The family of Louis and Zelie – Letter #8
November 13, 2017
“We will offer this hardship for the poor souls in Purgatory who are much more deprived than we are, and above all, for the souls of our parents.” Zelie to her daughter Pauline, October 29, 1876, CF 170
Dear Friends of “The Family of Louis and Zelie,”
The month of November is the month during which one prays in particular for the souls in purgatory. Just like Saints Louis and Zelie, this month we can pray for those who have died and offer sacrifices to help them go to Heaven.
Purgatory is not a “concentration camp,” but rather a gift from the mercy of God. Those whom we call “souls in Purgatory,” live in this spiritual place with much gratitude, as in a school of love and of conversion – as patients who, sure of their future healing, serenely welcome even a painful surgery. In the light of God, they painfully acknowledge the truth about their great lacking of love. Purgatory consists of a consuming repentance of one’s sins and omissions, in a devouring nostalgia for God and for Heaven. They are the poor souls, in the true sense of the word, because they can no longer do anything for themselves. They are totally dependent on our intercession, by virtue of which they will be purified and, still even more, filled with love and sanctified. The Saint Cure of Ars, for example, said: “Oh! If it were but known how great is the power of the good souls in Purgatory with the Heart of God, and if we knew all the graces we can obtain through their intercession, they would not be so much forgotten. Do we want to ask God for the pain of our sins? Let us speak to these souls who, for so many years, have been crying in the flames those sins that they have committed. We must, therefore, pray much for them, that they may pray much for us! If we want to assure Heaven for ourselves, let us have a great devotion to pray for the souls in Purgatory! The prayer for their release from Purgatory, after the prayer for the conversion of sinners, is the most pleasing prayer to God. Thus, at night, I suffer for the souls in Purgatory, and during the day for the conversion of sinners.”
Saint Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510) is part of the great mystics of the Middle Ages to whom the Lord granted new insights about His Great Love. She is rightly given the title “Theologian of Purgatory.” What the Lord made her understand about this place of purification contrasted with what had then been understood about Purgatory. It was considered like a place within the earth in which souls fell to be subjected to terrible suffering in reparation for their sins.
In her famous “Treatise on Purgatory,” Catherine describes what the soul experiences as it passes from this life to the other, as well as the kind of purification experienced to reach full union with God.
For Catherine, Purgatory is not an external fire, but rather, an interior one, a fire of divine love. Through this fire of love present in her soul, she understood in what state the souls of the faithful in Purgatory must be found, waiting to be purified of all stains of sin from which they have not yet been delivered. In her treatise, Catherine explains how the soul returning to the heavenly homeland encounters the goodness and the purity of God. In this divine love, she sees herself as in a mirror, she recognizes her sin, her lackings, her slightest imperfections. At that moment, the soul must still be “freed from the rust and the vileness caused by sin.” That is what Purgatory is for.
The soul, in its desire to be totally united with God, chooses freely and with gratitude the place of purification in order to be freed from all impurity. “On the part of God, paradise is open; he who wills enters there. It is because God is all mercy, He stands before us with open arms to receive us into His glory. But on the other hand, I see the divine essence to be of such purity and clarity, far greater than can be imagined, that the soul in which there is even the least note of imperfection would rather cast itself into a thousand hells than find itself thus stained in the presence of the Divine Majesty. Therefore the soul, understanding that Purgatory has been ordained to take away those stains, casts itself therein, and sees to have found great mercy in that it can be purified of its sins.”
Catherine compares the purification of the soul by the fire of divine love with the process for producing gold: “In the measure that you melt it, it becomes pure. When gold has been purified up to twenty-four carats, it can no longer be consumed, no matter the fire by which you make it pass.” Catherine became aware that all suffering and purification in Purgatory come from Love. “When with its inner sight the soul sees itself drawn by God with such loving fire, then it is melted by the heat of the glowing love for God, its most dear Lord, which it feels overflowing it. And it sees by the divine light that God does not cease from drawing it, nor from leading it, lovingly and with much care and unfailing foresight, to its full perfection, doing this of His pure love. But the soul, being hindered by sin, cannot go whither God draws it; it cannot follow the uniting look with which He would draw it to Himself. Again the soul perceives the grievousness of being held back from seeing the divine light; the soul’s instinct too, being drawn by that uniting look, craves to be unhindered. I say that it is the sight of these things which begets in the souls the pain they feel in Purgatory… Unceasingly He draws the soul to Himself and breathes fire into it, never letting it go until He has led it to the state whence it came forth, that is to the pure cleanliness in which it was created.” At that moment, the soul can return to Heaven, in full communion with God.
Let us thus take advantage this month to rediscover the importance of praying for the souls in Purgatory.
I especially entrust to your prayers the preparations for the jubilee of the 160 years of the marriage of Saints Louis and Zelie which will open next July.
This jubilee presents a human, spiritual and material challenge for the Shrine. From the depth of our hearts and in advance, we thank you for your prayers so that all of the conditions for its full success are met – especially the material needs we entrust to Divine Providence.
We assure you of our prayers for your intentions and those of your families. May the Lord bless you through the intercession of Saints Louis and Zelie!
Father Jean-Marie Simar,
Rector of the Shrine of Alençon