Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Anglicans Wonder Why No One Comes to Church on Sunday

Anglican Worship
Anglican Worship
An article in the Daily Telegraph ponders why the number of people attending parish churches in England continues to plummet.
While attendance at cathedral worship is up, the number of worshippers in the local churches is in free fall.
The Anglicans, of course, are not the only ones.
All the churches in the Western developed countries are seeing numbers decline.
The reasons are complex, but there are two big culprits.
One is simply that people are busy doing everything else on a Sunday. As more and more shops and businesses open on Sunday an increasing number of people will be needed to keep them open. Put simply, people are working on Sundays and shopping on Sundays.
When the civil authorities stopped keeping Sunday special it was bound, eventually to lead to a decline in church attendance.
It takes self discipline to get organized enough to make church attendance on Sunday a priority, and when it ceases to become THE priority for Sunday it soon gets edged out. It has to be fit in with the other stuff to do on Sunday, and if there is enough other stuff, then it is difficult to make it a priority. Soon the church habit slips and before long you’re not really going at all anymore.
So much for the third commandment.
However, there is a more profound reason for the drop in church attendance.
I don’t think many people really understand what church is for. 
Let’s face it. Why should anyone bother to go to church at all?
What’s the point?
In most places the Protestant religion has been reduced to Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism. That means God (if he exists) is out there and doesn’t really interfere. Religion is therefore about becoming a nicer person and doing good stuff.
Sad to say a lot of Catholics have also reduced their religion to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
If that is all that Christianity is, then (as Flannery O’Conner would say) to hell with it.
No wonder people have stopped going to church because if your religion is no more than Moralistic Therapeutic Deism why bother dragging yourself off to a dreary building early on a Sunday morning to sing awful hymns with awful people and listen to some guy or gal read from a 2000 year old book and then drone on about being a nicer person peace and justice all are welcome gather them in and songs about eagles.
You get my point.
People are dropping out of church because it simply doesn’t make sense.
However. Take yourself off to a traditionally celebrated Mass and you are on another planet. Suddenly the worship is strange and beautiful and otherworldly.
The priest is talking about stuff you can’t get anywhere else. He’s not talking about making the world a better place, he’s talking about finding our way to the best place.
He’s not talking about saving the environment. He’s talking about saving souls.
He’s not talking about peace and justice, but introducing you to the Prince of Peace and the Fearful Judge of All.
This is something you need if your soul is to be saved and you can’t get it anywhere else.
Here is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of your Redeemer, and you can’t get that at the mall, the athletics activity, the soup kitchen or the activist’s meeting.
This  is why not only the Catholic Church, but the traditional form of Catholicism will ultimately survive and thrive: because it is real religion.
This is what real religion is about: a transaction with the supernatural, the threshold of heaven, the staircase to the stars, the grittiness of repentance and redemption, the soul’s salvation and the heart’s homing.
All the churches that are declining are declining into moralistic therapeutic deism…..and they will continue to decline because what they are offering is not religion.
It’s a blend of the Girl Scouts, Being Spiritual and the Power of Positive Thinking…and you don’t need to go to church for that.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on the other hand.
That you got to go to church for.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Exorcism 1949 St. Louis

Exorcism Exposé   

An in-depth look at Saint Louis University's part in the most famous exorcism of the 20th century    http://www.slu.edu/x98143.xml

By Amy Garland

The spirit of the story is always the same, but the specifics are all over the place.
You know The Exorcist? It happened at Saint Louis University. 
It happened in DuBourg Hall. On the fourth floor, in a room that has been sealed off for years. 
A light is kept on in the room, still. The door is only unlocked to change the light bulb. There's a bloody handprint on one of the walls. A giant cage. 
No, it wasn't in DuBourg. It was Verhaegen Hall. It was the College Church basement. Jesuit Hall. 
In hushed tones, upperclassmen tell the story to freshmen during their first days on campus, or maybe once the air turns cold in the fall. New employees hear about it, too, especially if they end up in one of the infamous locations.
A University legend at this point, the story includes its share of error, exaggeration and fabrication. Here is the real story.
exorcism panel
A panel of experts about the exorcism of 1949 spoke at Pius XII Library last fall: Allen, Padberg, Waide and Stark. Photo by Michelle Peltier

Possession Obsession

"Without a doubt, the topic I'm asked about most frequently is the exor­cism," said John Waide. "I get more requests around Halloween, but it's a popular question year-round."
Waide (A&S '73) has worked at Pius XII Memorial Library for 40 years and was the University archivist for more than two decades. He knows SLU history forwards and backwards. So it's a little unsettling when he begins the story of the 1949 exorcism by acknowledging, "There are dozens of versions of what happened."
Don't even think about consulting William Peter Blatty's 1971 book The Exorcist or the 1973 film it became. The version Waide puts the most stock in is Thomas B. Allen's Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism, a historical account based on two primary sources: a detailed diary kept by Raymond Bishop, S.J., who assisted during the rite, and lengthy interviews with Walter Halloran, S.J., another assistant who was one of the last living eyewitnesses to the exorcism.
On a gray, stormy afternoon last fall, Allen visited Saint Louis University to headline "The St. Louis Exorcism of 1949" discussion hosted by University libraries special collections and the office of mission and ministry. Waide, John Padberg, S.J., a Jesuit historian and scholar, and Paul Stark, S.J., vice pres­ident for mission and ministry, rounded out the panel and provided historical and ecclesial context for the events of early 1949. A crowd of more than 700 spilled into the stacks at Pius Library, and the panel members held them in thrall as they recounted the story.

Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil

A self-proclaimed "Jebbie boy" with six years of Jesuit education in his past, Allen was a freelance writer in the early 1990s when he came across a brief note in a Washington Post gossip column about Halloran giving an interview about the exorcism to a Nebraska newspaper. Intrigued -- and thinking he'd pen something about it for the Washingtonian -- Allen started tracking down the Jesuit. He contacted him on Halloween, of all days, and the two ended up becoming friends.

"He was what the Irish call 'a solid man,'" Allen said. "And he never was certain about whether or not the boy was possessed."
As Allen tells it, Halloran's involvement in the exorcism came about almost by chance.

In 1949, Halloran was a Jesuit scholastic studying history at Saint Louis University. He also happened to be a driver for William Bowdern, S.J., then the pastor of St. Francis Xavier College Church. One night, Bowdern asked Halloran to drive him and another Jesuit to dinner at a home in a northwest St. Louis suburb. Halloran had no idea what he was getting into.
"He thought he'd be waiting outside, but when they pulled up to the house, Bowdern turned to him and said calmly, 'I'll be doing an exorcism. I want you to hold the boy down in case it's needed,'" Allen said.
What happened that night -- and for weeks afterward -- is still somewhat shrouded in secrecy.

What the Devil Really Happened?

