Maria Simma: The Amazing Secret of the Souls in Purgatory
Bio: Maria Simma was born on February 2, 1915 in Sonntag, Austria. She was the second of eight children. Her mother and father were poor peasant farmers and the family lived a “hand to mouth” existence. They were humble Catholic country folk who possessed a simple yet very devout faith in God. At around age 7, Maria began felt a strong call to help others, either through prayer and sacrifice in the religious life as a nun, or as a lay missionary. With this in mind around this time she told her mother that she would never marry. Her mother replied “Well, we will see when you are age 20”. And to this Maria replied “It is firm inside of me- either I will enter the convent or I will work somewhere else in the world where I can be of help to others.”
However, at age 8 she fell very sick with pleurisy and pneumonia and this damaged and weakened her health for many years afterwards. Yet the call and desire to serve God by helping others continued to grow throughout her formative teenage years and by age 17 she received permission from her parents and the religious superiors to enter ‘The Sacred Heart of Jesus’ convent in Hall (Tyrol), Austria. But after less than a year the mother superior informed her that she was too weak and sickly for the rigors of religious life in their particular convent, and thus she obligated to leave.
Still determined that she was to be a nun she requested admittance to the Dominicans in Thalbach, Austria, but after only 8 days the mother superior informed her that she was too weak for life in their convent, so she was again obligated to leave. Soon afterwards for a 3rd time she once again sought admission to be a nun—this time with the Franciscans in Gossau, Switzerland—these were mission Sisters and she thought that perhaps this was were God was calling her. But again such was not God’s will and after a short time the Mistress of candidates told her that unfortunately she was too weak for the rigors of missionary work and with this last refusal she realized that God did not want her as a nun, but that her apostolate was to be a unmarried layperson living “in the world” amongst her fellow countrymen. She spent much of her days doing housework and sewing, helping around the farm and surrounding farms, and watching neighbors children. Most of all she lived each moment in a spirit of love, prayer and devotion to God and her neighbor, living out her Catholic faith to the best of her ability. And it should be noted that at a young age her mother had taught her to pray frequently for the poor souls in purgatory so this too was something that was a part of her life since childhood.
The Interview with Maria Simma
Maria, Can you tell us how you were visited for the first time by a soul in Purgatory?
Maria Simma: Yes, it was in 1940. One night, around 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, I heard someone coming into my bedroom. This woke me up; I looked to see who on earth could have walked into my bedroom.
Were you afraid?
Maria Simma: No, I’m not at all the fearful. Even when I was a little child, my mother said I was a special child because I was never afraid.
So, that night…tell us!
Maria Simma: Well, I saw a complete stranger. He walked back and forth slowly. I said to him severely: “How did you get in here? Go away!” But he continued to walk impatiently around the bedroom, as if he hadn’t heard. So I asked him again; “What are you doing?” but as he still didn’t answer, I jumped out of the bed and tried to grab him, but I grasped only air. There was nothing there, So I went back to bed, but again I heard him pacing back and forth.I wondered how I could see this man, but I couldn’t grab him. I rose again to hold onto him and stop him walking around; again, I grasped only emptiness. Puzzled, I went back to bed. He didn’t come back, but I couldn’t get back to sleep. The next day, after Mass, I went to see my spiritual director and told him everything. He told me that if this should happen, I shouldn’t ask, “Who are you?: but “What do you want from me?” The following night, the man returned, definitely the same man. I asked him, “What do you want from me?” He replied: “Have three Masses celebrated for me and I will be delivered.”So I understood that it was a soul in Purgatory. My spiritual father confirmed this.He also advised me never to turn away the poor souls, but to accept with generosity whatever they asked of me.
And afterwards, the visits continued?
Maria Simma: Yes. For several years, there were only three or four souls, above all in November. Afterwards, there were more.
What do these souls ask of you?
Maria Simma: In most cases, they ask to have Masses celebrated and that one be present at these Masses; they ask to have the rosary said and also that one make the Stations of the Cross. At this point, the major question is raised: What exactly is Purgatory? I’d say that it’s a marvelous invention of God. Let me give you an image which is my own. Suppose that one day a door opens, and a splendid being appears, extremely beautiful, of a beauty that has never been seen on earth. You are fascinated, overwhelmed by this being of light and beauty, even more so that this being shows that he is madly in love with you — you have never dreamed of being loved so much. You sense too that he has a great desire to draw you to him, to be one with you. And the fire of love which burns in your heart impels you to throw yourself into his arms. But wait — you realize at this moment that you haven’t washed for months and months, that you smell bad; you nose is running, your hair is greasy and matted, there are big dirty stains on your clothes, etc. So you say to yourself, “No, I just can’t present myself in this state. First I must go and wash: a good shower, then straight away I’ll come back.”
But the love which has been born in your heart is so intense, so burning, so strong, that this delay for the shower is absolutely unbearable. And the pain of the absence, even if it only lasts for a couple of minutes, is an atrocious wound in the heart, proportional to the intensity of the revelation of the love — it is a “love-wound”.
