[This is taken from Augustine Calmet's Phantom World, originally published in 1850, revised and edited by D. J. McAdam, 2010. Copyright as such.]
The apparitions which are seen are those of good angels, or of demons, or the spirits of the dead, or of living persons to others still living.
Good angels usually bring only good news, and announce nothing but what is fortunate; or if they do announce any future misfortunes, it is to persuade men to prevent them, or turn them aside by repentance, or to profit by the evils which God sends them by exercising their patience, and showing submission to his orders.
Bad angels generally foretell only misfortune; wars, the effect of the wrath of God on nations; and often even they execute the evils, and direct the wars and public calamities which desolate kingdoms, provinces, cities, and families. The specters whose appearance to Brutus, Cassius, and Julian the Apostate we have related, are only bearers of the fatal orders of the wrath of God. If they sometimes promise any prosperity to those to whom they appear, it is only for the present time, never for eternity, nor for the glory of God, nor for the eternal salvation of those to whom they speak. It only extends to a temporal fortune, always of short duration, and very often deceitful.
The souls of the defunct, if these be Christians, ask very often that the sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ should be offered, according to the observation of St. Gregory the Great; and, as experience shows, there is hardly any apparition of a Christian that does not ask for masses, pilgrimages, restitutions, or that alms should be distributed, or that they would satisfy those to whom the deceased died indebted. They also often give salutary advice for the salvation or correction of the morals, or good regulation of families. They reveal the state in which certain persons find themselves in the other world, in order to relieve their pain, or to put the living on their guard, that the like misfortune may not befall them. They talk of hell, paradise, purgatory, angels, demons, of the Supreme Judge, of the rigor of his judgments, of the goodness he exercises towards the just, and the rewards with which he crowns their good works.
But we must greatly mistrust those apparitions which ask for masses, pilgrimages and restitution. St. Paul warns us that the demon often transforms himself into an angel of light; and St. John warns us to distrust the "depths of Satan," his illusions, and deceitful appearances; that spirit of malice and falsehood is found among the true prophets to put into the mouth of the false prophets falsehood and error. He makes a wrong use of the text of the Scriptures, of the most sacred ceremonies, even of the sacraments and prayers of the church, to seduce the simple, and win their confidence, to share as much as in him lies the glory which is due to the Almighty alone, and to appropriate it to himself. How many false miracles has he not wrought? How many times has he foretold future events? What cures has he not operated? How many holy actions has he not counseled? How many enterprises, praiseworthy in appearance, has he not inspired, in order to draw the faithful into his snare?
Boden, in his Demonology, cites more than one instance of demons who have requested prayers, and have even placed themselves in the posture of persons praying over a grave, to point out that the dead persons wanted prayers. Sometimes it will be the demon in the shape of a wretch dead in crime, who will come and ask for masses, to show that his soul is in purgatory, and has need of prayers, although it may be certain that he finally died impenitent, and that prayers are useless for his salvation. All this is only a stratagem of a demon, who seeks to inspire the wicked with foolish and dangerous confidence in their being saved, notwithstanding their criminal life and their impenitence; and that they can obtain salvation by means of a few prayers, and a few alms, which shall be made after their death; not regarding that these good works can be useful only to those who died in a state of grace, although stained by some venial fault, since the Scripture informs us that nothing impure will enter the kingdom of heaven.
It is believed that the reprobate can sometimes return to earth by permission, as persons dead in idolatry, and consequently in sin, and excluded from the kingdom of God, have been seen to come to life again, be converted, and receive baptism. St. Martin was as yet only the simple abbot of his monastery of Ligugé, when, in his absence, a catechumen who had placed himself under his discipline to be instructed in the truths of the Christian religion died without having been baptized. He had been three days deceased when the saint arrived. He sent everybody away, prayed over the dead man, resuscitated him, and administered to him the baptismal rite.
This catechumen related that he had been led before the tribunal of the Supreme Judge, who had condemned him to descend into the darkness with an infinity of other persons condemned like himself; but that two angels having represented to the Judge that it was this man for whom St. Martin interceded, God commanded the two angels to bring him back to earth, and restore him to Martin. This is an instance which proves what I have just said, that the reprobate can return to life, do penance, and receive baptism.
But as to what some have affirmed of the salvation of Falconila, procured by St. Thecla, of that of Trajan, saved by the prayers of St. Gregory, pope, and of some others who died heathens, this is all entirely contrary to the faith of the church and to the holy Scripture, which teach us that without faith it is impossible to please God, and that he who believes not and has not received baptism is already judged and condemned. Thus the opinions of those who accord salvation to Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, &c., because it may appear to them that they lived in a praiseworthy manner, according to the rules of a merely human and philosophical morality, must be considered as rash, erroneous, false, and dangerous.
Philip, Chancellor of the Church of Paris, maintained that it was permitted to one man to hold a plurality of benefices. Being on his death-bed, he was visited by William, Bishop of Paris, who died in 1248. This prelate urged the chancellor to give up all his benefices save one only; he refused, saying that he wished to try if the holding a plurality of livings was so wrong as it was said to be; and in this disposition of mind he died in 1237.
Some days after his decease, Bishop William, or Guillaume, praying by night, after matins, in his cathedral, beheld before him the hideous and frightful figure of a man. He made the sign of the cross, and said to him, "If you are sent by God, speak." He spoke, and said: "I am that wretched chancellor, and have been condemned to eternal punishment." The bishop having asked him the cause, he replied, "I am condemned, first, for not having distributed the superfluity of my benefices; secondly, for having maintained that it was allowable to hold several at once; thirdly, for having remained for several days in the guilt of incontinence."
The story was often preached by Bishop William to his clerks. It is related by the Bishop Albertus Magnus, who was a cotemporary, in his book on the sacraments; by William Durand, Bishop of Mande, in his book De Modo celebrandi Concilia; and in Thomas de Cantimpré, in his work Des Abeilles. He believed, then, that God sometimes permitted the reprobate to appear to the living.
Here is an instance of the apparition of a man and woman who were in a state of reprobation. The Prince of Ratzivil, in his Journey to Jerusalem, relates that when in Egypt he bought two mummies, had them packed up, and secretly as possible conveyed on board his vessel, so that only himself and his two servants were aware of it; the Turks making a great difficulty of allowing mummies to be carried away, because they fancy that the Christians make use of them for magical operations. When they were at sea, there arose at sundry times such a violent tempest that the pilot despaired of saving the vessel. A good Polish priest, of the suite of the Prince de Ratzivil, recited the prayers suitable to the circumstance; but he was tormented, he said, by two hideous black specters, a man and a woman, who were on each side of him, and threatened to take away his life. It was thought at first that terror disturbed his mind.
A calm coming on, he appeared tranquil; but very soon, the storm beginning again, he was more tormented than before, and was only delivered from these haunting specters when the two mummies, which he had not seen, were thrown into the sea, and neither himself nor the pilot knew of their being in the ship. I will not deny the fact, which is related by a prince incapable of desiring to impose on any one. But how many reflections may we make on this event! Were they the souls of these two pagans, or two demons who assumed their form? What interest could the demon have in not permitting these bodies to come under the power of the Christians?
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