Soul Food Talk # 4 – Territory of Souls

1. In the Creed we profess our belief in the “communion of saints.” What does this mean? The Catholic Catechism tells us “Since all the faithful form one body, the good of each is communicated to the others….We must therefore believe that there exists a communion of goods in the Church. As this Church is governed by one and the same Spirit, all the goods she has received necessarily become a common fund.” [CC 947] What are the goods that we share? Faith itself. The fruits of all the sacraments. Charisms. Material goods –as we assist the needy. Charity.

2. “…at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory….” [954] Thus we have the CHURCH MILITANT, CHURCH SUFFERING, CHURCH GLORIFIED. And what a marvelous exchange passes between these three. The glorified take intense interest in their brothers and sisters who are fighting the good fight, assisting us wherever they can, especially those who are in their TERRITORY OF SOULS. We pray for our beloved dead who are in Purgatory, remembering especially those in our TERRITORY OF SOULS. And they pray for us as well. Every time we pray for a soul in Purgatory, they are raised higher to glory, and so are we! “Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.” [958]

3. Maria Simma, a Croatian woman who has been seeing, praying for, and communicating with the holy souls for decades, has much to tell us about them. For example, “They watch their own funerals, as I mentioned yesterday. They can tell who is praying for them and who is only there for the sake of appearance. They hear what we say about them. Tears do nothing for them. Tears are for our necessary healing process, but not for theirs. Funerals should remain simple and be done with much heartfelt love. They do not like hearing falsehoods spoken about them, even if the truth was not always attractive….Every smallest gesture helps them, and in turn, helps us because they then are more likely to step in for us when we need protection or assistance. Even if we choose to wash the windows out of love for them, this will do so much good!” [ Maria Simma speaks with Nicky Eltz, Get us Out of Here!, The Medjugorje Web, 2002, pp. 149-151] “Not asking them for their protection every day is a great loss.” [p. 105]

4. After my husband died, I found so much comfort in this book. For example, when asked by Nicky, “How much do they know about their families?” she answers, “I would say almost everything. They see us all the time. They hear every word that we speak about them and they know what our sufferings are. But they do not know our thoughts.” [ p. 10] She explains further on, “They cannot read our minds, but they do know our suffering and in knowing our suffering they also know many of our true needs and therefore they’ll step in for us. Saying it aloud guarantees that they hear us, but be assured that a whisper is enough. They are always around us, but I would not advise you to start talking to them in public. And, of course, Jesus knows our thoughts, so thinking a request of them silently will also be conveyed to them by the Mother of Mercy.” [p. 23] Many other little points are beautiful and revealing, “…every time that someone looks at the tabernacle with love, Jesus then elevates his place in Heaven.”

5. On my personal website, LIVING CHRIST, I posted this statement a couple of years ago, “ I, too, feel pretty helpless defending the faith. Like most of you, I hope I am giving WITNESS, by living a life devoted to God’s will, praying, seeking holiness. I found in one of Marino Restrepo’s talks his explanation of our TERRITORY OF SOULS: [ ]

“This little segment of a major talk called RADICAL CHANGE (3/6) includes a wonderful explanation of how we become powerful by living sincerely in God’s will. He speaks of the “territory of souls” that belongs to each of us, those souls whose lives touch ours. No one else has the same territory. No one else can speak to those souls in quite the same way that we can. And it is in our daily living, our “duty of the moment” that we can be most effective. Furthermore, when we die and “go up into the light”–our power in our territory increases–and we become even more effective with all those souls we left behind on earth. This is a comfort to me. About those closest to us, our stray children and such, remember St. Monica and St. Augustine, and the words that “a child of so much prayer [St Monica’s “territory”] certainly will not be lost.” How can our Blessed Mother overlook a mother’s tears, she who suffered so much with her Son?

6. I also read this note on a blog: “Hi, I just returned from a talk by Marino Restrepo. I thought of your situation Ellie, and thought I should pass this on -(He had a mystical conversion experience.) He was speaking on Divine Mercy in particular, and the efficacy of the Eucharist. He mentioned that those who are Catholic or become catholic (even if they are 60!) have been chosen to be so from all eternity. He said that we have a ” territory of souls” to care for. This includes our families. He said that when we receive the Eucharist in a state of grace, we are the source of grace for others as we go home from church, God’s grace radiates out to the people around. He said we may never see the results of this until we are in heaven; God blesses those around us through His Eucharistic presence within us. He wasn’t belittling those not of the Catholic faith, but was re-iterating the will of God, regarding those who are meant to be Catholic from the perspective of eternity.”

7. Marino Restrepo has a book called, Catholics, Awake! I have tried ordering it, but it is out of print and is available only through Ebooks. Nevertheless, I have read sections of it online. It is worthwhile to see what Marino has to say about this topic:

8. “WE ARE THE ARMY OF GOD. Being Christian is being part of an army. It is being enlisted in it 24 hours a day until the day we are called back before the tribunal of the Lord Jesus. There we will have to render an account of the military mission that was entrusted to us, an account of the territory of souls that was assigned to us to protect and guard at all times. From the moment of our baptism, we are given the spiritual garment of a soldier of God. By the time we take first Communion, we begin to be fed with the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus, strengthening our soul, preparing us to be sent out to the battlefields of exile.

9. Entering the sacrament of Confirmation, as the bishop places his hands on us, we receive the Holy Spirit in a manner that is a command to go and fight the good fight of the Gospel for the rest of our lives, a command that tells us that we are ready and perfectly armed to defend souls from the grip of the devil and his evil army. We have just received the Holy Spirit in a double portion, we are filled with the Spirit of the Lord, we have been given a territory of souls to defend: every soul that crosses our path during our entire life.

10. Our military life begins right there; no age groups are assigned to specific positions. From the moment of Confirmation, one is a full-blown soldier able to defeat the most ferocious battalion of Satan. One faithful Catholic soldier aged 15 will have no lesser or greater capacity for assaulting the enemies’ territory than another aged 70; both have all it takes to do it. It is spiritual warfare. Souls have no age and the fight is against fallen angels that are ageless as well. ”

11. The true meaning of what the mystical body of Christ signifies is beyond human comprehension. We are to abandon ourselves in the mystery and trust in God …. Being alert, humble, and obedient to God’s will places us in a very effective territory. It makes us adhere strongly to the rules of the militia and shapes us up as lethal weapons against the enemy of the soul. There is no greater joy in heaven than the sight of a faithful soldier of God on earth, who in spite of his blindness to the spiritual world is faithfully fighting an invisible enemy with invisible weapons and on the side of invisible friendly forces that support him. There couldn’t possibly be a greater mission on earth than that of the salvation of souls. ”

12. “So what is my uniform? … my baptismal vows. What are the weapons and what are they made of? They are the sacraments … the gift of the Holy Spirit created by Jesus by dying on the cross…. Every Catholic soldier has a territory of souls to defend. Our whole life as Catholics is precisely to do with souls. Not only our own, but the millions and millions of human beings who could be nourished by the short time we expend on this earthly pilgrimage. ‘

13. I recently read on a Catholic blog which I follow: “There is no doubt about it: we are at war. Our Lady is the Commanding General of the army of God’s children. The Woman clothed with the Sun, just as we read about in the passage from the Song of Songs chapter 6, made famous by the Catena Prayer of the Legion of Mary: ‘Who is this that comes forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army in battle array?’

14. “I think we are being asked to look at intercessory prayer in a different way, in the strategy of the Holy Spirit. Our Holy Father used this exact image recently: the Church as a field hospital! For those of you in this family who have been called to be prayer warriors, I sense that these words will resonate strongly and clearly. It is a charism that will find a place more readily in the hearts of our men perhaps, those who may have studied strategic warfare and combat. Or those who have been part of deliverance ministry. The spiritual realm is a reflection of the temporal realm. When we can see the ‘movement of troops’ on the ground, we can also know that they are present in the air. The Nine Choirs of Holy Angels (and the fallen ones) have very specific missions and fields of action with a perfect structure of hierarchy.

