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Confession Ink Slingers Last Rites/Anointing of the Sick Liturgical Year Maurisa Purgatory Sacraments

Remember Your Death

In the span of one month this past winter, three people I care very much about lost their fathers unexpectedly. The degree to which each was prepared for death varied greatly. Being spiritually prepared for our own or for a loved one’s death is not something we discuss frequently, if at all, and yet it is one of the most important things we can do. In fact, being properly prepared for death can make all the difference when it comes to the Four Last Things—Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.

What can you do to prepare your own soul for death?

  • Remain in a state of grace by avoiding mortal sin, making use of frequent confession, and frequent, worthy reception of the Eucharist.
  • Pray for a holy death, asking for the intercession of Saint Joseph the patron of a happy death and of the Blessed Mother who we invoke with every Hail Mary—“pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”
  • Commit to the Nine First Fridays Devotion, availing oneself of confession if needed for worthy reception of communion, attending Mass nine first Fridays in a row and receiving Holy Communion. One of the promises of fulfilling this commitment is the grace of final penitence so that one dies in a state of grace.
  • To the extent that you are able, draw close to your priest and discuss what you desire in the way of a “prepared death.”
  • Make clear funeral plans and plans for Masses to be said after your death. Make sure your family knows in detail your wishes.

What can you do to prepare loved ones for death?

  • Discuss all of the above with your loved ones, especially if they are faithfully practicing Catholics. Get a clear idea of their desires and needs when it comes to preparing for death.
  • Pray fervently for the conversion of your loved ones who are outside the faith. You can even offer your Nine First Fridays on their behalf.
  • Get a priest to them as soon as possible if death is immanent or even a possibility. This is a real responsibility. Your loved one’s soul is at stake and as much as we hope they have prepared themselves for the inevitability, nothing can replace what a priest can do for a soul near death.

What should you do after the fact?

  • First of all you should assume nothing—neither canonize nor condemn your loved one.
  • Have Masses said for them.
  • Enroll them in the Seraphic Mass Association or a similar society who offers frequent or perpetual masses for the dead. Have a Traditional Requiem Mass said, if possible.
  • Continue to pray for the soul of your loved one. Our Lady gave the following prayer to the Fatima children. She promised it would be particularly efficacious for the poor souls in Purgatory.

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those in the most need of Thy mercy.”

This month remember your death. Let us give appropriate time, thought, and prayer focused upon our own mortality and state of our souls. May we meet our death in a state of preparation and grace.


Originally, I had written this post for this past Lent and then the world turned completely upside down. It just didn’t seem to be a truly appropriate time to publish it, especially since many of us were completely deprived of the sacraments and the recommendations I gave in this post are pretty reliant on access to the sacraments. I know there are still many who have limited access to confession and getting a priest into a hospital remains a real obstacle, but much of the information provided is so very important. You may need to forcefully advocate for your loved one with the hospital, your priest, or even the diocese to get what is needed. Just remember, your loved one’s soul may very much depend upon it.

Resources:

5 Things Catholics Should Know About First Fridays

What is the Apostolic Pardon?

Seraphic Mass Association

Memento Mori Devotional

A Prayer for a Holy Death

What Every Catholic Needs to Know About the Four Last Things

On Commendation of the Soul and Expiration

God’s Final Act of Mercy: A Reminder to Remember the Faithful Departed This November

Categories
Doctrine Faith Formation Ink Slingers Martina Offering your suffering Prayer Purgatory Real And Raw Series

Do the Thing You Hate for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

Real and Raw

Welcome to this installment in the series REAL AND RAW – SOUL-STIRRING STORIES, a series focused on taking a candid look at life’s struggles as we journey to heaven. Being Catholic doesn’t mean you won’t suffer–in fact, Jesus promises we’re likely to suffer even more for being His disciple. But Catholics often feel self-conscious about admitting to doubt, confusion, sorrow, or anger in their relationship with God. We want the world to be attracted to our beautiful faith, so we minimize the darkness and emphasize the light in our lives, usually at the expense of authenticity. Yet there’s value in sharing our journey in all its shades–in admitting there are gray and black days, too. We offer these stories to let our suffering readers know they’re not alone–we’re in the trenches with you and so is God, who loves us and has a divine purpose for pain, even if it’s hard to see or accept in the moment. Most importantly, we hope these stories give hope to readers…hope that there is help and that they will survive. And one day, they will make it out of the darkness and be stronger for it.


