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IN ETHICA ET OECONOMIA / ON 12 FEBRUARY 2018
I remember when I was a child, my grandmother told me that one should always pray for the souls in Purgatory. I did not understand much, and I did not even consider it so necessary. Visiting the Museum of Souls in Purgatory in the Church of the Sacred Heart of Suffrage, the only neo-Gothic style of Rome, completed in 1917 and located ten minutes from St. Peter’s Square, I realized with a good dose of amazement that my grandmother he was right, and I was able to understand why these souls need our prayers.
As soon as you enter the church, the striking medieval atmosphere is striking. Despite being in a rather central area, silence reigns. On the right side, from the side of the sacristy, we can visit the museum of souls who somehow made themselves “see”.
The image that struck me the most is precisely the one that gave the idea to put together this particular collection. After a fire spread in the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, when the fire had already been extinguished, Father Victor Jouët – of the Order of the Sacred Heart, founded in 1854 in France and whose mission was to pray and offer Masses for the rest of the souls of Purgatory – he ensured that he saw a face with human features on the wall behind the altar. He had the sad and melancholy expression, shaped by the flames.
The religious came to the conclusion that the deceased was a condemned to Purgatory and wanted to get in touch with the living. Struck by the incident, he decided to look for documents and evidence connected to the souls in Purgatory. Pope Pius X allowed him to travel throughout Europe to collect relics that testify to the visits of these souls.
The priest was able to find a great deal of material, after having seen that he believed that the deceased condemned to Purgatory ask for prayers and Masses of suffrage for the living to alleviate or shorten their sentences.
These souls have been alive in life, but if they have some “stain” they need Purgatory.
Every conserved event is cataloged in the museum, with a sheet in various languages that briefly tells the story of each object.
I can not deny that I got chills reading those stories.
Here are some examples:
1. The hand imprinted on the pages of a prayer book.
2. The imprints burned on a tunic and a shirt of the venerable mother Isabella Fornari, abbess of the Poor Clares of Todi, of 1731.
3. The pillowcase with the burned image of a dead nun of tuberculosis appeared to one of her sisters to convince her to pray for her salvation.
4. The footprints left by a woman on her husband’s night cap, asking for prayers to go to Heaven more quickly.
5. Tickets left by the spirit of a priest in 1920 in the monastery of San Leonardo in Montefalco to ask for a Mass for himself.
6. The clearest imprint is that of Joseph Leleux of Wodecq, a burn engraved on a sleeve of his mother who died in 1762 and appeared in 1789. The mother scolded her son for the disordered life he led and for having forgotten her in his prayers. This meant that he immediately approached the Church by changing his life and dying even in the odor of sanctity.
A visit to this museum shows, hears and verifies that the souls in Purgatory need our prayers and above all the Mass, and also makes sure that the hope of eternal life is verified, in the certainty that not everything ends here as many believe.
In addition to this, it shows how plausible it is that nowadays you do not speak more often about Purgatory, since most of us will be very lucky to go there rather than end up directly in Hell.