It’s not often that God gives a glimpse of what awaits us in the afterlife. By pondering the lives of the saints and even the holy souls, we can gain a clearer understanding.
We should not aspire to be mediocre or merely “get by” when striving for holiness. St. Therese of Lisieux said it best, “My God, I choose everything– I will not be a saint by halves. I am not afraid to suffer for Thee. One thing only do I fear, and that is, to follow my own will.”
We give our hearts to our careers, passions, desires, and possessions, but how often do we give our entire selves to God? After reading many saints’ lives, I realized they struggled with the same things we do: poverty, jealousy, gossip, despair, and being misunderstood. However, they persevered! We must do the same.
The saints frequented the sacraments, especially confession. St. John Paul II left us a good example by confessing daily, according to catholic.org/news. Many times, I confess the same sins. Ugh! The poor priests must have my litany of sins memorized by now. I know many who feel the same. However, I know it brings forth the gift of humility. We must rely solely on God to give us the graces needed to overcome persistent, stubborn sin.
There are many characteristics of saints, depending on which source you read. Some include an immense love for God, Our Lady, and neighbor, humility, and persistence. The saints also came from a variety of backgrounds: rich, like St. Francis of Assisi; poor, like St. Martin de Porres; simple, like St. Andre Bessette; and educated like St. Augustine. In other words, they were just like us.
God called them from the ordinary to be extraordinary. He calls us in the same way today. The saints responded to His call even when they were fearful like St. Peter, or confused, like Our Lady during the Annunciation. God does not always choose the ‘best.’ Well, guess what? We all fit the bill.
For example, Alessandro Serenelli, the murderer of St. Maria Goretti, may one day be a saint because of his sincere repentance. He was forgiven and forgave himself and others. He was converted 180 degrees and lived a holy life after many years of sin. Serenelli even became a Capuchin lay brother! There is hope for all.
Jesus desires us to be ever hopeful of gaining the kingdom of God; to live an authentic holy life, not an artificially pious one, but a flesh-and-blood, joyous and painful life. In his mercy, God proved we too were called to be saints, canonized or not. It could mean different something for each person. We may not be honored in St. Peter’s Basilica, but still be are called to join the communion of saints. Strive for it! Ask God for it! Ask the saints to walk with you through this life.
Conversely, many souls are still expiating for their sins in purgatory. They are on the path to heaven where they will be a part of the Communion of Saints.
Unfortunately, we have nearly lost the practice of praying for the holy souls. Many do not even believe in the existence of purgatory. It is in fact, real, according to our faith. In 2 Maccabees 12:46, it states, “It’s a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins.” Of course, purgatory must exist or this Bible verse would have no merit. We are encouraged to pray to free souls from sins and help bring them to heaven.
St. Pio received many visions of purgatorial souls pleading for masses to be said for their release. Oftentimes they would later appear thanking him for his prayers. Souls in purgatory no longer can pray for themselves, therefore, we must free them with our prayers, sacrifices, fasting, and penances.
I often neglect them and unfortunately, add to their pain. These souls help us with their prayers, but can no longer help themselves. Their sufferings are great. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, “The least pain in purgatory surpasses the greatest suffering in this life.”
God’s mercy has given us canonized saints and future ones. Heaven is our just reward, but purgatory means we will gain heaven eventually. Let us invoke the holy souls for many conversions.
Day eight of the Divine Mercy Novena specifically asks for prayers for the Souls detained in purgatory. During this Year of Mercy, let us show mercy to those living and deceased.
Copyright 2015, Mary Mitchell
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