PURGATORY

Feed Souls

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          A strange, blurry dream yesterday showed me preparing meals for Muslim memorial gatherings. It was a fuzzy dream, but long enough for me to remember its central theme: the preparation of food for this particular reason.

          I awakened wondering if I should shrug it off; after all, it was November 30, the last day of November when Catholics remember the souls of those gone, in a deeper, special way. I reasoned that if God really wanted me to do something about it, He’d have alerted me sooner. Besides, something else about the dream didn’t make sense – the memorial gatherings – because Muslims here rarely organise memorial get-together’s for their dead. They are very quick to bury their dead, often even before family members can gather. And the grieving are hurried to healing. Memorials are not the done thing.

          But something about the dream lingered on, just like the one about boys in prison. Gentle, like a soft breath against my hours. Not forcing me to focus on it, yet quietly willing me to turn my heart towards it.

          Given what our life here is like with Muslims in this country, I had scant desire to pray or do anything as in the dream. Yet, in issues concerning the departed, my heart bends in a strange softness; the call of their souls one I cannot turn away from, no matter what their faith or creed.

          It was no different this time. Although the rest of me scowled in rebellion, my heart ignored me and went ahead.

          I tried the easy way out first.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let Thy perpetual Light shine upon them.

May their souls rest in peace.

          The prayer faded out of reach pretty quickly, but I couldn’t be sure if it was just me or something more. If it was my reluctance asserting itself, then my offering for these particular departed souls needed to be something I did not actively think about. So, I stood before my altar and offered up my day for the souls. I thought I’d make it a busy chore day, pushing myself with the Christmas cleaning, especially the bits I wasn’t too keen on – to deepen the element of sacrifice of the day for those souls.

          My hours of the 30th of November instead slid into gentle, languid ease. The heavy work day I planned simply misted away. Apart from the daily ‘usuals’, I got nothing else done. It was not due to apathy; more like my plans for the day were moved out of my reach.

          The prayer didn’t fit, the offering didn’t work out. I must have read the dream wrong, I thought ruefully to myself. It was just a dream, not a call from heaven.

          As those thoughts tread through my mind, an old dream came before me, of a coming reunion, a dark day of approaching danger, yet also a day where I saw our beloved long gone, living with us once more, in happy play with the other children, yet not too busy to give me a hug.

          Then, from behind me, in the dream, appeared a Muslim man, dressed in almost white. His hands stretched out in a gesture of heartfelt pleading, he said,

“At least you can see them. Give us some hope too.”

          So many, many times since that dream of 2015 on the eve of the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, I’ve pondered those strange words from the unknown man, At least you can see them. Give us some hope too.

          What hope was he referring to? Hope of seeing those gone alive once more amongst us?

          Why could he not see them?

          How did he know I could?

          And how was I to give him the hope of this seeing?

          Years later, no clear answer was forthcoming.

          But this new November dream was still here, asking me for something for Muslim souls. What it was, I didn’t know, but I suspected it was something that was not a part of Islam.

          On last night of old November, as the night rains mouthed a soft chorus outside, I read something about the Holy Souls that I have never come across before.

For the souls in Purgatory then, Holy Communion is one precious personal gift which they can receive from us. Who can tell how helpful Holy Communions are toward their liberation? One day St. Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi’s dead father appeared to her and said that one hundred and seven Holy Communions were necessary for him to be able to leave Purgatory. When the last of the one hundred and seven was offered for him, the Saint saw her father ascend to Heaven. ~ http://www.marys-touch.com/Eucharist/ch3.htm

          In a fall of Light, I suddenly saw and understood something I hadn’t before.

          This year, I’ve been moved to do something odd- to ask God permission each time I went to receive Holy Communion, to bring along Poor Souls. I had not read about this practice anywhere before, nor heard of it done by someone. In fact, every time I prayed to “bring along” a Poor Soul, I thought I was bone mad. But in the depths of my heart, I also wondered if coming with me to receive Holy Communion placed the departed souls as close to Jesus as possible, at least for a few moments, thus momentarily appeasing their flaming sorrows at the separation of atonement.

          I wasn’t even sure if this act was theologically sound but I was confident that if it wasn’t, God would right it Himself.

          Yesterday, upon reading the above passage, it became very clear that taking the souls for Holy Communion was not an act of madness. It was an asking of God.

To enable the expiation of sins through the power of the Holy Eucharist

          There are many written accounts of Saints like Padre Pio who tell of souls serving their Purgatory by expiating in very specific ways, of sins committed during their time on earth. I personally know this to be true, although I do not know if what I saw was Purgatory or Hell itself.

          But until last night, I had not known that we on earth can help to expiate for sins against the Holy Eucharist by the receiving It on behalf of the Poor Souls of Purgatory. And now, it appears that even in death, we can give Jesus to souls – including Muslims, for whom Jesus is a prophet, not the Messiah.

          Every year, I seek to know what Advent my Lord asks of me. This year was no different. Today, on this first day of Advent, an answer begins to take form. The memorial meals I saw myself preparing in yesterday’s dream was significant. I’m being asked to feed souls – but with the Eucharist.

          But it is what a priest does.

          I’m no priest and I’m not about to ordain myself.

         But as a sinner who was long ago taught to love and care for the souls of the departed, I am now being asked to feed them through my faith and belief in the presence and power of Jesus alive in the Holy Eucharist. As I receive my Jesus in Holy Communion,  carrying with me the departed in my heart, in a supernatural way, in a way I do not understand yet believe, they too will receive Jesus.

          Even Muslims.

