Holy Souls of Purgatory

The Passover Begins

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          Today, the Passover begins. The Feast of Remembrance. Of Pilgrimage. Of Freedom.

It is the LORD’s Passover…This day will be a day of remembrance for you, which your future generations will celebrate with pilgrimage to the LORD; you will celebrate it as a statute forever.   ~   Exodus 12: 11, 14

          For the first time, I mark this date in church and it brings me quiet satisfaction. Into the deep stillness and peace, I bring my pilgrim heart and its wanderings.

          My mind searches and finds the words to the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy. I recite them as my heart traces Jesus’ final journey, from the sorrow of Gethsemane to the violent piercing of the Crucifixion. Into that journey, I press my own questions, my thoughts.

          I ask too for the freedom of the Holy Souls of Purgatory, for today, the dream of yesterday is before me. Yet, the eyes of my spirit are shifted elsewhere. Today, the dream tugs at me to seek freedom for the Poor Souls with an intensity I’ve not visited in so long. Suddenly, every other seeking dims against this.

Holy water, Precious Blood, wash their sins away.

          I think of my colleague in yesterday’s dream, stricken to an unearthly silence. I think of the boxes of memories and of the precious, never to be given again. Boxes and boxes of them, boxes formed from the mud of the earth. My heart still has not found the prayer for her but I am determined to pray for her. So, into His Wounds, I press her. Save her, Lord, I call to heaven.

          And then, I leave her and return to the Holy Souls and their painful wait.

          Soon, it is time to leave the church and begin the long, winding drive home. The skies watch but leave nothing for me. For a while I seek something for my heart. A message in the clouds, a tiny rainbow perhaps. But as quickly, I withdraw from that road. This year, I want to be dressed right, wearing the robe of humility, not of misplaced seeking.

          For it is the Feast of the Passover. Something is changing.

 

 

 

 

 

They Are In Peace

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The souls of the just ..
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.   ~ Wisdom 3: 1 – 3

 

          We made the trip back to our families’ resting place amidst a strangely profound sadness which I kept hidden in the folds of my heart. I had spent the previous night reading about a terrible, terrible, tragic incident where a young married couple had been killed. They had fallen off Taft Point in Yosemite, plunging 800 feet to their deaths.

          I was affected by something beyond the sorrow and tragedy of it, I’m not sure what. Maybe it was because they were so young and had their whole lives ahead of them. Maybe it was because they seemed so very, very happy and carefree in their many pictures.

          Maybe because the wife had previously posted on social media about struggling with depression.

          She had wondered if she was a source of life or a burden to her loved ones. It was a question I too had asked myself countless times many years ago.

          Some shadow stayed over me as we travelled the wildtree-fringed roads, as the grey~white clouds above chugged towards secret destinations.

          At the secluded resting grounds, I was surprised to see it empty of others. No one besides us had come to visit that day. Only one family who had now moved to the city miles away had come earlier and placed flowers on their family graves. As we wiped and cleaned our loved ones’ places and my husband tenderly cut and arranged flowers in the vases, the hush of the surrounding forest embraced us while the greenwinds gently weaved their way between the slumbering. Even the birds muted their robust song as I sorrowed over lives lost. Looking up at white graced skies of a hot gold~blue morning, the anguish over that young couple pierced deeper, making me cry out to heaven,

          I bind them to the Angel’s heart. May every prayer I pray to the Angel be a prayer for their souls.

          We walked around saying our prayers and goodbyes, laying them on the breast of those in silent repose. But my sadness clung on; something about that couple held on to my heart, unwilling to let go.

          Please tell God to forgive them, I told the Angel. Forgive them for any wrongs they had no time to make amends for.

          It was time to leave. Something moved in me. I pressed one last prayer into the Angel’s gentleness.

Forgive them, Lord, for they do not know what they do.

          As I made my way to the old gates wreathed in wild vines, suddenly a kingfisher called out. I’ve never, not once, in the many long years we’ve made sojourn after sojourn here, ever heard the call of a kingfisher. This is a place where birds are free to drench the still air with their melodies, and they have always sung with gay abandon. Pigeons, turtledoves, robins, and sometimes, an eagle.