Purgatory is exactly this. It’s a delay imposed by our impurity, a delay before God’s embrace, a wound of love which causes intense suffering, a waiting, if you like, a nostalgia for love. It is precisely this burning, this longing which cleanses us of whatever is still impure in us. Purgatory is a place of desire, a made desire for God, desire for this God whom we already know, for we have seen him, but with whom we are not yet united.
Now I am going to ask Maria to clarify a fundamental point: Maria, do the souls in Purgatory have, nevertheless, joy and hope in the mist of their suffering?
Maria Simma: Yes. No soul would want to come back from Purgatory to the earth. They have knowledge which is infinitely beyond ours. They just could not decide to return to the darkness of the earth. Here we see the difference from the suffering that we know on earth. In Purgatory, even if the pain of the soul is terrible, there is the certitude of living forever with God. It’s an unshakeable certitude. The joy is greater than the pain. There is nothing on earth which could make them want to live here again, where one is never sure of anything.
Maria, can you tell us now if it is God who sends a souls into Purgatory, or if the soul itself decides to go there?
Maria Simma: It is the soul itself which wants to go to Purgatory, in order to be pure before going to Heaven. The souls in Purgatory adhere fully to God’s will; they rejoice in the good, they desire our good and they love very much: they love God, and they love us too. They are perfectly united to the Spirit of God, the light of God.
Maria, at the moment of death, does one see God in full light or in an obscure manner?
Maria Simma: In a manner still obscure, but, all the same, in such brightness that this is enough to cause great longing. Actually, it’s such a dazzling brightness compared with the darkness of the earth! And it’s still nothing compared with the full light the soul will know when it arrives in Heaven. Here we can refer to “near death experiences.” The soul is drawn by this light that it is agony for it to return to earth in its body, after this experience.
Charity covers a multitude of sins
Maria, can you tell us what the role of Our Lady is with the souls in Purgatory?
Maria Simma: She comes often to console them and to tell them they have done many good things. She encourages them.
Are there any days in particular on which she delivers them?
Maria Simma: Above all, Christmas Day, All Saints Day, Good Friday, the Feast of the Assumption, and the Ascension of Jesus.
Maria, why does one go to Purgatory? What are the sins which most lead to Purgatory?
Maria Simma: Sins against charity, against the love of one’s neighbor, hardness of heart, hostility, slandering, calumny — all these things. Saying wicked things and calumny are among the worst blemishes which require a long purification?Yes.
Here, Maria gives us an example which really struck her which I would like to share with you. She had been asked to find out if a woman and a man were in Purgatory. To the great astonishment of those who had asked, the woman was already in Heaven and the man was in Purgatory. In fact, this woman had died while undergoing an abortion, whereas the man often went to church and apparently lead a worthy, devout life. So Maria searched for more information, thinking she’d been mistaken — but no, it was true. They had died at practically the same moment, but the woman had experience deep repentance, and was very humble, whereas the man criticized everyone; he was always complaining and saying bad things about others. This is why his Purgatory lasted so long. And Maria concluded: “We mustn’t judge on appearances.”
Other sins against charity are all our rejection of certain people we do not like, our refusals to make peace, our refusals to forgive, and all the bitterness we store inside. Maria also illustrated this point with another example which gave us food for thought. It’s the story of a woman she knew very well. This lady died and was in Purgatory, in the most terrible Purgatory, with the most atrocious sufferings. And when she came to Maria, she explained why: She had had a female friend; between them arose a great enmity, caused by herself. She had maintained this enmity for years and years, even though her friend had many times asked for peace, for reconciliation, but each time she refused. When she fell gravely ill, she continued to close her heart, to refuse the reconciliation offered by her friend, right up to her deathbed. I believe that this example has great significance concerning rancor which is maintained. And our words, too, can be destructive; we can never emphasize enough how much a critical or bitter word can truly kill — but also, on the contrary, how much a word can heal.
Maria, please tell us: who are those who have the greatest chance of going straight to Heaven?
Maria Simma: Those who have a good heart towards everyone. Love covers a multitude of sins.
Yes, Saint Paul himself tells us this! What are the means which we can take on earth to avoid Purgatory and to straight to Heaven?
Maria Simma: We must do a great deal for the souls in Purgatory, for they help us in their turn. We must have much humility; this is the greatest weapon against evil, against the Evil One. Humility drives evil away.
I can’t resist telling you a very lovely testimony of Father Berlioux (who wrote a wonderful book on the souls in Purgatory), concerning the help offered by these souls to those who relieve them by their prayer and suffrages. He tells the story of a person particularly devoted to the poor souls who had consecrated her life to their relief.
“At the hour of her death, she was attacked with fury by the demon who saw her at the point of escaping from him. It seemed that the entire abyss was united against her, surrounding her with its infernal troops. “The dying woman struggled excruciatingly for some time when suddenly she saw entering her apartment, a crowd of unknown people of dazzling beauty, who put the demon to flight and, approaching her bed, spoke to her with the most heavenly encouragement and consolations. With her last breath, in great joy, she cried; ‘Who are you? Who are you, please, you should do so much good to me?”
“The benevolent visitors replied: ‘We are inhabitants of Heaven, whom your help has led to Beatitude. And we in our turn come in gratitude to help you cross the threshold of eternity and rescue you from this place of anguish to bring you into the joy of the Holy City.’