          And by this open that final window to eternal freedom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Shall Meet

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          When June slipped in, I suddenly remembered friends I had long left to themselves in a dusty corner. They were the best friends one could ask for. They never settled comfortably in my life only to make me uncomfortable. They didn’t bang on my door demanding what I could not give. They visited, casting no shadow on my day, but in quiet and gentleness, breathed upon the wind chimes by the door of my heart, and tinkled my awareness of them and their only need:

          That I pray paradise open for them, whose abode lay in the shadows of heaven.

          And so, in a guilt-tinged haste, I went back to an old calling, and began to pray for the Poor Souls who need prayers to unlock the door of Mercy that opens to Divine Rest.

          Sacred Heart, release them.

          As joyful June days tumbled one into the other and I flitted from parcel to parcel of happiness, through an act of will I tried to step away from earthly sunnies to pray the only prayer asked of me by these yearning souls, who have journeyed long and faithfully with me, helping me, protecting me, guiding me away from the rocks in the shadows of earthly life.

          Sacred Heart, have Mercy on them.

          Yesterday, I awoke to a day whose early hours were dipped in rain. The joys of the day beckoned beguilingly and I waited to go to them. Pausing awhile by the window, watching the sun spill its gold through water diamonds, an old hymn fell on the ears of my spirit ~

In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore;
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore.

          The moment I heard the lines, I was like a cat caught in water, clutching at life in panic. That was a funeral song, for goodness’ sake! Was I going to die?

          Not wanting to meet anyone on any shore, I made a frantic attempt to silence that song within. I tried to blanket it over with happy, carefree ditties more in keeping with the bouncy day. On such a beautiful day washed and refreshed by the tipping of heaven’s jars, the last thing I wanted to hear was a funeral dirge, because that was all that refrain meant to me.

          In the sweet by and by, We shall meet on that beautiful shore….the voices sang on cheerily undeterred.

Please don’t take me now, Jesus, I countered.

          For long minutes, I ran as far I could from that refrain, but it followed me like a chuckle train.

          And then, in a waterdrop moment, the angel reached out and stilled my panic.

          We shall meet on that beautiful shore was not a heavenly summons for my life. It was a promise-gift left me in the joyous parting wave of friends finally going on to the bosom of joy and peace, their release secured by prayers. In the eyes of the sneering world, those hurried, distracted prayers might not have seemed like much.

          But my Holy Soul friends had come on the breath of morn to tell me they had sailed to life eternal on my paltry offerings, offered in homage to the Sacred Heart of my Jesus.

THE NEGLECTED TOMB

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          In many of the images spoken of by those given visions of Purgatory, there is fire and sorrow. A terrible thirst. We have been told there are levels in Purgatory which correspond to the seriousness of the sins http://www.mysticsofthechurch.com/2012/04/amazing-stories-from-purgatory-and.html.

          But back then, based on my reading that eventful night https://writingonmyheart.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/souls-to-saints, all I knew was about the fire and the sorrow and the thirst. And even that I understood only literally, skimming the surface of understanding. I imagined it to be noisy with weeping and wailing, like many Eastern funerals. Cauldrons of bubbling fire – never mind that that image might have been more at home at a witches’ gathering deep in dark woods.

          Some time after I was taught the importance of praying for the souls in Purgatory, I had a dream one night.

          I saw a world. Hidden. A hushed world, nestled deep within the bosom of peace. It seemed to be narrow. There were levels, linked by rough earthen floors and misshapen clay steps. The place was lit by unseen lamps. A soft, gentle light that bathed the surroundings in tenderness and peace.

          It was crowded. I saw people, oh, so many of them, ascending and descending the clay steps. In peace they took the steps. No jostling. No bumping. But in absolute silence. I didn’t hear or see them speak, but I saw their eyes, and I knew they were brethren, united in love. It was not love for one another; it was a special sort of love. Different.

         

          I sensed an unseen being showing me around. The steps were to one side of the space I was shown. The rest of the space was occupied by tombs, arranged close to one another. My unseen guide led me past the tombs. In this softly lit place where I felt warmth and comfort, I saw that each tomb was covered with beautiful bouquets of flowers, some more than the others. As I took this in, I assumed that was the order here: flowers for every tomb.

          But he led me down the steps, and everything began to change. I felt the cold first. Then, came the darkness. It was not menacing or evil. I didn’t sense any hatred or wickedness, but there was a deep loneliness and profound sorrow. Gone were the lamps of the higher levels. No light. No warmth. No love.

          And not a soul was to be seen. No people gently navigating the steps. Dark, still, silent, cold.

          I was led on. We stopped at a tomb. Not a single flower adorned its stone slab covering. I felt my guide’s words, This is your (relative’s) tomb. He has been neglected.

          Not merely forgotten but neglected. An act of will to leave the soul without prayers.

          It had been about ten years since he had passed on. Even at his funeral, there was the smug belief among his children that Dad had gone to his heavenly reward. Never missed a day of Mass. Never missed nightly family Rosary. What was that if not a sure ticket to heaven. They didn’t care to dredge up memories of an old but able man who sat in his chair, twiddling thumbs all day. Busy with the paper. Busy with the tv. Who did little, but made footmen and butlers out of everyone else. He rarely stirred up trouble but found the odd occasion to spit at people or fling his plate of food. There was also a hint of an old illicit dalliance in the family annals but details were never revisited.

          God called him back in the midst of the holidays, and while everyone returned to pay obedient homage, there were murmurs at the bier that he could have chosen some other time to die, not pull the curtain down on other people’s fun and rest. I remember watching the group of supposed mourners gather, sitting stiffly in chairs. Not a crowd of them. Not by any means. Most making some effort to arrange their countenance into some semblance of mourning because there was no natural grief at this particular loss of a man who gave nothing to the world.

          We buried him. Later chiseled, Home in Heaven Again as his epitaph.

          Ten years on, he remains in his tomb. Unadorned. Not a petal. Not a prayer. Because we didn’t care enough.

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