In an authoritative biography of Saint Padre Pio is the account of how, one night, praying into the wee hours, in the small choir loft, at the old San Giovanni Rotundo church, in his monastery, the saint heard a disturbance down near the altar and to his perplexity observed what seemed to be a young monk who had accidentally knocked over a candelabra while cleaning the altar. No one tended to the altar at that hour, he knew, and there was no such young novitiate at the monastery. When Pio went down the few short narrow steps toward the sanctuary and asked the monk who he was, the stranger said he had been at the monastery years before Padre Pio had gotten there and had died in a fire there and was being allowed to do his purgatory on earth maintaining the church, which during his physical life he had neglected to do, ignoring the duties given him by his superior.
This is interesting in light of a passage from the little booklet, An Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory, which has been distributed to countless thousands, and to which we revert often. The passage from this booklet (Church-approved, from a deceased religious, as a Christmas message):
(December 1879 ) "I have told you there are some souls who do their purgatory at the foot of the altar. They are not there for faults they have committed in church, because those faults which attack Jesus directly, Jesus present in the tabernacle, are punished with terrible severity in purgatory. The souls that are there in adoration are there as a reward for their reverent behavior in the Sacred Presence. They suffer less than if they were in purgatory itself, and Jesus, Whom they contemplate with the eyes of their soul and of faith, softens their pains by His invisible Presence.
(January 1880) "On Christmas night, thousands of souls leave this place of expiation for Heaven, but many remain, and I am of their number. You sometimes say to me that the perfecting of a soul is a long process and you are also astonished that after so many prayers, I am so long deprived of the sight of God. Alas, the perfecting of a soul does not take any less time in purgatory than upon earth. There are a number of souls, but they are very few, who have only a few venial sins to expiate. These do not stay long in purgatory. A few well-said prayers, a few sacrifices, soon deliver them. But when there are souls like mine -- and that is nearly all whose lives have been so empty and who paid little or no attention to their salvation -- then their whole life has to be begun over again in this place of expiation. The soul has to perfect itself all over again, and love and desire Him, Whom it did not love sufficiently on earth. This is the reason why the deliverance of some souls is delayed. God has given me a very great Grace in allowing me to ask for prayers. I did not deserve it, but without this I would have remained like most of those here, for years and years more."
Seek success in the Eyes of God, not in the eyes of the world.
On Christmas, prayers for these souls are so important and powerful and they remember them and can see us as we pray for them. Amen. Merry Christ-Mass! Have joy.
[resources: An Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory]