Archive for the ‘Purgatory’ Category

A Litany for the Souls in Purgatory

November 2, 2016

O Jesus, Thou suffered and died that all mankind might be saved and brought to eternal happiness. Hear our pleas for further mercy on the souls of:

My dear parents & grandparents,

            [Response: “My Jesus, Have Mercy”]

My brothers & sisters & other near relatives,

My godparents & sponsors of Confirmation,

My spiritual & temporal benefactors,

My friends & neighbors,

All for whom love or duty bids me pray,

Those who have suffered disadvantage or harm through me,

Those who have offended me,

Those whose release is near at hand,

Those who desire most to be united to Thee,

Those who endure the greatest sufferings,

Those whose release is most remote,

Those who are least remembered.

Those who are most deserving on account of their services to the Church,

The rich, who are now the most destitute,

The mighty, who are now powerless,

The once spiritually blind, who now see their folly,

The frivolous, who spent their time in idleness,

The poor who did not seek the treasures of heaven,

The tepid who devoted little time to prayer,

The indolent who neglected to perform good works,

Those of little faith, who neglected the frequent reception of the Sacraments,

The habitual sinners, who owe their salvation to a miracle of grace,

Parents who failed to watch over their children,

Superiors who were not solicitous for the salvation of those entrusted to them,

Those who strove for worldly riches & pleasures,

The worldly minded, who failed to use their wealth & talent for the service of God,

Those who witnessed the death of others, but would not think of their own,

Those who did not provide for the life hereafter,

Those whose sentence is severe because of the great things entrusted to them,

The popes, kings, & rulers,

The bishops & their counselors,

My teachers & spiritual advisors,

The priests & religious of the Catholic Church,

The defenders of the Holy Faith,

Those who died on the battlefield,

Those who fought for their country,

Those who were buried in the sea,

Those who died of stokes,

Those who died of heart attacks,

Those who suffered & died of cancer,

Those who died suddenly in accidents,

Those who died without the last rites of the Church,

Those who shall die within the next twenty-four hours,

My own poor soul when I shall have to appear before Thy judgment seat,

        Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them: For evermore with Thy Saints, because Thou art gracious. May the prayer of Thy suppliant people, we beseech Thee, O Lord, benefit the souls of Thy departed servants and handmaids: that Thou mayest both deliver them from all their sins, and make them to be partakers of Thy redemption. Amen. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine on them. Amen. May their souls & the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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Ghost Stories From Sts. Augustine & Gregory

October 31, 2014

In 398 AD, St. Augustine shared the following story about a probable visitor from beyond the veil in a letter to his friend, Evodius:

“Our brother, Gennadius … told us that he doubted once … whether there was any life after death. As God would not abandon a man of his disposition and works of mercy, there appeared to him in sleep a handsome youth of dignified appearance, who said to him: ‘Follow me.’ He followed and came to a certain city, where he began to hear, on his right, singing of such exquisite sweetness that it surpassed all known and ordinary sweetness. Then, as he listened, he asked what it was and his guide said it was the hymns of the blessed and the saints. I do not clearly remember what he said he saw on his left. When he awoke, the dream vanished and he thought of it only as one does of a dream.

But, on another night, behold, the same youth appeared to him again and asked whether he recognized him; he answered that he did so fully and perfectly. Then the youth asked where he had known him. He remembered what to reply to that, too, and described the whole vision and the hymns of the saints which the other had led him there to hear, recalling them with ease as a recent experience. Thereupon, the youth asked whether he had been asleep or awake when he saw what he had described. He answered: ‘It was in a dream.’ The other said: ‘You remember well, it is true, that you saw all that in a dream, but you must know that even now you see, although you are asleep.’ When he heard that, he believed it was so and expressed it by his answer.

Then the one who was teaching him continued and said: ‘Where is your body now?’ He answered: ‘In my bedroom.’ ‘And do you know,’ said the other, ‘that in that same helpless body, your eyes are fast shut and useless, and that you see nothing with those eyes?’ Gennadius answered: ‘I know it.’ His guide went on: ‘Then, with what kind of eyes do you see me?’ He fell silent at this, finding no reply, and, as he remained in doubt, the youth made known what he was trying to teach by these questions.