“At these words, a smile lit up the face of the dying woman, her eyes closed and she fell asleep in the peace of the Lord. Her soul, pure as a dove, presented to the Lord of lords, found as many protectors and advocates as souls she had delivered, and recognized worthy of glory, she entered in triumph, among the applause and blessings of all those she had rescued from Purgatory. May we, one day, have the same happiness.”
The souls delivered by our prayer are extremely grateful: they help us in our lives; it’s most perceptible. I strongly recommend that you experience this yourself! They do help us; they know our needs and obtain many graces for us.
Maria, I am thinking of the Good Thief who was next to Jesus on the Cross. I really would like to know what he did for Jesus to promise him that this very day onwards, he would be in the Kingdom with him?
Maria Simma: He humbly accepted his suffering, saying that it was justice. And he encouraged the other thief to accept his too. He had the fear of God, which means humility.
Another beautiful example related by Maria Simma shows how a good action makes up for a whole life of sin. Let’s hear it from Maria herself:
Maria Simma: “I knew a young man of about twenty, in a nearby village. This young man’s village had been cruelly stricken by a series of avalanches which had killed a large number of people. One night, this young man was in his parents’ house when he heard an avalanche just next door to his house. He heard piercing screams, heartrending screams, ‘Save us! Come, save us! We are trapped beneath the avalanche! Leaping up, he rose from his bed and rushed downstairs to go to the rescue of these people. His mother had heard the screams and prevented him from leaving; she blocked the door, saying ‘No! Let others go and help them, not always us! It’s too dangerous outside, I don’t want yet another death!’ But he, because he had been deeply affected by these screams, really wanted to go to the rescue of these people; he pushed his mother aside. He said to her: ‘Yes! I’m going! I can’t let them dies like this!” He went out, and then he himself, on the path, was struck by an avalanche and was killed. Three days after his death, he comes to visit me, at night, and he says to me: ‘Have three Masses said for me; by this, I will be delivered from Purgatory.’ I went to inform his family and friends; they were astonished to know that after only three Masses, he would be delivered from Purgatory. His friends said to me: ‘Oh, I wouldn’t have liked to have been in his place in the moment of death, if you’d seen all the bad things he’d done!” But this young man said to me: “You see, I’d made an act of pure love in risking my life for these people; it’s thanks to this that the Lord welcomed me so quickly into his Heaven. Yes, charity covers a multitude of sins…”
This story shows us that charity, a single act of love given freely, had been sufficient to purify this young man from a dissolute life; and the Lord had made the most of this moment of love. Maria in fact added that this young man might never again have had the opportunity to offer such a great act of love, and might have turned bad. The Lord, in his mercy, took him just at the moment when he appeared before him at his most beautiful, most pure, because of this act of love. It is very important, at the hour of death, to abandon oneself to God’s will.
Maria told me of the case of a mother of four children who was about to die. Instead of rebelling and worrying, she said to the Lord: “I accept death, as long as it is your will, and I put my life in your hands. I entrust my sons to you and I know that you will take care of them.” Maria said that, because of her immense trust in God, this woman went straight to Heaven and avoided Purgatory. Therefore, we really can say that love, humility and abandonment to God are the three golden keys to going directly to Heaven.
Offer a Mass for them
Maria, can you now tell us what are the most effective means to help deliver the souls in Purgatory?
Maria Simma: The most efficient means is the Mass.
Why the Mass?
Maria Simma: Because it is Christ who offers himself out of love for us. It is the offering of Christ himself to God, the most beautiful offering. The priest is God’s representative, but it is God himself who offers himself and sacrifices himself for us. The efficacy of the Mass for the deceased is even greater for those who attached great value to the Mass during their lives. If they attended Mass and prayed with all their hearts, if they went to Mass on weekdays — according to their time available — they draw great profit from Masses celebrated for them. Here, too, one harvests what one has sown. A soul in Purgatory sees very clearly on the day of his funeral if we really pray for him or if we have simply made an act of presence to show we were there. The poor souls say that tears are no good to them, only prayer. Often they complain that people go to a funeral without addressing a single prayer to God, while shedding many tears; this is useless!
Concerning the Mass, I will quote a beautiful example given by the Cure of Ars to his parishioners. He told them:
“My children, a good priest had the unhappiness to lose a friend he cherished tenderly, and so he prayed very much for the repose of his soul. One day, God made known to him that his friend was in Purgatory and suffered terribly. The holy priest believed that he could not do better than to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for his dear friend who had died. At the moment of the consecration, he took the host between his fingers and said ‘Holy Eternal Father, let us make an exchange. You hold the soul of my friend who is in Purgatory, and I hold the Body of Your Son in my hands. Well good and merciful Father; deliver my friend and I offer you your Son with all the merits of his death and Passion.’
“The request was answered. In fact, at the moment of the elevation, he saw the soul of his friend, shining in glory, rising to Heaven; God had accepted the deal.
“My children, when we want to deliver from Purgatory a soul dear to us, let us do the same; let us offer to God, through the Holy Sacrifice, His Beloved Son with all the merits of His death and Passion. He will not be able to refuse us anything.”
