Death is such a scary subject….especially for children. Often I pray that Our Lord will take away the unhealthy fear of death from all of us, my children, grandchildren, etc.
We had a dear boy in our parish drown in the Kansas River about ten years ago now. It was devastating to all concerned! What was truly heartrending was to see the dad on the bridge for weeks, praying, looking, pacing, because they could not find his body!
My kids were truly disturbed about this. Even though they knew that it was just his body, they thought of their dear friend still in that icy, cold and unfriendly river. That is when I had to come up with some simple analogy on how to deepen their understanding of death.
I told them that our bodies are like a suitcase. The real important stuff is what is inside, the suitcase is only holding what matters most ….the “feeling, understanding, spiritual” part of us.
Our friend’s soul is like what is inside that suitcase; it was the important part, and it had quickly flown to where it needed to be…..purgatory or heaven. It was not in the river. The suitcase was just the outer cover…..
That seemed to help. And it was a growing experience for all concerned.
On another note, did you know you receive a partial indulgence for a soul in purgatory on ANY day of the year that you pray the prayers for the Holy Father and a prayer for the dead in a cemetery? We pray the Eternal Rest Prayer every time we pass a cemetery but it is good to stop there, too, to gain the indulgence!
Pray for and to the Holy Souls in Purgatory! They are very powerful with God!
The children had never been to a funeral before, nor attended a wake, nor had any personal acquaintance with death.
Then in November, the month of the dead, someone dear to our neighborhood hood left this life to go to God. They had prayed for her through a long illness. Their first concern was: “Did she go right to Heaven?”
Children always give you the point at which to start. A subject may have a dozen approaches, but the best one is by way of their questions.
We would like to have said, flatly, yes, she went right to Heaven. She had suffered much, uniting it to Christ’s suffering. She had lived a life of prayer and sacrifice, had received the last sacraments and the final blessing with its plenary indulgence.
Her last few months had been an excruciating trial, and she had lain weeks longing for death, accepting suffering, but ready to welcome death. She wanted to die on Saturday because it was our Lady’s day, and our Lady granted her wish. It would be easy to say yes, she is surely in Heaven.
But even when you think so, you can never say that you know. It is God’s secret, and no one here knows.
But there is comfort for the living in what we do know: how the Church prepares us for death; how she prays for us after death, and the real possibility that we may “go right to Heaven” if we try very hard.
Haven’t we just celebrated the feast of All Saints, the glory of those who did? True, some among them entered by way of Purgatory, but they are there in Heaven nevertheless, and they confirm us in high hope.
Death is a touchy subject. People who do not know the Church (and some who think they do) accuse her of being “too mournful about death.” Perhaps this is because she is so candid about man and his origin -dust. She knows he will return to dust.
She knows that he inherited Original Sin and is weak, that the Devil is clever; and she does not admit the impossibility of going to Hell.
She knows that Purgatory exists, and hurts, and that man was created for Heaven but may refuse to go there.
She admits what everyone must admit: that wherever he is going, there is only one way to go there: to die. Death is a doorway we must go through. How else can the spirit leave the body behind and enter eternity?
For Catholics, the idea of death ought not to be mournful. There is natural grief and loneliness for the bereaved families and friends, of course, but God mellows these with time.
If death is otherwise mournful as an idea, as something to think about – or avoid thinking about – it is because we look at it from the wrong direction. We should be seeing it as the middle step, not the final step: life, then death, then God.
It is God for whom we are created. By way of death. He is where we are bound. This was the spirit of our neighbor’s death. It accounted for the tranquility of her family’s grief, their hopefulness, their ready resignation. Entering their home, where her body was returned until time for the funeral, our children saw death for the first time as they knelt beside her and prayed.
“But, Mother” – this was in a whisper – “you said she might even be in Heaven with God. But she’s not. She’s here asleep.”
You see? You are sure you have made it clear about the body and the soul, and not until such a time do you discover that you haven’t. Not until such a time, either, do you see how truly the Church speaks of us as creatures with souls that will not die.
Our bodies are the least of us. We could not talk about this at the moment, but we did when we got home.
“That wasn’t her, dear. That was just her body. She has really and truly gone to see God and, we hope, to be with Him immediately in Heaven.”
How to explain this once and for all and put confusion to rest?
“You close your eyes.” He did. “Now think a thought about yourself.” He closed his eyes very tightly, and thought, and said, “I’m thinking about myself.”
“That is you, dear, that part that can think about itself, know who he is, say to me, `I’m thinking about myself.’ That is truly you, the you that will not die. Your body will die one day, and it will be carefully put in the ground, and the people will say, `He has gone to see God.’
They will be right. When our bodies finally die, the part of us that is soul and lives forever goes off to see God.”
“If she would make herself of all earthly beings the most delightful and necessary companion to her husband, she must study him,—his needs, his moods, his weak as well as his strong points,—and know how to make him forget himself when he is moody and selfish, and bring out every joyous side of his nature when he is prone to sadness.” -Rev. Bernard O’Reilly, The Mirror of True Womanhood. 1893
Baby Charlotte Update
It was this time of the year last year that we were going through a traumatic time, wondering if our dear little Charlotte (and her mom, Elizabeth..Z for short) were going to make it. I know most of you remember. Here are some photos of that time….
Charlotte had to be put on 72 hours of a “cooling method” so her brain would not swell. Then it was a slow warming process and monitoring her in the ICU. A scary time, indeed!
Charlotte just had her first birthday on All Saints’ Day! Isn’t she precious?! Z and I talked about how grateful we were for all the love, support and prayers you sent our way! We felt the love, believe me! Thank you!
Praying for the elections today!! God bless America!
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Reflections on Purgatory By Rev. F.X. Lasance. A Complete Prayer-book Including Special Prayers and Devotions in Behalf of the Poor Souls in Purgatory Imprimatur, 1922, 442 page book. Originally printed by The Benziger Brothers. A Rare and Unusual Book! It is hoped that this book will cultivate a special devotion to the holy souls in Purgatory. This devotion, while it solaces the Holy Souls, in whose behalf it is directly exercised, is eminently pleasing to God, and beneficial to ourselves. It is hoped that the “Reflections” contained in the first part of this little book will stimulate the pious reader to make frequent use of the prayers and devotions which are found in the second part for the solace of the suffering souls in Purgatory.
This is an excellent prayer book.
Originally published in 1908 by the venerable Benziger Bros., this book has everything–all the basic prayers, litanies and Order (now known as Extraordinary Form) of the Mass. It also has excellent meditations for Eucharistic meditation and prayers for reception of Holy Communion.
The distinguishing feature of this prayer book, however, is that it is chock-full with helpful meditations and inspiring quotes for living the full Christian life. Father Lasance was obviously a very wise man and a holy priest. -T. Berry