 

It’s no coincidence that this post went up today. Today of all days. I’ll circle back to this point in a moment.

 

***

 

For me, this ended up being the one thing I used to joke about with friends. Like, if you EVER – and I mean E-VAH – saw me doing this, you should probably look for the four horsemen of the apocalypse because some serious you-know-what is going down and you should probably start praying…NOW.

It all started this past August. My mental wheels had been turning for some time and I was reluctant to find a workout program because I have a hard time sticking with things. It didn’t help that the previous two times I had attempted to work out, I had miscarriages. My older children pointed this out to me, and even though logically I knew it was coincidental, I couldn’t shake the fact that if I were to jump back in with something, it wouldn’t be what I did before. I was a gymnast for years as a child and I loved the idea of doing barre. Of course I ordered two DVDs. They, of course, just sat and collected dust while I went back and forth on whether I could do it.

I live with (and love) my excuses, y’all.

My husband, on the other hand, has been a huge advocate of programs like P90X for years, taking breaks and creating his own workout plans. I always admired his resolve to get up at 5 a.m. (did you know that’s a real time??) and work out, go to work, then squeeze a second workout in the evening before dinner or after the kids had gone to bed.

Upon the sudden and absolutely tragic death of my nephew, Brendan in May, the purpose and focus shifted. It was the thing I hated. And I knew it was the only way I could honor his short life and bring focus and greater purpose to what I was doing.

It was running.

Except I hate running. I loathe it. I joke to friends that if they saw me running, they’red probably be a piece of cake in front of me. I HATE running.

Or so I thought.

In the dead of summer in Texas, I thought that would be a LOVELY time to start my new mission. A friend was selling her treadmill and my husband was on board with my latest, wild-eyed idea.

And that was how that started. Except you don’t just hop on a treadmill and start running – not if you’re me. I relied on my mental notes to carry me through. To start, I reasoned with myself that I’d walk one mile at a time, three times a day, six days a week. Crazy, huh? Three consecutive miles seemed too daunting, but breaking it up into one mile each seemed doable, if not completely exhausting. I wasn’t looking to run initially because, hello, see what I wrote about it at the beginning of this post, friends. I also rationalized that I didn’t like how long it took to walk, so running simply became the quickest way to finish.

That’s all that was.

But I ended up with some pretty fierce pains and injuries after pushing myself a bit. After the first two weeks, I went for all three miles in one stint (because hello, I have a life and this was sucking up too much of my time!) and the result was some pretty gnarly pain in my knee (something to do with my meniscus…?), then my other knee, and then my hip (it was like they were ganging up on me). I took a week off completely to recover, then eased back up into walking/running the three miles, alternating a few minutes walking with a few minutes running. 

The injuries were pretty deflating and reminded me of my three miscarriages. It was a mental block as well as physical. I learned early on that what I was doing was more of a mental game than anything else. So, I set my mind toward focusing on what I could do instead of what I couldn’t. And that’s when things began to change.

It suddenly felt like I was accomplishing something – each day I could do a tiny bit more, and on days when I didn’t feel like I didn’t do much, I reminded myself why I was doing it. It was and still is and will continue to be hard for a very long time. Each time I get out there, I remind myself of all those whom I love who have died. I especially think of my nephew whose athletic resolve was absolutely remarkable.

And as much as I still hate running, I love that it has allowed me to offer that suffering for those in need. It’s not like I enter into some specific prayer on the treadmill – not yet, anyway. Most of my focus is on converting that struggle to keep running on why I’m doing it. I focus on specific memories I have, the people affected by their loss, and placing myself in their shoes as best as I can and just trying to find a way to keep those memories alive. I ask for their prayers as well because hello, I’m suffering on that treadmill and I want to make it through injury free so I can continue the next day.