He went on: ‘As those eyes of flesh are now inactive and perform no function while your body lies asleep in bed, yet you have eyes with which you behold me and a sight of which you make use, so, when you die and the eyes of your flesh see nothing, there will be in you another life by which you will live and sense by which you will perceive. See to it that henceforth you do not doubt of the life which remains after death.’ Thus this faithful man says that his doubt on this matter was removed, and what was his teacher but the providence and mercy of God?”

In 593 AD, Pope St. Gregory the Great related this story in his Dialogues:

“Bishop Felix…said that he had been told of such a case by a saintly priest who was still living two years ago in the [Italian] diocese of Centum Cellae as pastor of the Church of St. John in Tauriana [on the toe of Italy.] This priest used to bathe in the hot springs of Tauriana whenever his health required. One day, as he entered the baths, he found a stranger there who showed himself most helpful in every way possible, by unlatching his shoes, taking care of his clothes, and furnishing him towels after the hot bath.

After several experiences of this kind, the priest said the himself: ‘It would not do for me to appear ungrateful to this man who is so devoted in his kind services to me. I must reward him in some way.’ So one day he took along two crown-shaped loaves of bread to give him.

When he arrived at the place, the man was already waiting for him and rendered the same services he had before. After the bath, when the priest was again fully dressed and ready to leave, he offered the man the present of bread, asking him kindly to accept it as a blessing, for it was offered a token of charity.

But the man sighed mournfully and said, ‘Why do you give it to me, Father? That bread is holy and I cannot eat it. I who stand before you was once the owner of this place. It is because of my sins that I was sent back here as a servant. If you wish to do something for me, then offer this bread to almighty God, and so make intercession for me, a sinner. When you come back and do not find me here, you will know that your prayers have been heard.

With these words he disappeared, thus showing that he was a spirit disguised as a man. The priest spent the entire week in prayer and tearful supplications, offering Mass for him daily. When he returned to the bath, the man was no longer to be found. This incident points out the great benefits souls derive from the Sacrifice of the Mass. Because of these benefits the dead ask us, the living, to have Masses offered for them, and even show us by signs that it was through the Mass that they were pardoned.”

Set To Heaven — 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

February 13, 2011

This morning, consider this important question: Are you a thermometer or a thermostat? In this life, we can live like either thermometers or thermostats. A thermometer (as you know) accepts whatever temperature, hot or cold, that happens to surround it. A thermometer acts passively to the world’s influence. A thermostat, on the other hand, does not submit to the world around it. A thermostat is set to an ideal temperature and strives to attaint its goal.  As Christians, we should be as thermostats, and we should all be set on Heaven.

Do you think about Heaven much? Do you ever meditate on what it will be like? I think many of us get so drawn in by the here and now that we fail to give Heaven much thought. Yet, I think we would all be strengthened by meditating on it more; on what it promises and what it requires.

The next life is a mystery about which we can know a great deal. As Saint Paul says, “What God has prepared for those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” For example, we know that there will be no suffering or death in Heaven. The Book of Revelation says God ‘will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order (the way of this world) will have passed away.’

There shall also be no hatred in Heaven. No one with hatred in his or her heart will be able to enter. The Book of Wisdom teaches that God hates none of the persons he has made. He does not always like all the things that they do, but it is His love for each one that continues to hold them in being, and will hold them in existence forever. In order to see God in Heaven, we must become like Him. This is why Jesus forbids not only murder, but hatred in the heart as well. Consider how wonderful it will be to live in Heaven at peace with everyone.

After the resurrection, when our dead bodies are reconstructed from the dust, those who are just will be remade, stronger, handsomer, more incredibly beautiful, than they have ever looked before. Will their perfect bodies have any flaws? If glorified bodies do have “flaws,” they shall be as the wounds that remain in Jesus’ hands and side, beautiful and glorious forever. In this life, the beauty of one’s soul has little relationship to the beauty of one’s flesh; but in Heaven, the holiness of the saints shines out for all to see. 

In Heaven, in this midst of this overwhelming beauty, no one shall lust and none shall exploit another. Lust and exploitation go hand in hand. There is a good reason for the expression “to lust for power,” for lust is about manipulating another for one’s pleasure. Instead of lust, everyone in Heaven shall desire the true good of one another from their hearts.

In this life, temptations will come whether we want them or not, but remember that temptations in themselves are not sins—it is only when we say “yes” to temptation, when we choose to sin as temptations suggest, that we can be guilty of a sin such as lust. Until we can refuse temptation’s invitations, until all lust is driven from our hearts, we are not yet ready for Heaven. This is why Jesus teaches not only against adultery, but against lust in the heart as well. How wonderful it will be to full of love for all, purely, from our hearts, and to receive that same overflowing love in return.

