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Drithelm, of Northumbria, England, was living a virtuous life as a husband and father when he fell gravely ill. On the morning after he was thought to have died, as his family mourned beside his bed, Drithelm suddenly sat up, alive and well. Most of those present fled in terror, but his wife, “who loved him more dearly,” remained. To her he declared that he had been returned to life to live thereafter very differently. Rising from his bed, he hastened to the parish church to pray until dawn. After bequeathing all his possessions to his family and the poor, he entered Melrose Abbey (Scotland) to spend his remaining years in penance. Drithelm divulged that before coming back to life he had experienced a vision of purgatory and the gates of heaven and hell. His account of the souls in purgatory that were nearly ready to enter heaven (as retold by Saint Bede) is particularly heartening. They appeared as joyful young people, clothed in white robes, sitting in a “very broad and pleasant meadow” flooded with light and fragrant with “the scent of spring flowers.” Drithelm also stressed how greatly the souls in purgatory are helped by Masses offered for them.


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