It’s now been four months since I started and I have been absolutely encouraged by this process. I still hate running. Maybe not hate – I low grade despise it. But I have been able to work through injuries, mental defeat, walk-to-run programs that did not work for me, and was finally able to break through and run my first mile a month ago! I just recently worked my way up past two miles and am now journeying to three miles daily, something I was finally able to do yesterday, November 28. More time on the treadmill means more time to think of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. And more time thinking of and praying for those souls is never wasted time. They need our prayers and I needed to focus on making that more of a priority in my daily life.

So, why is today significant? At the top of the post, I mentioned today’s post was not coincidental. I typically post or schedule on Tuesdays, but friend and fellow editor Rita asked for Tuesday so she could promo our annual Advent Photo Challenge, so we switched days. As it turns out, November 29 is my nephew Brendan’s birthday. He would have been 19 today. I hadn’t planned on running this post this soon, but the switch in days prompted me to go ahead and share. I ask for your prayers for the repose of his soul and for grace and healing for his loved ones, especially his mom, dad, and siblings. 

“Eternal Father,
I offer You the most precious blood
of thy Divine Son, Jesus,
in union with the Masses said
throughout the world today,
for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory,
for sinners everywhere,
for sinners in the universal Church,
for those in my own home,
and in my family. Amen.”

PRAYER OF ST. GERTRUDE THE GREAT


REFLECT

Let’s dig deeper. Did this story resonate with you? If so, please continue on below and consider starting a journal to jot down your answers. PRINT several copies of these questions to start your own journal based on different posts. 

  1. What was my spiritual life like before the experience of loss?
  2. How did the experience negatively impact my relationship with God?
  3. How did the experience negatively impact my relationships with my spouse, my children, my coworkers, my relatives, my friends?
  4. Was there anything that helped to alleviate the suffering I was going through? (e.g., counsel from others, professional help, medication/supplements, devotions, lifestyle changes)
  5. How did this experience positively impact my relationships, either during or afterward?
  6. How did this experience positively impact my spiritual life, either during or afterward?
  7. If I could go back and change how I responded to this experience, what would I do differently?
  8. What would I say to someone else in this situation to give her hope?

RESOURCES & SPIRITUAL HEALING

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

 

DotheThingYouHatefortheHolySoulsinPurgatory

Categories
Anni Apologetics Bible Faith Formation Ink Slingers Prayer Purgatory

God’s Final Act of Mercy: A Reminder to Remember the Faithful Departed This November

 

Only when I came back to the Church a few years ago did I hear the phrase, “Eternal Rest grant unto them, O Lord; and, may Your Perpetual Light shine upon them.” It was a confusing prayer and I wasn’t quite sure why it was used. However, in the past few years, I have learned a little more about the teaching of the Church, and spent time pondering this short prayer.  

The first year after reverting back to the Catholic Church, November came and went and I didn’t think too much as I celebrated the obligatory Holy Day of Obligation on November 1st, the Solemnity of the Feast of All Saints. I didn’t bat an eyelash the first couple years about the day after–November 2nd, the Feast of All Souls. However, as I sat with the Diary of St. Faustina, a tome I have yet to complete, the realization of the prayer mentioned earlier struck me. Since then the Feast of All Souls has become permanently embedded in my brain. In fact, I must confess, I actually prefer the Feast of All Souls over the day preceding it.

The word purgatory will never be found in the Bible. Because of that, many Protestant denominations will give that as evidence it does not exist. While the name may not be there, however, the theology is loudly and clearly written in several places. Few know that the biblical support for purgatory is one reason Martin Luther removed the book of Maccabees from the Bible. In addition to other teachings, Luther disagreed with the Catholic teaching of sanctification, therefore, he wasn’t a fan of a soul having to go through a “purification” after death to enter heaven. 

God is perfect. He is perfection. Through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, we are saved and God as present Father, Son and Holy Spirit is pristine, without blemish, and perfect. Christ himself, as he hung on the Cross, was perfection–the “unblemished lamb” required for the Passover meal (see Brant Pitre’s book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, for expanded teaching on that subject).

