St. Louis, Mo., Sep 10, 2022 / 06:00 am
The Catholic Church’s teaching on purgatory — the “cleansing fire” that prepares the elect for heaven — can be difficult to understand. But for one saint, the Catholic imperative to pray for the dead was made very real to him — according to the story, one of his deceased friends appeared to him asking for prayers.
Though such an explicit apparition likely will not happen for most, Catholics can still draw inspiration from the holy example of this saint, Nicholas of Tolentino, whose feast day the Church celebrates on Sept. 10.
Born in 1245 in the town of Sant’Angelo in central Italy, Nicholas was drawn to the Augustinan religious order at a young age after hearing a sermon from the local superior on the vanity of the world. The order was in the nearby town of Tolentino, and after studying for seven years, Nicholas was ordained to the priesthood.
Nicholas was a charitable and holy man who often fasted, practiced self-mortification, and spent long hours in prayer. He fed the poor he encountered in a special way — he gave them blessed bread dipped in water. The reason he did this was that he once had a vision of the Virgin Mary telling him to dip bread in water and eat it to regain his health.