15. “I truly believe that the Lord desires to give this special understanding of strategic intercession to His prayer warriors, each soldier having his or her perfect position on the field. Some are to maintain supply lines of constant prayer (those in perpetual prayer of the Rosary and the DMC). Others are to work reconnaissance and help maintain visibility from above (Contemplatives). Yet others are to work in operations, the menial tasks of repairing and preparing in the field, tasks that often seem less glorious but without which no battle could possibly be waged (those who suffer persecution, illness, and all forms of vexation, those who minister actively and suffer direct retaliation for it). I was once told that for every soldier in battle on the field there are at least TEN people working in the background to make it possible! Each soldier has a perfect role to play in this battle and our prayers must become more ‘strategic’, more ‘operational’, following the lead of the Holy Spirit as He grants great power to Our Lady, Queen of Angels.”

16. On my personal website, LIVING CHRIST, I posted this statement on Nov. 2, 2011, All Souls’ Day: “I came across this quotation in St. Teresa of Avila – INTERIOR CASTLE, 7TH CASTLE: ‘I told you elsewhere that the devil sometimes puts ambitious desires into our hearts, so that, instead of setting our hand to the work which lies nearest to us, and thus serving Our Lord in ways within our power, we may rest content with having desired the impossible. Apart from praying for people, by which you can do a great deal for them, do not try to help everybody, but limit yourselves to your own companions; your work will then be all the more effective because you have the greater obligation to do it.’” (254 OR 255).

17. According to St. Teresa of Avila, it seems that God most wants us to sacrifice and pray for those closest to us, “DO NOT TRY TO HELP EVERYBODY, BUT LIMIT YOURSELVES TO YOUR OWN COMPANIONS; YOUR WORK WILL THEN BE ALL THE MORE EFFECTIVE BECAUSE YOU HAVE THE GREATER OBLIGATION TO DO IT.”

18. What gives me such sorrow today is all the members of my territory of souls who, due to my weaknesses and unfaithfulness to the Church in the past, may today be suffering in purgatory, at least partly because I was unkind to them, or led them astray in some way, or did not permit Christ to reach them through me. Truly I will be judged one day for every single time l let down one of my precious souls whom I could have led closer to God and did not. It is an awesome thing to be responsible for; yet we hardly ever think of our role in people’s lives and salvation histories.

19. As I reflected on these things, I wept for some situations in my life where l let down people whom I should have loved better and for the God whom I failed.

20. But we should not despair over these things–we can pray and sacrifice for them still, the living and the dead. Psalm 116 says: “Gracious is the Lord and just; yes, our God is merciful. The Lord keeps the little ones; I was brought low, and he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your tranquility, for the Lord has been good to you. For he has freed my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” Today and everyday I pray faithfully for all my territory of souls, living and dead. I will place every one of my loved souls into the hands of Mother Mary for her to help them for me.”

21. ST. GERTRUDE THE GREAT — St. Gertrude the Great was a Benedictine nun and mystic who lived in the 13th century. St. Gertrude the Great is invoked for souls in purgatory and for living sinners. Our Lord told St. Gertrude that the following prayer would release 1000 souls from purgatory each time it is said. The prayer was extended to include living sinners as well.

22. “Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.”

23. SISTER CONSOLATA BETRONE : Jesus, Mary, I love You! Save souls!
” … our Lord inspired Sister Consolata with this important universal prayer, “Jesus, Mary, I love you! Save souls!” Remembering what Jesus had told her on the day that she took the Veil– ‘I do not call you for more than thís act of constant love,’ Sister Consolata began to thus repeat this one prayer, over and over again, during all her waking hours, in every form of work as she went about her daily duties. For it was Christ himself, who instructed her in the practice of, “I love you! Save souls!” He promised her that at least one soul would be saved each time she prayed Jesus, Mary, I love You! Save souls!

24. Concerning this prayer, our Lord said, “Tell me, what more beautiful prayer do you want to offer me? — ‘Jesus,-Mary, I love you! Save souls!’— Love and souls! What more beautiful prayer could you desire?'”

25. THE HEROIC ACT OF CHARITY: “O MY GOD! for Your greater glory, and to imitate as closely as possible the generous Heart of Jesus, my Redeemer, and also to testify my devotion to the Blessed Virgin, my Mother, who is also the Mother of the Souls in Purgatory, I place in her hands all my satisfactory works, as well as the fruit of all those which may be offered for my intention after my death, that she may apply them to the Souls in Purgatory according to her wisdom and good pleasure. Amen.”

