By Augustine Calmet
The story of the Marquis de Rambouillet, who appeared after his death to the Marquis de Précy, is very celebrated. These two lords, conversing on the subject of the other world, like people who were not very strongly persuaded of the truth of all that is said upon it, promised each other that the first of the two who died should bring the news of it to the other. The Marquis de Rambouillet set off for Flanders, where the war was then carried on; and the Marquis de Précy remained at Paris, detained by a low fever. Six weeks after, in broad day, he heard some one undraw his bed-curtains, and turning to see who it was, he perceived the Marquis de Rambouillet, in buff-leather jacket and boots. He sprang from his bed to embrace his friend; but Rambouillet, stepping back a few paces, told him that he was come to keep his word as he had promised—that all that was said of the next life was very certain—that he must change his conduct, and in the first action wherein he was engaged he would lose his life.
Précy again attempted to embrace his friend, but he embraced only empty air. Then Rambouillet, seeing that his friend was incredulous as to what he said, showed him where he had received the wound in his side, whence the blood still seemed to flow. Précy soon after received, by the post, confirmation of the death of the Marquis de Rambouillet; and being himself some time after, during the civil wars, at the battle of the Faubourg of St. Antoine, he was there killed.
Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny, relates a very similar story. A gentleman named Humbert, son of a lord named Guichard de Belioc, in the diocese of Macon, having declared war against the other principal men in his neighborhood, a gentleman named Geoffrey d'Iden received in the mêlée a wound of which he died immediately.
About two months afterwards, this same Geoffrey appeared to a gentleman named Milo d'Ansa, and begged him to tell Humbert de Belioc, in whose service he had lost his life, that he was tormented for having assisted him in an unjust war, and for not having expiated his sins by penance before he died; that he begged him to have compassion on him, and on his own father, Guichard, who had left him great wealth, of which he made a bad use, and of which a part had been badly acquired. That in truth Guichard, the father of Humbert, had embraced a religious life at Cluny; but that he had not time to satisfy the justice of God for the sins of his past life; that he conjured him to have mass performed for him and for his father, to give alms, and to employ the prayers of good people, to procure them both a prompt deliverance from the pains they endured. He added, "Tell him, that if he will not mind what you say, I shall be obliged to go to him myself, and announce to him what I have just told you."
Milo d'Ansa acquitted himself faithfully of his commission; Humbert was frightened at it, but it did not make him better. Still, fearing that Guichard, his father, or Geoffrey d'Iden might come and disturb him, above all during the night, he dare not remain alone, and would always have one of his people by him.
One morning, then, as he was lying awake in his bed, he beheld in his presence Geoffrey, armed as in a day of battle, who showed him the mortal wound he had received, and which appeared yet quite fresh. He reproached him keenly for his want of pity towards his own father, who was groaning in torment. "Take care," added he, "that God does not treat you rigorously, and refuse to you that mercy which you refuse to us; and, above all, take care not to execute your intention of going to the wars with Count Amadeus. If you go, you will there lose both life and property."
He said, and Humbert was about to reply, when the Squire Vichard de Maracy, Humbert's counselor, arrived from mass, and immediately the dead man disappeared. From that moment, Humbert endeavored seriously to relieve his father Geoffrey, and resolved to take a journey to Jerusalem to expiate his sins. Peter the Venerable had been well informed of all the details of this story, which occurred in the year he went into Spain, and made a great noise in the country. The Cardinal Baronius, a very grave and respectable man, says that he had heard from several very sensible people, and who have often heard it preached to the people, and in particular from Michael Mercati, Prothonotary of the Holy See, a man of acknowledged probity and well informed, above all in the platonic philosophy, to which he applied himself unweariedly with Marsilius Ficin, his friend, as zealous as himself for the doctrine of Plato.
One day, these two great philosophers were conversing on the immortality of the soul, and if it remained and existed after the death of the body. After having had much discourse on this matter, they promised each other, and shook hands upon it, that the first of them who quitted this world should come and tell the other somewhat of the state of the other life.
Having thus separated, it happened some time afterwards that the same Michael Mercati, being wide awake and studying, one morning very early, the same philosophical matters, heard on a sudden a noise like a horseman who was coming hastily to his door, and at the same he heard the voice of his friend Marsilius Ficin, who cried out to him, "Michael, Michael, nothing is more true than what is said of the other life." At the same, Michael opened his window, and saw Marsilius mounted on a white horse, who was galloping away. Michael cried out to him to stop, but he continued his course till Michael could no longer see him.
