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.”



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?


DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}


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



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