26. This Heroic Act of Charity is the completely unselfish offering to God of all the satisfactory value of one’s prayers and good works — plus the value of any that might be offered for one after one’s death — for the benefit of the Souls in Purgatory, rather than for oneself. The “satisfactory value” of a good work is its value with regard to making up for our sins and reducing our stay in Purgatory. However, the “meritorious value” of our good works is inalienable, i.e., our merits, which give us a right to an increase of glory in Heaven, cannot be applied to anyone else. Moreover, a person who has made the Heroic Act may still pray for himself, friends and other intentions.

27. The Heroic Act is revocable at will and is not a vow. Its actual ratification depends on the will of God. By making this act with purity of intention, one is relying upon the mercy of God and the prayers of the Communion of Saints to assist his soul after death. The Heroic Act was approved and encouraged by Pope Benedict XIII [1724- 1730].

28. From the time of our birth, God has graced us with a faithful companion, appointed guardian and guide: our dear guardian angel. The Doctors of the Church teach that the guardianship of the holy angels over men only terminates at the souls’ entrance into Heaven. Some mystics have asserted that it extends to aid in purgatory [see the Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory, ].

29. If we heed the Church and invoke our guardian angels throughout life, they will be a most potent help for us at the hour of our death strengthening us against temptation, and comforting us in our agony. They conduct our souls to judgment. We are assured the angels console us if we are in purgatory, encourage us, and render a most valuable service to the souls in purgatory by inspiring friends and relatives to offer Mass for their intentions and good works for speedy delivery.

30. These devoted guardians — to whom we should pray each day (asking their help in purifying here on earth) — never cease to be concerned with the souls that God has committed to their charge. Their great mission and desire is to see us home in Heaven. They are intent on obtaining from God all the graces and favors conducive to our eternal welfare. The guardian angels pray for their clients with great love before the Throne of God and ascend to present their petitions (in our favor). They descend to bring to the souls in purgatory the favors which they obtained for them from God through the good works of the faithful on earth and, it is said, pass by our place in Heaven everyday.

31. The guardian angels inform the souls in purgatory who their benefactors are and exhort them to pray for their benefactors. As St. Augustine said: “The departed may be informed by the angels of things happening in this world, in so far as this is permitted by Him to whose judgment everything is subject.” The souls cannot pray for themselves but can and do pray and intercede for us while they are in purgatory (and then Heaven).

32. As St. Margaret of Cortona was praying to Our Lord with tears for all the friends she had lost, they appeared to her surrounded by purifying flames and in such a lamentable condition that she could not endure the sight. Our Divine Redeemer said to Margaret: “The pains they endure are very great, but would be incomparably greater if they were not visited and consoled by My angels, the sight of whom comforts them in their sufferings and refreshes them in their purification.”

33. St. Jerome expressed: “How great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from birth an angel commissioned to guard it.” Throughout your life, give alms and offer Masses for your friends, relatives and benefactors in the name of your Guardian Angel. Light a candle in honor of him! In entering Church, unite your intention with that of your angel to adore the Blessed Sacrament. It is said the one thing they are unable to do that humans can is to receive Holy Communion. Invoke your Guardian Angel at the beginning of your day and evening making an act of loving thanksgiving. Recite the Chaplet of the guardian angel. Spend some time each day in company with your angel alone. Keep the Feast of the Guardian Angels, and make your birthday a feast of your angel — who then began his ministry. Practice some devotion to the Queen of Angels in the name of your guardian.

34. The guardian angels are the natural intermediaries between earth and purgatory, as they are between purgatory and Heaven. What a consolation is this to those during their lives have shown devotion! How often will they be visited if they are detained in purgatory by these pure and charitable spirits.

ST. THERESA OF LISIEUX’S TEACHINGS ON PURGATORY: “One does not need to go to Purgatory”
35. “Little Therese’s theology is a theology that springs from life, a theology of experience. She received a fervent Catholic upbringing at home, in her parish community, as well as at the school of the Benedictine nuns in Lisieux, and thus, she was familiar with the teaching of Purgatory. Being lead by-the Holy Spirit, thoughts, notions, and ideas developed which finally became, “The teaching of the Little Flower on Purgatory.”