The story began a couple months before Halloran showed up on the scene. (See the full timeline.)
In January 1949, a 13-year-old Maryland boy -- not the 12-year-old girl depicted in The Exorcist -- started experiencing strange, troublesome episodes: scratching sounds coming from the walls and floor of his room, the sound of water dripping, move­ment of a mattress and other objects. At first, his family thought he might have been plagued by the spirit of a recently deceased aunt, who had introduced the boy to the Ouija board. The family con­sulted physicians, psychiatrists and a minister from their Lutheran church. They grew desperate as the situation worsened.
Go to a Catholic priest; the Catholics know about this kind of thing.
"They go to Rev. Luther Miles Schulze, a Lutheran minister who happened to be greatly interested in the paranormal, as it was called at that time, and he said, 'Go to a Catholic priest; the Catholics know about this kind of thing,'" Allen said.
(Incidentally, Schulze later spoke at a meeting of a Washington, D.C., branch of the Society for Parapsychology about this case. That information made its way to the press, and the published Schulze interview led to the leaking of the exorcism story by Catholic sources. Studying at Georgetown at that time, William Peter Blatty read the story in the Washington Post and years later used it as inspiration for The Exorcist.)
On Schulze's advice, the family went to a local priest, Father E. Albert Hughes, who "gave them a bottle of holy water and candles and sent them on their way," Allen said.
Hughes later asked the arch­bishop of Washington, D.C., for permission to perform an exorcism on the boy. That attempt ended when the boy broke off a piece of a spring from the mattress he was strapped to and slashed Hughes "from shoulder to wrist," Allen said.
The boy's mother, a St. Louis native, suggested a change of scenery. After several incidents of scratches appearing on the boy's body without apparent cause, the word "LOUIS" emerged on his rib cage. The family took this as con­firmation: They should take the boy to St. Louis.
The boy ended up staying in a house with a relative who had attended Saint Louis University. One of her professors was Father Bishop, who became one of sev­eral Jesuits to participate in the exorcism and kept the day-by-day account on which Allen's book is based. Bishop talked to his friend William Bowdern, S.J. After both men consulted with Paul Reinert, S.J., then president of Saint Louis University, and St. Louis Archbishop Joseph Ritter, all agreed that an exorcism would be performed according to the Roman Ritual. It was something that Bowdern, who was chosen to be the lead exorcist, knew little about.
"Father Halloran said the first thing Bowdern did was hit the books," Allen said. "He would have learned something about it while becoming a Jesuit, but there isn't much call for exorcism to the modern-day priest. But Bowdern was a veteran of World War II, he'd been in combat -- so he was a combination of a religious man who was very tough."
The process ended up taking more than a month, during which Bowdern fasted. Several priests, Alexian Brothers and family members participated in or witnessed the rite, which  always began in the evening.
"The pattern was that the boy would act normally during the day, and then he would put on his pajamas and go to bed, and go into a trance and start screaming and yelling and acting wild," Allen said. In the morning, the boy apparently never remem­bered what transpired the night before.
The exorcism continued on almost a nightly basis, even though the boy seemed to be get­ting worse. The priests asked his family for permission to teach him about Catholicism and con­vert him as a way to strengthen the fight against the supposed demonic possession. As he got closer to conversion and making his first holy Communion, his episodes become increasingly violent.
On April 18, the day after Easter Sunday, the exorcism appeared to have succeeded. An entry from Bishop's diary reads: "Since Monday at 11 p.m. there have been no indications of the presence of the devil."
The boy left St. Louis several days later and went on to lead an otherwise normal life; he mar­ried around 1970, had children and never experienced anything like possession again, according to the Jesuits and Alexians who "kept track of him," Allen said.
None of the exorcism's eye­witnesses ever publicly revealed the details of the incident, out of respect for the boy's privacy. But in the words of Jesuit historian and scholar John Padberg, S.J., who also participated in the University's exorcism panel with Allen last October, "It's too good a story not to tell people about it!"
And so, it continues ...
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Universitas magazine.
Read more:

Souls in Purgatory ask for earthly help.

Do Souls Return from Purgatory? - Aleteia

Judging from the response to a recent post on holy souls who return from Purgatory, there seems to be a lot of interest in the subject. But, as Rome’s Little Museum of Purgatory contains only a tiny collection of the known “hard evidence” left behind by these holy souls, it makes sense to follow up with a sampling of burn marks left on cloth, books, doors and people, which can (or could, in the case of people) be seen in many places across Europe. And then there is, of course, the written testimonies of saints to which one can turn as further evidence of holy souls returning from Purgatory.

Unlike Marley’s ghost in Dickens’ “Christmas Carol,” holy souls rarely (if ever) return to warn hardened sinners of the hellish fate that could await them in the afterlife. Instead, God allows a relatively small number to appear to living people who are future saints — declared and undeclared — on whom these holy souls can count for “suffrages,” i.e., prayers, Masses, works of charity or penance offered for their release from Purgatory. 

An engrossing book on these phenomena, Hungry Souls: Supernatural Visits, Messages and Warnings from Purgatory by the renowned Belgian psychologist Gerard J.M. van den Aardweg, was published in 2010. Here’s a taste of some of the fascinating people and events you can find in this book.