Don’t waste your earthly sufferings
There is another means, very powerful, to help the poor souls; the offering of our sufferings, our penance, such as fasting, renunciations, etc, — and of course involuntary suffering like illness or mourning.
Maria, you have been invited many times to suffer for the poor souls, in order to deliver them. Can you tell us what you have experienced and undergone during these times?
Maria Simma: The first time, a soul asked me if I wouldn’t mind suffering for three house in my body, for her, and that afterwards I could resume working. I said to myself: “If It will all be over after three house, I could accept it.” During these three hours, I had the impression that they lasted three days, it was so painful. But at the end, I looked at my watch and I saw that it had only lasted three hours. The soul told me that by accepting that suffering with love for three hours, I had saved her twenty years of Purgatory!
Yes, but why did you suffer for only three house to avoid twenty years of Purgatory? What did your sufferings have that was worth more?
Maria Simma: It is because suffering on earth does not have the same value. On earth, when we suffer; we can grow in love, we can gain merits, which is not the case with the sufferings in Purgatory. In Purgatory, the sufferings serve only to purify us from sin. On earth, we have all the graces. We have the freedom to choose.
All this is so encouraging because it gives an extraordinary meaning to our suffering; the suffering which is offered, voluntary or involuntary, even the smallest sacrifices we can make, suffering or sickness, mourning, disappointment…if we live them with patience, if we welcome them in humility, these sufferings can have an unheard-of power to help souls. The best thing to do, Maria tells us, is to unite our sufferings to those of Jesus, by placing them in the hands of Mary. She is the one who know best how to use them, since often we ourselves do not know the most urgent needs around us. All this, of course, Mary will give back to use at the hour of our death. You see, these sufferings offered will be our most precious treasures in the other world. We must remind each other of this and encourage each other when we suffer.
And don’t begrudge your prayers
Another very effective means, Maria tells us, is the Stations of the Cross, because, by contemplating the suffering of the Lord, we begin little by little to hate sins, and to desire salvation for all people. And this inclination of the heart brings great relief to the souls in Purgatory. The Stations of the Cross also move us to repentance; we start repenting when faced with sin. Another point, very helpful to the souls in Purgatory, is to say the rosary, all fifteen mysteries, for the sake of the deceased. Through the rosary, many souls are delivered from Purgatory each year; it must be said here as well that it is the Mother of God herself who comes to Purgatory to deliver the souls. This is very beautiful, because souls in Purgatory call Our Lady the “Mother of Mercy.”
The souls also tell Maria that indulgences have an inestimable value for their deliverance. It is sometimes cruel not to make use of this treasure that the Church proposes for the profit of souls. The subject of indulgences would be too long to explain here, but I can refer you to the marvellous text written by Pope Paul VI in 1968 on the subject. You can ask your parish priest for it, or simply ask at your usual religious bookstore. Therefore, we can say that the great means of helping the souls in Purgatory is prayer in general; all kinds of prayer. Here I would like to give you the testimony of Hermann Cohen, a Jewish artist who converted to Catholicism in 1864 and greatly venerated the Eucharist. He left the world and entered a very austere religious order; he frequently adored the Blessed Sacrament for which he had a great veneration. During his adoration, he would beg the Lord to convert his mother, whom he loved so much.
Well his mother died without having been converted. so Hermann, sick with sorrow, prostrated himself before the Blessed Sacrament, in deep grief, praying: “Lord, I owe you everything, it is true. But what have I refused you? My youth, my hopes in the world, my well-being, the joys of a family, a rest — maybe well deserved — all sacrificed as soon as you called me. And you , Lord, Eternal Goodness, who promised to give back a hundredfold, you have refused me the soul of my mother. My God, I succumb to this martyrdom, I will stop my complaints.” He cried his poor heart out. Suddenly, a mysterious voice struck his ear: “Man of little faith! Your mother is saved. Know that prayer is all-powerful in my presence. I gathered all those you had addressed to me for your mother, and my Providence took account of her in her last hour. At the moment she expired, I came to her; she saw Me and cried: ‘My Lord and my God’! Have courage, your mother has avoided damnation and fervent supplication will soon deliver her soul from the bonds of Purgatory.
And we know that Father Hermann Cohen, soon afterwards, learned through a second apparition that his mother had risen to Heaven.
I recommend strongly as well the prayers of St. Bridget which are most recommended for the poor souls. Let me add something important: the souls in Purgatory can no longer do anything for themselves; they are totally helpless. If the living do not pray for them, they are totally abandoned. Therefore, it is very important to realize the immense power, the incredible power that each one of us has in his hands to relieve these souls who suffer. We wouldn’t think twice about helping a child who has fallen in front of us from a tree and who had broken his bones. Of course, we would do everything for him! So, in the same way, we should take great care of these souls, who expect everything from us, attentive to the slightest offering, hopeful for the least of our prayers, to relieve them from their pain. And it might be the finest way to practice charity. I think, for example, of the kindness of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel, towards the man left half-dead on the roadside bleeding from his wounds. This man depended completely on the good heart of the passer-by.