36. The common teaching within the Church is that Purgatory can hardly be avoided. While still only a novice, the saint commented about this with one of the sisters, Sr. Maria Philomena, who believed in the near impossibility of going to heaven without passing through purgatory. St. Theresa told her:

37. “You do not have enough trust. You have too much fear before the good God. I can assure you that He is grieved over this. You should not fear Purgatory because of the suffering there, but should instead ask that you not deserve to go there in order to please God, Who so reluctantly imposes this punishment. As soon as you try to please Him in everything and have an unshakable trust He purifies you every moment in His love and He lets no sin remain. And then you can be sure that you will not have to go to Purgatory.”

38. She even said that we would offend God if we didn’t trust enough that we would get to heaven right after dying. When she found out that her novices talked occasionally that they would probably have to expect to be in Purgatory, she corrected them saying: “Oh! How you grieve me! You do a great injury to God in believing you’re going to Purgatory. When we love, we can’t go there.” Now, this is a new doctrine, but only for those who don’t know God, who are not childlike, who don’t trust. It is so correct to see things this way. It is true that God will judge us at one point, but He is always and first our Father Who… suffers when He has to punish His child and sees its suffering. The child should do His will just out of love, and not to avoid punishment. And this really means that God does not want Purgatory! He allows that His children suffer, but only as if He had to look away.

39. If St. Therese is correct that one does not need to be in Purgatory because God Himself does not want this and would love to help us, the thought that Purgatory can be avoided is suddenly not so far-fetched anymore. But first there is the problem of the aforementioned opinion which says that only few will avoid Purgatory. This is confirmed by great saints and mystics like St. John of the Cross who says, “Only a small number of souls achieve perfect love” (perfect love is necessary to go straight to heaven). St. Teresa of Avila also had the experience that only few will be able to avoid Purgatory. St. John Vianney said, “It is definite that only a few chosen ones do not go to Purgatory and the suffering there that one must endure, exceeds our imagination.” One also has to take into consideration that even practicing Christians are convinced that even the good and faithful and those consecrated to God will have to be exposed to purification in Purgatory for a certain amount of time. The reason for this is always the same: “It is not easy to avoid Purgatory. No one is a saint, and I will certainly have to spend some time there myself.” They add to this that “God is just” or “we certainly deserve this.”

40. Therefore, it is even more amazing what St. Therese has to say. Once she encouraged her novice, Sr. Marie de la Trinire to have the faith that it was possible even for her to get to heaven right away. She wondered “If I fail even in the smallest things, may I still hope to get straight to heaven?” St Therese, who knew well the weaknesses of her novice, replied: “Yes! God is so good. He will know how He can come and get you. But despite this, try to be faithful, so that He does not wait in vain for your love.”

41. God is Father rather than Judge. Once St. Therese had a confrontation regarding this topic with Sr. Marie Febronia, who not only was sixty-seven years old but also was sub-prioress. She had heard that St. Therese encouraged the novices to believe that they could go straight to heaven. She did not like this as she considered this kind of confidence presumptuous, and thus she reproached St Therese. St Therese tried lovingly and calmly to explain to Sr. Febronia her point of view but with no success as Sr. Febronia clung to belief. For St. Therese God was more Father than Judge, and she took the liberty of finally responding, “My sister, if you look for the justice of God you will get it. The soul will receive from God exactly what she desires.”

42. The year had not passed when, in January 1892, Sr. M. Febronia together with other sisters fell prey to the flu and died. Three months later Sr. Therese had a dream which she related to her Mother Prioress and which was then documented: “O my Mother, my Sr. M Febronia came to me last night and asked that we should pray for her. She is in Purgatory, surely because she had trusted too little in the mercy of the good Lord. Through her imploring behavior and her profound looks, it seemed she wanted to say, ‘You were right. I am now delivered up to the full justice of God but it is my fault. If I had listened to you I would not be here now.'”-

St. Therese’s “doctrine” in 7 key words
43.    A.          Purgatory became a rule rather than the exception. An infinite number of souls who suffer in Purgatory and for whom the Church prays daily after consecration did not need to go there. If we think in human terms, God does not wish for us to need Purgatory. God does not put us here on earth, where we are tested and are suffering after the fall, only to let us suffer again–and much worse–in Purgatory. Everyone receives enough graces in order to go straight to God after passing the trials on earth. However, Purgatory is an emergency entry to Heaven for those who have wasted their time. However, what God considered the exception became the rule, and the rule–to go straight to heaven–became the exception.

