St. Nicholas of Tolentino and his devotion to the Poor Souls in Purgatory
There are many gifts for which St. Nicholas of Tolentino is best known.
One is his great devotion to the Poor Souls in Purgatory.
When his superiors encouraged him to enter the seminary in preparation for the priesthood, he hesitated. He wanted nothing to take away from his prayer time for the Poor Souls.
It wasn't until he was convinced that the greatest prayer he could pray for those suffering souls in Purgatory was the Sacrifice of the Mass, and that he could do best as a priest of God, that he finally consented to enter the seminary. He was ordained a priest in the order of St. Augustine.
He remained a man of prayer, praying day and night for the Poor Souls in Purgatory, sometimes as much as six to eight hours a night. But his devotion to those in Purgatory had to take a back seat to his vow of obedience.
One evening, while he was in prayer, a friar who had recently passed away, Pellegrino of Osimo, appeared to Nicholas. It was all too obvious from the expression on his face that Pellegrino was in agony. He mournfully shared with Nicholas that he was in the pits of Purgatory, suffering the most excruciating pain. He knew of Nicholas' devotion to the Poor Souls in Purgatory, and so he pleaded with his old friend to offer Mass, not only for himself, but for the many other souls who had asked him to implore the aid of Nicholas. Nicholas immediately consented. Then he remembered that he was under obedience to offer the conventual Mass of the Order for the next week.
Pellegrino brought Nicholas into the pits of Purgatory, so that he could see first-hand, the suffering of all those who had asked for his intercession. Before him were a multitude of souls of all ages and conditions, experiencing terrible torment. Pellegrino turned to Nicholas and said,
"Behold the state of those who sent me to you. Since you are agreeable in the sight of God, we have confidence that He will refuse nothing to the oblation of the Sacrifice offered by you, and that His Divine Mercy will deliver us."
Nicholas could not hold back the tears. He went into prayer, after which he went to his superior and asked permission to pray the Mass for the Dead. When he shared his vision, and the agonizing condition of the souls who had asked for his help, the superior, too, broke down into tears. He gave Nicholas a special dispensation from praying the conventual Mass for that next week, and granted him permission to dedicate his Masses as well as all his prayers, toward the deliverance of the Poor Souls from Purgatory. Nicholas celebrated those Masses passionately as (and with) the Victim Priest before him, the One Who came that no one would have to suffer the pains of eternal damnation.
At the end of a week, Pellegrino of Osimo appeared to Nicholas again, only this time he was not in agonizing pain. He had been released from Purgatory, and was on his way to Heaven. The other souls were in the same way, clad in white garments and enveloped with a bright, heavenly light. They called him their liberator, and as they rose up to Heaven, they chanted the prayer,
"Thou has saved us from them that afflict us, and thou has put them to shame that hate us."
There were many instances of Nicholas' intercession for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. It became one of the greatest goals of his vocation, to help as many souls be released from Purgatory as he possibly could. But there is another thing for which St. Nicholas of Tolentino is famous, and that is the bread of St. Nicholas.
Reference: Visions of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory by Bob and Penny Lord