Our lives on earth we are full of questions. But in Heaven, every question which has answer will be answered for us. As St. Paul told the Corinthians, “At present we see indistinctly, as in a [cloudy] mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.” Heaven is a place of transparent truth. There, the barriers to communication disappear. In Heaven, we shall know others fully, and be fully known ourselves. No lies nor concealments are possible there, “for there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.” Until we are free of lies, until we are people whose ‘Yes’ means ‘Yes,’ and whose ‘No’ mean ‘No,’ we are not yet ready to live in Heaven.

If we die in God’s grace and friendship, we may still have some attachments to sin, and be unprepared for Heaven. But, thanks be to God, there is Purgatory, to clean us up and make us perfect, so that we may enter the Father’s house and join the feast of Heaven. Though there is Purgatory, we must always aim for Heaven. If you shoot a bow and arrow and aim carefully for the bull’s-eye, you will probably miss but still hit the target. If you shoot only aiming at the target in general, you will probably miss and hit the ground. So aim for Heaven, lest any of us miss entirely.

Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So let us not default to world’s standards. Do not be a thermometer. Set your thermostat to the perfection of Heaven. Meditate on it and strive for it, and you will experience the joys and blessings of Heaven beginning in this life.

The Rot Inside — Tuesday, 28th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

October 13, 2010

St. Paul says in the first reading that “the works of the flesh are obvious.”  If so, then why does Jesus have to point out the sins of the scribes and Pharisees, whose sinfulness “are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk”? It’s not that Jesus is pronouncing “woe” upon people unaware that they have sins, the problem is these people think that their hidden sins are no big deal because of their outward practices and appearances.

As long as we are at ease with “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like,” in our lives we will not enter the Kingdom of God. Even if we do not end up in Hell because of them, we will certainly have to wait on the doorstep to Heaven in Purgatory until these sins are rooted out. Let us crush these sins in our lives like the cancers that they are.

The Divine Perfectionist — Funeral for Joseph Stockheimer, 76

October 9, 2010

I never got to know Joseph while he lived on earth, but in preparation for this homily, I talked to Helen, his wife of 51 years, and his daughter, Vicky, and asked them what sort of person Joseph is. They described a man who lived faithfully, piously, and with high standards. These qualities expressed themselves in a certain perfectionism throughout his life.

He worked his farm for 35 years. Not only did he keep to the cows’ daily milking schedule, but I’m told his field rows were perfectly straight and cleared every stone. Even the barn (the barn) was clean! After retiring from farming, Joseph turned his efforts to working the flower garden and cleaning the house, two activities that pleased Helen greatly. Their house was always clean and his nails were always dirty. Sometimes Joseph would be work in the garden until 11:30 at night.  There wasn’t any light to see, but he still kept at it. Joseph also worked in the kitchen at the Knights of Columbus hall. They called him “Scrubby” because he never quit on cleaning the pans. He would talk to you while he worked, but he wouldn’t stop scrubbing.

Joseph’s attitude was, ‘If you start a job, get it done, and get it done right.’ In this, Joseph bears a likeness to an attribute of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The Lord works as a perfectionist too. Jesus says, “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me… …This is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.” Jesus is not content to save just some of what the Father gives Him. He is not willing to save only some of those who come to Him. ‘For this is the will of His Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and He shall raise them on the last day.’ There is hope and consolation for us in this: we are the Lord’s field, we are His house, we are His garden, we are His pans, and  Jesus does not willingly give up on His work.

It is a good thing that Christ is a perfectionist, for nothing imperfect can bear to stand in God’s fully unveiled presence. The fact is that you and I will refuse to enter Heaven until we are perfect, so Christ must make us so. Even if we are good and faithful, the pan-bottoms of our souls may still need some hard scrubbing at the end of our lives. This is what we call purgatory, the joyful but challenging time after death when our souls are scrubbed clean of every imperfection.

Now I am confident that Joseph is bound for Heaven, since Jesus does not reject those who are His own. But I think we do well to assist Him with our prayers to help Him get his last job done and to get it done right—the job of perfecting His soul for Heaven. So talk to Joseph, for he can hear you, and pray for Joseph, especially at this Mass, so that he may have eternal rest and fully enjoy the reward of his labors.

