I love this meme.
I have little doubt all of you are well aware, but in case you're not, today is a great day to pray the chaplet of Divine Mercy. It's also a great day to pray St. Gertrude the Great's Purgatory Prayer.
Jesus, in a vision, assured her those who pray this prayer devoutly help release 1,000 souls from Purgatory each time it's said. 1,000 souls. It's the very first prayer I teach to my class each year, and I usually assign - as homework - that they teach it to their families. They feel like little superheros (as well they should, because again... 1,000 people get saved each and every time you pray to God in this manner)!
These souls return our kindness by being some of our biggest intercessors in Heaven. I call on them constantly in times of trouble. They are our brother and sisters who root for us from beyond. So return the favor of their prayers with some of your own. We will very likely need the same one day.
For more information about Purgatory and the blessed souls who temporarily reside there, I suggest this wonderful selection of blurbs - it's one of my favorites!
So aside from the Prayer of St. Gertrude and the Divine Mercy chaplet, do you folks have any particular ways to commemorate the Feast of Holy Souls?
I don't even know where to begin with this. How, exactly, does one begin to write about an event for which there is no proof and sounds INCREDIBLY fictional... even a little crazy?
I guess I start with who my Aunt Loretta is.
My Uncle Gene had a common law marriage with Aunt Loretta, a woman I never really knew. Since my uncle wasn't close with our family, we didn't see him or his wife (which is sad, because I know I'd've loved her).
Anyway, Aunt Loretta passed away when I was still pretty young. Her passing wasn't even a blip on my radar because, as a child, you're preoccupied with childish things - especially when the person who passes is someone you barely know.
Fast forward to when I was about 9 years old. For a brief three minutes my family and my uncle's family were close. I half think it's because his new wife, (my current Aunt Jeannie), is the sweetest person ever and was really looking to reach out to our side of the family. I became close with one of her daughters (from a previous marriage) and the two of us would badger our respective parents in order to hang out. During this very brief span of family bonding, my mother, siblings and I were enlisted to help my uncle move out of his old house.
I can't speak for my other siblings, but I really - REALLY - enjoyed clearing out my uncle's house. I was also pierced by a deep sadness for him. Everything - and I mean everything - in that house was a testament to his love for Aunt Loretta. He had so many pictures of her, so many of her books, so much of her jewelry, so many of her dresses, and countless scrapbooks full of her Astrology clippings (Aunt Loretta wrote for several newspapers as their professional astrologer).
At this point in my life, I didn't know much at all about Uncle Gene. He was just the silent, brooding uncle who showed up for family functions wearing cowboy boots, never said anything to us kids aside from the obligatory "Hi" and "Bye" and played the piano. I saw him laugh a couple times, and he had a laugh very similar to my Grandpop's. Grandpop's was definitely more jovial... it seems to resonate from deep within himself. Uncle Gene's, though it carried a similar raspy tone, never carried the full depth of joy that Grandpop's did.
But I digress.
I didn't dislike my uncle. I didn't fear him, either. I was just confused by him. I could tell he was extremely uncomfortable around children (he never had any of his own) which just made us kids extremely uncomfortable around him. As a result, I knew NOTHING about him. So going through all of his stuff was like putting bits and pieces of his personality together. That day forward I had a very, VERY different perspective on him. And it was all because of Aunt Loretta.
In all of their pictures, Uncle Gene was a different person. The amount of love and admiration he had for her - it oozed out of the pictures. He looked so relaxed, so overjoyed, so happy in all of them. There was even one where he was full-on laughing as his arm hung over her shoulders. I realized by looking through his stuff that he was a person with emotions, too. Deep ones that really came alive for her - likely even because of her. And I wonder if his aloof and brooding personality wasn't a reflection of the deep pain he felt at loosing the person who so obviously gave him so much joy. He kept all of her things because he didn't want to let go of her. So as we moved out all of Uncle Gene's items, we were also moving out Aunt Loretta's. I felt as if I was getting to know her, too, and ever since then I've always been incredibly bummed that I'd never gotten a chance to really know her.
She seemed like such a wonderful, vibrant woman. That she was able to bring about such a different side of my Uncle... she must've been something special.
