The Realms of Purgatory

It has pleased God to show the gloomy abodes of Purgatory to some privileged souls. He has done this, so that the sad mysteries of Purgatory may be revealed for the benefit of the living.

One such mystic soul was St. Frances, foundress of the Oblates, who died in Rome in 1440. God showed her many things concerning the state of souls in the next life. She saw hell and its horrible torments. She also saw the interior of Purgatory, with its mysterious order and hierarchy of suffering. In obedience to her superiors, St. Frances related everything that God showed to her.

One on occasion, the servant of God was made to endure an unspeakable horror. She had to witness the vision of Hell. But when she came out of that abyss, her heavenly guide led her into the regions of Purgatory. It greatly contrasted to Hell. In Purgatory, there was neither horror nor disorder; no despair nor eternal darkness. Divine hope diffused its light in all the poor souls. Frances was told that this place of purification was also called sojourn of hope. She saw souls which suffered cruelly, but angels visited and assisted them in their sufferings.

St. Frances tells us that Purgatory is divided into three distinct parts, like three large provinces of that kingdom of suffering. They are positioned on top of each other, so to speak. The souls in these provinces are buried to different depths, depending on the state of their soul - which determines how much longer they must atone for their sins.

The lowest region is filled with a fierce fire. But this fire is not dark like the flames of Hell; it is a vast burning sea, shooting forth immense flames. Souls beyond count are plunged into its depths. These are the souls guilty of mortal sin, which have been duly confessed, but not sufficiently expiated during life. St. Frances learned that a single forgiven mortal sin requires a suffering of seven years in Purgatory. This is, of course, not a definite measure, since mortal sins vary in enormity, but it is clearly an average penalty. Although the souls are enveloped in the same flames, their sufferings are not the same; they differ according to the number and nature of their former sins.

In this lower Purgatory the saint beheld both sinners and persons consecrated to God. The sinners were those who, after a life of sin, had had the happiness of being sincerely converted ; the persons consecrated to God were those who had not lived according to the sanctity of their state.

At that same moment she saw descend the soul of a priest whom she knew, but whose name she does not reveal. She remarked that he had his face covered with a veil which concealed a stain. Although he had led an edifying life, this priest had not always observed strict temperance, and had sought too eagerly the pleasures and satisfactions of food.
The saint was then conducted into the intermediate Purgatory, destined for souls which had deserved less rigorous chastisement. It had three distinct compartments; one resembled an immense dungeon of ice, the cold of which was indescribably intense; the second, on the contrary, was like a huge caldron of boiling oil and pitch ; the third had the appearance of a pond of liquid metal resembling molten gold or silver.

The upper Purgatory, which the saint does not describe, is the temporary abode of souls which suffer little, except the pain of separation from Heaven, and anxiously await the happy moment of their deliverance.