Just a few of the many saints whose experiences with holy souls in Purgatory are described in Hungry Souls are Saints Teresa of Avila, Gertrude of Helfta, Catherine of Genoa, Francis de Sales, Margaret Mary Alacoque, and in the past century, Maria Faustina Kowalska and Padre Pio. Many “blesseds,” as well, are known to have been visited by holy souls in Purgatory, among them Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, Anna Maria Taigi and Stanislaus Papczyński, founder of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception.

A striking example of a hand mark left by a holy soul is kept in the Paulinian monastery in Częstochowa, Poland, the pilgrimage site of the “Black Madonna” icon (Our Lady of Częstochowa). In 1890, Father Reichel, a parish priest of Hundsfeld (near Wrocław in western Poland), was visiting Częstochowa on a pilgrimage with two “confreres” and gave the earliest extant account of the corporale he was shown. The Paulians explained the story behind it this way:

Two clerics of the monastery (of the Paulinian Order) had promised one another many years ago that the one who would die first would give the other one a sign from the beyond. Now one of them was dead already for a long time and never had given a sign. This was what the other one was thinking about, when one day he just had finished holy Mass and, as usual, was folding together the corporal before him, in nine folds. Then the evil doubt went through his head that perhaps there would be no survival after death at all. At that moment, a hand appears, lays itself on the corporal, and immediately disappears again. How much it was ablaze through and through, however, is shown clearly enough by the combustion of the nine-times folded up linen, exactly in the form of the hand.
Here is Father Reichel’s description of the corporale, which appeared to have been touched on the top layer by a hand that was burning red-hot: 

The upper layers of the linen were totally burned through, the lower were browned, increasingly more lightly; in the deeper parts between the individual joints the folds of the linen were conserved [visible], there where the muscles are more articulate [thicker], the combustion was quite visibly stronger, decreasing gradually to the sides.
At the monastery of the Franciscan nuns of St. Ann at Foligno, Italy, one can still see the hand imprint of a deceased religious, Sister Teresa Margarita Gesta, on the door of the linen room 

– “better and more clear than if made with a glowing iron hand.” Sister Teresa Margarita left the imprint there on November 3, 1859. Less than three weeks later, an official examination was conducted. Sister’s body was exhumed and it was discovered that the nun’s hand exactly fit the burn mark on the door. 

The deceased Johann Klements appeared numerous times between 1641 and 1642 in what is now Bratislava, Slovakia. Affidavits of 32 people attested to their having witnessed at least some of the apparitions. In 1643, the local bishop examined and published the “case” describing the events. Klements left a total of five burn marks of a hand that matched his own in life, missing the upper phalanx of his right forefinger. 

In 1669, deceased Vicar Christoph Wallbach left a burned-in thumb imprint in a prayer book in Hall in Tirol (Austria). Wallbach appeared to the housekeeper of one of the priests who succeeded him in the parish, explaining that, having already been in Purgatory for 65 years, he was fated to spend another 50 in Purgatory “if he were not released by suffrages during the half-year granted him to ask for help.” Wallbach left an “impressive sign to make it clear how terrible a fire it was he was in, because on earth he had read holy Masses out of avarice, for the money he could get; also, he wanted to prove that his appearance was no illusion.” A number of people, including the parish priest, had witnessed strange manifestations in the church and heard Wallbach’s moaning. 

The thumb burn in the prayer book of Hall went right through a heavy cover of wood and pigskin and then through 40 pages and, decreasing in intensity, through 30 more pages. It must have been produced during one short, intense moment, for there are no traces of burning beside the burned-in hole. A blacksmith experimented with a glowing iron thumb but could not reproduce the phenomenon himself; instead, the whole paper burned. 
Van den Aardweg explains that as an apparition begins 

the seer and bystanders often observe physical phenomena such as atmospheric changes, a gust of cold wind, crackling sounds, a strange and sudden silence; the spirit develops its figure and form out of a hazy cloud or mist, or starts as a passing shadow. It is not unusual for animals to perceive something physical, too: dogs may become scared, and cattle or chickens become restless. The perception of a spirit cannot be reduced to a merely mental event, something internal in the seer; it is a manifestation outside of him.
Holy souls may appear as the persons they were in life, wearing clothing typical of their time and state, and sometimes amid flames. But they also may appear “as deformed humans with remarkable symbolic features that represent their sins and/or punishments — sometimes even as humanized animals or animalized humans.” 