Anyway, fast forward again through the years. Most of my readers know that I've always had a very special place in my prayers for the souls in Purgatory. Whenever I pray, I typically toss a nod their way. I always keep in mind my friend, Karen, who passed away too young. I always keep in mind Grandmom and Grandpop in the very off chance that they haven't reached Heaven (because even if they have, and I believe they did, those prayers will still be effective for helping someone else). I also keep my Aunt Pat as a prime intention because I adore her and want to make sure that she not only makes it to Heaven if she's not already there, I want to make sure she knows I'm still harassing her like I said I would when she was with me on Earth.
However, for all the times I've prayed for the souls in Purgatory, I've never once specified Aunt Loretta. She just wasn't a person who came to mind as I said my prayers.
Well, this morning I was saying the Divine Mercy chaplet on my way to work. I was thinking a lot about Purgatory and the souls there in part because of a series I recently saw courtesy of Anabelle Hazard.
So as I closed out my Divine Mercy chaplet, I made sure to remind God that the chaplet was for the souls in Purgatory. No sooner did I finish the final prayer than did I feel completely overcome with joy. Joy is a terribly pathetic word, too. The tidal wave of emotion I felt caught me so off-guard that I began tearing up as I crossed the bridge into Philadelphia. As the tears began pooling, I immediately cried out, "God, don't let me cry before I get into work!"
As soon as I said those words aloud, the wave of unspeakable joy passed, but I was left with the distinct impression that my Aunt Loretta was in the car with me. I half expected to see her in the rear-view mirror!
What's odd about that is I've never connected Aunt Loretta with purgatory. I haven't connected her with anything except my Uncle Gene, and considering how seldom he pops into my thoughts, she pops in even less. So what was she doing attached to that intense feeling of joy?
We never know where our prayers go or who they help. I think God chose to use my chaplet to help Aunt Loretta either enter Heaven today, or at least move up the level so she was closer.
I realize this sounds crazy. I accept that. But I have no other explanation for the sudden and inexplicable experience of radiant, fathomless joy that solicited an immediate physical response from me. Stranger, I have no other explanation for connecting my aunt, a non-Catholic who I never really knew, to it.
I'm appreciative, however, that I was given such a generous gift this morning. I want to share it with you to remind you of the importance (and POWER) of prayers for those in Purgatory. Never forget them.
(These photo spaces will remain blank until I'm able to find ones of Aunt Loretta. Again - this is just more proof that I have very little connection to her at all. That doesn't mean my prayers can't help her, though! How gloriously merciful is our God!)
Apparently God's got an incredibly messed up sense of humor. I found this in my mail:
Apparently spending a few days last week being humiliated repeatedly for naught wasn't enough. Thus, another round I can offer up for whatever expiation I need accomplished.
That's how I'm looking at it, anyway. I've always asked Him to make sure I accomplish my Purgatory on Earth so I can greet Him right away upon death. Things like this just let me know my prayer was heard. Ha ha!
In brighter news, Auggie's still making incredible progress! Here's the newest comparison pictures. The day-by-day is fabulous!
He's still lethargic for much of the day, but his energy level is definitely improving. He is finally eating and drinking on his own (I've had to hold his can or plate under his mouth because he couldn't stand long enough to eat properly). He's also using the litter box like a pro. Best news of all is that he's beginning to act like a normal kitten! He swatted for my camera cord a few times while I snapped his photo today, and he narrowly escaped diving off the edge of my desk (I caught him as he tumbled over the side).
That's right, Auggie! I'm glad to see him with the strength to play. :)
Again, thanks to everyone for the notes and messages of love and prayers for him. They've done wonders in helping him heal. Thank you!!!
Sacred Heart statue at my parish
Today is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Plenary indulgences for all! If public recitation is not an option for you, partial indulgences are at the ready.
Please don't let this opportunity pass you by! Spread it to all your friends. We could use a little absolution of our temporal punishments.
How merciful is Our Lord! How fathomless the depths of His infinite Love!
Submerse yourself in His Sacred Heart. Find peace and rest within His Arms.
For the requisite prayers, gain access here! Don't forget to share with friends and family!
This entire entry stems from a thread regarding the "creation of evil" and free will. I wanted to post it here as well because I think it's a great conversation!
God grants us Free Will
God is the Supreme Author of creation... all things visible and invisible. Our creed states as much. However, does this mean He created evil as well?
My answer is no. Evil is not a thing to be created. It is a choice. One cannot "create" love, one can only choose it, right?
The same holds true for evil. One cannot "create" evil. One can only choose it. God, being Supremely wise, holy and loving, has the capacity for evil.