          But never the Blue King, the emissary of St. Francis of Assisi.

          Listen, I thought. He’s telling me to Quieten Down, Listen Up.

          As we drove away, the miles coming between us and the spirits who now play and sleep in a world that will one day be ours, I felt the sadness give. Tendril by slow tendril. How shallow my grief for that couple, I mused, unhappy with myself. How easily I forget the Poor Souls’ pain.

          There was no denying it. My earlier sadness was definitely  melting away. I blamed it on my fickle loyalty.

          Today, however, maybe I have the reason for it.

They are in peace.

          And Someone wanted me to know it.

 

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Change of Address

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          Last Saturday, nestled in the midst of household busyness and the refrain of restless winds in the trees, an old memory returned to me. That of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, her Daily Pilgrimage to Purgatory prayer and the departed. I do remember to pray for my faithful friends, the Holy Souls, from time to time. But lately, too busy digging holes in my vineyard, I had little time to go into those prayers. However, since we were to attend sunset Mass that evening, I made up my mind to take the Holy Souls along.

          Unfortunately, as usual, I got sidetracked. It was only just before the elevation of the Eucharist that I remembered them. Some friend I was. I rushed to place loved ones and relatives who needed the power of the Mass before the altar. I usually tack on groups of others but I didn’t this time. I didn’t feel the need to. That day was all about relatives.

          Once done, my mind left them and went traipsing elsewhere.

          Early the next day, on Sunday morning, I learned anew the worth of prayers. I dreamed of a place almost like Nepal. Narrow streets, crowded poor. Women, children, mothers out and about. As I moved through them, no one seemed to see me. I made my way through the knot of people and the weave of dull, reddish-brown streets, to a wide building at the edge of that place. It was an old building, big, cheerless, yet not dark nor forbidding. Everything about that town and streets and various structures seemed aged, poor, but not neglected.

          I entered the building. It was like a big house with rooms upstairs.  It was bare and unadorned. There were no curtains on the dull windows. These windows were in need of a wash. Somehow, I sensed this was not because  they were grimy; just that they needed some cleaning for light to come through.

          As I stepped into the empty foyer, in the dream, I thought,

I hope she has packed.

          Just then, I saw two people glide quickly past me, out of the front door. I could not retain how they looked like, it was as if I was not allowed to see their faces clearly, to identify them.

          But one of them, face blurred, smiled sunnily at me as she sailed past. I somehow knew it was a woman.

And although I couldn’t make out her face, my spirit instantly knew her.

          As I turned towards the door she and the other person had misted through, I saw a big pile of small boxes. Plain, mud-coloured boxes. All of the same size, just stacked in a heap by the door.

          On each of them was printed 2 names in thick, black ink-

Betty

Jobbiah

Some boxes belonged to Betty, some to this Jobbiah.

          I don’t know who Jobbiah is but Betty was my cousin who had passed away tragically from a medical overdose some 14 years ago.

          Back in the day, Betty was very much a part of our lives and of many others’ too. She took a very keen interest in every event and detail and was always chasing down issues that didn’t need her interference. We were very fond of her but there was no disguising the fact that Betty was an inveterate busybody. She was not a troublemaker. She didn’t go around upsetting people, but neither was she someone who brought much good anywhere for all her meddling.

          Betty had a ear for everything and it kept her too busy. It took her away from duties to home and hearth. She had a husband who adored her just for who she was and he never tried to reign her in even when he should have. Consequently, Betty’s circle and depth of meddling widened considerably over the years.

          Truth be told, if ever we needed a sympathetic shoulder or an eagerly listening ear for gossip, Betty was the one to go to. She was the sort to moan and weep with us. Not as likely to always rejoice over others’ good fortune, but she was good natured for the most part.

          No matter what, I loved my cousin. That old February day she died, I lost someone I cared for and who cared for me as deeply, perhaps even more than I would ever know.

