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A Deceased Nun Makes Penance
for Her Frivolous Words

Francis Xavier Schouppe, S.J.
The following instance, drawn from Cesarius (1 Dial, de Miraculis), demonstrates how some souls must return to earth to make restitution for their sins in the places where they committed them.

In a monastery of the Cistercian Order, says this author, lived two young religious women named Gertrude and her sister Margaret. The former, although otherwise virtuous, did not sufficiently watch over her tongue, She frequently allowed herself to transgress the rule of silence prescribed, sometimes even in choir, before and after the chanting of the Office.

cistercian nuns

The dead sister was in her usual stall in the upper choir

Instead of recollecting herself with the reverence due to that holy place, she addressed useless words to her sister, who was placed next to her, so that, besides her violation of the rule of silence and her lack of piety, she was a subject of disedification to her companion.

She died while still young. A very short time after her death, Sister Margaret, on going to Office, saw Gertrude come and place herself in the same stall she had occupied while living. At this sight the sister was almost about to faint.

When she had sufficiently recovered from her astonishment, she went and told the Superior what she had just seen. The Superior told her not to be troubled, but, should the deceased appear again, to ask her, in the name of God, why she came.

She reappeared the next day in the same way, and, following the order of the Prioress, Margaret said to her: "My dear Sister Gertrude, from where do you come, and what do you want?"

"I come," she replied, "to satisfy the Justice of God in this place where I have sinned. It was here, in this holy sanctuary, that I offended God by words, both useless and contrary to religious respect, by disedification to all, and by the scandal which I have given, to you in particular."

She added: "Oh, if you knew what I suffer! I am devoured by flames, my tongue especially is dreadfully tormented."

She then disappeared, after having asked for prayers.


Blason de Charlemagne
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Adapted from Purgatory, Illustrated by the Lives and Legends of the Saints,
London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd, 1920, p. 112

Posted November 7, 2020