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Our Lady of Purgatory

A longer Purgatory for those who did not pray for the dead

In the beautiful Life of St. Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh, St. Bernard highly praises the prelate’s devotion to the souls in Purgatory, but he blames Malachy’s sister to the same degree, who was animated by quite different feelings. While still a deacon, the archbishop liked to attend the funerals of the poor, in order to pray for them; he accompanied them to the cemetery; often he even buried them with his own hands, an office which seemed to him to develop humility as well as the practice of charity. But his sister, who was so worldly, thought it a disgrace that a member of his noble family should devote himself to such lowly works, and she said to him angrily: “What a job you are doing there, you foolish and rude person! Is this the occupation of a man of your rank? Let the dead bury their dead, according to the word of the Lord…” And, abusing this gospel text, she tormented him with her reproaches and complaints.

Malachy answered her gently, but not without firmness: “Poor girl, what are you saying? You know the words of the sacred text, but you hardly penetrate their meaning.” And he continued to perform the humble duty, where God rewarded him with great inner consolations.

However, Heaven did not let this woman’s recklessness go unpunished. She died at a young age and appeared before the terrible Judge, who reads the depths of her heart and demands an account of her every move. Malachy had complained about her; but when she died, he thought only of the needs of her soul, and prayed for her with all the zeal of which he was capable. Long afterwards, one night, while he was sleeping, it seemed to him that he saw her in the churchyard, sad, dressed in black, asking for his compassion, because she had not felt any relief for thirty days. The holy man awoke with a start, full of this dream, and he remembered that for a month he had not said Holy Mass for his sister. One can believe that God had again allowed this oversight as a punishment for his former insensitivity towards the dead.

The pious brother therefore surrendered himself to her suffrages, and the very next day he went up to the altar and offered the Holy Sacrifice for this purpose. Shortly afterwards, the dead woman appeared to him in another vision: she was standing on the threshold of the church, as if she had not yet been allowed to enter, and she was moaning. So he persevered in his prayers, not omitting a single day the august Sacrifice. Then he saw her enter, but she could not advance to the altar, despite all her efforts. In short, the Saint did not stop celebrating until he saw her at the altar, magnificently adorned, shining, happy, among a crowd of shining souls like her, who also seemed to be leaving the place of trial, after their atonement was over. This demonstrates once again, as St. Bernard himself observes, the power of the Holy Mass to purify us of all our faults and make us pleasing to God.

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