Maria, why can one on longer gain merits in Purgatory, when one can on earth?
Maria Simma: Because at the moment of death, the time to earn merits is over. For as long as we are living on earth, we can repair the evil we have done. The souls in Purgatory envy us this opportunity. Even the angels are jealous of us, for we have the possibility of growing for as long as we are on earth. But often, the suffering in our lives leads us to rebellion and we have great difficulty in accepting and living it. How can we live suffering so that it bears fruit? Sufferings are the greatest proof of the love of God, and if we offer them well they can win many souls. But how can we welcome suffering as a gift and not as a punishment (as we often do), as a chastisement? We must give everything to Our Lady. She is the one who knows best who needs such and such an offering in order to be saved.
On the subject of suffering, I would like to relate an extraordinary testimony that Maria told us of. It was in 1954, and a series of deadly avalanches had struck a village next to Maria’s. Later, other avalanches had struck, but they had been stopped, in a completely miraculous way, before reaching the village, so that there was no damage. The souls explained that in this village had died a woman who had been ill and was not properly treated; she had suffered terribly for thirty years. And she had offered all her suffering for the sake of her village. The souls explained to Maria that it was thanks to the offering of this woman that the village had been spared the avalanches. She had borne her sufferings with patience. Maria tells us that if she had enjoyed good health, the village could not of been saved. She adds that sufferings borne with patience can save more souls than prayer (but prayer helps us to bear our sufferings).
Maria Simma: We should not always consider suffering as a punishment. I can be accepted as expiation not only for ourselves but above all for others. Christ was innocence itself and He suffered the most for the expiation of our sins. Only in Heaven will we know all that we have obtained by suffering with patience in union with the sufferings of Christ.
Maria, do the souls in Purgatory rebel when faced with their suffering?
Maria Simma: No! They want to purify themselves; they understand that it is necessary.
At the point of death
What is the role of contrition or repentance at the moment of death?
Maria Simma: Contrition is very important. The sins are forgiven, in any case, but there remain the consequences of sins. If one wishes to receive a full indulgence at the moment of death — that means going straight to Heaven — the soul has to be free from all attachment.
Here, I would like to share a very significant testimony given by Maria. She was asked to find out about a woman that her relations believed to be lost, because she had led an awful life. Well, she had an accident, she fell from a train and this accident killed her. A soul told Maria that this woman had been saved, saved from Hell, because at the moment of death, she said to God: “You are right to take my life, because in this way I will not longer be able to offend you.” And this had erased all her sins. This example is highly significant, for it shows that a single moment of humility, of repentance at the moment of death, can save us. This doesn’t mean that she did not go to Purgatory, but she avoided Hell which she perhaps deserved thought her impiety.
Maria, I would like to ask you: at the moment of death, is there a time in which the soul still has the chance to turn towards God, even after a sinful life, before entering into eternity — a time, if you like, between apparent death and real death?
Maria Simma: Yes, yes, the Lord gives several minutes to each one, in order to regret his sins and to decide: I accept or I do not accept to go see God. There, we see a film of our lives.
I knew a man who believed in the Church’s teachings, but not in eternal life. One day, he fell gravely ill, and slid into a coma. He saw himself in a room with a board on which all his deeds were written, the good and the bad. Then the board disappeared as well as the walls of the room, and it was infinitely beautiful. Then he woke up from his coma and decided to change his life.
This is very much like the testimonies of “near death experiences”; the experience of the supernatural light is such that people can no longer live afterwards as they had lived before.
Maria, at the moment of death, does God reveal himself with the same intensity to all souls?
Maria Simma: Each one is given knowledge of his life and also the suffering to come; but it is not the same for everyone. The intensity of the Lord’s revelation depends on each one’s life.
Maria, does the devil have permission to attack us at the moment of death?
Maria Simma: Yes, but man also has the grace to resist him, to push him away. So, if man does not want anything to do with him, the devil can do nothing.
That’s good news! When someone knows he is going to die soon, what is for him the best way to get prepared?
Maria Simma: To abandon himself totally to the Lord. Offer all his sufferings. Be completely happy in God.
And what attitude should one have before someone who is going to die? What is the best that one can do for him?
Maria Simma: Pray hard! Prepare him for death; one must speak the truth.
Maria, what advice would you give to anyone who wants to become a saint here on earth?
Maria Simma: Be very humble. We must not be occupied with ourselves. Pride is evil’s greatest trap.
Maria, please tell us: can one ask the Lord to do one’s Purgatory on earth, in order not to have to do it after death?
Maria Simma: Yes. I knew a priest and a young woman who were both ill with tuberculosis in the hospital. The young woman said to the priest: “Let’s ask the Lord to be able to suffer on earth as much as necessary in order to go straight to Heaven.” The Priest replied that he himself didn’t dare to ask for this. Nearby was a religious Sister who had overheard the whole conversation. The young woman died first, the priest died later; and he appeared to the Sister, saying: “If only I had had the same trust as this young woman, I too would have gone straight to Heaven.”
Thank you, Maria, for this lovely testimony. (At this point, Maria asked for a five-minute break, as she had to go and feed her chickens… But the minute she returned, we continued with our questions.)
