
merit; they see also the bitter sufferings of Jesus for whom they showed
so little affection while on earth.
All the goodness of God is revealed to them, and they
see the injustice with which they have repaid Him and His merciful love.
There burns the fire which purifies the soul; there unutterable sufferings
and pain, united to the merits of the Most Precious Blood, is the only
expiation for sin.
I always think this way: The Poor Souls suffer just
because of the goodness and love of God. The greater this merciful love
had been toward them on earth, so much greater pain do they suffer in
In eternity these souls are certainly no longer as
obstinate as they were in life. The goodness of God, the merciful love of
God, and the rays of His sublimity soften them. God is not severe, not
cruel toward the Poor Souls, as many imagine Him to be. No, He is good,
full of compassion and love for them. And each soul in Purgatory fully
realizes that He is so very good.
It seems as if I hear throughout the whole realm of
Purgatory, "Oh, how good. How very good is God! Would that we had
known Him! For if we had, we would surely have better understood Him, and
would have wished to love Him more."
This knowledge of the Divine Love, and the realization
of its own obduracy, affects the soul deeply, and constitutes its greatest
torment. I experience this even in my own heart, and it is just this
striking contrast which causes such great suffering.
But it is also a blessed suffering! It involves no
despair, for the Poor Souls know for certain that they are not lost. They
know that God is merciful, and that He will take them to Heaven, where all
their sinfulness is entirely forgiven and forgotten; where He will forever
reward the least good they have done in this life. The power of this love
is so great that the Poor Souls can endure it only with pangs of remorse.
But no matter how much they may suffer from that repentance, they are
still happy; they are free from all worry and uncertainty; they fully
realize that they are about to enter into everlasting light.
In Purgatory I have also learned gratitude toward the
Precious Blood; for everything there is bedewed and vivified with It, and
I witness the great benefits derived through It. I truly believe that the
Poor Souls are consoled only by this Most Precious Blood, and they render
It the most beautiful veneration imaginable.
It is there I experience so much the consolations of my
Savior. I see how Jesus once more recovers from these souls what they have
wasted and lost. Many great and ugly gaps must be refilled by suffering.
Each soul appears to me like a beautiful mosaic made by God, with a
marvelous divine art, and consisting of many little stones. All the graces
which we possess, God has worked into this masterpiece.
If we destroy or lose these tiny mosaic stones, if we
do not continually endeavor to beautify this mosaic in our souls, we cause
such ugly gaps. In Purgatory this picture must be completed; everything
that had been lost must be restored, so that nothing is wanting to the
soul’s original splendor.
God Himself – the wonderful God – would be outraged
if all were not restored. The souls which enter Heaven must lack nothing.
Otherwise something would be lacking to God, and His happiness would
consequently no longer be perfect. We have all been called to that
vocation – to become the splendor of God. Since we belong entirely to
God, we are His members. It is a wonderful mystery which I cannot
describe, but only contemplate.
This is the very reason why there is a Purgatory, or,
as I would like to call it, a workshop of reparation. Yes, it is out of
love and mercy that God leaves the souls in Purgatory. If they did not
have to be radiantly pure in order to enter Heaven, they would never,
never through all eternity, possess that plentitude of happiness which is
theirs after such a purification.
They have then a deeper understanding of God, and enjoy
Him more throughout all eternity. Oh, the longest Purgatory is as nothing
compared to the joys which these poor, suffering souls justly expect in
Heaven. No soul in Purgatory is without consolation; no matter how deeply
they are buried in fire, the souls in Purgatory are not without
consolation. The certainty that they suffer only to be everlastingly happy
is their greatest consolation.
Surprises in Purgatory
But not all souls endure equal pain in Purgatory. Many
believe that those who have sinned most are kept for the longest time from
the Beatific Vision. This may indeed be true, in many cases, but it is not
In Purgatory I have learned not to pass judgment on
such matters any longer. God has an infinite number of reasons for pardon,
and it is a wonderful experience to discover them in Purgatory. In
eternity it is often so very different from what we think! Here we are not
at all capable of forming correct convictions, and we are not at all
worthy to pass judgment.
Oh, how different are the decisions of this Divine
Judge compared to our own! Often we think, "This soul is surely
lost, or at least deeply buried in Purgatory," – and for a long
time this particular soul already has been in Heaven. Or again we think, "This
soul is surely in Heaven – it was so holy," – but is till in
Yes, God alone knows the hearts of His creatures. God
alone judges correctly. Yet, God is wondrously gentle and kind in His
judgments, while we, on the contrary, are so hard and blunt. The Lord is
unjust to no one. As Judge He is so tender, so loving, so righteous! Everyone
who is of Good Will is dealt with most kindly.
The souls in Purgatory are enveloped, as it were, in a
thick shroud into which they have wound themselves, while living here on
earth. It is the garment of their own egoism. Their main care in this life
was themselves, just as the world’s highest ideal is self-glorification
and honor. It is this which fashions that coarse garment, through which
the Light of God can hardly penetrate.
