Poland, 1598. A young Dominican priest by the name of  Father Stanislaus Chocosca was a rising star in the Polish Church. Stanislaus was a celebrity preacher and famed for his piety, until such time he invited a partial share of the pain of Purgatory, after which he was fatally diminished.  

One day young Stanislaus was praying the Rosary, when the soul of a woman approached him. She was cloaked in a conflagration of flames, and she begged him to take measures to help quench the fires that seared her. Young Stanislaus, in his naivety, asked her if the fire that burned her was worse than that of earth, and she "Ah! All the fires of earth compared to that of Purgatory are like a refreshing breeze." But Stanislaus was skeptical, and he thought she was being hyperbolic, and he was curious to have a real experience of Purgatory, "I wish, to have a proof. If God will permit, for your relief, and for the good of my soul, I consent to suffer a part of your pains." The soul of the woman tried to warn him, "Alas! You could not do this. Know that no human being could endure such torment and live." He didn't take her at her word. And so she told him he could know a tiny portion of her pain but at a greatly lesser degree, "God will permit you to feel it in a light degree. Stretch forth your hand." Stanislaus put forth his hand and the soul of the woman let fall a tiny bead of burning broth on his hand, which at that exact moment cauterized him so much he cried out in agony. He fainted to the floor.

His fellow Dominican priests in their white robes flocked around him and when he came to again, he told them that he had held out his hand for a sample of the burning broth of Purgatory. His hand was mortally wounded. Stanislaus was no longer gormless, but much enlightened, "Ah, my dear Fathers, if we knew the severity of the Divine chastisements, we should never commit sin, nor should we cease to do penance in this life in order to avoid expiation in the next." From that time on, Stanislaus was bedridden, and he knew the most hideously debilitating pain from his hand. One year later he died.

The soul of the woman who appeared to Stanislaus said that the fires of this earth are like "a refreshing breeze" compared to the fires of Purgatory, and this is reiterated by Padre Pio. When Pio was asked how the fire in the hearth compares with that of Purgatory, he said, "They compare as fresh and boiling water." Essentially, the fire of this earth is as a gust of air and as fresh water compared to the fire of Purgatory. If we rely on these analogies, and imagine purgatorial fire to be so much more intense and so much more hotter, we may think / self-deceive that we have some understanding of the pains of Purgatory, when in fact we can only approach an understanding. If we reflect that a mere bead of burning sweat given by a burning soul to a young priest can wither his life, than Stanislaus's premature passing ought humble us into an admission that we really have no clue as to the severity of the pains of Purgatory, and it is in humbly acknowledging the limit of our perception of their pain that we may become truly empathetic towards the Holy Souls.



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