If heaven is home to our perfect God, then heaven must be perfect, too. In Judaism, the Temple houses the Holy of Holies, which is so special that only the most select, purified rabbis are allowed to enter. In Catholicism, the tabernacle is God’s dwelling place outside the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. That gold box is adorned, beautiful, and sacred because it houses God himself, as he is present in the bread of the Eucharist!

While we approach God as stained sinners, he cleanses us of our sins! Through Baptism and Confirmation, we are cleansed and draw strength to undergo sanctification. Through Reconciliation, we can be continuously cleansed of sins. Before receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, we should not have sinned mortally and we confess our venial sins at the beginning of Mass. In 1 Corinthians 11:27, St. Paul was clear we must receive the Eucharist in a worthy state. The rest of that chapter then details how to ensure we are worthily receiving Christ in the Eucharist.

But what happens when death is sudden? When we have received Jesus “unworthily” or failed to make amends for my massive slip-ups? How can our dirty soul enter perfection and embrace an unblemished Lamb without leaving him dirty?!

ENTER THE TEACHING OF PURGATORY!

Simply, purgatory is God’s final act of mercy for repentant sinners. If we die before cleansing ourselves entirely of sin through the sacraments, then God mercifully allows us to undergo purification so we may dwell with him forever.

To me, that teaching is exquisite!

Yes, Jesus died for our sins and paid the eternal price for our offenses against an infinite God. But we will still be accountable for the earthly effects of our sins, for which we can make amends in this life and in purgatory. We are all sinners, yet we fail in faith or in good works, so we are given one final opportunity for spiritual cleansing. Scripture compares purgatory to a cleansing “fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). 

We are called to pray for those who are undergoing this merciful spiritual cleansing. We know from 2 Maccabees 12:46 that the Jews “made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin.” This leads to the Catholic teaching that we can be absolved of our sins after death. Those still on the journey here on earth have an obligation to “make atonement” for those who are suffering this final purification. This is why praying for the dead is a spiritual work of mercy for Catholics. 

The universal Church recognizes this every November, through All Souls Day. Through dedicating the entire month to Holy Souls, the Church actually asks us to focus specifically on those in Purgatory. We pray for them, add Mass intentions, fast, and perform other good works that we offer up for them. We also can offer our struggles on behalf of the holy souls in purgatory. But our attention to these souls should not wane come December.  

This October, I was in daily Mass and thought about an inspirational, holy man who, like my grandparents in the image attached to this post, had passed away. Without knowing it, this man significantly impacted my spiritual life. I expect he will be a saint–not canonized, but still a member of the Church Triumphant in heaven. Yet, because I cannot presume to know God’s plans for this man, I offered that Mass for him in my heart. 

As I glanced around the chapel that day, I began to worry for the holy souls in purgatory who do not have anyone praying for them. My works can contribute to absolving souls of their sins, but how many are left begging us to make atonement so their soul can taste the relief only found within the Celestial Kingdom? I have names I can pray for, but how many souls are not remembered explicitly by name because their families do not pray for them?

I left Mass that day resolute, determined to double my efforts to remember the holy souls throughout the year and I have added Stories About Purgatory and What They Reveal to my reading list. As members the Church Militant, we are all called to this. Many people fear death and I admit that I squirm at the thought of my own purgatory. Yet I expect some slight relief from God’s final act of mercy, which will lead my soul to be able to fully embrace the unblemished Lamb.

And nothing could be more beautiful!

So, will you please join me this month in praying for, fasting for, and sacrificing for the holy souls of purgatory? Is there a soul in your life you would like me to pray for? I would be honored to add their name to my list! And will you join me in reciting the prayer that confused me just a few years ago, but brings me much comfort today?

ETERNAL REST GRANT UNTO THEM, O LORD; AND MAY THE LORD’S PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON THEM.

Categories
Adrienne Confession Ink Slingers Purgatory Spiritual Growth

Linking Confession and Purgatory [Part 2]

Zech Fire

 

In Part 1 of this two part series entitled Linking Confession and Purgatory, I explained the nature of the soul, one’s will, and how Confession impacts the will, stopping short of discussing Purgatory.  Now, let me tie this discussion back in to Purgatory, as the title promises will happen. 