Alive in Christ — Funeral for Lila O’Brien, 94

March 3, 2010

On behalf of Christ the King parish I wish to offer to you, Lila’s family and friends, the sympathies and prayers of this community. I also want to give special recognition, praise and thanks to Lila’s children, who provided her with around the clock companionship and care, allowing her the blessing of dying at her home with her loved ones.

In these last months, I had the privilege to visit Lila at home on two occasions. The first time I came, I anointed her with holy oil, to strengthen her for the share in Christ’s passion which laid before her. The second time some of her family and I gathered and pray with her the prayers of commendation for the dying.

When I ask people about Lila they tell me that she was friendly and feisty. That she was ever active and always on the go. That she was funny, a bit goofy, and unpredictable. They tell me that she was very independent, yet also very personable. Lila was a neat lady. Let us not forget that she remains a neat lady.

It is the habit in our culture to refer to people who have died using the past tense. For instance people say, “So and so was such a loving person,” and they say the person “would have really enjoyed being with us today.” Even if unintentionally, these words implies that the dead love no longer and that they are no longer aware of us.

Yet after death, a person who is loving in this life becomes still more loving. It seems quite likely that each of us will be aware of our own funerals, just as I believe that Lila is aware of our gathering today.

Though we fall into speaking of the departed in the past tense, we do not really believe that death is the end. Dying does not annihilate those we love. As Jesus said, ‘The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.’

Nor does dying make a person less fully themselves than what they were before. “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” And as Jesus said in the gospel, to the good thief crucified with Him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Lila has passed on, but if you would like to talk to her, just go ahead and pray. She will hear you and she will appreciate it. And be sure to pray for her too.

In her years on earth, Lila did not like to travel far from home and she didn’t take long trips, unless the promise of a casino jackpot awaited her. But now Lila is making the human soul’s furthest trip, the journey to full and heavenly presence of God. She has an incredible jackpot to motivate her, the promise of supreme and perfect happiness, however receiving this reward is not a matter of luck. It requires the purification of her soul and the help of our prayers, so offer this morning’s mass and your continued prayers to God for her.

Lila has died, but Lila is not dead. If the woman we remember has changed it is only to become more perfectly who she really is, in all her unrepeatable uniqueness. Lila was, and she remains, a friendly, funny and feisty lady.

Then and Now — Funeral for Fabian “John” Wingert, 80

February 5, 2010

John did not know when the day would come, but he knew it was coming, and so he was proactive in making preparations. It was 1952, and our country was at war on the Korean peninsula. John knew that his army draft number was low and that he going to be called up for service any day. John was proactive, and he heeded the advice of his father, who said, “Join the navy. It’s better to have a bed than to sleep on the ground.” John enlisted in the navy two days before his army draft number came up.

Later, when it came time for him to ship out, John took the initiative again. John had met Beverly two years before. He would later say they met at a dance in Rozellville. She insists that it happened earlier at an ice rink. But in the week before he was to ship out they were in perfect agreement about what they wanted to do. They were wedded in Los Angeles at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, beginning 57 years of marriage. They enjoyed the sweetness of their too short honeymoon together, and then he left, as he had been called to do by higher-ups.

Beverly tells me that this time without him was lonely, and that she would worry about him, too. They wrote to each other every day, though the mysterious mechanisms of the mail service made the letters arrive in clumps. Finally, John came home, and he and Beverly began raising children and living happily, together.

Today we gather to mourn and pray for John, who suffered his last days’ passion in Christ’s likeness, and whom we trust will be raised up in Christ’s likeness. John has been called up for service by the Higher-Ups of heaven.

There’s a sadness in this separation, but there is no need for fear. It is you who sit here who remain in the war, while John is heading home. We need not fear for him, for unlike the mail, he cannot be lost now, but we pray for him while experiences the mysterious mechanisms that perfect souls until they reach their final address.

And if you have anything you wish you could tell him, you can, for like our connection to the love of Christ, nothing can separate our spiritual connection with John in Christ.  If you would like to talk to him, just pray. You might even sense him speaking back.

This life has the happiness and incompleteness of a too short honeymoon. But if we proactively respond to God’s grace, in not too long, we will all be joyfully reunited. And we will live happily, together, forever.

Monday, 22nd Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

August 31, 2009

Why does Saint Paul say that the dead are “fallen asleep?” Are we to think of the dead as unaware and unconscious until the general resurrection? No. We believe that all the saints in heaven are actively alive in Christ.

