By: Virginia G Guzman-Manzo, MD

A certain woman by a name of Maria Simma was favored with an extraordinary charism, that of being visited by the souls in Purgatory. She was interviewed by Sister Emmanuel of Medjugorje in 1997. At that time Maria was 82 years. She given this rare charism to communicate with the souls in purgatory when she was twenty-five years old and since then had been visited by spirits giving her a lot of information about Purgatory.

The following questions and answers are culled and summarized from a small book about the interview of Sister Emmanuel with Maria Simma and also the comments of Sister Emmanuel about Purgatory.

Who is Maria Simma? Maria Simma was a simple woman who lived alone in her small house in a small village of Sonntag in the mountains of Austria. She was a devout Catholic and lived in poverty and great humility throughout her life.

How did she come about this charism? It was in 1940. One night at about 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, she woke up and saw a male stranger walking slowly back and forth inside her room. She did not feel afraid and asked, “Who are you? What do you want?” There was no reply and he continued to walk back and forth. She shouted, “Go away!” Still there was no reply. So Maria jumped out of bed and tried to grab him but she grasped only air. He continued pacing and then she grabbed him again but she grasped only emptiness. He eventually left. When he came back the next night, Maria asked him “What do you want from me?” He replied, “Have 3 masses celebrated for me and I will be delivered.” So she understood it was a soul from Purgatory.” She had 3 masses offered for him and he never came back. Since then she had been visited by different spirits who would ask her to pray for them. She learned from these souls many things about Purgatory.

What kind of prayers do the spirits usually ask? In most cases, they ask to have Masses celebrated for them. They also ask for prayers in the forms of the rosary and Stations of the Cross. They need our prayers in order that they may shorten their stay in Purgatory and move on to heaven.

What is the most effective means to deliver the souls from Purgatory? It is the Mass because it is Christ who offers himself for love of us. It is the offering of Christ himself to God, the most beautiful offering. Aside from the Mass and prayers already mentioned, other very powerful means are the offering of our sufferings in this earth, our penance, fasting, renunciations and mortifications. They will not only help the souls in Purgatory but they can also take the place of our punishment in Purgatory, thus making us pay our debt in advance so that we can go directly to Heaven or at least lessened our time of purification.

Is the suffering in Purgatory more painful than the greatest suffering on earth? Do the souls in Purgatory, nevertheless, have joy and hope in the midst of their suffering? Yes, the pain is greater than the greatest suffering on earth. In fact, the suffering is similar to that in Hell – the pain of sense and the pain of loss – but unlike in Hell where there is no hope of ever being relieved, the souls in Purgatory know that the time will come when their purification will end and they will eventually move on to heaven. That hope gives them a certain amount of joy and somehow lessens the pain.

Why can’t the soul in Purgatory just pray for themselves instead of asking us to pray for them? The souls in Purgatory can no longer pray for themselves. They should have done that while they were still living. In Purgatory, the time or mercy is over; it is now the time of justice. However, God is so kind and merciful, that he will hear our prayers if we intercede for them. At the same time, the saints in heaven are also praying for the souls in Purgatory.

Why is there need for purgatory? If we die in a state of sanctifying grace and are free of any stain of sin, we can avoid Purgatory and go straight to heaven. Those dying with mortal sin, rejecting to be reconciled with God and refusing to repent up to the last moment of their dying breath will go to hell. Those who die without mortal sin but not purely free of venial sins or attachment to sin will go to heaven but they will need purification first to be fit to see God.

Sister Emmanuel has a good way of explaining Purgatory: Let us suppose that one day a door opens, and a splendid being appears with an overwhelming and fascinating beauty never seen on this earth, full of light and radiance. What is amazing is this being shows that he is madly in love with you with a love you have never known before. And you sense that he has a great desire to draw himself to you. At the same time you also sense a great desire to draw yourself to him and to throw yourself into his arms. But suddenly you realize that you haven’t washed for months and months, that you smell bad, that your hair is matted and greasy and your clothes stained with dirt and mud. Then you say to yourself, “No, I can’t present myself like this to him. I must wash, take a good bath, change my clothes, make myself smell good and then I will come back straight away.”

Purgatory is exactly like this. It is a delay imposed by our impurity, a delay before God’s embrace which causes intense suffering. It is said that at death, your life will be presented to you as if in a film and you will be aghast when you realize your unworthiness. Suddenly, you yourself will be in a hurry to run to Purgatory for purification because you would not want that delay to be one second longer. It is the soul itself upon realizing its unworthiness to want to hurry up his cleansing in Purgatory so that it can embrace its God at the earliest possible time.

Does our Lord Jesus ever visit Purgatory? How about our Blessed Mother and the angels? According to Maria Simma, no soul has told her that Jesus goes to Purgatory. However, it is the Mother of God who comes. The guardian angels of each soul are there, and also St. Michael, to give comfort. However, no saints in heaven go there.

What are the means to take on earth so that we can avoid Purgatory and go straight to heaven? Always be in the state of grace and avoid sin at all times. If we have the misfortune to fall into sin, we hurry to have our sins forgiven at the Sacrament of Confession and to have sincere repentance. We follow the commandments of God and the teachings of the Church especially love of God and neighbor. We avail of the instruments given to us by God for our salvation such as the Sacraments, prayers and mortifications. We must practice the virtues especially the virtues of charity and humility.

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