Van den Aardweg quotes an observation of the 20th-century seer, Eugenie von der Leyen, who wrote: “You never see such eyes in men … they demonstrate, or give to understand, misery. The mouth … this bitterness is found in no [living] human.” 

Some holy souls appear in early visitations to be ghastly, moaning half-human beasts, incapable of speech. Thanks to the prayers and sacrifices of an intercessor, they gradually begin to look less terrifyingly ugly and more beautifully human. As more of the “rust of sin” wears off them, as God’s love and grace is able to transform them, they become luminously beautiful, before announcing that they are about to enter heaven. 

One example described by van den Aardweg is that of the father of Sister Mary Seraphine, a monastic in Malines (Belgium). He appeared to her in 1870, within three months of his death, engulfed in flames. He informed her that he was to spend six more months in Purgatory (after the Blessed Virgin Mary had obtained a reduction of his sentence of several years due to his devotion to the Blessed Mother and his many acts of charity). He showed his daughter the fiery cistern that he occupied with “several hundreds.” He begged for the prayers of her community to reduce his sentence by half. In his early visitations, he complained ceaselessly about his suffering and asked his daughter to endure greater sacrifices and have the community intensify their prayers for him. Gradually, his complaints gave over to greater joy and a desire to love God better. In the last visitations to Sister Marie Seraphine, “he was so resplendent that her eyes could scarcely bear the dazzling light.”

Some final thoughts: St. Teresa of Avila noted that of the many holy souls she had known, only three had been able to totally escape Purgatory by the holiness of their lives. I don't know about you, but I suspect the total escape from Purgatory is not in my future.

And don't count on being able to return to beg your family and friends for many Masses and sacrifices. The memoirs of a German parish priest, Fr. Hermann Wagner, who survived the Nazi occupation and World War II, record the confidences of a holy widow he called “Ruth” to preserve her anonymity. She reported to him the many visitations she had received from holy souls in Purgatory and what she’d learned from them. “Most poor souls are never allowed to make themselves known by appearing to someone,” she noted. “In particular not the poorest poor souls.” Ruth added that “a certain category of poor souls do penance in such a terrible darkness and desolation that they believe they are lost forever” and “if a human being were to see their real condition, he would die.” 

The holy souls in Purgatory are powerless to help themselves to attain heaven. It is only through the Blessed Mother’s intercession and our suffrages that their time in Purgatory can be shortened. And, of course, no one is more grateful for the gift of living in the presence of God, his angels and his saints than are the holy souls who had suffered much to get there and who were aided by our prayers. They, in turn, become our ardent intercessors. 

This November and always, we’d do well to follow the advice and attitude of St. Josemaría Escrivá:

The holy souls in purgatory. Out of charity, out of justice, and out of excusable selfishness — they have such power with God! — remember them often in your sacrifices and in your prayers. 

May you be able to say when you speak of them, "My good friends the souls in purgatory."

Susan E. Wills is spirituality editor of Aleteia's English language edition.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hate the Sin Love the Sinner – How Do I Do That?

Hate the Sin Love the Sinner – How Do I Do That?