However (and this is a big however), being that He is Supremely wise, holy and loving, He eternally CHOOSES goodness. He eternally chooses love. THIS is the gift of Free Will that He imparted to us. If God doesn't have the capacity for evil, then God is not all-powerful. God wouldn't 'need' free will because He'd be incapable of evil. However, God IS all-powerful. The difference between Him and the rest of us, however, is that He's always chosen goodness and love over evil and hatred. Thus, God must have free will if He was able to grant it to us as a gift.
So, keeping His Perfect Example of free will in mind, let's move on.
God created the angels before humanity. Angels are purely spiritual beings that were also granted the grace of free will. We are taught through tradition that one third of these angels utilized their free will in opposition to the Divine Will of God (His Divine Will being Supreme Goodness). As a result, these angels were cast away from His Divine Presence (since to be united to God is to be united with His Will - which is Love above all else).
God did not cast them aside in judgement. They chose to dislodge themselves from His Goodness through pride. As a result, God, in His Goodness, created a place for them separate from the other angels who chose Goodness. Basically, He put the "bad kids" in the corner so they didn't disrupt the rest of the class. Those who wanted to continue to grow in love and understanding of God could remain with Him in Heaven.
Then God deemed it time for the physical realm to spring forth. After setting things into motion, He chose to bestow upon humanity the same gift given to the angels - free will. However, humans are intrinsically different from angels. Angels are purely spiritual beings. Humans are the union of body and soul (which is why Catholics believe in the "resurrection of the dead"). As such, our free will is going to be utilized differently from that of the angels (though with the same premise... freely choosing good over evil).
Eden was a physical realm that was in perfect union with the Will of God - Adam and Eve included. Genesis states as much when it writes of Adam "walking blameless before God." Adam's will was united to that of God's Divine Will, and there was peace. Eve, too, lived in union with God's Will. Until, that is, she meets up with a pesky little snake.
As we all remember from our elementary days, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge were located in the center of Eden. The Tree of Knowledge, when we trace it back to it's Jewish roots, was known as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is an important distinction because Jewish tradition understands this Tree to be the mixture of good and evil. Until humanity (through Adam and Eve) ingested this fruit (thus introducing the conflict of evil), good was humanity's nature. Evil was something altogether separate that had no place in the nature of humanity. We simply understood and trusted that God knew best, and we willingly went along with the plans He set forth because we naturally understood Him to have our best interests at heart.
That changed due to the 1st sin (which was Pride, not disobedience). When the serpent suggested to Eve that she could gain the knowledge that God had and begin making her OWN plans that would be even better than those of God, she was feeling the temptation of pride. When she acted out in eating the fruit, it was not disobedience that goaded her... it was her own pride. Her mistaken belief that she could somehow gain wisdom above God's. That given the chance, her will could rival that of God's. Sound familiar? It was the very same sin that Lucifer introduced to the other angels. It was the very sin that caused their downfall as well.
This was the first time humanity said "No" to the Divine Will. The second time was when Adam came along and accepted Eve's sin into the family line. In allowing himself (as head of creation) to sully humanity by not only accepting this sin, but taking part in it, Adam solidified our downfall. Now that both of our parents (Adam and Eve) have sullied themselves with the stain of sin, all subsequent generations would feel the smudge on our natures. This is original sin. It's not an actual "sin" that newborns are held accountable for. It's the tendency towards sin that we have inherited from our ancestors. Much like the child of an alcoholic is more likely to become an alcoholic himself, the children of sinners are more likely to sin. We are children of Adam and Eve. The tendency has been passed from generation to generation, and with the exception of Our Lady, all of humanity has been marred by the stain of this original "No" to Divine Will... this original misuse of free will.
Out of love, God sentenced us to a physical death so that we might once more reunite ourselves to His Will. Since humanity had marred its nature through sin, God rightly passed judgement on us, deeming us unfit to reside in Eden as that was a place of peace and unity with God's Will. Humanity, having now turned from God's Will, would be forced to work their way back to their original Divine Inheritance. Free will, having been gifted at our time of creation, was not taken away. Instead, as punishment for misusing this gift to alter our purely good nature, we would need to learn to properly use this gift for love.
That is what our lives on Earth are all about. We are learning to love. We are learning to consistently choose good over evil. We are learning to trust the Will of God and allow ourselves to take part in His plans for Divine Providence. THAT is the meaning of our earthly lives.
