In one of the most intriguing private revelations of the past 100 or more years a French nun who had died in a convent was allowed by God to manifest to a living nun and present descriptions of the afterlife that after serious discernment were granted an imprimatur by Cardinal Lawrence Shehan of Baltimore.
That rare approval of words from the "other side" was also confirmed by an ecclesiastic named Canon Duboq, who later became promotor fidei for St. Therese the Little Flower.
These discernments were crucial because Christians are not to communicate with the dead, or at least are not to initiate such contact. For a long while the spirit was tested to make sure it was not diabolic. But after a long period of such testing and great initial reluctance on the part of the living nun who was receiving the messages, descriptions and explanations concerning purgatory were recorded that give us as great an insight into the afterlife as anything I have seen and are presented in a booklet that I have found among the most beneficial pieces of literature I have ever read
The experience began in 1873, when the living nun, who we will call Sister L.C., began to hear strange sighs. The groaning remained unexplained for several months until finally the spirit identified herself as a recently deceased nun from the same convent who was identified only as Sister M.G., a nun who had been at the same convent and had died in 1871 -- two years before -- at the age of 36.
The Church always remains reserved in these matters, and it is considered a revelation only on human authority; there was no final and official judgment of the experience in its entirety. But the faithful were allowed to read the revelations, and they are nothing short of riveting.
"If only you knew what I suffer!" said Sister M.G. "Pray for me, please. I suffer intensely everywhere. No one can imagine what purgatory is like. Be kind and take pity on the poor souls. Do not neglect the Way of the Cross.
"It is so beautiful in heaven," continued Sister M.G. "There is a great distance between heaven and purgatory. We are privileged at times to catch a glimpse of the joys of the blessed in paradise, but it is almost a punishment. It makes us yearn to see
God. In heaven, it is pure delight; in purgatory, profound darkness."
Sister M.G. explained that God judged priests and religious vigorously because while on earth they were given special graces. She apparently had not said her devotions and had given her superioress trouble.
"I am now in the second purgatory," she said. "Since my death, I have been in the first, where one endures such great suffering. We also suffer in the second purgatory, but not nearly as much as in the first. No one can have a real understanding of the sufferings in purgatory. No one thinks of them in the world. Even religious communities forget that they should pray for the souls and that they should inspire their pupils with this devotion."
It was one of the great deceptions of the devil: that purgatory does not exist. This had caused many souls to suffer without the benefit of prayer. And according to Sister M.G., the longest suffering on earth was like the easiest suffering at the lower rungs of purgatory.
"Great sinners who were indifferent towards God, and religious who were not what they should have been are in the lowest stage of purgatory," she said. "While they are there, the prayers offered up
for them are not applied to them. Because they have ignored God during their lives, He now in His turn leaves them abandoned in order that they may repair their neglectful and worthless lives. While on earth one truly cannot picture or imagine what God really is, but we (in purgatory) know and understand Him for what He is."
Added the nun: "We see St. Michael as we see the angels. He has no body. He comes to get souls that have finished their purification. It is he who conducts them to heaven. He is among the seraphim as monsignor said. He is the highest angel in heaven. Our own guardian angels come to see us but St. Michael is far more beautiful than they are. As to the Blessed Virgin, we see her in body. She comes to purgatory on her feasts and she goes back to heaven with many souls. While she is with us we do not suffer. St. Michael accompanies her. When he comes alone, we suffer as usual."
Sister M.G. had been in what she called the "great purgatory," the worst level, for two years. It was from there that she had groaned. It had been full of "torments." "In the great purgatory there are several stages," she explained. "In the lowest and most painful, like a temporary hell, are the sinners who have committed terrible crimes during life and whose death surprised them in that state. It was almost a miracle that they were saved, and often by the prayers of holy parents or other pious persons. Sometimes they did not have time to confess their sins and the world thought them lost, but God, Whose mercy is infinite, gave them at the moment of death the contrition necessary for their salvation on account of one or more good actions which they performed during life. For such souls, purgatory is terrible. It is a real hell with this difference, that in hell they curse God, whereas we bless Him and thank Him for having saved us."
She was now in the "second purgatory."
"There are no names in the other world," said Sister M.G. "You cannot compare purgatory and earth. When the soul is free and released from its mortal shell, its name is buried in the grave with the body. Here we are lost in the will of God, whereas on earth, no matter how great the saint is, self-will always has a certain hold on him. As for us, we have no self-will at all, we know and realize only that which pleases God to let us know, nothing more."