For November, we offer a few excerpts from a true saint for our times, Sister Josefa Menendez, the author of “The Way of Divine Love”, a treasure of a book that I love dearly. These few quotes give a quite an insight into purgatory. There is much to think on in them.
The Abyss of Woe
In Lent 1922, God put Sister Josefa in touch with an abyss of woe, Purgatory. Many souls came to solicit her suffrages and sacrifices in terms of very great humility. At first she was frightened, but by degrees she became accustomed to their confidences. She listened to them, asked them their names, encouraged them, and very humbly recommended herself to their intercession. The lessons they inculcated are worth remembering. One of them came to announce her deliverance and said: “The important thing is not entrance into religion, but entrance into the next world.” “If religious souls but realized the heavy price to be paid for concessions to the body …” said another, while asking for prayers.
“My exile is at an end and I am going to my eternal home….” A priest-soul said to her: “How great is the mercy of God, when He deigns to make use of the sufferings of other souls to repair our infidelities; what a degree of glory I might have acquired had my life been different.” A nun who, on her entrance into Heaven, confided to Josefa: “How different the things of earth appear when one passes into eternity. What are charges and offices in the sight of God? All He counts is the purity of our intention when exercising them, even in the smallest acts. How little is the earth and all it contains, and yet, how loved…. Ah, what comparison is there between life, however prolonged, and eternity! If only it were realized how in Purgatory the soul is wearied and consumed with desire to see God.”
There were also some poor souls, who having escaped through God’s mercy from a still greater peril, came to beg Josefa to hasten their deliverance. “I am here by God’s great mercy,” one of them said, “for my excessive pride had brought me to the gates of Hell. I influenced a great number of other people, and now I would gladly throw myself at the feet of the most abject pauper. “Have compassion on me and do acts of humility to make reparation for my pride, thus you will be able to deliver me from this abyss.”
“I spent seven years in mortal sin,” another confessed, “and three years ill in bed, and I always refused to go to Confession. I was ripe for hell-fire and would have fallen into it if by your present sufferings you had not obtained for me the grace of repentance. I am now in Purgatory, and I entreat you, since you were able to save me … draw me out of this dreary prison.” “I am in Purgatory because of my infidelity, for I would not correspond with God’s call,” said another. “For twelve years I held out against my vocation and was in the greatest peril of damnation, because in order to stifle my conscience I gave myself up to a life of sin. Thanks to the divine goodness, which deigned to make use of your sufferings, I took courage to come back to God … and now, of your charity, get me out of this gloomy prison.”
THE VOICES OF PURGATORY
Josefa never went down into Purgatory, but she saw and spoke with a number of souls who came to solicit her prayers, and some told her that, thanks to her sufferings, they had escaped Hell. These souls, as a rule, humbly accused themselves of the faults for which they were in Purgatory (see Ch. V. of Biography). A few facts are here added. “ … I had a vocation, but lost it by reading bad books; I also had discarded my scapular, out of contempt” (July 27th, 1921).
“ … I was given up to a great deal of vanity and on the point of marrying. Our Lord made use of very severe measures to prevent my falling into Hell.” (April 10th, 1921). “My religious life was wanting in fervor….” “I had a long religious life, but I spent my last years rather in taking care of my health than in loving Our Lord. Thanks to the merits of a sacrifice you made, I was able to make a fervent death, and I owe it to you that I escaped the long years in Purgatory I had deserved. The important thing is not so much entrance into religion … as entrance into eternity.” (April 7th, 1922).
“… I have been a year and three months in Purgatory, and were it not for your little acts I should have remained there long years. A woman of the world has less responsibility than a religious, for how great are the graces the latter receives, and what liabilities she incurs if she does not profit by them…. How little nuns suspect the way their faults are expiated here … a tongue horribly tortured expiates faults against silence … a dried-up throat, those against charity … and the constraints of this prison, the repugnance in obeying! In my Order, pleasures were few and comforts still fewer, but one can always manage to secure some … and the smallest immortifications have to be expiated here. To restrain one’s eyes, to refuse oneself the gratification of a little curiosity may at times cost a big effort … and here … the eyes are tormented by the impossibility of seeing God.” (April 10th, 1922).