Upon death, we are judged on how well we learned this lesson. Did we consistently strive to love others? Did we consistently choose good over evil? Did we trust in the Will of God to move our lives in the direction necessary to once more gain eternal happiness?
If the answer is a resounding "Yes," we gain entrance to Heaven. If the answer is "Eh, it was a hell of a struggle, and I've got a ways to go, but I at least learned that Your Will is right" we gain entrance to Purgatory with the promise of Heaven. Finally, if the answer is, "No, this is all bull, God, you're just a big bully" we cast ourselves into Hell.
And yes, I said we cast ourselves. Much as those original fallen angels had.
At judgement, we see our own lives in the Light of Divine Truth. We see our souls as God sees them, and in the face of this Truth, we cannot help but understand our successes and failings. We, ourselves, pass sentence before the Throne of God (before which no sin or dishonesty can stand). We accept whatever "reward" we are given because at that moment, we cannot help but understand God to be Supreme Justice. Thus, our soul either joyfully enters Heaven (where our free will exists, but has been perfected so that it is united always to the Will of God), willingly enters Purgatory (with the understanding that our free will can be cleansed through the fires of God's Love in order for us to prepare for Heaven), or willingly seeks Hell as the only respite from ourselves away from the burning Justice of God's Truth.
Christ as Judge
God is mercifully patient, this is true. However, He is Divine Justice as well, and this Justice is not simply meant to punish - it is meant to protect and nurture those who wish to remain true to His Divine Will.
In His Mercy, God grants us enough trials and experiences through our lives in order for us to properly learn Love. This was revealed by Saint Michael to someone whose name escapes me.
St. Michael the Archangel revealed that every person on earth is given exactly what he or she needs to learn how to live by God's Will. It is up to us to heed these lessons. They don't continue in Heaven because at that point, all free will ceases to formulate through one's own accord. It is either solidified with access to Heaven, becoming engulfed in the Divine Will, forged through Divine Love in the embers of Purgatory, or left to fester with no hope of respite in the bowels of Hell. Our actions on earth determine which area our free will goes for a make-over (if one is necessary) after earthly death.
With all the talk of redemptive suffering I've encouraged amongst my CCD kids, you'd think I wouldn't have to keep repeating this to myself. Unfortunately, knowing the truth of those words and accepting the truth of those words are two VERY different things.Three years ago, I was involved in a car accident (on election night, actually). I was rear-ended by a young driver who was watching another car accident across the road. He didn't see me stopped in front of him, and never had a chance to break until his front end was in my trunk.
Anyway, as a result of that, I've suffered from a herniated disc in my lower back. It is incredibly painful at times. Most times, actually, especially when you're a mom attempting to chase down your super active toddler who is bigger than kids twice his age. My pregnancy was difficult (I got pregnant about a month and a half after the accident), and lugging around a baby, in a car seat, plus diaper bags, toys, etc for the first year didn't help matters.
Bathing, changing diapers, picking him up and moving him from place to place (car seat to shopping cart, floor to high chair, ground to stroller, etc, etc, etc) are all extremely taxing on my back. Even simple things like throwing him up into the air, letting him "superman" on my legs, or picking him up so he's able to reach a basketball net are painful gestures. Bathing is still the absolute worst, and only gets worse as he gets bigger.
Anyway, I had to stop going to the chiropractor about a year ago because finances got tight. Insurance refused to pay out since I was "as good as it gets" and litigation won't finish for God only knows how long with the guy who smashed into me. I'm basically on my own for pain management, and over the last few months, I've become increasingly aware of the fact that I simply cannot manage anymore.
I've put pressure on the lawyer to get things wrapped up faster so the insurance company is forced to begin paying for treatments again. Since they request up-to-date check-ins with doctors, I've had to begin going again. Yesterday was the first time I'd seen the orthopedist since I was pregnant. He went over my charts and asked me questions. He did a quick battery of tests and announced that there was simply nothing that could be done for me short of invasive surgery. He also openly doubted that I'd be able to get insurance to pay for any of it due to the time-lapse. He also informed me that the defense lawyer's doctor was attempting to blame the disc herniation on a lumbar puncture I had received prior to the accident (I was tested for meningitis).
I asked if that was even REMOTELY possible and he laughed it off saying, "Dear God, no. Not even a little bit. But that doesn't stop lawyers from convincing people who don't know any better otherwise."
