So to break in my brand new Kindle Touch, I purchased a book by Rebecca Springer entitled Within Heaven's Gates. Springer claimed to have visited Heaven during a severe illness and documented her experience through this book, originally entitled Intra Muros or My Dream of Heaven.
Truth be told, her story is amazing. There is an authentic feel to her descriptions, though I was struck by a few curiosities. I'll handle those shortly. First, however, the positives!
Springer has a gift for description. Even when attempting to explain the unfathomable, she takes care to break down lofty images into manageable portions. Though relying heavily on flowery language, it doesn't seem tedious or superfluous. One gets the impression that every page really is a prayer of thanksgiving and awe, beckoning the reader to hope for the possibility that her descriptions are, in fact, what await us upon death. This sincerity of conviction is what makes this book so captivating and comforting.
Next, her understanding of Heaven is truly wonderful. Mansions built by the loving hands of God through each of our loved ones dot the perfect landscape. Holy lakes and rivers that souls truly cleanse and refresh themselves in, the companionship of angelic choirs, the incomprehensible, but much appreciated movement of Divine Will that all creatures happily submit to without hesitation... it is utopia. However, souls aren't all just running around, blissfully aimless. Life, indeed, continues on - preachers still preach (Martin Luther and John Wesley are mentioned), great authors still write, and missionaries still teach others the greater mysteries of Christ. Families joyfully reunite, friends share memories of their "earth lives" and seeming strangers rejoice in the surprising moments on earth that led to their meeting in Heaven.
I admit to, myself, longing to know this place for myself... to see and feel and experience these emotional and spiritual highs with my own loved ones.
Wonderful were her dealings with Jesus. Though she didn't detail much of their conversations, she was specific in her emotional and spiritual reactions to Him. Each time Christ makes Himself present... it's as if even through her words the pages (er, my Kindle?) would light up. Incredible.
Some things I was surprised with, however...
There was no mention of Our Lady. I noticed that almost immediately because I was awaiting this woman's reaction to the Blessed Mother (she is Methodist). Considering how much "time" she spent in Heaven, I figured there'd be a meeting somewhere along the line between her and the Blessed Mother.
There was no mention of guardian angels, either. Sure, angels would crop up now and again during particular passages, but no mention was made of personal guardian angels. Her brother-in-law, Frank, seemed to act as her guardian angel much of the time, but I don't think that was her purpose in explaining him in such a way.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that even from her own writings, a visit by the Blessed Mother may not have been a "reward" her soul was ready to receive at that point. Being a Methodist, her views on the Blessed Mother probably weren't very fleshed out. As a result, it isn't surprising that Mary wouldn't pop into her spiritual journey "so soon upon arrival" when there were other things God may have wanted her to understand first... especially if she were to be tasked with explaining Heaven to those of us still on earth.
As for guardian angels, I really don't know.
Would I recommend this book? I already have. Ha ha. Also, I'll be seeing my mother this weekend, and I'll be sharing it with her Kindle so she's able to read it as well. The views expressed within the pages are very Christian and very much in line with what the Church teaches. Many of the souls in Springer's book do exactly what St. Therese of Lisieux said when she wrote "I will spend my heaven in doing good upon earth."
All in all, it was a quick and beautiful read. My heart felt lifted upon completion, and my soul longed more deeply for that which we lost through sin. Any book that can do that gets an A+ from me. :)
So there's a new game in the Facebook world for those interested in the Catholic Faith. It's called Vatican Wars (click the link for details) and challenges gamers to tackle hot-button topics like abortion, the death penalty and homosexuality. What I find incredibly entertaining is the data compiled through the testing phase (when Vatican Wars was referred to as "Priestville"). Several respondants who played felt that the game had re-established their faith in some way - going to Mass more frequently, feeling the call to the priesthood, etc. So they're pushing forward with the game as a tool for apologetics, I guess? Interesting!
I dunno how I feel about it, though. The point is to debate and better understand Church teaching, I guess, but leaving things open-ended without a proper moderation to the varying understandings of the faithful (who probably never picked up actual teachings of the Church) could lead to widespread confusion.
I like the idea of a Catholic game, but I dunno if I like the idea of this particular format. Plus, allowing the misspellings of words like "Bishop" or "Priest" to denote female players kind of bothers me. I'm not implying, mind you, that women shouldn't play, I'm just again slightly concerned about the confusion that this sort of thing could lead to.
Plus, I note that it's not actually created (or even approved) by anyone even remotely related to the Catholic Church, so methinks this isn't really an attempt to teach so much as make money.
I'm curious to hear from folks who have played this game. Until I open it myself, I'm not going to have a well-informed opinion.
I started playing the game to get a feel for what it's all about. I honestly have no idea how this could help anyone with their faith or wanting to go to Mass. Much like other game apps on Facebook, this is simply a means to an end, and that end is money. Blah - that's a total bummer.
Anyway, the game presents itself much like any other RPG. You choose a side (Templar for conservatives, Crusader for the liberals). From there, you choose your belief system, focusing on five hot button issues - abortion, heterosexual marriage, birth control, women as priests and celibacy for priests.
These issues don't really get "debated" in the debate section. When you debate, much like most RPGs, your basically comparing you're "integrity" and "charisma" to another person's. Whoever has higher numbers "wins" the debate. That doesn't sound like a debate to me in the slightest.
Then we have those lovely "gold" coins with which you can buy your integrity / charisma points. Not very Christian, if you ask me. Ha ha! Anyway, you can also earn these gold coins, but it takes forever and in the end, it's simply not worth it when you realize there are actually folks purchasing (with real money) hundreds of coins so they can continue "winning" debates to move ahead in the game. So for those of us who want to play a game without buying our way to victory, we find ourselves using water guns against anti-aircraft missles. It's just ridiculous.
So no - I don't see how this game could possibly lead to a better understanding of our faith at all. I also don't see how it'd entice folks to attend Mass or do readings on their own. The only plus I can see from this is the blurb section they have on the Saint of the Day. The "readings" they give you don't actually have to be read, so you can play the game without ever asking one question about the faith. That seems silly to me.
Plus, now that it's been opened to the forum of Facebook, anti-Catholics abound with names like "Prince of Darkness" or "1st Gay Pope." So while I'm sure it was a good idea in their minds to create something like this, it's garbage. Don't waste your time.