Sister Faustina, OCD

This summer I was taking a brisk walk through our neighborhood with several of our sisters. In this particular area of San Marino, towering magnolia trees shade many of the streets. I love magnolias because their blossoms look so pure and graceful and yet are very resilient. These fragrant flowers, which are often larger than size of one’s hand, dot the trees throughout the spring and summer. However, most of the blossoms are too high to reach from the ground so it is always a treat when I can enjoy one up-close.

Well, as we were walking along, I saw one of these prized magnolia buds lying on the ground. It had fallen off the tree before it had opened. I promptly picked up the flower and carried it home, relishing its powerful citrus scent. I thought about how tragic it was that this beautiful flower had not been allowed to bloom on the tree before falling off.

When I got back to the convent, I placed the flower stem in water hoping that it would open one last time. To my great delight, over the next few days the petals slowly opened, revealing the blossom’s beautiful heart and releasing the last of its potent fragrance. Once the flower was completely open, I put it at the feet of one of our statues of Our Blessed Mother.

It may seem to be a stretch, but as I watched the flower open, I honestly thought about the gift of Purgatory. God has created each of us to flourish- to flower and bear fruit- in this life. As St. Irenaeus says, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” It is in loving others and opening fully to life’s joys and trials that we are able to reveal the unique aspect of God’s beauty that we have been created to reflect. This openness is an essential prerequisite for our readiness to receive Heaven’s joys.

Sometimes, though, our petals remain closed. Perhaps through fear or selfishness, through painful experiences or confusion, we are unable to open under the warmth of the sun’s (Son’s) rays. And, for some, life comes to an end before we have fully revealed our inner beauty.

Perhaps Purgatory is the little vase with life-giving water in which we are given the chance to finish unfolding our petals. Perhaps in Purgatory, at the feet of Our Lady, we are gifted with the opportunity of releasing the last of the glorious fragrance were meant to pour forth before the glory of God. And once we are fully given in love, then we are able to receive the Gift of Love Himself.