As explained in Part 1, when we walk out of the confessional, our sinful will walks out with us despite the forgiven state of our actions.  And when it is we die, our will, the parts conformed to God’s will along with the parts perhaps not conformed with God’s will, remains intact with our immortal soul.  In other words, just as it happens that our forgiven and grace filled soul, walks out of the confessional complete with our still sinfully inclined free will, it similarly happens that upon exit from this Earth, our soul, hopefully still forgiven, grace filled and thus Heaven bound, exits this Earth with us complete with our own will, free as ever, which is usually still sinfully inclined in some areas.

Catholics and Protestants alike agree on the teaching that no sin can enter Heaven.  Where we disagree is how that is made possible.  I recently heard a Protestant pastor explain that when we die, we are immediately thrust into Heaven and are rendered by God incapable of ever sinning again.  Catholic teaching disagrees with this explanation because it would mean God violates our free will.  Since the source of our sinful actions resides in the sinfully inclined parts of our free will, an attribute of our soul, and since the life of our immortal soul is seamless despite the state and dwelling of our mortal bodies, a forced inability to sin cannot be of God, given His promise and gift of our free will. 

Why does it matter if our will is not completely conformed to God’s will when we enter Heaven?  Because, the angels.  The angels were created in a state of perfect Grace, residing happily in Heaven with God in perfect harmony, created also with free will.  Then it came that one third of the angels, lead by the Angel of Light, Lucifer, revolted against God and were cast out of Heaven, into Hell.  Thus, we learn that free wills not perfectly conformed to God’s Will might eventually revolt against God.  When God created us lower beings, humans, He gave us a generous span of time to conform our will to His own, such that when it is we are finally admitted to Heaven, it is because we have freely, perfectly freely agreed to reside there, according to His Will, His Rule, and we in our freedom we will never, ever, choose to leave as Lucifer and the fallen angels chose. 

The Church teaches that there are a blessed few souls who do experience the joy of transitioning straight from Earth to Heaven without delay.  Martyrs enjoy this privilege, as well as those rare persons who dedicated their Earthly lives in remarkable totality to a life of selfless obedience to God and thus who, with and by God’s Grace in their souls, died without any part of their own will out of line with God’s will.  The rest of us sinners, however, will be happy for the existence of Purgatory.  In God’s ever infinite mercy, upon our death if we have died in a state of His Grace, yet with parts of our will still out of line with God’s, He gives us extra time to straighten, or purge out, those sinfully inclined parts.  Purgatory.

1Cor savedWhy is it described as fiery, even hellish?    Well, think about it.  Why don’t you just stop sinning today?  Why don’t you just choose to conform every part of your will to God’s will right in this moment, without failing?  The answer, as it turns out, is because it is too hard, too painful.  Why are you spending that last bit of energy you have at night relaxing in your comfortable home instead of out serving the poor with the scraps of your time and money?  Because, honestly, it requires more suffering on your behalf.  Why is it you are forgoing discipline and enjoying dessert tonight instead of stopping short of fullness, even risking hunger pains?  Because, honestly, you would experience suffering if you didn’t indulge.  Why is it really that you will not speak out against the murder of abortion?  Because, honestly, you would suffer condemnation from others.  In the areas we aren’t willing to suffer on Earth, we choose our will over God’s.  So it is in Purgatory where we are left to suffer what it is to let go of our own will and choose God’s. 

Also, this is why time in Purgatory is undetermined.  Some souls may only need a short stint in Purgatory to conform to God’s will.  Others may bloody well need decades of suffering to finally conform.  That, I expect, will be my own soul.  Pray for me, friends, when I am gone.  And pray for all of your loved ones in Purgatory, especially those whose family and friends follow a faith tradition that teaches Purgatory isn’t real, those poor souls have almost no one praying for them! 

And so it is.  Why do we need Purgatory?  It is for the same reason we need Confession.  Frequent Confession.  Our wills are forever free and contained in our immortal souls.  May God bless our free will.  Literally. 

