"Which of you can dwell with devouring fire?" - Isaiah 33:14
By the pain of the senses, the Church means other torments than the pain of loss, and principally fire of an unintelligible nature.
All the torments of the martyrs do not approach the sufferings of Purgatory, according to the revelation made to Saint Magdalen of Pazzi. And further than this, what would make the most confident tremble, the Angelic Doctor teaches that the pains of Purgatory are greater in some sense than those which our good Saviour endured in His sorrowful passion. All the fires of the earth are not comparable to the fires of Purgatory; they are but the figure of it. "The reason is," says Saint Thomas, "that the fires of Purgatory are the same as those of hell, whicli do not act by any natural power, but as instruments of the anger of God, which is like the flame of these fires, and gives them a force they naturally have not."
Saint Gregory has also said: "I know that after this life many will finish the expiation of their faults in the flames of Purgatory; and this fire, though it is not eternal, is more unbearable than the greatest tribulations that we can imagine." When a conflagration devastates one of our terres- trial habitations, we hear from all parts these cries, Fire! fire! help! and each one hastens to the place of the disaster and tries to impede its progress. Now, with what ardor should we not repeat this cry in favor of those souls plunged in fires much more violent, and to comfort them in evils more terrible than all the sufferings of this earth!
A Person on Fire
The Venerable Margaret Mary, being one day before the Blessed Sacrament, suddenly beheld a person on fire the violence of which penetrated her so strongly that she believed herself surrounded by the same. She did not recognize the individual who was shown to her, but his condition made her shed many tears.
The suffering soul then told her that he was a Benedictine religious of the congregation of Cluny, who had formerly been Prior of the convent of Paray, to whom she had once confessed, who had given her some consolation on that occasion, and had allowed her to receive Holy Communion. God permitted him in his sufferings to apply to Sister Margaret for relief through her prayers. He asked then that she would offer and apply to him all that she might do and suffer for the space of three months. At the same time he made known to her three causes of the great sufferings to wliich he was condemned: the first was too great an attachment to his reputation, wliich sometimes made him prefer his own interest in this matter to the glory of God; the second was want of charity towards his brothers; the third was a too natural affection which he had had for creatures, and the evidences which he had given of it during the spiritural conferences he held with them. This, he said, was very displeasing to God.
Sister Margaret promised to do what was asked of her if she could obtain permission. Finally this was granted, but her promise did not deliver her from the sight of this afflicting spectacle, which did not leave her during all that space of time. She seemed to see this religious always near her, who communicated to her his flames from the side whence they appeared to issue, and she felt in all that side of her body such vivid pains that she wept almost continually.
The Superior, who knew her state and the cause of her sufferings, found no other means of relieving lier than to impose penances, as disciplines, etc., and these holy practices brought relief to the religious and to the Sister. At the end of three months both were delivered from their pains; for Sistei Margaret saw this holy religious go up to heaven full of joy, after having acknowledged his gratitude and assured her he would intercede for her before God.
Examine if you do not sometimes yield to human respect, and see how you can destroy in yourself and in others this weakness, which leads so many souls to Purgatory, and even to hell.
Prayer of the Church
O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of Thy servants departed the remission of all their sins, that, through the devout prayers of Thy Church on earth, they may obtain that remission of pain which they have ever desired. Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.
- text taken from by Father Celestin Cloquet, translated by a Sister of Mercy, with the Imprimatur of Archbishop Michael Augustine Corrigan, Archdiocese of New York, 18 October 1886