I was absolutely deflated. Any hope of finding relief from this incessant (and increasingly problematic) pain went up in flames. The doctor could tell I was upset, so he quickly left the room so I could compose myself in peace. I hate making folks feel uncomfortable, so I made a rather quick exit, myself, and attempting the consolation dance in the privacy of my car.
I immediately dove head-first into the pool of misery I created for myself. I felt guilt for not being an "unbroken mom" who could happily toss Vince into the air a million times. I felt shame for relying on John to get Vince out of the car or lifting him into his high chair when I simply cannot. I felt overwhelmed by the thought of enduring this pain - as it worsens - for the rest of my life. Future pregnancies and children... could I handle them? Or would I be even more broken by the time they came into the world? Guilt doubled over my lack of parenting for children who didn't even exist yet!
Then a thought occurred to me. Jesus must've felt WAY more freaked out than I did at the knowledge of what He was going to be experiencing. Torture and crucifixion are way worse than any amount of this back pain, and yet He accepted it without a word of complaint to His Apostles. He understood it was meant for salvation. My guardian angel must've been the one to whisper "It's redemptive suffering" into my ear, because I was hit with the realization that pain, too, is a blessing if only we open our hearts to its merit.
So I forced myself to stop crying... to ignore the thoughts of self-pity from my mind. I succeeded in refusing to feel sorry for myself, but I didn't quite accept that the pain was redemptive. I couldn't open my heart to that just then. I'm simply not mature enough spiritually, I guess.
I prayed. I'm driving down 295 just praying that Jesus will open my heart to the merits of such pain. Knowing I'm a logical little bugger, I think the Holy Spirit was kind enough to show me the humility I've gained in suffering through this debilitating injury. Ever-independent, I've prided myself in "not needing anyone." Now, however, I willingly acknowledge my inability to do even basic things. This humility, I realized, hasn't just effected things like asking John to help with the baby... the humility I gained from this injury (and continue to gain) is probably what opened my heart to "reversion" in the first place. I'm not all-powerful. I'm not so arrogant as to think I can handle everything and anything on my own. Such a realization is a death knoll for Pride, and though that vice still has its claws dug into me, its grip is slipping.
Now I'm not claiming that this epiphany has somehow lifted my desire to complain, self-pity or get angry at how "unfair" things are... I no doubt will fall into that countless more times. It is important to recognize, however, that there is truth to the blessing of redemptive suffering. I think God granted me this reminder so vividly because of all the discussion we've had in class. Plus, He probably realized I was getting a little too whiny and needed to knock me down a peg or two (okay, more like 20).
In conclusion, I am blessed to have a Father so kind as to remind me of the lessons I seek to teach others. In the process of making me a better teacher, He makes me a better person. :)
This is irresistibly adorable.
We covered a lot in class last night. One thing stands out most in my mind, however. In explaining the different branches of the unified Church (Triumphant, Militant, and Penitent), I emphasized the cyclic effects of prayer.
We're all part of the Church, regardless of where (or when!) we are. The saints in Heaven intercede ceaselessly for those of us on earth / in Purgatory. Those of us on earth are meant to offer our prayers and works of charity to aid those souls in Purgatory. Finally, the souls that benefit from our prayers in Purgatory return the favor by interceding for those of us on earth.
The kids liked the idea that they had the power to help free souls from Purgatory. We went over the importance of St. Gertrude the Great's Purgatory Prayer, and they each vowed to recite this prayer for Holy Souls Day. When we added our prayers up at class end, in reciting the prayer at the opening and close of class, we were able to send 22,000 souls to Heaven. If they do the same for tonight, that's another 11,000 souls who become saints as a result of their innocent prayers.
The kids all wanted to know how the souls in Purgatory could help us (since I explained prayer was a two way street). Souls in Purgatory aren't forgotten by God. In fact, they are very, very dear to Him and He listens to their prayers always. As a result, we can rest assured that the gratitude they have for those who pray for them is always brought to God. They always ask for blessings to be heaped upon those generous enough to help them attain Heaven.
It was at this point I explained the "Communion of Saints." First, I explained the meaning of the word "communion." Most of the children assumed I was referring to the Eucharist, but the word "communion" refers to the intimate communication between God and His people. The Eucharist is, for us, the Communion of Saints because it is the most intimate communication God can give to us. He, Himself, becomes present within us in a wholly unique way. The Church (all branches of it) is known as Jesus' Body. Thus, when we accept the Eucharist, we accept perfect union with all other members of His Body. It's a mystery we cannot fully grasp, but it is vital to our identity as Catholics.
