Friday, March 18, 2005


After reading "My Descent into Death" the other day, I started thinking more about Purgatory. One of the really fine things about our church's RCIA team is the number of team members who are, shall we say, in the twilight of their lives. Whenever talk turns to suffering or disappointment or even the smallest of stumbling blocks, you can count on these folks to say, "offer it up!" or "give it up for the Church." The concept is that offering up your own suffering (take up your cross and follow me!) for the dead will lessen their time in Purgatory. The fact that these older, life-long Catholics invariably pull "offer it up" from their holsters far quicker than the younger teachers makes me wonder whether offering our suffering up for the dead is still being taught as much (or as well) as it used to be. Or, perhaps, it's just that the older one gets, the more skilled one becomes at suffering. In any event, praying for the dead and offering up our own suffering for theirs is a concept I very much like in my new faith. Perhaps the worst thing about chronic pain (for those who suffer from it) or depression or sadness or any type of loss is finding no purpose in it. Being able to "offer up" your pain and suffering (as Jesus did for us) gives meaning, deepens faith, and (truth be told) gives respite.

Anyway, my interest piqued, I bought the book, "The Amazing Secret of the Souls in Purgatory" an interview with Maria Simma. It's a tiny book you can read easily in an hour. Maria Simma is an Austrian nun whom the dead seek out for help. The dead come to her and ask for her to suffer for them, or pray for them, or have a Mass said for them, or a Rosary prayed for them so that they can leave Purgatory and enter Heaven. Sister Maria says that no one in Purgatory would ever want to return to life because once you're in Purgatory your place is assured in Heaven . . . you just have to suffer the wait in your soul. In life, nothing is certain. Maria says that she is no psychic. Psychics call up the dead, seek them out, and any response from that calling is Satanic. She doesn't seek out the dead, they seek her.

Do we have to believe Sister Maria? Again, no. Personal revelations are not required to be believed. The Catholic Catechism barely mentions Purgatory, it is comforting to hear the stories Sister Maria shares about people's lives both before and after death. The Catholic faith is rich and has practicable, practical functions for our daily lives.

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