In the winter of my life, each November is more poignant as I reflect on so many dear friends and family who have departed. For some time now, departed friends have outnumbered those who remain. Unlike Novus Ordo Catholics, who seem to transform every funeral service into an impromptu canonization, I’m well aware that none of my loved ones rose straight up into heaven. And so we offer Masses for the salvation of their souls and for their release from purgatory. The very concept of purgatory, although an affront to the sensibilities of modern(ist) Catholics, is actually a reminder of the loving justice of God.
A favorite book on Purgatory is Father Schouppe’s classic, “Purgatory explained by the lives and legends of the Saints”, from TAN. Fr. Schouppe has many good stories from the lives of the saints to illustrate various aspects of Purgatory, but the following struck a chord with me and so I’ll share with you, if you’d like.
From the Revelations of St. Gertrude, Father tells us that a young religious in St. Gertrude’s convent was much admired because of her great piety. After her death, St. Gertrude was fervently praying for the soul of the young nun when she was rapt in ecstasy and had a vision of the deceased sister standing before the throne of God, eyes downcast, she seemed to be ashamed. St. Gertrude then beseeched Our Lord, “Most Sweet Jesus, why does not Your infinite goodness invite Your spouse to approach You and enter into the joy of her Lord?”
At this, Our Lord smiled with tender love and beckoned to the reluctant soul to draw near Him, but she, troubled and trembling withdrew from Him. St. Gertrude then addressed her dear sister, “Do you retire when our Lord calls you? You that have desired Jesus during your whole life, withdraw now that He opens His arms to you?”
“Ah, my dear Mother, I am not worthy to appear before the Immaculate Lamb. I still have some stains which I contracted upon earth. To approach the Sun of Justice, one must be as pure as a ray of light. I have not yet that degree of purity which He requires of His saints. Know that, if the door of Heaven were to be opened to me, I should not dare to cross the threshold before being entirely purified from all stain.”
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