          Since her death, I’ve tried to pray for her but I could sense that my prayers were being blocked. They would not travel far. After a time, I stopped trying to pray for Betty. Not out of a lack of charity. But because I trusted that as there is a time for everything under the sun, when the time of prayers for Betty came, my spirit would know it.

          That dream of Betty and the boxes tells of the worth of every form of prayer we offer up – Masses, of words, of sacrifices. They go to places far, far away, cross distances beyond our imagination. Our prayers go for people we know as well as to those unknown to us.

          The dream tells me that Betty has packed up and is ready to leave that place of brown~grey emptiness because of the various forms of prayers of us here on this earth. We have been taught that while the Poor Souls can pray for us and journey with us, they can no longer pray for themselves after death. Their change of address depends to some extent on our efforts to plead the Mercy of God for them.

          Even if there was a period of time when God would not ‘allow’ my prayers for Betty, it did not mean He held up His hand against others’. Every Mass we offer up, every sacrifice for the Holy Souls, every prayer even by stranger-hearts, goes towards a common trust for these Souls, to be released when willed by God, to secure a new home for a soul.

          Happy though she was, I sense Betty still has some way to go. Heaven is not her new address yet, for I’ve seen souls in heaven, as well those about to leave the fires of anguish forever.

They are clothed differently.

          And they carry with them no boxes, marked with their name, of sins yet to be fully expiated.

November Offerings

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          There’s a vigil of a different kind after life on earth ends. It is the Vigil the Poor Souls keep, a vigil that differs greatly from any we experience as long as life flows through us. I’ve come to understand that theirs is an uninterrupted waiting, with no relief of distractions. No excitement of personal pursuits or work concerns and family needs which we grumble over, to take their minds off the waiting to be received into heaven.

          For the Poor Souls, there is none of the respite of tethering in verdant pastures away from sufferings. Longing for heaven burns in them. It is a burning they cannot turn away from. It is a suffering that burns away every trace of love for self, manifested through the various droughts of love of God and neighbour.

          And yet, it is precisely this burning that makes the Poor Souls love as few of us ever can. In Purgatory, they are now in a place that allows no love of self, no dilution of sin. No excuse, no convenient forgetting of God’s will to love Him and neighbour.

          They are now where they are free of earthly binds. They are free to learn to love as they should. This is what Purgatory means to me.

          I know this from what I have read over the years. I know this from the dreams I have had of loved ones who have crossed the shore. Those who had before hurt us with their thoughtless behaviour and callousness; now through death, are emptied of themselves.

          But filled with a new yearning that those still on earth – be saved.

          It is this new yearning born of flames that touches me deeply. It is a yearning that I have seen in their sorrow-shadowed eyes as they move from point to point, place to place, in a journey that seems so strange for it is devoid of sights and objects familiar to me. I’ve felt this love-after-death of the Holy Souls in the brevity of their spoken word, the glances that never linger long, the warm touch of their hand on mine.

          In their tireless chanting to warn me away from the precipice that falls to the rocks below, I have been touched by a love so achingly pure that even my greatest act of charity seems woefully selfish by comparison.

          It is this love shown by the Poor Souls that makes me ache in pity for them. This love of theirs in turn lights a love I can never muster of my own accord. It is this love that tugs at my spirit beseeching me to do what I can to help them to heaven.

          I look into my life~basket. There I see the blooms of Masses, the November Rosaries and devotions.

          I also see the trials I may face this month.

          I see the days to come and its little calls to work, patience and compassion for others, especially when it is hardest to bequeath.

           Each and every one, an offering for souls in a place where they can pray for us but can no longer pray for themselves.

          I know that despite my best intentions, there might be days when life will pound at me in a crescendo that deafens to me to the pleading of those grieving souls. Yet, every offering, be it Masses or prayers or piercings, I pledge for my unseen friends, more faithful than any others. Because I have this day. I have this hour. To live this life of opportunities the Holy Souls no longer have. 

          In the will of God, may my November offerings dry the tears of the Poor Souls, pearl by weep~pearl.