“Another nun accused herself of failings against charity, and of having murmured at the election of one of her Superiors.” (April 12th, 1922). “… I have been in Purgatory till now … because during my religious life I talked a great deal and with little prudence. I often communicated my impressions and complaints, and these indiscretions were the cause of faults against charity which my Sisters then committed.”
“Let all learn from this,” commented Our Lady, who was present at the apparition, “for many souls fall into this danger.” Our Lord stressed this grave warning by these words: “That soul is in Purgatory because of her faults against silence, for this kind of fault leads to many others: first, the Rule is broken; secondly, there often occur in such failings sins against charity or religious spirit, personal satisfaction, outpourings of heart that are ill-placed among religious, and all this, without a feeling of responsibility not only for oneself but for one or many others who are led into the same faults. That is why this soul is in Purgatory, and burning with desire to see My face.” (February 22nd, 1923).
“I am in Purgatory because I did not care enough about the souls confided to me, and because I did not sufficiently realize their value and the devotedness called for by so precious a charge.” (August 1922). … I was in Purgatory a little under an hour and a half to expiate a certain want of confidence in God. True, I always loved Him very much, but not without fear. It is true also that the judgments of religious are severe and rigorous, for we are judged not by our Spouse, but by our God. Nevertheless, during life our confidence in His mercy ought to be boundless, and we should trust His goodness. How many graces are lost by religious who have not enough trust in God.” (September 1922).
“… I am in Purgatory because I did not treat the souls that Jesus entrusted to me with the care they deserved…. I allowed myself to be influenced by human motives and natural likes, not seeing in them God, as I should have, and as all Superiors must. For if it is true that all religious should see in their Superior the Person of God Our Lord, the Superior also ought to see Him in her daughters….” “Thanks be to you who have helped to free me from Purgatory…. O! if nuns realized how far they can be led by unruly feelings … how vigorously they would strive to conquer themselves and master their nature and passions.” (April 1923).
“My Purgatory will be a long one, for I did not accept God’s Will for me, nor make the sacrifice of my life generously enough during my illness. Illness is a great grace of purification, it is true, but unless one is careful, it may cause one to stray away from religious spirit … to forget that one has made vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, and that one is consecrated to God as a victim. Our Lord is all love, certainly, but also all justice.” (November 1923). (Menendez, Sr. Josefa. The Way of Divine Love (with Supplemental Reading: Devotion to the Sacred Heart) TAN Books. Kindle Edition.)
As I was reading Sister Josefa yesterday, the following passage struck me most poignantly. It occurred when Josefa made her vows:
A few hours later Josefa, still deep in glad recollection, noted, so that she might never forget it, what Our Lord had been pleased to do for her.
“After the sermon, I went up to the altar rails to receive my crucifix of vows and black veil. Then suddenly I saw Our Lady present, O! so ravishingly lovely, all bathed in light. She held a veil in her hands, and when I returned to my prie-dieu, she herself put it on my head. All round her and framing her person were a number of radiant little faces which looked like those of tiny children, lit up with joy. With ineffable sweetness she said to me: ‘While you, beloved daughter, were suffering, these souls were weaving this veil for you. All those you prayed for have left Purgatory and are safe in Heaven for all eternity. There they will protect you.’ “
Do you see? We do suffer greatly now, but we should thank Our Lord for this opportunity to gain much merit for poor souls and for consolation for Him whom we love!
Prayer for the Poor Souls in Purgatory
by St. Gertrude the Great
Eternal Father, I offer Thee the most precious blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus Christ, in union with the holy Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Poor Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, for those in my own home and in my family. Amen.
All things are passing…God never changes…Patient endurance attains all things…Alone God suffices.
Pray the Rosary for poor souls!
Remember – Our Lady needs us to obey: First Saturdays of Reparation, daily rosary, at least 5 mysteries, wear her brown scapular and live your Total Consecration to her Immaculate Heart, offering daily duties in reparation and for the conversion of poor sinners.
† Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.
† Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come! Viva Cristo Rey!
† St. Joseph, protect us, protect our families, protect our priests.
† St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin! Give me strength against thine enemies!