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For the Preservation of the Deposit of the Faith
For the Kingdom of God to come!
It is painful, certainly, to have to undergo the punishment of one’s own faults; but it is more painful to be punished for the faults of others. Now, how many souls there are in Purgatory who expiate iniquities which they did not commit, but of which they were the guilty occasion!
A painter, highly esteemed for his talent and for the exemplary life he led, had painted various images of Saints, and his reputation led the prior of a convent of Discalced Carmelites to ask him to paint a picture for that house. He had hardly finished the work, for which he was given a high price, when he was surprised by a serious illness and reduced to all extremity in that same place. He begged the superior to come and see him and asked for the grace of being buried in his church if he died; in return for this favor, he bequeathed to the community the price of his work, with the obligation, in addition, to celebrate several masses in his favor. Everything was done according to his wishes.
A few days after his death, a religious remained in the choir after matins, continuing his prayer, when he saw the painter’s soul appear, all in tears, and struggling in the middle of the flames: it begged him to have pity on his unbearable torments, which were causing him to endure a continuous death.
The religious asked him how he could be so punished, he who had lived in such a reputation of virtue. He replied: “When I had given up my soul, I was presented to the tribunal of the Supreme Judge, and immediately I heard the testimony against me of several persons whom an immodest painting had led to evil thoughts and desires, which had caused them to be condemned to Purgatory; Others, which was much worse, were groaning in hell in eternal torments, for the same cause; they declared that I was worthy of at least the same punishments, for having provided them with the stone of scandal to which they had broken. Then came from heaven the souls of several saints who defended me, explaining that this painting was a youthful work atoned for by penance and by a host of other works to the glory of virtue and the friends of God, from which had resulted for many a great edification. These souls were those of the saints whom I had honored, and they begged my forgiveness, adding that I had used in alms a good part of the money I earned, and that the last of it had been left to a holy community. Finally, they begged the Lord to take from their merits to add to mine. The sovereign Judge, touched by their prayer, wanted to grant it; He exempted me from the eternal punishment; but my sentence carries that I will be tormented in the expiatory flames until the cursed painting is burned, reduced to ashes, so as not to scandalize anyone any more. I beg you therefore, good religious, to go on my behalf to such and such a person, at whose urging I composed this unfortunate painting, to tell him in what state I find myself, and that he grant me the grace that this instrument of sin disappear. It is not only me who wants it, it is the God who created us both. If he refuses, woe to him! In faith that I have really appeared to you and that all this is not an illusion, tell him, Father, that before long he will lose two of his children, and that, if he refuses the little sacrifice I ask of him, he will not delay in paying for it himself by an untimely death.”
On hearing these things, the possessor of the painting seized it at once and threw it with his own hands into the fire. In less than a month, he saw two of his young children perish, according to the prediction. Although his obedience protected him from the second threat, he made sure to do a just penance for the fault he had committed in ordering, keeping and exhibiting the painting. Instead, he had beautiful and pious images made, on which were engraved the portraits of the saints who could best encourage virtue and whom he wished to have as protectors in heaven.