Saint Peter Damian

Rome, a thousand years ago, in the time of St Peter Damian. T'was the ritual of Romans to do the rounds of the churches and half-finished basilicas on the night before the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady. They held lit candles, the burning flames lighting their faces. A noblewomen was praying on her knees in the basilica of Aracoeli (since it was so long ago the sacred art was in various stages of completion, and may have looked like partly finished jigsaws on the walls). Abruptly, she saw in front of her a lady who had passed away some months ago who she recognized as her godmother. When the noblewoman saw her leave the church, she followed her and called out, "Are you not my godmother, Marozia, who held me at the baptismal font?" Marozia replied, "I am precisely she."

The noblewoman was perplexed, "But how do you now find yourself among the living, if you have been dead for many months, and whatever happened to you in the other world?" Marozia revealed, "Up to now, I have been baking in a fire, suffering for many sins of vanity which I committed in my youth. But for the occasion of this great solemnity, the Queen of Heaven descended into the flames of Purgatory, freed me together with many other souls, and allowed us to enter Heaven on the feast of her Assumption."  Marozia divulged, "Every year the Mother of God renews this miracle of mercy, and the number of souls which she has freed in this manner are thousands."

Next she explained why she was visiting the basilica and not in Heaven already, "In thanksgiving for this grace, on this eve we have made our way to the churches which are dedicated to her. And if your eyes see only me let me tell you that we are here in multitudes." The noblewoman could not believe this was really Marozia. To rectify the noblewoman's disbelief, Marozia granted, "As a proof of the truth of what I have told you, I will also tell you that in less than a year from now, on this same feast day, you will die. Once this time has been reached, if what I have told you doesn't come to pass, you can take it that what I have told you was just your imagination."

Later on, St Peter Damian recalled that the noblewoman spent the next year in preparation for her death. True to Marozia's word, she died on the feast of the Assumption. St Peter Damian took this teaching from Marozia and made it known to many that on the feast of Our Lady's Assumption into Heaven Our Lady personally sees to it that thousands of souls are freed. This revelation became part of the inheritance that the faithful inherited from Peter Damian, and M. L'Abbé Louvet committed the accounts to writing in his seminal work, Le Purgatoire which showcases a collection of sublime sources that edify as to Our Lady's role in consoling and delivering the Holy Souls.

Louvet put in the spotlight the saintly spectator Venerable Paula of St Teresa. Venerable Paula had seen that most days Purgatory is a dark place. One Saturday, however, she was transported to Purgatory and saw the place sparkle with light. She was overwhelmed by the light, 'til she saw the Queen of Heaven surrounded by many angels, to whom she gave commands to free certain souls and conduct them to Heaven.

Saturday is the day consecrated to Our Lady. On this day she descends into Purgatory and is among the Holy Souls as a Queen visiting her loyal subjects, and something of a party is held which is like a faint preview of Heaven. The dark bowers of Purgatory light up with the Star of the Sea's presence. The suffering congregation may enjoy her company and bask in her beauty, as well as feel refreshed by the certain consolation offered by sweet Mother of Mercy that they will one day be in her midst for good. M. L'Abbé Louvet concluded, "And so the Church, captained by its queen, lovingly looks after the souls in Purgatory, and consoles and helps them until they enter the joy of eternal life."

It may help us to know that while we go about our business every Saturday Our Lady is in Purgatory and may release a soul whose passage through Purgatory was hastened by our prayers on their behalf.

Those of us who are used to reading books in English about the Holy Souls, may know that a intrepid historian who curated several of these accounts was The Reverend Louvet (M. L'Abbé is French for The Reverend) and so many other writers have pillaged Louvet's treasury with abandon.