The Occupants of Purgatory
Maria, are there different degrees in Purgatory?
Maria Simma: Yes, there is a great difference of degree of moral suffering. Each soul has a unique suffering, particular to it; there are many degrees.
Do the poor souls know what is going to happen in the world?
Maria Simma: Yes, not everything, but many things.
Do these souls tell you what is going to happen, sometimes?
Maria Simma: They simply say that there is something in front of the door; but they don’t say what. They only say what is necessary for people’s conversion.
Maria, are the suffering in Purgatory more painful than the most painful sufferings on earth?
Maria Simma: Yes, but in a symbolic way. It hurts more in the soul.
Yes, I guess it’s very difficult to describe… Does Jesus himself come to Purgatory?
Maria Simma: No soul has ever told me so. It is the Mother of God who comes. Once I asked a poor soul if she could go to look for a soul I had been asked to find out about. She replied: “No, it is the Mother of Mercy who tells us about it.” Also, the souls in Heaven do not come to Purgatory. On the other hand, the angels are there: Saint Michael…and each soul has its guardian angel with it.
Fantastic! The angels are with us…But what do the angels do in Purgatory?
Maria Simma: They relieve suffering and provide comfort. The souls can even see them.
Amazing! If this goes on, Maria, you’re almost going to make me want to go to Purgatory, with all these stories of angels! Another question: You know, many people today believe in reincarnation. What do the soul tell you concerning this subject?
Maria Simma: The souls say that God gives only one life.
But some would say that just one life is not enough to know God, and to have the time to be really converted, that it isn’t fair. What would you reply to them?
Maria Simma: All people have an interior faith (conscience); even if they do not practice, they recognize God implicitly. Some one who does not believe — that doesn’t exist! Each soul has a conscience to recognize good and evil, a conscience given by God, an inner knowledge — in different degrees, of course, but each one know how to discern good from evil. With this conscience, each soul can become blessed.
What happens to people who have committed suicide? Have you ever been visited by these people?
Maria Simma: Up to now, I have never encountered the case of a suicide who was lost — this doesn’t mean, of course, that that doesn’t exist — but often, the souls tell me that the most guilty were those around them, when they were negligent or spread calumny.
At this moment, I asked Maria if the souls regretted having committed suicide. She answered yes. Often, suicide is due to illness.
Maria Simma: These souls do regret their act because, as they see things in the light of God, they understand instantly all the graces that were in store for them during the time remaining for them to live — and they do see this time which remained for them, sometimes months or years — and they also see all the souls they could have helped by offering the rest of their lives to God. In the end, what hurts them most is to see the good that they could have done but didn’t, because they shortened their lives. But when the cause is illness, the Lord takes this into account, of course.
Maria, have you been visited by souls who “self-destructed,” by drugs, overdosing, for example?
Maria Simma: Yes, they are not lost. It all depends on the cause of their drug-taking; but they must suffer in Purgatory. If I tell you, for example, that I suffer too much in my body, in my heart, that it’s too hard for me and I wish to die, what can I do?
Yes, this is very frequent. I would say: “My God, I can offer this suffering to save souls”; this gives renewed faith and courage. But no one says this any more nowadays. We can also say that in doing this, the soul gains a great beatitude, a great happiness for Heaven. In Heaven, there are thousands of different types of happiness, but each one is a complete happiness; all desire are fulfilled. Each one know he has deserved no more.
Maria, I’d like to ask you: have people from other religions — for example, Jews — come to visit you?
Maria Simma: Yes, they are happy. Anyone who lives his faith well is happy. But it is through the Catholic faith that we gain the most for Heaven.
Are there religions where are bad for the soul?
Maria Simma: No, but there are so many religions on earth! The closest are the Orthodox and Protestants; there are many Protestants who say the rosary; but the sects are very, very evil. Everything must be done to bring people out of them.
Are there priests in Purgatory? (I see Maria raising her eyes to Heaven as if to say: Alas!)
Maria Simma: Yes, there are many. They didn’t promote respect for the Eucharist. So faith overall suffers. They are often in Purgatory for having neglected prayer — which has diminished their faith. But there are also many who have gone straight to Heaven!
What would you say, then, to a priest who really wants to live according to the Heart of God?
Maria Simma: I would advise him to pray much to the Holy Spirit — and say his rosary every day.
Maria, are there any children in Purgatory?
Maria Simma: Yes, but Purgatory for them is not very long or painful, since they lack much discernment.
I believe certain children have come to visit you; you were telling me the story of this little child, the youngest one you say, a little girl of four. But tell me: why was she in Purgatory?
Maria Simma: Because she had received from her parents, as a Christmas present, a doll. She had a twin sister who had also received a doll. This little four-year-old girl had broken her doll; secretly, knowing that no one was watching her, she went to put the broken doll in the place of her sister’s, swapping them, knowing full well in her little heart that she was going to upset her sister — and she knew very well too that it was a lie and an injustice. Because of this, the poor girl had to do Purgatory.In fact, children often have a more tender conscience than that of adults. It is necessary above all with them to combat lying. They are very sensitive to untruth.
Maria, how can parents help to form the conscience of their children?