To help the kids better understand this concept, I explained we could view ourselves as Jesus' Hands. Jesus, being in Heaven, asks us to care for one another as He, Himself, cares. Thus, when we see someone who is struggling to carry a heavy school bag, a little sibling who can't reach the table for a snack, or even a tired parent who needs a little quiet time, we can help! We can share the burden of books, we can retrieve the snack for our little siblings, we can play quietly while Mom or Dad reads a book. After all, it's exactly what Jesus would want us to do. Jesus relies on us to extend helping hands to everyone we meet. We, in effect, become His Hands, because we are the instruments with which He blesses others.
Thus started the torrent of stories. Kids were trying to out-do each other in kindness.
"We helped an old lady who fell on Halloween and we didn't take any candy!"
"I gave my extra lunch money to a homeless family who didn't seem to have warm enough clothes!"
"I didn't yell at my little sister even though she kept taking all my stuff. I just let her have it because I didn't want my mom to get upset."
"I helped my friend with X, Y and Z because she didn't understand what was going on in class."
On and on they went! It was wonderful. What a great reminder of the importance our children also play as the Hands of Christ. :) May they always be so enthused to see the opportunities granted to them to act on God's behalf.
Sharing isn't just caring, it's Divine Providence!
Okay, so I lied. I'm a day late because when I wrote the "Do Animals Have Souls" entry, I'd forgotten that I'd be out and about for Vince's birthday.
Ah well. I apologize. Hope I didn't leave you too uncomfortably on the edge of your seats!
I've already gotten a couple e-mails asking me about this. One, in particular, was slightly angry, accusing me of not understanding Catholic teaching because there is no such thing as "Purgatory on Earth."
Well, of COURSE you're not going to find that in the catechism. I sorta-kinda-most-probably made that up. However, the theology is all there in black and white. This structured mercy is all explained through the Catholic understanding of Divine Providence (which I break down into cookie form here).
So just to quickly recap, Divine Providence is God's way of providing us with all the tools, equipment and practice necessary to make it through the jungle of life and into Heaven. Humanity is able to dole out these gifts from God through the Golden Rule (loving others as Christ loves, thus always being willing to share everything with others). However, since humanity is unable/unwilling to properly follow the Golden Rule at all times, we fall off the path towards Heaven and Purgatory is God's last-ditch effort to toss a life-line our way and pull us back on track.
Purgatory on earth is a gentle precursor to Purgatory of the Holy Souls. An analogy is in order here...
One of my employees borrows $100 from me. When it comes time to pay up, he's unable to pay save for a little at a time. I accept his apology and promise to pay me back.
After a couple weeks of paying $10 at a time for odd jobs he'd been working, he gets thrown into jail for stealing. He still owes me about $80, but now that he's in jail, he's got no way of paying me that $80 back. He must rely on family and friends for the remaining $80.
That's kinda the difference between Purgatory on Earth and Purgatory in, well, Purgatory.
While on earth, we're given the opportunity to pay back or "atone" for our misdeeds a little at a time through sacrifice, prayer and charitable acts of mercy. Once we die (still having debts to pay) we go to Purgatory where we must rely on those we've left behind to fulfill our obligations to Divine Justice.
This again highlights why human euthanasia is a no-no. Euthanasia cuts short our ablity to atone for our transgressions. It also has the ability to cut short the blessings that suffering can, in fact, bestow upon those around us.
For example (true story alert), there was a wonderful woman who lived into her late 80s. She suffered for three years with a terribly debilitating disease. Her three sons, Ron, Eric and Joe, weren't really sure how to handle the prognosis... or how to handle each other. The boys had been somewhat distant, content to live their own lives separate from one another save for the ocassional holiday dinner. In fact, they didn't even like each other very much. Their mother's illness, though, effected them all in a very profound way.
While their mother was quite possibly suffering physically to atone for past transgressions, her condition was not given solely for her benefit. Through her suffering, her sons came together and got to know one another again. They were forced to communicate regulalry, to console one another, to provide food, housing, even transportation for one another as they rotated shifts. Ron and Eric, (and Joe and Eric) eventually reconciled their differences and became friends - true brothers. I wish I could say the same for Ron and Joe, but not everyone takes advantage of the blessings granted through Divine Providence.
