Haven’t heard of St. Lidwina of Schiedam? That’s okay – she’s not exactly the most famous saint of the Church. But, boy, did she have quite the vision of Purgatory!

St. Lidwina was a 15th-century Dutch mystic. As a teenager, she fell and broke a rib while iceskating and never fully recovered. She devoted the rest of her life to prayer and fasting and became well-known as a holy woman.

A sinful man was converted by her prayers and counsel shortly before his death. She asked her guardian angel what became of him in the next life and was blessed with the incredible vision of Purgatory described below.

Note that, as with all private revelations, her vision is not a part of the deposit of faith and no Catholic is obliged to believe it. It can, however, build up one’s faith in the teachings of the Church.

“An Immense Prison”

“Is this, then, hell, my brother?” St. Lidwina asked the angel upon entering a terrifying place. “No, sister,” the angel answered, “but this part of purgatory is bordering upon hell.”

Here’s what she saw first: “Looking around on all sides, she saw what resembled an immense prison surrounded with walls of a prodigious height, the blackness of which, together with the monstrous stones, inspired her with horror.”

Then she started hearing dreadful sounds: “Approaching this dismal enclosure, she heard a confused noise of lamenting voices, cries of fury, chains, instruments of torture, violent blows which the executioners discharged upon their victims. This noise was such that all the tumult of the world, in tempest or battle, could bear no comparison to it.”

She found the man she was looking for in a dark well. When they removed the cover of the well, “a cloud of flames, together with the most plaintive cries, came forth.” The man looked like “a spirit all on fire, resembling incandescent metal.”

“The sight of this soul, a prey to the most terrible torment of fire,” the account says, “gave our saint such a shock that the cincture which she wore around her body was rent in twain; and, no longer able to endure the sight, she awoke suddenly from her ecstasy.”

St. Lidwina committed herself from then on to do penance to aid the man to leave purgatory and make it to heaven.

Here’s the full account of her vision:

“‘He is there,’ said her angel, ‘and he suffers much. Would you be willing to endure some pain in order to diminish his?’ ‘Certainly,’ she replied, ‘I am ready to suffer anything to assist him.’ Instantly her angel conducted her into a place of frightful torture. ‘Is this, then, hell, my brother?’ asked the holy maiden, seized with horror. ‘No, sister,’ answered the angel, ‘but this part of purgatory is bordering upon hell.’

“Looking around on all sides, she saw what resembled an immense prison surrounded with walls of a prodigious height, the blackness of which, together with the monstrous stones, inspired her with horror. Approaching this dismal enclosure, she heard a confused noise of lamenting voices, cries of fury, chains, instruments of torture, violent blows which the executioners discharged upon their victims.

“This noise was such that all the tumult of the world, in tempest or battle, could bear no comparison to it. ‘What, then, is that horrible place?’ asked St. Lidwina of her good angel. ‘Do you wish me to show it to you?’ ‘No, I beseech you,’ said she, recoiling with terror, ‘the noise I hear is so frightful that I can no longer bear it ; how, then, could I endure the sight of those horrors?’

“Continuing her mysterious route, she saw an angel seated sadly on the curb of a well. ‘Who is that angel?’ she asked of her guide. ‘It is,’ he replied, ‘the angel-guardian of the sinner in whose lot you are interested. His soul is in this well, where it has a special purgatory.’ At these words Lidwina cast an inquiring glance at her angel; she desired to see that soul which was dear to her, and endeavor to release it from that frightful pit.

“Her angel, who understood her, having taken off the cover of the well, a cloud of flames, together with the most plaintive cries, came forth. ‘Do you recognize that voice?’ said the angel to her. ‘Alas! yes,’ answered the servant of God. ‘Do you desire to see that soul?’ he continued. On her replying in the affirmative, he called him by his name; and immediately our virgin saw appear at the mouth of the pit a spirit all on fire, resembling incandescent metal, which said to her in a voice scarcely audible, ‘O Lidwina, servant of God, who will give me to contemplate the face of the Most High?’

“The sight of this soul, a prey to the most terrible torment of fire, gave our saint such a shock that the cincture which she wore around her body was rent in twain; and, no longer able to endure the sight, she awoke suddenly from her ecstasy. The persons present, perceiving her fear, asked her its cause. ‘Alas!” she replied, ‘how frightful are the prisons of Purgatory! It was to assist the souls that I consented to descend thither. Without this motive, if the whole world were given to me, I would not undergo the terror which that horrible spectacle inspired.’

“Some days later, the same angel whom she had seen so dejected appeared to her with a joyful countenance; he told her that the soul of his protégé had left the pit and passed into the ordinary purgatory. This partial alleviation did not suffice the charity of Lidwina; she continued to pray for the poor patient, and to apply to him the merits of her sufferings, until she saw the gates of heaven opened to him.” (Purgatory, by Fr. F. X. Schouppe, SJ, 16–19)

Love uCATHOLIC?
Get our inspiring content delivered to your inbox every morning - FREE!

Comments

12 COMMENTS

  1. Good day! Just wanna ask if the prayers of sinners like me would help alleviate the torment of the souls in pugatory?

    • I have been taught that anyone can pray for the souls in purgatory and in return the souls of purgatory will pray for you. Just pray as devoutly as you can. Everyone is a sinner. It might be a good idea to truly ask for forgiveness for our sins before praying though.

    • For sure! The church consists of ALL those who believe both here on earth, in purgatory, and in Heaven. We are the body of the Church with Christ the head. What’s good for one part of the body benefits the entire body. Those alive here on earth are the Church militant(we’re still battling Satan). We can pray and offer up our suffering (Col 1:24) so souls in purgatory get to heaven quicker. Once we die and make our stop in purgatory we become part of the church suffering. Once there, we can no longer control how long we are there and are reliant completely upon the church militant and the church triumphant-those in heaven (Rev 8:4) to offer prayers of supplication on our behalf. So become a prayer warrior and offer up your suffering for those souls in purgatory:)

    • IMO, God hears and answers the prayers of all people,
      even the worst sinners.

      As Jesus said in the Gospel:

      “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Mt 5:44-45)

  2. Sergio Fernández,

    In the Creed’s “communion of saints”:

    1) Church Triumphant (souls in heaven) do not need any prayers anymore from anyone but prays for both the Church Suffering (souls in Purgatory) and the Church Militant (people on earth).
    2) Church Militant prays to the Church Triumphant for help and for the Church Suffering’s benefit. They can pray themselves too.
    3) Church Suffering cannot pray for themselves but they can for the Church Militant’s benefit.

    A lot of Catholic people that I know pray for the souls in Purgatory and in turn we ask them to pray for us to be awaken at a certain time the next morning. It never failed at the exact time we ask to be awaken; not even once did it fail and I felt some sounds in my ears when I wake up.

  3. The Prayer of St. Gertrude, below, is one of the most famous of the prayers for souls in purgatory. St. Gertrude the Great (pictured at left) was a Benedictine nun and mystic who lived in the 13th century. According to tradition, our Lord promised her that 1000 souls would be released from purgatory each time it is said devoutly.

    Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.

  4. If you say St Gertrude’s prayer every day for one year, at the end of that time, you will release 365,000 thousand souls from purgatory. THINK ABOUT THAT ! All those souls, now in heaven, praying for you because you said a simple prayer daily. 1,000 souls a day X 365 days = 365.000 WOW!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here