Maria Simma: Firstly through good example — this is the most important. Then through prayer. Parents must bless their children and instruct them well in the things of God.
Very Important! Have you been visited by souls who, on earth, practiced perversions? I am thinking, for example, about the sexual domain.
Maria Simma: Yes, they are not lost, but they have much to suffer to be purified. For example, homosexuality, this truly comes from the Evil One.
What advice would you give, then, to all those people afflicted by homosexuality, with this tendency in them?
Maria Simma: Pray a lot for the strength to turn away from it. They should above all pray to the Archangel Michael; he is the great fighter par excellence against the Evil One.
What are the attitudes of the heart which can lead us to losing our soul for good, I mean going to Hell?
Maria Simma: It is when the soul does not want to go towards God, when it actually says: “I do not want.”
Thank you, Maria, for making this clear.
Here I would like to mention that on this subject I questioned Vicka, one of the visionaries in Medjugorje, who also told me that those who go to Hell — and she has seen Hell — are solely those who decide to go there. It isn’t God who puts someone in Hell — on the contrary, He is the Savior, He begs the souls to welcome His mercy. The sin against the Holy Spirit that Jesus speaks of, which cannot be forgiven, is the absolute refusal of mercy, and this in full awareness, full conscience. Pope John Paul II explains this very well in his encyclical on mercy. Here too, we can do so much with prayer for souls in danger of being lost.
Maria, would you happen to have a story illustrating this?
Maria Simma: One day, I was on a train and in my compartment there was a man who didn’t stop speaking evil of the Church, of priests, even of God. I said to him: “Listen, you don’t have the right to say all that, it’s not good.” He was furious at me. Afterwards, I arrived at my station, I got down from the train, and said to God: “Lord, do not let this soul be lost.” Years later; the soul of this man came to visit me; he told me that he had come very close to Hell, but he was saved simply by this prayer I had said at that moment!
Yes, it’s extraordinary to see that just one thought, one impulse of the heart, a simple prayer for someone can prevent them from falling into Hell. It is pride which leads to Hell. Hell is to stubbornly say “NO” against God. Our prayers can elicit an act of humility in the dying, a single instant of humility, however small, which can help them to avoid Hell.
But Maria, it is incredible, all the same! How can one actually say “NO” to God at the moment of death, when one sees him?
Maria Simma: For example, a man once told me that he did not want to go to Heaven. Why? Because God accepts injustice. I said to him that it was men, not God…He said: “I hope that I do not meet God after my death, or I will kill him with an axe.” He had a deep hatred of God. God grants man free will; he wishes each one to have his free choice. God gives to everyone during his earthly life, and at the hour of his death, sufficient grace for conversion, even after a life spent in darkness. If one asks for forgiveness, sincerely, of course one can be saved.
Jesus said that it was difficult for a rich person to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Have you seen such cases?
Maria Simma: Yes! But if they do good works, works of charity, if they practice love, they can get there, just like the poor.
Maria, do you still have visits these days from souls in Purgatory?
Maria Simma: Yes, two or three times a week.
Really! What do you think of the practices of spiritism, for example, calling up the spirits of the departed, Ouija-boards, ect.?
Maria Simma: It is not good. It is always evil. It is the devil who makes the table move. It is so important to say this again and again! People really need to hear this because, nowadays, more than ever, these absurd practices are increasing dangerously!
What is the difference between what you are living with the souls of the departed, and the practices of spiritism?
Maria Simma: We are not suppose to summon up the souls — I don’t try to get them to come. In spiritism people try to call them forth. This distinction is quite clear, and we must take it very seriously. If people were only to believe one thing I have said, I would like it to be this: those who engage in spiritism (moving tables, and other practices of that kind) think that they are summoning up the souls of the dead. In reality, if there is some response to their call, it is always and without exception Satan and his angels who are answering. People who practice spiritism (diviners, witches, etc.) are doing something very dangerous for themselves and for those who come to them for advice. They are up to their necks in lies. It is forbidden, strictly forbidden, to call up the dead. As for me, I have never done so, I do not do so, and I never will do so. When something appears to me, God alone permits it.
Of course, Satan can imitate everything that comes from God, and he does. He can imitate the voice and the appearance of the dead, but every manifestation of any kind always comes from the Evil One. Do not forget that Satan can even heal, but such healings never last.
Have you personally ever been tricked by false apparitions? For example, by the devil disquising himself as a soul in Purgatory to speak to you?
Maria Simma: Yes. Once a soul came to see me and said to me: “Do not accept the soul which is going to come after me, because it is going to ask you for too much suffering, which you will not be able to bear; you cannot do what it is going to ask.” So, I was troubled because I remembered what my parish priest had said to me, that I had to accept each soul with generosity, and I was really troubled about whether or not to obey. So I said to myself: “Maybe it’s the demon who is before me and not a soul in Purgatory; the demon in disguise?” I said to this soul: “If you are the demon go away!” At once he gave out a loud scream and left. In fact, the soul who came after him was a soul who had real need of my help; it was very important for me to listen to this soul!
When the devil appears, does holy water always make him leave?
Maria Simma: It disturbs him very much and he flees at once.
