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By Susan Tassone


It's a treasure of a story -- connected right to the afterlife, namely purgatory.

It involves a saint, Nicholas of Tolentino


The story: St. Nicholas' parents, Compagnone and Amata, who were neither from a noble family nor rich, wanted to have children.

To obtain grace, they made this promise through the aid of another "Nicholas" -- St. Nicholas of Bari:

"If God, through your intercession, would grant us a son, we would be very pleased if he would want to become a religious; if however, it would be a girl, may she become a cloistered nun."

Having made such a promise, the parents went on pilgrimage to Bari -- south of Italy -- and when they returned to Castel Sant' Angelo (their native town), a son they named Nicholas was born to them.

This was 1245. The couple were loved and respected by the people and many predictions circulated about their new child -- obviously a special one.

At an early age Nicholas was attracted by the preaching of an Augustinian friar, Father Reginaoldo, prior of the monastery in Sant' Angelo, hearing him preaching this Gospel passage, "Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world... the world is passing away."

Touched, Nicholas asked to be admitted to the community -- where he gave himself to prayer and works of penance with such intensity that it was at times necessary for his superiors to impose limitations on him.

Nicholas was ordained to the priesthood in 1271, stayed in various monasteries, and was esteemed by all.

He spent the last thirty years of his life in Tolentino, dedicating his innocence to the altar with great devotion, sincerity, and humility. So the biographies tell us. He was a joy to those who were sad, a consolation to the suffering, support for the poor, and a healing balm for prisoners, especially the prisoners of purgatory.

People had a great confidence in Nicholas' prayers on behalf of the faithful departed. He prayed for the souls six to eight hours a night!

At any rate, one Saturday night, the soul of a deceased fellow Augustinian, Pellegrino of Osimo, appeared to him, begging him:

"I am presently burning in these flames where our good God, accepting my repentance, is mercifully purifying me. I beg you to celebrate a Mass of the dead, so that I may be freed from these sufferings." However, Nicholas was under obedience to offer the conventual Mass of the Order for the next week.

Brother Pellegrino’s soul continued: "My father, come with me and you will understand how urgent it is to satisfy the requests of the innumerable souls who sent me to you to beg to you."

And suddenly the valley of Pesaro appeared to Nicholas as if transformed into burning fire.

Before him were souls of every age and condition. The holy priest wept. Brother Pellegrino implored, "Have mercy oh Father Nicholas, on this wretched multitude of souls! If you will celebrate a Mass for their suffrage, most of them will be freed from these sufferings."

Early the next morning Father Nicholas shared his vision with the prior and he, too, broke down into tears.

The prior approved his request and after offering Masses, prayers, and doing penance for a week, the soul of Brother Pelegrino appeared to him to thank him and assure him that his and other souls (which Nicholas previously saw suffering) were freed from purgatory. They called him their "liberator."

St. Nicholas died on September 10, 1305. His remains are preserved in the sanctuary that bears his name at Tolentino. His feast is observed on the day of his death. To this day, a daily Mass for the Dead is celebrated for the souls in purgatory.

At the altar of the shrine is a painting depicting the saint celebrating Mass for the Holy Souls with his vision of souls being released from purgatory during Mass.

In 1884, Pope Leo XIII proclaimed St. Nicholas, "Patron of the Souls in Purgatory" and declared the Basilica of St. Nicholas-Church of the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

Let us take a lesson from God's saintly one to be God’s "liberators" for the holy souls. Set aside alms for the celebration of Masses for our families. Offer Masses for the healing of the family tree to the fourth generation, whether living or dead.

No prayer is ever wasted.

If the deceased have no further need for purification, they may be drawn more deeply into the intimacy of God's love by means of these prayers (St. Thomas Aquinas calls this "accidental glory.")

They themselves may increase in their own intercessory power as they "watch over us, the living" (Hebrews 12:1). Remember the holy souls of friends, benefactors, enemies, priests, as well as for those who have a right to our grateful remembrance.

It is an excellent means of securing fresh intercessors in this life, the grace of a happy death, and after death, a merciful judgment before the throne of God.

St. Nicholas of Tolentino pray for us.

More information about St. Nicholas of Tolentino.