 

 

 

Reunion

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          It was a night of patchy sleep due to an irritating cough, but it was well worth the morning I awakened to. Happy sunshine rays warmed and dappled the lawn and teased the windows with its allure. Frisky breezes danced through boughs and leaves, teasing and tickling. It felt like a morning party of the most joyful kind. Even the skies were in a dance, windbrooms sweeping cloud puff after cloud puff to one harbor of joy after another.

          I paused my morning sweeping to sit awhile and to rest my spirit in the blue~gold beauty of that happy morning. I thought I should pray a bit, but sensed the prayer called for was not of words, but of the spirit. So, I let go of the words, and sank my spirit into the spill of gold and green before me.

          However, my thoughts immediately returned to those who might not be able to partake of this spiritual feast – the Holy Souls of Purgatory.

          Last week, my confessor had hurriedly informed me that he was about to depart on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Montligeon, France – the centre of prayer for the departed. I had never in my life heard of it, but I thrilled to it, as praying for the Poor Souls is a personal calling. The priest then said he needed all the prayers he could get, and I was determined to give him all I could. I figured a St Joseph prayer – for strength, protection, wisdom and discernment.

          Just then, a little prayer invoking the aid of the Holy Souls popped up on my laptop screen. It was a tender, little prayer – again, one I had never heard of – and it fell straight into my heart like a tiny rosebud. I wanted to write it out in the little prayer book I have, but I tarried, and unfortunately, the screen closed. Try as I did, I failed to retrieve the little gem. Not a single word of it had lodged in my memory either.

          I was very disappointed in myself. How could I have done this? Then, I reasoned: if it was meant to be, it’d come back.

          It never came back. That prayer was like the smallest bud. It had caught the sight of my heart, but when I reached out for it, it misted over. Yet, its essence stayed with me – seek the aid of the departed.

          The next day brought grey news that we had lost a loved one.

          Suddenly, the Holy Souls was no longer a wan, little light seeking my heart in my busyness. With Father’s pilgrimage and the death in the family, they were very much before me now. 

          All through the wake and the funeral Mass, we family members prayed together and raised incense of heart~offerings. Everything proceeded smoothly. I did not get the sense that our prayers were blocked.

          Yet, there remained a distinctive mist over the prayers. It was as if I could ‘see’ the prayers going on their journey, and then, for some reason, a mist rose up to block my view of the rest of its journey. I wasn’t too sure what was going on, but I sensed something was about to change or to be revealed.

          Yesterday, in the quiet hours of night peace, a little door opened, and an unseen heart placed before me a novena I have never before heard of: The Daily Pilgrimage to Purgatory by St Margaret Mary Alacoque. The minute I heard its name, I knew it was no random passing prayer.

          It was willed for me and it was willed for the now. The Daily Pilgrimage to Purgatory encapsulated both entreaty for heavenly mercy upon the departed, as well as invocation of their assistance. It would work for Father on his pilgrimage, as well as for all the departed.

          Then, I thought of that little rose of a prayer. The one that came and disappeared. The little pink light that fell upon my heart to awaken it from its slumber; its work done, slipped past my reach.

          And suddenly, I knew who had brought it: Love. Love had come, asking me to love the departed with a deeper intensity. Reminding me that every prayer we pray for those precious Souls reduces the separation between them and the Joy of Heaven; that every time we forget ourselves for them, we take the Souls closer to heavenly Reunion – the yearning of each one of us.

          Why have they come now, and as strongly, I wonder? Why the ‘confluence of events’ ? Three bright stars ~ the pilgrimage, the passing and the prayer – coming together and appearing in the skies of my spirit now.

          Almost two years ago, on the anniversary of St Francis of Assisi’s death, October 3rd, I had dreamt of a time that is coming. A time of two overlapping contrasts. One of raucous, prideful and sneering celebration of emptiness – a sprawler’s revelry – juxtaposed against another – a time of gathering darkness, of deepening silence.

           And of a seeing. It was the time of a miracle enabled by the lifting of veils. The miracle of seeing clearly and in the flesh – some who have passed on before us.

          In the dream, there was a marker – a significant event – personal to me, indicative of the time. Almost two years ago, it didn’t make much sense.