The Prodigal Son
It’s a typical Christian bromide: “Hate the sin. Love the sinner.”
The problem is–how do I do that?
The sinner sins. How do you separate the sin from the sinner, and to be honest, at the final judgement it is the sinner who is condemned for his sin. It’s not like Jesus says, “There, there, you can come into heaven, but  I’m going to send your sin to hell.” No. At the last day the sinner is condemned with the sin.
In the meantime how do I hate the sin and love the sinner? This is especially tough when there are some sinners who deny that they are sinful and say, “I was born this way. You can’t condemn the sin without condemning me. You have to accept me and the stuff I do that you call “sin”. Or they might simply be nonchalant about the sin–not giving two hoots and happy to shrug their shoulders and deny the sin.
And how do I love the sinner but hate the sin when it comes down to practical matters like defending my children from the example of immorality? How do I love the sinner while not condoning the sin? What about the situation where I am enabling an addiction, giving in to violence or simply doing nothing about an intolerable situation confusing being nice with indolence?
What is “hating the sin but loving the sinner” becomes a mask for compromise of the truth, laziness in our duty to protect the innocent and no real concern or compassion for people who are locked into behaviors that are destructive to them, to others and to society?
Here’s an example: Uncle Bob is divorced and has re-married Sally. They want to visit the home for Thanksgiving and be accepted as husband and wife. But I don’t condone that relationship and I tell my kids that divorce and re-marriage is wrong. When Uncle Bob and Sally turn up do I give them a warm welcome show them the guest room and open a few beers? Then what about Aunt Ginnie who Bob divorced for his trophy wife? What about their kids? Where are they this Thanksgiving? Isn’t my warm welcome of Bob and Sally a slap in the face to Ginnie and his kids?
My attempts to love the sinner and hate the sin actually end up condoning the sin, confusing my children about marriage and being unkind and hurtful to the wronged wife and her kids. Out of justice to the wronged and the need to uphold Christian marriage maybe I need to tell Uncle Bob and Sally to enjoy Thanksgiving somewhere else.
This is why Christian communities used to exclude those who broke the rules. They did so to protect not only the rules, but everyone else who was trying to live by the rules, and they wanted to live by the rules and help everyone who wanted to live by the rules because they believed the rules were the best and most effective way to possibly, just possibly build a happy and wholesome life. People who broke the rules were breaking marriage, and they were breaking it for everybody. Therefore, those who broke marriage were excluded from the advantages of marriage and family life. They were excluded not to be mean to them, but to strengthen and defend the very fragile thing called marriage.
We don’t do that anymore, and I’m not suggesting that we should return to shunning and exclusion, but then the question still remains, how do I love the sinner and hate the sin?
From a practical point of view sometimes you have to exclude the sinner in order to exclude the sin, but this is no worse than realizing that you can’t always embrace opposites and you sometimes have to choose between the lesser of two evils.
Let’s say Ben is your brother and his partner Jerry want to come visit in your home. They are “married” and proclaim their gay lifestyle openly. They expect to be welcomed as family members, to stay in the guest room together and you’re supposed to act as if this is perfectly normal. But let’s say you have a houseful of children, and you are doing your best to bring them up to understand what a true Catholic understanding of marriage is. You’ve taught them that Ben and Jerry’s relationship is not that. So what are you going to do?
You have to choose between two goods.
The good of preserving your children’s understanding of Christian marriage without confusion or compromise is a greater good than being nice to Ben and Jerry. After all, Ben and Jerry are not members of your immediate family, and although you might want to be nice to them, your duty to your children comes first. This is no different than any number of other choices we make  between two goods. I want to take my kids on a grand European vacation, but I also want to pay for their college education. I choose the college education.
Therefore in the wish to be nice to everyone and love the sinner while hating the sin sometimes the sinner is going to get knocked. It can’t be helped.
Furthermore, am I the only one who is feeling bullied by this idea that everybody has to be nice, kind and accepting to everyone all the time with no questions asked? Isn’t this a kind of emotional blackmail getting me to condone something I cannot condone?
I’m calling “bully” on these folks and resent being pressured by their passive aggressive bully blackmail tactics.
I can defend my beliefs and stand up for what I believe in without either compromising those beliefs or being nasty and ugly to people who do not share those beliefs.
Does that mean we go around looking for ways to be mean and judgmental? Of course not. We do our best to be kind, accepting and welcoming to all, but there are limits.
Common sense demands boundaries. Sometimes the best way to love the sinner and hate the sin is to speak clearly to the sinner about the situation and warn him. If you have an alcoholic in the family you’re not doing him any favors by making excuses and enabling him. If your husband beats you up every Friday night and burns the kids with a cigarette you aren’t doing anybody any favors by letting him when he arrives home drunk.
Finally, true love for the sinner is to see them for who they really are and to see past whatever problem, addiction, broken ness or confusion they suffer from and to wish God’s perfect healing love to be active and fruitful in their lives. We’re all a mess, and the sooner we realize it the better, and the person who is most compassionate is the one who realizes what God’s amazing grace has done for them and how they have been rescued and to wish that same deliverance for others.
So it is first in our own conversion and the long, hard road of repentance, reconciliation and renewal that true love for the sinner and hatred of sin is fostered. Hatred of sin because we see how it has destroyed our own lives, and love for the sinner because we can see what they might be and who they could become if they were only to yield to that amazing grace.
That’s why St Julian of Norwich writes that God looks on us with pity not with blame. His mercy is everlasting. He loves the sinner because he sees what that fallen, broken child could become, and he hates the sin because he sees how it has diseased and deformed the child.
When we begin to have those kind of everlasting eyes we can begin to hate the sin and love the sinner.
Everything else is either sentimental clap trap, wishful thinking or do-goodism.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Purgatory-The Saints & Concerned for Lost Loved Ones

