A poor servant girl in France named Jeanne Marie once heard a sermon on the Holy Souls which made an indelible impression on her mind. She was deeply moved by the thought of the intense and unceasing sufferings the Poor Souls endure, and she was horrified to see how cruelly they are neglected and forgotten by their friends on Earth.
Among other things the preacher stressed was that many souls who are in reality near to their release -- one Mass might suffice to set them free -- are oftentimes long detained; it may be for years, just because the last needful suffrage has been withheld or forgotten or neglected!
With her simple faith, Jeanne Marie resolved that, cost what it might, she would have a Mass said for the Poor Souls every month, especially for the soul nearest to Heaven. She earned little, and it was sometimes difficult to keep her promise, but she never failed.
On one occasion she went to Paris with her mistress and there fell ill, so that she was obliged to go to the hospital. Unfortunately, the illness proved to be a long one, and her mistress had to return home, hoping that her maid would soon rejoin her. When at last the poor servant was able to leave the hospital, all she had left of her scanty earnings was one franc!
What was she to do? Where to turn? Suddenly, the thought flashed across her mind that she had not had her usual monthly Mass offered for the Holy Souls. But she had only one franc! That was little enough to buy her food. Yet her confidence that the Holy Souls would not fail her triumphed. She made her way into a church and asked a priest, just about to say Mass, if he would offer it for the Holy Souls. He consented to do so, never dreaming that the modest alms offered was the only money the poor girl possessed. At the conclusion of the Holy Sacrifice, our heroine left the church. A wave of sadness clouded her face; she felt utterly bewildered.
A young gentleman, touched by her evident distress, asked her if she was in trouble and if he could help her. She told her story briefly, and ended by saying how much she desired work.
Somehow she felt consoled at the kind way in which the young man listened to what she said, and she fully recovered her confidence.
"I am delighted beyond measure, " he said, "to help you. I know a lady who is even now looking for a servant. Come with me. " And so saying he led her to a house not far distant and bade her ring the bell, assuring her that she would find work.
In answer to her ring, the lady of the house herself opened the door and inquired what Jeanne Marie required. "Madam, " she said, "I have been told that you are looking for a servant. I have no work and should be glad to get the position. "
The lady was amazed and replied: "Who could have told you that I needed a servant? It was only a few minutes ago that I had to dismiss my maid, and that at a moment's notice. You did not meet her?"
"No, Madam. The person who informed me that you required a servant was a young gentleman. "
"Impossible!" exclaimed the lady. "No young man, in fact no one at all, could have known that I needed a servant. "
"But Madam, " the girl answered excitedly, pointing to a picture on the wall, "that is the young man who told me!"
"Why, child, that is my only son, who has been dead for more than a year!"
"Dead or not, " asserted the girl with deep conviction in her voice, "it was he who told me to come to you, and he even led me to the door. See the scar over his eye; I would know him anywhere. "
Then followed the full story of how, with her last franc, she had had Mass offered for the Holy Souls, especially for the one nearest to Heaven.
Convinced at last of the truth of what Jeanne Marie had told her, the lady received her with open arms. "Come, " she said, "though not as my servant, but as my dear daughter. You have sent my darling boy to Heaven. I have no doubt that it was he who brought you to me. "
~ Excerpt from Read Me Or Rue It by Fr. Paul O'Sullivan, O.P. ~