THERE used to be a booklet titled "An Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory" being sold in Catholic bookstores. Before it vanished altogether for reasons I don't know, I'd buy several copies to give away to family and friends. Yes, it's also all about actual experiences of a nun with another soul from Purgatory, not unlike those of Maria Simma (1915-2004), the current subject of this column's series.
I gave away the booklets for the same reason I have been sharing the experiences of Simma: to build up faith in the afterlife, in my firm belief this also boosts faith in God.
At another time, I will share excerpts from the "unpublished manuscript" which has the Church's "nihil obstat" and "imprimatur." Nihil obstat means "nothing stands in the way," that the manuscript can be forwarded to the bishop for review and decision. Once the bishop finds the work free from doctrinal error, he grants it an imprimatur which means "let it be printed."
Meantime, let's go on with Maria Simma and her frequent conversations with ghosts or spirits from Purgatory from whom she was able to gather much information about the afterlife. Here is the continuation of Eltz's interview of the Austrian mystic.
Q: Are the sufferings of Purgatory greater than those that we suffer here on earth?
Simma: All in all, they're greater, and sometimes very much greater, especially in the bottom third. They suffer more spiritually than we do. When I asked a soul once what he suffered there, he told me that it was a very particular suffering. For instance, a father who was too lazy to work for his family that then suffered here because of him, then had to work a great deal there. The suffering from that will be much greater than the body would suffer from appropriate work here. But our sufferings here, despite being less severe, are worth so very much more to erase our sins than those in Purgatory.
Q: If Purgatory is also a place, do the Poor Souls spend their time at particular places here on earth?
Simma: Yes, it seems that they congregate the most often around the altar or at the spot where they died. A woman I knew in Liechtenstein saw them only around the altar and when they were no longer there she knew that they had gone on to Heaven. The souls do not come to me or to us from Purgatory, but come to us with Purgatory. It is so many different places, not a place, and so many different conditions, not a condition.
Q: If Purgatory is many places or a large space, then are Heaven and Hell also places?
Simma: Yes, my spiritual director had me ask about this and the answer was, "It is wrong what many theologians teach today when they say that Heaven, Purgatory and Hell are merely conditions. They are all places too."
Q: How broad is the span of time that souls must be there before they can enter Heaven?
Simma: Oh, that's very broad. Some for a mere half-hour and others for the rest of time, to the very last day. The average, the souls say, is forty years.
Q: So there will be a last day?
Q: Can a Poor Soul see and communicate with others near to it?
Simma: They are always aware of the presence of others and know that they were not alone when many have acted together to do something, but they only rarely communicate with each other.
Q: Maria, can they read?
Simma: Yes, they can; they read spiritually. I know this because when they come to me I do not have to read the names or questions that I have for them, they simply lift them off the page.
Q: How much do they know about their families?
Simma: I would say almost everything. They see us all the time. They hear every word that we speak about them and they know what our sufferings are. But they do not know our thoughts. They watch their own funerals and know who is there praying for them and who is there only to be seen by the others.
Q: Do the souls there know what is going to happen in the world?
Simma: Yes, they do know some of it; but not everything. They've told me that there is something very big just at the door, just ahead of us. For many years they said it was "in front of the door" but since May '93 they have used the term "at the door". It will be for the conversion of humanity. And in smaller ways they have told me things slightly ahead of time. In the summer of 1954 they told me about the floods that did so much damage in this area. Then they also told me once that after an avalanche there were still some people alive under the snow; and so the rescue people continued to search a while longer than they would have otherwise. And they did locate and save people for two more days after I told them to please continue searching.
Q: It is said that time no longer exists after this life, but then you say that Purgatory is a time for yearning for God. Please explain this.
Simma: It's correct that after this life time no longer exists; but when we are told that a soul must suffer so much time there, it is being translated into time for us. They can say they must suffer more, they cannot yet be delivered or their suffering has lessened. When a time is given, or when a number of Masses is given by the souls, it symbolizes the intensity and the amount of the suffering.
Q: Do the Poor Souls have bodies as we do here or do they have another, say, spiritual body?
Simma: They say that they do not notice that they do not have their body with them. They have a transfigured body and it can take on the form of a healed and dressed human body.
Q: The souls regret things that they did badly while here. Do they also regret things that they did not do at all while they were here on earth?
Simma: Yes, very much so. They regret chances that they missed to do good for God and for their fellow men and they get to see what good fruits would have come from them. When we die we lose the chance to do good deeds. The Souls in Purgatory can no longer earn merits as we can here. It's also said that the angels envy us because we can do good deeds for God; whereas they cannot do good deeds for Him either thus earning further merits. (laughter)
Q: What happens when people who know Purgatory exists, go ahead and sin anyway thinking it won't be so bad?
Simma: That they will regret very dearly! Much more dearly than those who commit the same sin knowing nothing about its existence.
Q: What is the deepest purpose of all for what you experience?
Simma: God has permitted this so that through my apostolate others would have a clear understanding that our life here is ONLY for us to gain entry into Heaven. Our purpose here is to be good to one another and by doing so to join God, both here and now, and then finally in eternity. With this realization, life becomes increasingly valuable to everyone and the absurdity of what a huge number of people do with it also becomes much clearer...