The Saints & Concerned for Lost Loved Ones
[Judas Maccabeus] took up a collection . . . to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.
-2 Maccabees 12:43-44
When loved ones die, many people experience, in addition to grief and loneliness, a concern over the state of those loved ones, particularly if those departed souls weren’t the saintliest people in their lifetime or if they died sudden, unprovided deaths. What has become of these souls? Those who are left behind wonder.
The Church has always taught the existence of Purgatory, a place or state of existence after death, where, if necessary, we’re cleansed of any remaining effects of our sins and made ready to enter into Heaven. Moreover, as Scripture attests, our prayers and sacrifices can be of immense spiritual help to the persons undergoing this purification process; we can pray for specific persons, such as deceased loved ones, or for the souls in Purgatory in general.
Because God loves us and wants us to be with Him in Heaven, there must be some opportunity for us to finish being healed, or purged of our sins, after death, should this be necessary.
This cleansing process is what we call Purgatory. The saints believed without reservation in this reality. They themselves, because of their immense love of God, were ready to enter Heaven immediately after death, but they were mindful of those who werenot as fortunate; after all, this is one of the signs of true love: caring for those in need, whether that need be physical or spiritual.
***St. Elizabeth of Portugal, who reigned as queen of that country at the beginning of the fourteenth century, had a much-loved daughter named Constance. The young princess died very suddenly after being married, causing Elizabeth and her husband, King Denis, much grief. Soon after this, a hermit came to the queen with a shocking story: while he was praying, Constance had appeared to him, beseeching him to take a message to her mother. She was suffering terribly in Purgatory and would remain there a very long time unless Mass was offered for her each day for a year.
The king responded, “I believe that it is wise to do that which has been pointed out to you in so extraordinary a manner. After all, to have Masses celebrated for our dear deceased relatives is nothing more than a paternal and Christian duty.” Elizabeth accepted this advice, and arranged for the Masses to be said by a holy priest. One year later her daughter appeared to her, clothed in a brilliant white robe, and said, “Today, dear mother, I am delivered from the pains of Purgatory and am about to enter Heaven.” St. Elizabeth gave thanks to God and expressed her gratitude by distributing alms to the poor.
A number of saints (plus other mystics and visionaries) have allegedly seen Purgatory (and also Heaven and Hell). St. Frances of Rome was granted such a vision; she said that it consists of three levels. The lowest level is like a vast burning sea, where the persons undergo various sufferings related to the sins they committed on earth. The middle level is less rigorous, but still unpleasant.  The highest level of Purgatory is populated by those who are closest to being released. These persons suffer mainly the pain of loss: that of yearning for God and of not yet truly possessing Him.
There’s consolation in all three levels, but especially in the highest. The souls in Purgatory know that, sooner or later, they’ll be with God in Heaven and that all their present sufferings are valuable and redemptive. Other saints and visionaries confirm this description, adding that our prayers and sacrifices — because they’re freely given — are immensely helpful to those in Purgatory, for God greatly values each one of our freely offered sacrifices, no matter how small. Some mystics have supposedly learned that when we pray for specific persons who are in Purgatory, they see us at that instant and are strengthened by the knowledge that we’re remembering them.
Many of the saints are said to have had experiences that confirmed the Church’s teaching on Purgatory. For instance, St. Louis Bertrand, a seventeenth-century priest, offered Masses, prayers, and sacrifices for his deceased father until finally he was granted a vision of his entry into Heaven. This happened only after eight years of prayer on his part. In the twelfth century, the famous Irish bishop St. Malachy learned that his sister was destined to suffer a long time in Purgatory, for she had lived a very sinful life before repenting; his prayers eased her sufferings., but did not significantly lessen her time there. In the fifteenth century, the sister of St. Vincent Ferrer appeared to him as she was about to enter Heaven and revealed that had it not been for the many Masses he offered on her behalf, her time in Purgatory would have been much longer.