In other words, even suffering is a blessing. Even suffering is an opportunity to take part in the grace of love and reconciliation.
I, myself, have been trying to practice this mindset more often... especially in traffic. I'm a horrible road-rager. I cannot stand when someone is driving 10 miles below the speed limit, yet instead of cutting them off and angrily waving some not-nice-things their way, I now chalk it up to Divine Providence. I simply wonder why God chose to put that little inconvenience before me. Was He forcing me to be three seconds too late to the scene of a horrific accident that I would have been a part of otherwise? Was He giving me an opportunity to practice my least-utilized (almost non-existent) virtue, Patience? Maybe He just wanted to back up traffic juuuuust enough so that an old lady way up the road could make it safely across the street. Who knows?
My point is - GOD knows. Catholics trust in Divine Providence as the driving force in every single thing that comes up throughout our lives. We believe that God is not only interested, but active in our lives - fully vested in the creation He saw fit to bless into being.
Suffering, too, is part of that Divine Providence. As a result, any attempt at shortening the timeframe God, Himself, has acknowledged as necessary for salvation translates to a sure ticket to Purgatory (at the very least... I shudder to think of what the alternative is!).
On the heels of this post, I thought it best to reaffirm something that might have become a little confused due to my handling of Midnight's euthanasia.
I must point out that I (as a Catholic) do not, under any circumstances, believe in the practice of human euthanasia. As a testament to my reverence for human life in all its forms (conception through natural death), I trust in Divine Providence that all stages of life (including bodily decay through age, illness, etc) are meant for a higher purpose.
Animal euthanasia, however, is an entirely different ballgame.
Mary, concerned that Midnight might be trapped inside some sort of "kitty-Purgatory" asked me why it was OK to euthanize animals but not humans, especially when it's considered "humane" to end the suffering of a terminally ill pet.
This is an extremely valid question, and one that shows logic and compassion. I've been posed this question in the past, but never really took the time to explain as I did to Mary yesterday. I'm posting an edited version of my response here in the hopes that it answers that question for others who are grappling with the same fear, worry or confusion.
The short answer to the question, "Do all dogs (or animals in general) REALLY go to Heaven?" is YES. No collecting of $200 as you pass Go, and no jail-time through Purgatory. Animals do have souls, and they do go straight to Heaven.
Now for the more involved answer...
In Judiac tradition (keeping in mind that Catholicism is the fulfillment - the full expression - of the promises made by God to the Jewish people), there are a few words to describe the life and soul of both people and animals. The same words are used in an effort to paint an increasingly detailed description of how the physical world becomes animated through the invisible (or Divine) world.
For example, in Genesis, the word "neshama" means "breath" or "wind." It translations roughly into "breath like my own" In other words, when God animated Adam and Eve, He very concretely breathed Life into them, in His own Image. This breath of life... this "neshama" is the soul... the immortal animation of our mortal bodies.
In Leviticus 17:11, the word "nefesh" is utilized in stating that "the life [nefesh] of the flesh is in the blood." As a result of the close connection between blood as life-sustaining and God's breath as a fluid, living function, Judaic tradition revered blood and soul to be inseparable. In other words, blood was the physical manifestation of the soul, which is why it wasn't considered impure until it left the body (thus no longer serving a life-sustaining purpose). It is also why blood was used in worship. Blood, being so closely united to the spirit- to the breath of God- was revered and precious.
Finally, we have "ruah" in Ecclesiastes. Much like "neshama" from Genesis, "ruah," too, means "breath of God." The beautiful sentiment found in Ecclesiastes 12:7 states that a person dies when "the dust returns to the ground where it had been and the [ruah]returns to the God who had given it."
In other words, death happens when our bodies exhale that final life-sustaining breath which returns upwards to the God who originally deigned to forge that breath in a mother's womb at conception. The physical body, now separated from the soul, decays rapidly into the dust it was created from.
To break it down:
Ruah is the invisible breath of God that animates physical bodies
Nefesh is the result of this ruah (the physical motion of the invisible animation)
Neshama, to cycle back to the story of Genesis, is specifically granted to man through Adam because this breath of God was "like unto Ours." In other words, Neshama is the unique part of God's Ruah that enlightens humanity and gives us the capability for free will.
