In his beautiful Life of St. Malachy St. Bernard highly praises that prelate for his devotion towards the souls in Purgatory. When he was as yet deacon, he loved to assist at the funerals of the poor, and at the Mass which was celebrated for them ; he even accompanied their remains to the cemetery with as much zeal as he ordinarily saw those unfortunate creatures neglected after their death. But he had a sister, who, filled with the spirit of the world, thought that her brother degraded himself and his whole family by thus associating with the poor. She reproached him, showing by her language that she understood neither Christian Charity nor the excellence of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Malachy, notwithstanding, continued the exercise of his humble Charity, contenting himself with replying to his sister that she had forgotten the teaching of Jesus Christ, and that she would one day repent of her thoughtless words.
In the meantime the imprudent rashness of this woman was not to remain unpunished ; she died whilst still young, and went to render an account to the Sovereign Judge of the worldly life she had led.
Malachy had reason to complain of her conduct, but when she was dead he forgot all the wrongs she had done him, and thinking only of the needs of her soul, he offered the Holy Sacrifice and prayed much for her. In the course of time, however, having many others to pray for, he neglected his poor sister. " We may believe," says Father Rossignoli, "that God permitted that she should be forgotten, in punishment for the want of compassion which she showed towards the dead."
However this may be, she appeared to her holy brother during his sleep. Malachy saw her standing in the middle of the area before the church, sad, clad in mourning, and entreating his compassion, complaining that for the last thirty days he had neglected her. He thereupon awoke suddenly, and remembered that in reality it was thirty days since he had celebrated Mass for his sister. On the following day he began anew to offer the Holy Sacrifice for her. Then the deceased appeared to him at the door of the church, kneeling upon the threshold, and lamenting that she was not allowed to enter. He continued his suffrages. Some days later he saw her enter the church and advance as far as the middle of the aisle, without being able, not withstanding all her efforts, to approach the altar. He saw, therefore, it was necessary to persevere, so he continued to offer the Holy Sacrifice for the repose of her soul. Finally, after a few days he saw her near the altar, clad in magnificent attire, radiant with joy, and free from suffering.
" By this we see." adds St. Bernard, " how great is the efficacy of the Holy Sacrifice to remit sins, to combat the powers of darkness, and to open the gates of Heaven to those souls which have quitted this earth."
~ Excerpt from Purgatory Illustrated by the Lives and Legends of the Saints by Fr. F.X. Shouppe, S.J. ~