44.    B.            To cope with the “inevitable” is a grave error. Since God does not really want Purgatory, He does not want it for me either! But then I also have to not want it! Nobody would expose themselves to the danger of Purgatory by living a mediocre and–as is the case so often today–a sinful life. If they only thought of the intense sufferings in Purgatory. In this regard, the mystics unanimously say that the least suffering in Purgatory is much greater than the greatest suffering here on earth! The reason for this is that once in Purgatory, one does not go through the time of God’s Mercy but of God’s Justice. Here, the Lord’s word applies: “1 tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the very last copper’ (Lk 12:59). The many who carelessly say, “I will probably spend some time there,” are gravely wrong. Nobody just spends some time there, one has to suffer there like one has never suffered nor could have suffered while on earth. One often even suffers a long time there also. If the Poor Souls in Purgatory had known on earth what to expect in eternity, Purgatory would have remained empty.

45.    C.            Purgatory is a waste of time. This is what St. Therese says, “I know that of myself I would not merit even to enter that place of expiation since only holy souls can have entrance there. But I also know that the Fire of Love is more sanctifying than is the fire of Purgatory. I know that Jesus cannot desire useless sufferings for us, and that He would not inspire the longings I feel unless He wanted to grant them.” It is true that Purgatory is a wonderful grace, for if needed, without the purification in Purgatory we would not go to Heaven, and the work of art which God intended and created us to be would not be completed. But St. Therese is right: at the moment of our death we already have our place in Heaven. Afterwards, there is no growing in grace anymore. Whoever does not go through Purgatory does not miss anything.

46.    D.        We need a more positive image of God. We already know that St. Therese told her novices that they offended God when they thought they would go to Purgatory. That is a very shocking statement: for if this is correct millions of Christians are offending God or at least hurt Him. And yet this is the case. They are focused only on themselves, thinking–not without reason–that they deserve Purgatory. They do not notice God Who is by their side and would love to help them so much. The fact that we fear Purgatory so much also has to do with a rather negative image that we have of God. We, Christians of the 20th Century were, like so many, raised with the image of a strict God, anxious to punish us as often as we deserve it. This thinking goes back to heresies like Jansenism. Quietism, or Calvinism.
47.      E.         Love banishes fear . The question of whether Heaven will follow right after death is a question of trust. God does not need our merits in order to take us straight to Him but He needs all of our trust. Or the other way around–it is not -our sins that can prevent God from giving us this grace but rather our lack of trust. Therefore, we must draw the conclusion that everything depends solely on trust. There is no trust without perfect love. And vice versa, there is no love without trust.

48. And this is exactly what the Apostle John writes in his first letter, “In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love” (1 Jn. 4:17-18).

49. This text enlightens our topic very much. Judgment Day is the day of our death. Whoever achieves perfect love at the moment of their death sees God as so merciful and generous that they cannot believe in punishment in Purgatory. We are dealing with the same kind of grace in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us that this Sacrament has as its real fruit the wiping out of punishment due to our sins. After those who have received the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, others present often notice that the sick enter a period of growing peace and trust, together with a great surrender to the Will of God, and even serenity and desire for Heaven. This also applies to those who up to that point did not believe or even lived in mortal sin. Even these people, as the great theologians of the scholastics say–for example, St. Albert the Great or St. Bonaventure–go straight to Heaven without having to go through Purgatory first. This shows the wonderful grace coming from the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

50.   F.           The last will be the first. While many Christians do receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, experience tells us that they do not go straight to Heaven. The mystics often relate that many priests and religious suffer a long time and have to wait for their release. However, all of them or almost all of them have received the Sacrament of the Anointing. What is the reason for this? The answer is certainly that they did not receive the Sacrament with the necessary repentance or surrender to the Will of God, or that they did not want to change their flaws and vices a long time before their death.