Many souls on earth do not seriously ask themselves the
question, "Does my way of living please God?" Instead
they think, without anxiety, that their life is upright and most
praiseworthy, but they are mistaken.
Indeed, there are even people who gladly go to church,
who pray and perform works of mercy – but a thin hard crust forms around
their souls. They think that everything they undertake is very pleasing to
God. But they never truly seek God’s wishes. They perform all their
actions without love, without a holy fear of God. They dull their
conscience through the fulfillment of external duties only. If someone
calls their attention to a fault, immediately they endeavor to pardon and
justify their actions. There are many such souls in Purgatory; these are
even now not entirely susceptible to the truth. It comes only gradually,
so that only after a long while does the grace of God break through the
shroud, and arouse the soul from sleep.
True Wisdom and Piety
There are also souls in Purgatory who had great wisdom
and learning in this life; who were famous; who did much good for their
fellow men; who upheld all righteousness and justice. However, they
performed these actions because of ambitious motives. They were entirely
permeated with the spirit of the world, living a selfish and independent
life, while completely ignoring their Lord and Creator.
These souls enter eternity with the least knowledge of
God. On earth they were well-versed in everything; now they find
themselves in the greatest quandaries. Formerly they were so highly
educated, and now they know nothing, for God reveals the truly great
things only to the humble.
Such "wise" men often have shallow souls.
They frequently remain a long time in Purgatory – until they have been
liberated from their ego; until they are aroused from their slumber; until
they lose all concern for themselves. They lie dead and lifeless in their
shroud, until Light Everlasting finally penetrates through their windings
to the interior. These are the most helpless souls, for they have so much
of the world and self in them.
There are in Purgatory wise men who stood in great
repute among worldlings, but now they find themselves greatly perplexed.
For there, the smallest and poorest child is often wiser than they. Again
this truth comes to light, "God reveals great things to the
In His judgment, the Lord is infinitely merciful. He
purifies and preserves immaculate the truly good qualities which the soul
possesses, in order to reward the soul everlastingly for them. And when so
many, many faults and failings still occur, God does not allow the good to
be lost, for He esteems every act, even the smallest offering, very
highly. Ah, yes, if only we could recognize, as the Lord does, all the
good which He has bestowed on us!
Souls who are pious and devout on earth, on account of
the esteem they thereby received from men, suffer the pains of Purgatory
for a long time. I behold many souls in Purgatory whose desire to become
Saints was motivated by self-will and self-love, or who devoted themselves
assiduously to the interior life in order to please their confessors and
spiritual directors; whose only motive was not God, but their own
glorification, their own egoism.
Yes, these were souls who practiced piety, but who were
not humble; who wanted to see no faults in themselves; who
self-confidently thought that their way of living was the best possible
– souls who performed deeds of penance in proud imitation of the Saints,
not in humility and repentance. Such imitation appears real, but God
cannot be deceived. These are souls who had a proud desire to become holy;
who continually looked at the number of their mortifications and
sacrifices as in a mirror. They could do great things, but neglected the
small, important duties.
Such souls are indeed deep in the flames of Purgatory — their whole life was one prolonged deception. Oh, how much the eternal
Truth now burns and consumes them! God is not pleased with them, and the
souls experience this in great torment and anguish. But they still need
these excruciating pains before they can become repentant as God wants
them to be; before their proud self can be humbled. As soon as the
dispositions of repentance and humility are aroused, these souls will be
thoroughly cleansed, until the time when God’s grace will lead them out
into the clear air of self-knowledge, where they will no longer love
themselves but Jesus.
No longer do I seek anything great in souls, but only
littleness and simplicity. I myself have learned, more and more, to be
very small and simple. Oh, there are even more souls in Purgatory who have
deceived others. Alas, no one prays for them because they were considered
to be pious here on earth. Oh, these miserable ones! Jesus has whispered
to me that I am to pray for these, since others believe them to be in
Heaven. These souls, who are so self-satisfied, must inevitably sense the
fire of humilitation.
Humble piety – this is so often lacking, and is so
rare – a truly sincere piety. What does it profit us if we know
everything about Heaven and earth, and do not know the most important
thing: that we are nothing and can do nothing; that our actions are
performed only through God? What does a storehouse of knowledge profit us,
if we do not possess the wisdom of little children? Without this wisdom,
we are unable to recognize the Merciful Love; for is he not poor who knows
nothing of mercy?
The building built entirely upon self collapses,
because it was not constructed on a foundation of humility. Humility is
the basis for all graces, yes, for our entire life. If this wisdom is
lacking, then all other knowledge and holiness amounts to nothing; then it
falls to pieces during the first windstorm. Where there is humility, there
is weakness, and there is also the power of God. Where there is
contrition, there is mercy.
(We thank Merciful Love in Fresno,
California for authorizing us to reprint the above article, which appeared
in their Divine Love, Issue No. 87, 4th Quarter,