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. :)
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