As the dying St. Dominic said to his religious brothers, “Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.” And as St. Therese of Lisieux said in her last conversations, “I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.”

The saints continue to cooperate in Christ’s messianic work. The Spirit of the Lord is with the saints, He has anointed them, to bring gifts to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and to make times and seasons acceptable to the Lord.

Though death is not unconsciousness, going to sleep is a fitting image for it. The deceased Christian arrives home from a long-road’s journey. After blisters, sunburns, and dehydration are attended to, not to mention a needed bath (I speak of the business of purgatory), dying begins the Christian traveler’s transition to a lasting, comfortable rest.

Those who have arrived at this home before of us are not cut off from those of us who are still journeying there. As Lumen Gentium and the Catechism says, “the union of the wayfarers with the brethren who sleep in the peace of Christ is in no way interrupted, but on the contrary, according to the constant faith of the Church, this union is reinforced by an exchange of spiritual goods.”

So today, why not ask your favorite saints to provide you with something special for this day’s journey? I suspect that they’re here, waiting, eagerly listening, for us simply to ask for something good.

Funeral for Robert J. Wallig, 89

August 18, 2009

In late 1942, at the young age of twenty-two, Robert Wallig went off to war. He bravely answered his call and helped in winning the Second World War. He served as an army medic, in the European theater, earning a Bronze Star. Bob was going to go on to become a medic after the war, but the coming of the first of his five beloved children and changed his and Donna’s plans. I am told that Robert never liked to talk very much about his wartime abroad—which is a strong indication that he witnessed and experienced some very difficult things back then.

There are not many World War II veterans still around, but I tell you, there is still a world war being fought today, and you and I are in its combat theater. I am not speaking so much about the War on Terror or any other particular war between peoples or nations.  Such wars among flesh and blood are just the manifestations of a broader, less visible war.  The World War I’m speaking of is a spiritual war being waged between Christ and the principalities and powers who oppose Him.  We cannot see this spiritual conflict directly, but we can see in our world the consequences of its victories and losses.  We can feel and recognize its skirmishes being fought inside of us.  The battle is for our souls. This is why the Church here on earth is called the Church militant, and why St. Paul so often uses military language—because we are in a war.

 Our demonic adversaries in this campaign are more evil than the Nazis and manipulated by a leader far more dark than Hitler. Yet we should not be afraid.

For “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Fear is the only real weapon our enemy has. Their strategy is to make us mistrust our Lord and to choose another, renegade path of our own, to divide us, apart from God and apart from one another. But we fight together as a band of brothers on the side of Christ, who has already won the greater part of the battle. Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” The only way a Christian can be lost in this war is through surrendering to the enemy.

Occasionally, we may be wounded by sin during this cosmic battle, but these wounds can be healed, through the sacraments which Christ, our field medic, has provided for our care. Yet even after the gapping wounds of our sins are closed through the sacraments, scars can often still remain; scars of fear, guilt, sadness, bitterness, resentment, regret, and the like. After we have fought the good fight by the grace, and are honorably discharged from this life, such scars can still remain an can delay our entry into the Church triumphant in heaven; where the saints now fully enjoy their victory won. Instead, our scars may keep us just outside heaven, in what is called the Church suffering, or rather, the Church healing, for the path to our healing can be painful. This is a place of hope called purgatory, where souls are being healed, completed and made perfect for heaven.

Like the general of Israel, Judas Maccabeus, whom  we heard about of in the first reading, let us offer sacrifice and prayers for our fallen brother.  Our prayers, united to the one and perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which we really encounter here at the Mass, can help to heal Robert of any and all of the scars he might have.

I’m sure that all of you know Robert far better than I, you know what sort of man he is, and from what I have been told that is very good, so you have the well-founded hope that he is well on his way in Christ. But I ask of you, a favor for him, the same favor that I would ask for myself if it were possible for me to preach at my own funeral:  to please pray for him. It can only do him good, and perhaps very great deal of good.

In the decades after the war, Robert did many, many things. Among these, Robert worked as a custodian for one of God’s own homes, a church in Kenosha.  He also worked as a manager for others’ residences, including apartments here in Marshfield. He repaired the boilers, emptied the trash, painted the walls, cleaned what was dirty, and did whatever else was necessary for the place to be ready and just right. Jesus tells us, in our Father’s house there are many dwelling places. Christ has been at work, busy preparing a perfect place for Robert. So let us help Robert to get moved in, and to become completely settled, in this new home.