So yes, God gave the gift of Life to all His creation, but He reserved a special, more enlightened life for Man. That is "neshama" and it is because of this "neshama" that Purgatory exists for humanity, but not for our beloved pets.
Since animals have no free will (or neshama) to utilize, they can never really "sin." Sure, they can pee on the carpet, chew your favorite boots or claw apart your newly upholstered sofa, but sin? Not so much. As a result, once their mortal life ends, their life force is returned to God, free of the stain of sin, and thus not in need of the cleansing of Purgatory.
Humans, on the other hand, who have been given the grace of Free Will, also have the responsibility of using that gift wisely. Since humanity is pretty much incapable of always utilizing Free Will to do good, Purgatory was created as a mercy to help us one day unite ourselves back to the God who first gave us life.
It is important to note, at this point, that while we are still alive, God offers us, through Divine Providence, countless opportunities to rectify the wrongs we created by misusing the gift of Free Will. This counts as a "Purgatory on Earth."
I'll be dedicating tomorrow's blog to this. Stay tuned!
I attempted to enlarge this mural so you can see some of the details a bit better.
Beautiful! I think I am in love with this picture! I almost want to bow my head in gratitude and adoration of the most holy and blessed Sacrifice that renders our salvation! What hope and comfort the offering of the Eucharist must give to the souls in Purgatory!
At the base of this holy card we see an Angel of God descending into Purgatory to provide comfort to those souls who long for the Face of their God. The offering of the Mass is a huge benefit to them. Indeed, Our Lord revealed to St. Gertrude that each time a person receives the Eucharist (while in the state of grace, of course), something good happens to EVERY soul on Earth, in Heaven and in Purgatory.
Wow!!! Yet again, this brings a whole new appreciation for the term "Communion of Saints." The Eucharist truly does unify all in blessing.
Representing the souls of Earth are, of course, the clergy (via priest and nuns in adoration). They are central to the Eucharist, and are, as a result, closest to Christ. Just outside this nucleus are a nurse and hospice patient, a student, and a worker (scientist, maybe?). I find this wonderful. These particular persons were chosen wisely to represent the gifts the Eucharist brings each of us.
Nurse: Patience and charity
Patient: Strength and healing
Student: Knowledge and fortitude
Worker: Industry and prudence
In the background, behind these people, are images of a city (industry) and what appears to be farmlands of grain (agriculture), hinting that even these things are blessed and given to us through the bounty of God. These things, too, as part of creation, also acknowledge the Divinity of God (smoke rises and turns sharply towards the Host as the grain waves upwards towards the Sacrament).
And most importantly, taking up half the image itself is the Triune God, crucified together upon the Cross. God the Father upholds the Arms of His Son while the Holy Spirit supports both from above. The Blessed Mother offers Her unfathomable sacrifice in union with Theirs as does the Angel (representing, I'm sure, all angels), who collects the blood from Christ's heart.
The "rays of glory" take on the faces of saints and cherubs who adore and unite with Christ in Heaven. It even looks like some of the cherubs (at His Feet) are trumpeting this Mystery!
I think we sometimes forget that this Sacrifice is one and the same as that which was first offered upon Calvary. This depiction, however, brings that full circle for us, most especially by the "clock" encircling the Sacrifice. Each ray of grace and light touches upon one "hour" of the clock, signifying the timelessness of each Mass. Each offering, no matter when or where it is given, enters into the timeless miracle of the Sacrifice on Calvary.
I'm still not entirely sure what the words are in between the hours, but I'm currently attempting to ascertain those. If I ever do, I'll let you know. If YOU already know, please share the knowledge!!! :)
For those of you wondering where I came across this picture, it was originally found here. I contacted Father Byres regarding it, but being a hermit, he may or may not get back to me on this. Ha ha. So I did some more research and found it here as well. According to Father's blog, he originally came across this mural at a monastery in Northern Italy (I did a search of all monasteries in Italy and was unsuccessful in figuring out which one this came from - boo). Once I find out, I'll solicit proper usage confirmations, but in the spirit of sharing so awesome an image with all of you, methinks it'll be OK. At least I hope so!
UPDATE: A friend of mine was kind enough to solve the puzzle for me! Special thanks to you, Pete. The words that I thought were Latin weren't Latin at all! They're cities and countries. It's almost like a circular time-zone indicator, with each city representing an hour on the "world clock."
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