ST TERESA OF AVILA SAW THAT PURGATORY IS IN THE BOSOM OF THE EARTH
Spain, 1500s. St Teresa of Avila was filled with maternal love for the souls of the living and the dead. But she was especially concerned when she heard of the death of a priest who had been very powerful in his day. He's been Provincial of her province and after he had served in another part of Spain. The mere fact that he had been the highest-ranking cleric in his religious order in two major districts meant that he had shepherded many souls. He'd held his position for 20 years. St Teresa of Avila's feared for his welfare in the afterlife, as she wrote, "I always fear much for those who are charged with the care of souls".
Teresa said she was beset by "great uneasiness" when she thought of where the powerful priest's soul had gone but she remembered that he had been very good to her. Her worry moved her to urgent prayer. She went to a little chapel and she made an offering of "the little good" she had done in her life and asked Our Lord to supply the rest by His infinite merits that the priest's soul might leave the fires of Purgatory sooner than it otherwise would. For her efforts, Teresa was rewarded with a vision of the priest escaping from the bosom of the earth, "I saw on my right side his soul come forth from the depths of the earth and ascend into Heaven in transports of joy. Although this priest was advanced in years, he appeared to me with the features of a man who had not yet attained the age of 30 and with a countenance resplendent with light." She was delightfully comforted, "The vision left me inundated with joy."
On another occasion a nun in the Carmelite convent died who Teresa hailed as, "a great servant of God". She had been dead for barely 2 days when the community were offering the Office of the Dead for her soul. When half of it had been prayed, Teresa had this vision: "I saw the soul of this Religious come forth from the depths of the earth...and go to Heaven." In the same community, a very young nun, about two decades old, died. Teresa esteemed her greatly as, "a true model of fervor, regularity and virtue." Young though she had been, she had been constantly sick. Teresa thought this young nun would be exempt from Purgatory. She had only a quarter of an hour to do in Purgatory, and when she was freed, Teresa had this vision, "I saw her soul likewise issue from the earth and rise to Heaven."
Teresa also learned when a layman would escape Purgatory. He was Bernardino de Mendoza, a Spanish man who was something of a spiritual son of Teresa's. He donated land to her, and she started building a convent on the grounds. But Bernardino went to God before construction was finished and Teresa was shown that his soul would be released from Purgatory after the building of the convent was complete.
You may like a special prayer to St Teresa composed by St Alphonsus.
This post was informed by a number of sources, but mostly St Teresa of Avila's autobiography.
The first painting used in this post was executed in Peter Paul Reubens' workshop.
The second painting is Communion of St Teresa of Avila by Claudio Coello.