          But just recently, that personal event came to pass. What I had deemed inconceivable before actually became a (sad) reality. Wholly unexpected. Triggering a revelry like never before – exactly as in my dream.

          In the dream too, the celebration continued into the gathering veils of the night, its light of glitz and pomp mocking some of my family and some strangers too, who had gathered together. The revelry taunted us for being in the shadows, for being left out of the ‘light’.

          There we stood, family and strangers, banded together in the dark, in a stone house filled with light, yet, awaiting a further darkness. There was no fear in the hearts of the gathered. There was compassion for one another, and a distinct absence of self-seeking. Even as we cared for one another, our eyes remained trained on what lay beyond the hills, the approaching darkness. It came to me that as we cared for one another with no self-seeking, we seemed to have an alertness to a shifting in the distance.

          But it was an awareness lost on the revelers. Because they were too full of themselves, and there was little space for anything else.

         When the dark got closer, I went out to call in the children, in the deeps of happy, innocent play, unperturbed by anything.

          It was then that I saw those who had long ago left this earthly life. They were not standing apart, in the watchful silence I would expect from past experiences with the Holy Souls.

          In that dream, I saw the departed very much a part of our life and joys. They were alive! There was no chasm between me and them. I could touch them, hug them, even speak to them! They were as warm and as alive as before. Likewise, they could converse with me, live in my home. They were one of us – just as before!

          All my life, I understood that a reunion with the departed could only take place on our last day, when we had unloosed the final moorings that held us to this early life –  through death.

          But the dream showed something else. A totally unexpected reality that may come to pass. I am no prophet. My dream is not a biblical truth that must be written on hearts and looked out for.

          But without ascribing my interpretations to it, this dream, brought by St Francis of Assisi, a saint who only appears to me when he wants me to quieten down, listen up, is a dream I know I need to pay attention to.

          Because the dream points to a reunion promised to me ten sad years ago through the words, I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you…. he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empty Purgatory

          There is a place where souls mourn and love differently from us. Where the gaze no longer rests on the self but looks out in mercy towards others. It is a place where the yearning to be reunited with God permeates everything, lighting a terrible fire of suffering within all who reside here.

          It is Purgatory. A place which knows a fire-lashed thirst for God that none on earth has ever known.

          God first stirred my spirit to mercy more than twenty years ago through the sufferings of souls in Purgatory. From that old night when I first read of this place and its pain, nothing has been more powerful to take me away from the laments of personal needs and wants. However hard and broken life has been in the ensuing years, the slightest whisper from Purgatory had a power beyond words to make me forget myself in order to wet the parchedness of yearning in souls who can no longer help themselves.

          It was time yesterday to begin my nine day novena to St Padre Pio, to be dressed right for his feast day on the 23rd of this month. But as I turned it over in my mind, it didn’t feel right to petition him for any earthly need of mine. I wondered what my Father Pio would most want of me as a gift for his feast day, woven from nine days of prayer.

          Empty Purgatory, came his answer. 

A YOKE NOT WILLED

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          In the waning days of November, old years ago, I heard an insistent beat on my soul – Do not be yoked with unbelievers…Do not be yoked with unbelievers…Do not be yoked with unbelievers… It was the persistent clamour of many voices of unseen faces, from the moment of my waking, all through the long nights.

          I thought I was going mad. What unbelievers? I threw the question wearily to the arid breezes that lingered in our home back then. Granted, I worked with those not of my faith. But they never darkened my door, much less my hours at home. Every minute home I gave my young children my attention. I was also battling a gray fog – I seemed to have symptoms of depression, stemming from an unresolved, ever-worsening abuse situation, and it rendered a bleak swell and ebb of anguish to my days. It was a life that was too full in some respects, but where were the unbelievers?

          Like many others, I straddled several lives whilst living one. I was wife. I was mother. I was child and sibling. I was working woman and friend. Each one, not merely a calling or a facet of one single life, but a full life, crossing and intersecting others. Few private moments. Always at the beck and call of the needs and whines of others.

