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Our Lady of Purgatory

It is better to die with the certainty of going to Purgatory than to live in danger of sin

St. Stanislaus, bishop of Krakow (around 1070), had bought a country property from a peasant named Peter for his church: he paid the agreed price in full, without, however, demanding a formal receipt. The seller had already been dead for three years, when his heirs, seeing that king Boleslas, an unjust and cruel prince, was very angry with the Saint because of the admonitions he made to him about his scandalous behavior, thought of taking advantage of this circumstance. They brought a lawsuit against the bishop, accusing him of having seized without any title an inheritance that belonged to them. The king readily admitted the case; and, as the Saint had indeed neglected the ordinary formalities, not being able to foresee so much bad faith, he was condemned to pay again what legitimately belonged to him, or to make at once pure and simple restitution of the property. Stanislaus, moved by an inspiration, declared that, since he could not obtain justice from the living, he would obtain it from the dead, whose testimony would decide the question. Therefore he asked for a delay of three days, in order to call the testimony of the salesman Peter, who was known to have been dead for several years. The judges laughed at such a claim, which seemed to them to be madness, and yet they granted it amid jokes and offensive words.

When he returned to his house, Stanislaus called his priests together and invited them to pray with him and to fast for three days without sleep, in order to obtain from God that He take in hand the cause of justice. On the third day, therefore, after having solemnly celebrated the Holy Sacrifice for this purpose, keeping his pontifical vestments, he set out for the cemetery, followed by all his clergy and a crowd of people who had been attracted by the spectacle. When he arrived at the tomb, he ordered the tombstone to be removed and the body to be dug up, which was nothing more than dry, shapeless bones. When they were uncovered, the bishop knelt down, raised his eyes to heaven and beseeched the Lord to perform a miracle before this attentive city, for the glorification of His holy name and for the triumph of equity; then, touching with his pastoral staff those inanimate remains, he commanded those bones, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, to come to life again and to bear witness to the truth. Immediately those nameless remains are stirred, the dust changes to flesh, the dead man rises to his feet and, leaving the tomb, advances to the pontiff, who leads him first to the church to thank God, then to the people, and finally to the court.

At that very moment, the king was there, surrounded by the great ones and all the magistrates. He was told that Stanislaus was arriving in a procession, with his clergy and with the resurrected Peter! The prince did not want to believe anything about it, but it was necessary to give in to the evidence, when the prelate entered the room, stopped in front of the throne and spoke thus: “I bring you, Sire, the man who sold me this land: he left the region of the dead to pay homage to the truth. Ask him, he will speak for himself, he will tell you if I have really bought his inheritance and if I have given him its value. The man is known; his tomb is still open: God sends him to confound the impostor. His deposition will be worth more, I think, than the denial of the other witnesses and all the signatures imaginable.” Peter then, raising his voice, attested that he had received the whole price of the land sold to the holy prelate for his church, and that his three nephews, Peter, James, and Stanislaus, had no right to disturb him in his possession. Then, turning to these, who were present in the audience, he threatened them with the justice of God, who cannot be deceived, and with an unfortunate death before long, if they did not cease to claim what they knew did not belong to them. The astonishment of the audience cannot be explained; all remained nailed by terror in the place where they were. The heirs remained confused while the king pronounced a new sentence in favor of St. Stanislaus.

The risen man was still there. The bishop asked him if he wished to live a few more years, hoping to obtain the grace of the One who had raised him for a few moments. But he replied that he would rather go back to the tomb and die again than remain in such a miserable and perilous life. Nevertheless, he assured us that his soul was still in Purgatory and that he still had some time to suffer there in order to purify himself of the last stains of his faults; that, notwithstanding the cruel torments to which he was about to be subjected, he preferred them by far to the uncertainty in which one finds oneself here below of pleasing God and making one’s salvation. He concluded by saying that the greatest grace the Saint could grant him was to pray to the Lord to shorten the time of his trial and to receive him sooner among the elect, since he had the assurance of being admitted one day. Stanislaus promised him this, and then accompanied him to the cemetery with all the clergy and the crowd of the people; the ordinary prayers of the recommendation of the soul were recited over him, while he lay in the grave. He repeated to all those present the request to pray for him. His bones separated again, the flesh fell to dust, and only the shapeless remains of the morning were left before our eyes. It is a belief in the country that St. Stanislaus obtained the deliverance of this soul very quickly.

From all this we must conclude how foolish we are to love life so much, when we know the dangers that threaten us on the side of salvation. We do not know whether we will persevere to the end, whether we will die in the necessary conditions of contrition and fervor: and yet we cling to this fragile and dangerous existence as if there were no other for us. What strange blindness! What unjustifiable insensitivity!

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