From the archives:
'Secrets of Purgatory' grants a glimpse of afterlife
By Michael H. Brown
During Lent, while on the desert, we're left contemplating the afterlife, and in doing that we've taken a close look at a remarkable little booklet someone recently gave us called "The Secrets of Purgatory."
Although this rare little booklet, published in 1958, and now out of print, doesn't specifically describe how the revelation it contains occurred, it's subtitled "Reminiscences of a Soul in Purgatory." Is it the work of a mystic? Someone who glimpsed eternity? Or is it from a purgatorial soul?
We're not sure. All we know is that this booklet (not to be confused with a similar booklet, "An Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory") is likewise filled with valuable insights. The author is anonymous but the booklet, once published in Illinois, bears the imprimatur of former Chicago Archbishop Samuel Cardinal Stritch.
What -- according to this revelation -- is purgatory like?
"Purgatory is a place of mercy and of goodness," says the revelation. "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 now suffer and expiate all your sins. Thereby you will be made pure.'"
It is with gratitude, with unending thankfulness -- says this revelation -- that a soul accepts its purgatory. "Truly it is a place of redemption where souls have gathered at the brink of the abyss," the pamphlet asserts. "It is the last place of refuge -- an invention of Merciful Love."
It is also a place of realization. There is the realization of how very good and loving God is -- and how often we spurned Him, how often we squander the opportunities He grants us.
In purgatory we see the missed opportunities.
All the goodness of the Lord is revealed.
"God is not severe, not cruel toward the poor souls, as many imagine Him to be," says the revelation, contained in 46 short pages. "No, He is good, full of compassion and love for them. 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!'"
But it is also a place of blessed suffering. There is despair. There is the knowledge of Divine Love and the realization of their own obdurateness constitutes the greatest torment.
"The souls in purgatory are enveloped, as it were, in a thick shroud into which they have wound themselves while living here on earth," says the reputed revelation. "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?'" continues the old booklet. "Instead they think without anxiety that their life is upright and most praiseworthy, but they are mistaken."
In purgatory a soul sees its imperfections and that each soul is a mosaic in a great work that God has designed with little "stones" which are His graces. Each stone must be restored so that nothing in wanting in splendor. While it can be rough, "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. The certainty that they suffer only to be everlastingly happy is the consolation of the poor souls."
As soon as they awaken in purgatory, the Light of God begins to purify and the souls grow more receptive to the benefits of prayers, Masses, and good works on their behalf, says the revelation. They realize that they are in dire need of God. They realize they didn't pay enough attention to Him. Even religious must be heedful. "Souls who were pious and devout on earth on account of the esteem they thereby received from men suffer the pains of purgatory for a long time," says the booklet. "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, who performed deeds of penance in proud imitation of the saints, not in humility and repentance."
These are heavy words. We recommend re-reading the above paragraph. We recommend showing it to loved ones, priests, and friends. It is impossible, it says, for us to judge. The decisions of Divine Judgment are often totally different than ours! Often, it says, we think, "Oh, that soul is surely lost -- or at least buried deeply in purgatory," when in fact such a soul could be in Heaven. Or we think a soul is holy, surely in Heaven -- when in fact that soul is still being purified.
The safe route? The secure way to true piety?
Distrusting self, says the revelation; ridding worldly attachments; trusting Jesus only. "The burning desire to do everything just as Jesus wants it makes the soul pure and stainless," it says. "Those souls are quickest to enter heaven who quickly sense their sins, who are not obstinately taken up with their own self-conceit. Poor souls must become 'poor' in their inner self. Then they can understand our Savior better.
Those souls who were already poor in this life fare best. There are various states of suffering in that blessed state of purification, but inexplicable ones, beyond my description. I have noticed many things in purgatory which I almost dare not utter." Those who search for the Lord, who long for God here on earth, do their purgatory here and have the quickest route to heaven. Those who find delight with the Eucharistic Savior -- especially priests -- "need only to be sprinkled with the Precious Blood" and then are taken into Heaven.
When souls are allowed to reveal themselves through a sign, says the reputed revelation, "it is indeed a great grace and already a positive step for them; they emerge from the greatest darkness of night and approach the Light. Then they give Jesus more and more admittance into their souls. When we pray for the Poor Souls they are most grateful to us and pray for us in return. It is inexpressively beautiful to see a poor soul enter the realm of heaven. Oh, it is so awe-inspiring that one cannot behold this scene without shedding tears."
[Part II next: more 'secrets']