Maria, you are now very well known, especially in Germany and Austria, but also throughout Europe, thanks to your talks and your book. At the beginning, however you were very hidden. How did it happen that, overnight, people recognized that your supernatural experience was authentic?
Maria Simma: It was when the souls asked me to tell their families to give back goods which had been acquired dishonestly. They saw that what I said was true.
At this point, Maria related several testimonies, too long to quote here. Several times souls came to find her, saying: “Go to my family in such and such a village — which Maria did not know — “and tell my father, my son, my brother to give back a certain property or amount of money which I acquired dishonestly. I will be delivered from Purgatory when these goods are given back.” Maria would have all the details of the field, or exact amount of money, or the property concerned, and the family would be staggered to discover that she knew all these details, because sometimes even they didn’t know that these goods had been acquired dishonestly by their relative. Through this, Maria began to be very well known.
Maria, is there official recognition by the Church of this particular charism that you practice with regard to the souls in Purgatory, and also with regard to those who are touched by your apostolate?
Maria Simma: My bishop told me that as long as there are no theological errors, I should continue: he has okay’d it. My parish priest, who is also my spiritual guide, confirms these things too.
I would like to ask you a question that may be indiscreet: you have done so much for the poor souls that surely, when you die, in your turn, thousands of souls will be your escort into Heaven; I think that you certainly won’t have to pass through Purgatory!
Maria Simma: I don’t believe that I will go straight to Heaven without time in Purgatory because I have had more light, more knowledge, and therefore my faults are more serious. But all the same, I hope that the souls will help me rise to Heaven!
Certainly! And Maria, do you enjoy this charism? Or is it something burdensome and difficult for you, all these requests from souls?
Maria Simma: No, I do not pay much attention to the difficulty, for I know I can help them so much. I can help many souls and I am very happy to do this.
Maria, I would like to thank you also in the name of all readers for this beautiful testimony. But please permit me one last question: so that we might know you better, would you be so good as to tell us a few words about your life?
Maria Simma: Well…from when I was little I wanted to enter a convent, but Mother told me to wait until I was twenty. I did not wish to get married. Mother had told me a good deal about the souls in Purgatory and, already at school, these souls helped me a lot. So I said to myself that I had to do everything for them. After school, I thought about entering a convent; I entered the Sisters of the Heart of Jesus, but they told me that my health was too poor to stay with them. As a child, I had had pneumonia and pleurisy. The Superior had confirmed my religious vocation but advised me to enter an easier order; to wait for some years. I wanted above all a cloistered order; and right away!But after two more attempts, the conclusion was the same: my health was too poor. So I said to myself that entering a convent wasn’t God’s will for me. I suffered mentally a great deal. I said to myself that the Lord had not shown me what he wanted of me. Up to the moment he entrusted me with this task for the souls in Purgatory, at the age of twenty-five he’d made me wait eight years.At home, there were eight of us children. I worked on our farm, starting at the age of fifteen; then I went to Germany as a servant for a peasant family. Afterwards, I worked here at the farm in Sonntag. From the age of twenty-five, when the souls began to come, I had much to suffer for them — Now I am much better physically. So, there you are.
It was indeed a real pleasure for me to meet Maria Simma, a woman whose life is one of complete devotion. Each second, each hour of her life has a weight of eternity, not only for herself but for so many souls, known or unknown, that she, in many different ways and with so much love, has helped deliver from Purgatory and enjoy the eternal happiness of Heaven.
Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory
Located in the back of the Chiesa del Sacro Cuore del Suffragio on the banks of the Tiber, the tiny century-old Piccolo Museo Del Purgatorio, or “Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory,” holds a collection of bibles, prayer books, tabletops, and articles of clothing said to have been singed by the hands of souls in purgatory.
The soul is stranded in purgatory until it atones for its sins, but can hasten its ascent to heaven through the prayers of loved ones still on earth. The scorched handprints and other burn-marks collected in this museum are believed to be the product of souls begging their earth-bound loved ones to pray harder.
Though not mentioned in the Bible, the idea of purgatory is a very old part of the Catholic faith, dating back to at least the 11th century. The notion that trapped souls might need to be freed comes from a story allegedly told to the Abbott Odilo of Cluny by a monk returning from the Holy Land. He told the Abbott how his ship had been wrecked, and he had been cast ashore on a mysterious island. A hermit who lived on the island related his own story of a mysterious chasm, from which burst forth demonic flames and the agonized screams of trapped souls. He pointed out that the demons were always complaining about losing souls when the living prayed or gave alms to the poor on their behalf.
The freeing of these trapped souls became a priority for the Church, and for family members grieving dead loved ones. November 2 was established as All Soul’s Day, whereon it was believed that prayers by the living could intercede on behalf of the faithful dead who had died without absolution, or babies who had died before baptism, thus freeing them for Heaven. (According to Catholic doctrine, one cannot go to hell from purgatory.)
Victor Jouet, the collector and French missionary, was supposedly inspired to build this purgatorial museum after a fire destroyed a portion of the original Chiesa del Sacro Cuore del Suffragio, leaving behind the scorched image of a face that he believed to be a trapped soul.