St. Gregory of Nyssa, A.D. 382, Sermon on the Dead

If a man distinguishes in himself what is peculiarly human from what is irrational, and if he be on the watch for a life of greater urbanity for himself, in this present life he will purify himself of any evil contracted, and overcome the irrational by reason.  If he has inclined to the irrational pressure of the passions … he may afterward, in a very different manner, be very much interested in what is better, when after his departure out of the body, he gains knowledge of the difference between virtue and vice and finds that he is not able to partake of divinity until he has been purged of the filthy contagion in his soul be the purifying fire.

Categories
Adrienne Confession Purgatory Spiritual Growth

Linking Confession and Purgatory [Part 1]

penance%201%20copyFor 2,000 years the Catholic Church has preached the necessity of Confession and of the existence of Purgatory. I have noticed that when one thinks little of Confession, one also thinks little of Purgatory, and despite the Church’s consistent teaching upon these truths, a great many Catholics think little of both Confession and Purgatory.

In the hour long confession line recently, I discovered plenty of time to loathe how the bulk of my Examination of Conscience lists the same sins every single time. I remembered back to a Scott Hahn talk discussing Confession in which he shared how he once complained to his confessor about this very same problem, repetitive sins, and the priest asked him if he would prefer new sins? Hahn laughed and realized of all the sins he could have he’d rather keep the ones he struggles with rather than take on different, potentially more insidious sins. Wisely, the priest avoided offering the state of sinlessness as an option. Subsequently, I wondered just how far I could exit the confessional before I committed one of my usual suspect sins, because even the nearest pew afforded me too much time by distance to commit a sin in my mind. In that moment, Confession struck me as ineffective, though theologically I knew that to be untrue. And that’s when I noticed a linking of Confession and Purgatory.

What is the point of Purgatory? It is often described as a place where we are punished for our sins before we are able to go to Heaven, which I don’t find a helpful answer. To the modern mind’s understanding of sin (being a one-time action, occurring in the past) this description is misleading. There is a language barrier where sin is used as a noun and thus the hearer may only understand sin in this statement as events from the past, not recognizing the source of the sin as also sin. So let me stall the answer to the question of Purgatory for a much needed explanation on one’s soul and one’s will.

attributes of the soul

One’s soul bears three particular attributes: one’s will (often described as one’s heart), one’s memory, and one’s intellect. A person’s will may be perfectly conformed to God’s will on certain matters (such as accepting God as the Creator of the Heaven and Earth and of all things), but meanwhile may not be conformed to God’s will on other matters (such as loving they neighbor as thyself, even when that neighbor is behaving poorly). When a person sins, these sins do not come forth from the areas in which one’s will is formed to God’s will. Instead, sins are committed by the parts of one’s will which are not conformed to God’s will and these parts of our will are also sin.

When we go to confession we are forgiven for the sinful actions we have committed, and once confessed and forgiven we never need to dwell upon these sinful actions again. However, because God never, ever interferes with our will (free will), when we step out of that confessional free of the guilt of our actions, our will walks out of that confessional with us, usually with the same inclinations to sin as we walked in with. Thus, we tend to retain the ability to commit those same sins again, and nearly just as easily. And this is why our Examinations of Conscience bear the same list of sins from confession to confession.  However, let us rejoice that with each passing confession, our wills are ever so slightly strengthened, both by the increase of God’s Grace in our soul, and also by the humbling action of going to confession.

Like exercise ever so slowly strengthens our muscles, frequent confession ever so slightly strengthens our will to God’s will. And think, if you exercise as often as you go to Confession, just how strong might you be? On a related note, while in line this last time (I can have a lot of thoughts in an hour, even whilst attending children), I considered how difficult it would be for me to be able to offer a count of my offenses to the priest, like is traditionally suggested. Then I realized how if I went to Confession with greater frequency, say every week, it would be easy to offer a count, and oh how much more I would resist the temptation to sin if I were to keep count!

During this Advent season, as we prepare to honor the first coming of Christ and also prepare ourselves for the second coming of Christ, make your way to the confessional.  Your will and soul may need it just as much as mine.

In my next post I will tie this discussion in with Purgatory.

Veni, veni, Emmanuel!

Upon Jesus’s resurrection and visit to his disciples He said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Jn 20: 21-23