Monday, November 2, 2020

Holy Souls

This is a photograph of my grandfather’s sister. Rosalie was her name. I keep it on my vanity and not only pray for her soul but many other deceased members of my family, not because I don’t think she was a Christian, on the contrary, I know she loved God and was faithful to Him. But because I know not whether she is still being purified in purgatory or has entered the beatific vision in heaven. I also talk to her in my heart, and think of her often. She was a faithful catholic woman, who died young and was unable to marry or have children due to a heart condition, and I look forward to meeting her one day. I have often thought, if I ever have another girl, I would name it after her. 

Today is the 3rd day of what I like to think of as a “triduum” (Latin for 3 days, most Catholics think of the Easter triduum referring to Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter) of the “days of the dead”.  

“All Hallow’s Eve” or what is more commonly known as Halloween, is the Eve or the night before, the celebration of all the holy or “hallowed” ones. The saints. 

All Saints Day, is a celebration of all the holy men and women the church has declared to be saints in heaven. Being declared a saint is a long process in which after a person dies, their life, message and example is scrutinized by the church, and several miracles, tested by science and the church, have to have occurred as a direct result of their intercession. 

Then this last day, All Souls’ Day, is a day on which we pray for all the souls who have died but are being purified in purgatory, waiting for heaven. Praying for the dead was a practice dating back to the Old Testament (2nd Maccabees 12:46) and continued by early Christians from the beginning. Many early fathers of the church and saints spoke of the need to pray for souls who have died but may be in a state of purification before entering the presence of God, needing our prayers. 

I could write many paragraphs about the basis for this teaching, and there have been many books written about it. But consider this. Is God in fact, perfect and holy? If so, would you want to be present to Him for all eternity with some of those faults and weaknesses you might die with? Or would you like to be without any imperfections before Him? It’s like that final cleansing bath, before the wedding feast. 

And if in fact you have deceased family members who loved God but may be in a place called purgatory being purified, and desperately looking for your prayers, dependent on you to help them, do you think they will be happy to see you if they waited for forever because you didn’t think they needed your prayers? 🤔 My thinking is, if it is real, and I believe it is for many reasons (other than church tradition, scripture, and saints’ visions of it and quotes about it, I have heard from others and even within my own family, encounters and dreams of deceased souls visiting those still on earth begging for prayers, or saying “I’m out! It’s ok! I’m in heaven now!”) what a privilege for you to be a part of that. If not, God will use your prayers another way. 

Consider also this. If God is in fact, in control. and he is. what is happening when there are hauntings? Do you believe they are fake? Or someone made them up? This is what several priests I respect have said. It is either demonic, in which case an evil spirit is appearing as a soul, and usually the ghost is clearly evil and causing harm, or it is a soul who has died, asking for help, in which case they are usually trying to get attention, but no harm is done. I recently heard a story, about a ghost at a rectory (the home of a parish priest). The current pastor, after having prayed with other priests to make certain no evil was present, did some research and found out the previous pastor died there. They then began to ask the spirit (believing it was the former pastor) to tell them what he needed, through a series of simple knocks to communicate, the spirit led them to a drawer in the bedroom, full of mass intentions people had given him, that he never said. They understood, that he was suffering in purgatory due to his negligence. They had masses said praying for these intentions, and all paranormal activity stopped. 

St. Gregory the Great from the 6th century said: 
“As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgement, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.” (From the catechism of the Catholic Church 1031, and Matthew 12:31) 

1st Corinthians 3:15
“If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” 

Can we avoid it? Yes. Depending on the lives we lead. A very revered professor at Franciscan University of my husband and myself said to us once “My grandchild had the perfect understanding of purgatory. He said, Grandma? I am going to try my best not to have to go there, but I’m sure glad it’s there.”


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