          I had good friends, but there was one friend, in particular. Beautiful, wealthy, intelligent, wildly successful. Fun to be with. Catholic in spots and patches. Living a sham of a married life, wedded to her selfish mother whilst expecting her man to play butler to them both. Yet, she was a tender and empathetic friend, quick to support, with an uncanny understanding of who I was.

          Other than my husband, she was the only other person who really knew me. Perhaps too much. Over the decades, she used the lure of a drowning victim to draw me away from my home, away from my husband and children, deeper and deeper into her murky world, lived in a constant swirl of fury, selfishness and frustrations.

          But she was not devious. Not manipulative. She had a cross few experienced. Chained to a neurotic mother, unable to free herself to be the wife to the man she loved, my friend was indeed another victim. Her pride in her polished public image didn’t allow her to seek comfort in other hearts. Not even her husband knew what kind of mother she had. Her every pain instead found an unthreatening vessel in me she could fill.

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          Whilst my mother had no room in her heart for anyone but herself, my friend’s mother deeply loved her daughter, yet not enough to release her. Hence, we both had mothers who chained us to them and sought to destroy other lights in our lives, lest we shifted our worship elsewhere. And on that tundra of emotional pain and desolation, our troubled lives intersected, there, more than anywhere else.           d4a2b95b6c4be7f21196b826193af8f4[1]

          When her husband gave up on the marriage and sought other pastures, my friend’s grief destroyed everything but her stubborn love for her mother. The ragged edges of her torment turned into knives she kept sheathed from her mother, but not from me. She knew I loved my husband and children more than life itself.  She knew that despite my depression and personal wounds, my husband and I struggled to build a happy home for the young ones. Blinded by her pain, all she saw in my life was the light in my home that struggled against the odds to illuminate our shadows. 

          And in her pain, she yearned for even that weak light. Not to have a small share of it, but to take it all, and to take it away so I’d suffer the same, not be a step up on her. She was anguished with her life, wanting mine. Over subsequent months, she transitioned from friend to my child attached to my hip, her 30 to 50 text messages a day to me a stubborn, demanding constant through my work hours, meal preparations, family time.

          She demanded my time, my prayers, and I acquiesced because I couldn’t bear that she suffer alone. It didn’t occur to me that there could have been a different way to deal with the situation – one that didn’t take both our sanities. I struggled with her cross and mine. I pounded at heaven’s door, but God was oddly silent. I grew exhausted and drained. Abandoned by God. Torn in a hundred directions. My placid husband began to express concern over the incessant buzz of the incoming text messages. I screamed that she was a dying soul I could not walk away from. It was not a Christian response to leave the drowning.

          I didn’t realize there was more than one person drowning.

          Then, one morning, it began. Do not be yoked with unbelievers. From sunrise to shadows. Do not be yoked with unbelievers. A warning called out from friends in a world beyond ours. I tried to shut the voices out, but they lived on like an invisible shadow, ever by my side. Desperate, I fell at God’s feet, broken, doubting myself. I emptied myself, in His arms I sought the counsel I was too vain to seek before. 

          Soon, I felt a new firmness of will take hold of me. I began to let hours pass before I answered her messages. And there was no guilt for that. Breathing came easier. I found minutes here and there to just sit and stare at the trees and do nothing. She caught on quickly and retaliated. Biting anger. Vicious.

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         One day, after a whipping I didn’t deserve, I came to my senses. I resolutely stepped out of the smoke of delusion that I was helping a friend in need. I severed everything between us, finally throwing off a yoke that didn’t come from heaven.

the_dead_flower_by_tallulahprewett-d483be9[1]          It’s been years. Long, long years where the floundering wick slowly strengthened. As this November day ages to its repose, I ponder this memory of old sunderance, and wonder why it has come back unbidden. I have not willed it back, for sure. There is no grief for the death of an old comradeship, ultimately sullied and bittered by the idolatry of self.

          But there is epiphany. And it is searing. That mercy must always be blessed and inspired by heaven or it can be led astray. That human hearts can err in misreading the depths of someone’s pain, and in the manner of responding to the needs of dying souls.

          But most of all, that saving a dying soul must never come at the cost of ours.