Marsilius Ficin was at that time dwelling at Florence, and died there at the same hour that he had appeared and spoken to his friend. The latter wrote directly to Florence, to inquire into the truth of the circumstance; and they replied to him that Marsilius had died at the same moment that Michael had heard his voice and the noise of his horse at his door. Ever after that adventure, Michael Mercati, although very regular in his conduct before then, became quite an altered man, and lived in so exemplary a manner that he became a perfect model of Christian life. We find a great many such instances in Henri Morus, and in Joshua Grandville, in his work entitled "Sadduceeism Combated."
Here is one taken from the life of B. Joseph de Lionisse, a missionary capuchin. One day, when he was conversing with his companion on the duties of religion, and the fidelity which God requires of those who have consecrated themselves to them, of the reward reserved for those who are perfectly religious, and the severe justice which he exercises against unfaithful servants, Brother Joseph said to him, "Let us promise each other mutually that the one who dies the first will appear to the other, if God allows him so to do, to inform him of what passes in the other world, and the condition in which he finds himself." "I am willing," replied the holy companion; "I give you my word upon it." "And I pledge you mine," replied Brother Joseph.
Some days after this, the pious companion was attacked by a malady which brought him to the tomb. Brother Joseph felt this the more sensibly, because he knew better than the others all the virtues of this holy monk. He had no doubt of the fulfillment of their agreement, or that the deceased would appear to him, when he least thought of it, to acquit himself of his promise.
In effect, one day when Brother Joseph had retired to his room, in the afternoon, he saw a young capuchin enter horribly haggard, with a pale thin face, who saluted him with a feeble, trembling voice. As, at the sight of this specter, Joseph appeared a little disturbed, "Don't be alarmed," it said to him; "I am come here as permitted by God, to fulfill my promise, and to tell you that I have the happiness to be amongst the elect through the mercy of the Lord. But learn that it is even more difficult to be saved than is thought in this world; that God, whose wisdom can penetrate the most secret folds of the heart, weighs exactly the actions which we have done during life, the thoughts, wishes, and motives, which we propose to ourselves in acting; and as much as he is inexorable in regard to sinners, so much is he good, indulgent, and rich in mercy, towards those just souls who have served him in this life." At these words, the phantom disappeared.
Here follows an instance of a spirit which comes after death to visit his friend without having made an agreement with him to do so. Peter Garmate, Bishop of Cracow, was translated to the archbishopric of Gnesnes, in 1548, and obtained a dispensation from Paul III. to retain still his bishopric of Cracow. This prelate, after having led a very irregular life during his youth, began towards the end of his life, to perform many charitable actions, feeding every day a hundred poor, to whom he sent food from his own table. And when he traveled, he was followed by two wagons, loaded with coats and shirts, which he distributed amongst the poor according as they needed them.
One day, when he was preparing to go to church, towards evening, (it being the eve of a festival,) and he was alone in his closet, he suddenly beheld before him a gentleman named Curosius, who had been dead some time, with whom he had formerly been too intimately associated in evil doing.
The Archbishop Gamrate was at first affrighted, but the defunct reassured him and told him that he was of the number of the blessed. "What!" said the prelate to him; "after such a life as you led! For you know the excesses which both you and myself committed in our youth." "I know it," replied the defunct; "but this is what saved me. One day, when in Germany, I found myself with a man who uttered blasphemous discourse, most injurious to the Holy Virgin. I was irritated at it, and gave him a blow; we drew our swords; I killed him; and for fear of being arrested and punished as a homicide, I took flight without reflecting much on the action I had committed. But at the hour of death, I found myself most terribly disturbed by remorse on my past life, and I only expected certain destruction; when the Holy Virgin came to my aid, and made such powerful intercession for me with her Son, that she obtained for me the pardon of my sins; and I have the happiness to enjoy beatitude. For yourself, who have only six months to live, I am sent to warn you, that in consideration of your alms, and your charity to the poor, God will show you mercy, and expects you to do penance. Profit while it is time, and expiate your past sins." After having said this, he disappeared; and the archbishop, bursting into tears, began to live in so Christianly a manner that he was the edification of all who knew him. He related the circumstance to his most intimate friends, and died in 1545, after having directed the Church of Gnesnes for about five years.
The daughter of Dumoulin, a celebrated lawyer, having been inhumanly massacred in her dwelling, appeared by night to her husband, who was wide awake, and declared to him the names of those who had killed herself and her children, conjuring him to revenge her death.
This is taken from Phantom World, originally published in 1850.
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