Something to reflect on this Lent...
The Secret of the Poor Souls in Purgatory
An interview with Maria Simma of Austria
Maria Simma (1915-2004)
Today, very little is taught in regular catechism classes about Purgatory,
about the suffering that the Poor Souls experience in order to be
completely purified to be able to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven . Yet
Purgatory does exist, and the sufferings that the Poor Souls experience
there are very real. Since 1940 (she was then aged 25), a privileged soul,
named Maria Simma, has had regular visits from the souls in Purgatory to
explain their sufferings and to ask for prayers and Masses to be released
Her local Bishop and parish priest told her she could make known these
visitations as long as there were no theological errors. One day, Sister
Emmanuel Maillard, a French nun known for her apostolate in favor of the
Apparitions of Our Lady in Medjugorje, came across Maria Simma's book,
called The Souls in Purgatory told Me... and read it with great interest:
"This book struck me so much because it related very recent testimonies,
and also explained very well the Church's doctrine on the subject...
Straight away, I wrote to the editor who told me that Maria Simma is still
alive. Quickly, I contacted her, and she agreed to meet me to answer my
questions, which were many!"
This interview took place in 1997 at Maria's house in Sonntag, a very
lovely village in the Vorarlberg Mountains in Austria . The following are
excerpts from this interview of Sister Emmanuel of Medjugorje with Maria
Simma, taken from a booklet entitled:
The Amazing Secret of the Souls in Purgatory
published by Queenship Publishing Co.,
P.O . Box 220 , Goleta , CA 93116 , USA
(Phone 800-647-9882, Fax: 805-967-5843)
(Note: Maria Simma died on March 16, 2004 , in Sonntag, at the age of 89.)
Sr. Emmanuel with Maria Simma Maria, can you tell us how you were visited
for the first time by a soul in Purgatory?
Yes, it was in 1940. One night, around 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, I
heard someone coming into my bedroom... 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 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 to stop him from 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 again, I shouldn't ask,
"Who are you?" but "What do you want from me?" The following night, the
man returned. 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 director
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?
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?
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.
Maria, do the souls in Purgatory have, nevertheless, joy and hope in the
midst of their suffering?
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 just 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 soul into Purgatory, or
if the soul itself decides to go there?
It is the soul itself which wants to go to Purgatory, in order to be pure
before going to Heaven.
Maria, at the moment of death, does one see God in full light or in an
In a manner still obscure, but, all the same, in such brightness that this
is enough to cause great longing.
Maria, can you tell us what the role of Our Lady is with the souls in
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?
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
Sins against charity, against the love of one's neighbor, hardness of
heart, hostility, slandering, calumny - all these things. Charity covers a
multitude of sins.
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 led 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 experienced
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
Other sins against charity are all our rejections 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 see
Maria, she explained why.
She had had a female friend. Between them rose 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
Maria, please tell us: who are those who have the greatest chance of going
straight to Heaven?
Those who have a good heart towards everyone. Love covers a multitude of
What are the means which we can take on earth to avoid Purgatory and go
straight to Heaven?
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.
The Holy Mass.
Maria, can you now tell us what are the most effective means to help
deliver the souls in Purgatory?
The most efficient means is the Mass.
Why the Mass?
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 drew
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 for 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!
There is another means, very powerful, to help the poor souls: the offering
of our sufferings, our penances, 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?
The first time, a soul asked me if I wouldn't mind suffering for three
hours in my body for her, and that afterwards I could resume working.I
said to myself: "If it will all be over after three hours, I could accept
it." During those three hours, I had the impression that it 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
Yes, but why did you suffer for only three hours to avoid twenty years of
Purgatory? What did your sufferings have that was worth more?
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 of this is so encouraging because it gives an
extraordinary meaning to our sufferings. The suffering which is offered,
voluntary or involuntary, even the smallest sacrifices we can make,
suffering or sickness, mourning, disappointments. .. 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 knows
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 us 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.
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 our 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.
Maria, why can one no longer gain merits in Purgatory, when one can on
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 of 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. We should not always
consider sufferings as a punishment. It 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?
No! They want to purify themselves; they understand that it is necessary.
What is the role of contrition or repentance at the moment of death?
Contrition is very important. The sins are forgiven, in any case, but there
remains 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.
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?
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 and see God. Then 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.
Maria, does the devil have permission to attack us at the moment of death?
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.
Maria, what advice would you give to anyone who wants to become a saint
here on earth?
Be very humble. We must not be occupied with ourselves. Pride is evil's
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?
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 the young woman, I too
would have gone straight to Heaven."
Maria, are there different degrees in Purgatory?
Yes, there is a great difference of degree of moral suffering. Each soul
has a unique suffering, particular to it; there are many degrees.
Maria, are the sufferings in Purgatory more painful than the most painful
sufferings on earth?
Yes, but in a symbolic way. It hurts more in the soul.
What happens to people who have committed suicide? Have you ever been
visited by these people?
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. 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 hurtts 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.
Are there priests in Purgatory?
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?
I would advise him to pray much to the Holy Spirit - and to say his Rosary
Have you been visited by souls who, on earth, practiced perversions? I am
thinking, for example, about the sexual domain.
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?
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 heart which can lead us to losing our soul for
good, I mean going to Hell?
It is when the soul does not want to go towards God, when it actually says:
"I do not want." Jesus said that it was difficult for a rich person to
enter into the Kingdom of Heaven .
Have you seen such cases?
Yes! But if they do good works, works of charity, if they practice love,
they can get there, just like the poor.
(End of interview.)
This article was published in the January-February, 2004 issue of
"If someone does not smile at you, be generous and offer your own smile.
Nobody needs a smile more than the one that cannot smile to others."
"A smile is the lighting system of the face, the cooling system of the
head and the heating system of the heart."