51. St. Therese of Lisieux tells us that she heard that sometimes great saints with many merits come before the Judgment of God, but have to go to Purgatory because our justice before God is often unclean. That is why she recommends to give immediately away all the merits of our good deeds, and that it is better to appear before God empty-handed. She recommends to her oldest sister and godmother Marie, to be given Heaven free of charge by God. While on the one hand the first ones don’t always get to Heaven first, on the other hand there are enough examples that the last ones become the first ones. Therese refers in her writings to the Lord’s mercy towards the good thief, and wishes that the story from the “desert fathers,” about how a great sinner called Paesie died out of love and is being taken straight to heaven, should be added to her autobiography, “Souls will understand immediately, for it is a striking example of what I’m trying to say.”

52. When our great hour comes, as St. Therese writes to Abbe Roulland, missionary in China, if only we trust, the Blessed Virgin will obtain “the grace of making an act of perfect love” should we have “some trace of human weakness” and so will we reach heaven immediately after death.

53.   G.          St. Therese’s teaching, a great message for the third millennium. One can rightfully say that Therese is turning all common opinions on Purgatory upside down. She wants to appear before God empty-handed and explains why it can be easier for sinners who have nothing to rely upon, to reach Heaven than the great saints with all their merits . She emphasizes that trust alone is enough, that merits are no guarantee but often an obstacle for the straight way to Heaven, and that sins do not need to be an obstacle. After a ‘messed-up’ life, God can still take one straight to Heaven if the dying person only has trust. And how easy it can be to trust if there are no merits but only one’s misery! Through trust she shows the shorter way to Heaven to the small and humble. And so many can and will go that way. She writes about this to her sister Marie: “… what pleases Him (God) is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy… That is my only treasure, dear Godmother, why should this treasure not be yours?…”

54. As has been said, she has made sanctity available for everyone through her little way, and this is also true for the straight way to Heaven… This will no longer be an exception. Once those who are smart enough to gather from the treasures of our new Doctor of the Church will walk this way easily, especially those who want to be part of the legion of little souls which St. Therese asked God for at the end of her manuscript B, “I beg You to cast Your Divine Glance upon a great number of little souls. I beg You to choose a legion of little Victims worthy of Your LOVE!” Yes, by listening to her wonderful message there will be many, many souls… and with that, Purgatory stops being the unavoidable detour to Heaven!

55.     Conclusion:    St. Therese of the Child Jesus gave us a lot to think about. There are yet many new thoughts to be understood in terms of theology. For us, however, the most important, is the message on Purgatory. The question of what happens to us after death should move us deeply. Let us just remember Sr. Febronia and her suffering in Purgatory; her silent message from the next world should move us. “It seemed,” says Therese, “as if she wanted to say: ‘If I had listened to you I would not be here now.'” This is actually shocking when you think about it. One has to admit that Sr. Febronia entered the next world through the wrong door. And with her, thousands and millions who would have managed to avoid Purgatory. And why did they not achieve this? The simple reason is that nobody showed them the correct way. Considering this, one does understand that Therese is a true gift to the Church. God gave her to us as leader and comforter for the apocalyptic days in which we very obviously live. Her message concerning Purgatory is a true grace of God’s merciful love for the moment of our death. One can apply the urgent exhortation of our LORD: “He who has ears to hear. let him hear” (Lk. 8:8). Father Dr. Hubert van Dijk, ORC

56. An indulgences is defined as “the remission before God of the temporal punishment due for sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned.” The first thing to note is that forgiveness of a sin is separate from punishment for the sin. Through sacramental confession we obtain forgiveness, but we aren’t let off the hook as far as punishment goes.

57. Indulgences are two kinds: partial and plenary. A partial indulgences removes part of the temporal punishment due for sins. A plenary indulgence removes all of it. This punishment may come either in this life, in the form of various sufferings, or in the next life, in purgatory. What we don’t get rid of here we suffer there.

58. If you uncover a holy card or prayer book, you’ll notice pious acts or recitation of prayers might carry an indication of time, such as “300 days or “two years.” Most fundamentalists, and even many Catholics, think such phrases refer to how much “time off for good behavior” you’d get in purgatory. If you perform a pious act labeled as “300 days’ partial indulgence,” then you’d spend 300 fewer days in purgatory. This is not how it works.

59. What it means was that you’d get a partial indulgence commensurate with what the early Christians got for doing penances for a certain length of time. But there has never been any way for us to measure how much “good time” that represents. All the Church could say, and all it ever did say, was that your temporal punishment would be reduced — as God saw fit.

