While she was still alive, St Frances of Rome was taken by a heavenly spirit to see Hell. After which, she was led through the 3 diverse dimensions of Purgatory. St Frances was a Roman matriarch who became an extremely reluctant wife at 12 and first-time mother at 13. Our Lord gave her an array of mystical gifts, she could read the secrets on the consciences of other people, she foretold the future and she was able to see her Guardian Angel. Frances was born in 1384 which means she was born exactly 600 years before me. While St Frances's vision of Purgatory took place centuries ago, the conditions she witnessed are still a reality for the souls stationed there at this very moment.  

During her visit to Purgatory, she discovered that this state of exile has three layers. They are located one under the other. The lowest locality is a fire box with ferocious fire, a sea of flames. She watched myriad souls submerged in this ocean of flames. These souls were those who had committed mortal sin, which they had confessed but for which they had not made sufficient reparation. Frances was told that for every such mortal sin a person has committed, a period of 7 years of purgatorial suffering is undergone. Some mortal sins cause greater harm and greater offence than others, and so each soul had a different degree of pain which corresponds to their crime. 

Frances saw two kinds of people here, people with religious vocations who had followed their call and had consecrated themselves to the Lord, but who had not graduated to the levels of holiness that their religious calling allowed. Secondly, she saw people who had lived lives of sin, but had repented of their pasts before they died. The agonies of the souls writhing in the flames were great, but still Frances was informed that Purgatory may also be called Sojourn of Hope because the souls would not be here forever, but for the time it took them to be assayed like gold and thus worthy of beholding the Face of God in Heaven. This is why Purgatory is an entirely different state to Hell. Frances saw the utter despair of the souls in Hell, who are damned for all eternity, whereas the souls in Purgatory have that certain knowledge they will go to Heaven.

Suddenly she saw the soul of a priest fly down to this lowest level. She had known this priest and could make out his appearance even though his face had a thin cloth covering it - the cloth hid a blemish that marked him - to evince that he had been overly gluttonous and had quite literally stuffed his face. 

Frances, the Roman lady, was then taken into the middle layer which was for souls that needed less purification. This layer was made of 3 distinct chambers, the first was like a prison of ice, the second was like a vat of boiling oil and the third was a pool of molten metal shining like silver and gold. 

The last layer of Purgatory, the upper level is a place of much less suffering, except the pain of being at a remove from God. The purification, or deep soul-cleansing is less intense. I think of this as the dry-cleaners for the soul where the more superficial stains are cleaned, because fire or molten metal or boiling oil is not needed to purify and chelate the soul as in the bottom two rungs. 

I first heard about St Frances of Rome on Jennifer Fulwiler's radio show. Jennifer said that Frances would be the Saint with whom she would share a desert island because they are both introverts and would allow each other ample space. The title of Jennifer's 2018 memoir comes for the words spoken by Frances's husband on his deathbed who said, "My life has been one beautiful dream."


Popular Posts