Purgatory is a place of waiting and of suffering, where souls, torn from the body they once animated, complete the purification necessary to satisfy their last debts to the justice of God. It is there that the soul yet unworthy to enjoy the Beatific vision descends, and it descends sadly. It has seen God, and it felt attracted to him, as a child to his father. It glimpsed something of the splendours of the Holy City and it was delighted. Alas! A commanding voice has cried to it: “Not yet, go away!” Then an irresistible weight drew it down. What pain! To have seen God and to be far from Him: to know where He is and not to be able to go there; to know what He gives and not to be able to present itself at His door; to see its homeland and not to be able to cross the border that separates them?
But this is only part of its suffering. The Church praying for the Dead beg God to admit them to the place of refreshment, of light, and of peace. This soul is then amid ardent fires, it is plunged in the thickest night and in the deepest desolation.
In such distress, it has need of consolation. Saint Michael is employed here, he is the angel of Purgatory. The Church prays for the dead, and in that, according to the remark of Bossuet, she indicates her opinion on the role of Saint Michael in respect to the souls detained in Purgatory, and shows what price she wants us to attach to his intercession.
God Himself has made Saint Michael Prince and Master of all souls that wish to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. He uses his power to relieve the Souls of Purgatory, to break their chains, and to introduce them to Paradise. Like a plenipotentiary, says Saint Pius V, he applies and interprets, according to circumstances, the wishes of his Sovereign; he sometimes graces the culprits who implore his protection, he shortens the detention of certain others; in a word, he is like the mediator between the supreme leader and his subjects, and even by his mediation, he obtains graces that the dignity if the sovereign seems to be unable to grant without an intermediate.
This is how Saint Michael is the angel of Purgatory. He is honoured as such by Catholic Tradition. The Prince of the Heavenly armies, says Saint Anselm, is all powerful in Purgatory, and he can aid souls that the justice and the holiness of the Most High hold in this place of torments. He is undoubtedly recognized since the foundation of Christianity, says Bellarmine, that the souls of the dead are delivery from Purgatory by the intercession and the ministration of the archangel Saint Michael. Let us add to these authorities Saint Liguori: “Saint Michael,” he says, “is charged with the care of the souls of Purgatory: he does not fail to assist them and to rescue them, by providing them much relief in their pains.”
So if we love our dead, we must pray for their intention to Saint Michael. Let us honour him ourselves, this is to our advantage. He who has honoured Saint Michael, says Saint Bernard, will not remain for a long time in Purgatory. Saint Michael will use his privilege and will soon conduct this soul to his Heavenly home.
Practice: Let us pray to Saint Michael for the souls of Purgatory and let us often have the Holy Sacrifice offered for them in his honour.