60. Since some Catholics were confused by the designation of days and years attached to partial indulgences, and since nearly all Protestants got a wrong idea of what those numbers meant, the rules for indulgences were modified in 1967, and now “the grant of a partial indulgence is designated only with the words “partial indulgence,” without any determination of days or years,” according to the Enchiridion.

61. To receive a partial indulgence, you have to recite the prayer or do the act of charity assigned. You have to be in the state of grace at least by the completion of the prescribed work. The rule says” at the completion” because often part of the prescribed work is going to confession, and you might not be in the state of grace before you do that. The other thing required is having a general intention to gain the indulgence. If you perform the required act but don’t want to gain the indulgence, obviously you won’t gain it.

62. The requirements for a plenary indulgence are tougher than for a partial. After all, a plenary indulgence remove all the temporal punishment due for the sins committed up to that time. (If you sin later, of course, the temporal punishment connected with the new sins isn’t covered by the earlier plenary indulgence, but, at least the punishment for the old sins isn’t revived.)”To acquire a plenary indulgence,” says the Enchiridion, “it is necessary to perform the work to which the indulgence is attached and to fulfill the following three conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff. It is further required that all attachment to sin, even venial sin, be absent.”

63. The greatest hurdle is the last. Making a good confession is not particularly difficult, and going to Communion and praying for the Pope’s intentions are easier still. It’s being free from all attachment to sin that’s hard and it’s quite possible that even evidently good people, who seek plenary indulgences regularly, never, in their whole lives, obtain one, because they are unwilling to relinquish their favorite little sins.

64. There is an account of St. Philip Neri, who died in 1595, preaching a jubilee indulgence in a crowded church. A revelation was given to him that only two people in the church were actually getting it, an old char-woman and the saint himself. Not exactly encouraging, huh? But don’t worry. If you aren’t perfectly disposed and can’t get the plenary indulgence. you’ll at least come away with a partial.

65. It should be pointed out that the first three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after doing the prescribed work, through receiving Communion and praying for the Pope are usually done the same day the work is performed.

66. By the way, the standard prayers for the Pope are one Our Father and one Creed, though you’re at liberty to substitute other prayers.

67. The bulk of the Enchiridion is a listing of indulgenced prayers and acts. First come three “general grants.”

68. The first says “a partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who, in the performance of their duties and in bearing the trials of life, raise their mind with humble confidence to God, adding — even if only mentally– some pious invocation.” It is noted that this grant “is intended to serve as an incentive to the faithful to practice the commandment of Christ that `they must always pray and not lose heart'” (Luke 18:1) [NOTE: Under this grants ANY invocation (your favorite ejaculation, the Jesus Prayer, or any other prayers such as “The Magnificat,” the Creed, the Hail Mary, etc.) is appropriate for partial indulgences—applicable to yourself or to the souls in purgatory.]

69. The second general grant is this: “A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who, in a spirit of faith and mercy, give of themselves or of their goods to serve their brothers in need.” This grant “is intended to serve as an incentive to the faithful to perform more frequent acts of charity and mercy,” as Christ commanded (John 13:15, Acts 10:38). [When you work in the food pantry or serve Thanksgiving dinner to the need, you can receive partial indulgences. See # 61 for the requirements.]

70. The third general grant provides that “a partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who, in a spirit of penance, voluntarily deprive themselves of what is licit and pleasing to them.” This provision is meant “to move the faithful to bridle their passions and thus to bring to their bodies into subjection and to conform themselves to Christ in his poverty and suffering” (Matt 8:20, Matt 16:24).

71. After the discussion of the general grants comes a listing of miscellaneous prayers and acts to which indulgences are attached. This list is much shorter than in former years, the Church having decided to limit indulgences to the most important works.

72. There is no room or need to mention all the pious acts which are indulgenced, but it’s worth noting that a plenary indulgence is given for the recitation of the rosary in a church or family group (and not just the recitation, of course, but the fulfilling of the usual conditions for a plenary indulgence). Other works for which you can receive a plenary indulgence: ½ hour Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, ½ hour reading of Sacred Scripture, Stations of the Cross. One guideline still applies: only one plenary indulgence may be gained in a day.


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