A story is told about St. Teresa of Avila in this regard. A priest she knew had just died, and God revealed to her that he would remain in Purgatory until a Mass was said for him in the chapel of a new Carmelite house that was to be built. Teresa hurried to the site and had the workmen begin raising the walls of the chapel immediately, but as this would still take too long, she obtained permission from the bishop for a temporary chapel to be erected.  Once this was done, Mass was celebrated there, and while receiving communion, Teresa saw a vision of the priest thanking her most graciously before entering God’s kingdom.
Showing concern for the dead and the dying is a great sign of love. Bl. Raymond of Capua, the biographer of St. Catherine of Siena, wrote that she attended her father, Jacomo, during his final hours. Learning in a revelation that this holy man nonetheless would require some purification in Purgatory, Catherine begged God to let her suffer pains of expiation on his behalf so that he might enter Heaven immediately. God agreed; Jacomo, who had been suffering greatly, thereupon experienced a happy and peaceful death, while Catherine was seized with violent pains that remained with her for the rest of her life. Raymond witnessed her suffering, but he also took note of her incredible forbearance and patience, along with her great joy on her father’s behalf.
An incident from the life of the Italian priest Bl. Padre Pio indicates that souls in Purgatory may request our prayers. One day in the 1920s, he was praying in the choir loft when he heard a strange sound coming from the side altars of the chapel. Then there was a crash as a candelabra fell from the main altar. Padre Pio saw a figure he assumed to be a young friar. But the figure told him, “I am doing my Purgatory here. I was a student in this friary, so now I have to make amends for the errors I committed while I was here, for my lack of diligence in doing my duty in this church.” The figure said that he had been in Purgatory for sixty years, and after requesting Padre Pio’s prayers, he vanished. Many other souls in purgatory are said to have asked for his assistance, including four deceased friars sitting around the fireplace in a state of great suffering; Padre Pio spent the night in prayer, securing their release.
Other saints are said to have had similar experiences, including St. Odilo, the eleventh-century abbot who began the practice of offering Mass for all the souls in Purgatory on what is now known as All Souls Day, the day after the feast of All Saints.
Our prayers for those who suffer there can be spiritually valuable to them. Because the saints believed in both sin and redemption, mercy and justice, they also acknowledged the existence of Purgatory and did everything possible to relieve those undergoing purification there. As the saints were far more conversant with the ways of Divine Providence than any of us could honestly claim to be, we would do very well to follow their example.

For Further Reflection

“All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven.” — Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1030
“It cannot be doubted that the prayers of the Church, the Holy Sacrifice, and alms distributed for the departed relieve those holy souls and move God to treat them with more clemency than their sins deserve. It is the universal practice of the Church, a practice that she observes as having received it from her forefathers — that is to say, the holy Apostles.” — St. Augustine
“Many [Doctors of the Church] affirm with great probability that we should believe that God reveals our prayer to those holy souls so that they may pray for us. The souls in Purgatory, being beloved of God and confirmed in grace, have absolutely no obstacle to prevent their praying for us. If we desire the help of their prayers, it is only fair that we should remember to help them with our prayers and good works.”— St. Alphonsus Liguori

Something You Might Try

·Reflect on this passage from the writings of St. Francis de Sales: “To assist the souls in Purgatory is to perform the most excellent of the works of mercy, or rather it is to practice in a most sublime manner all the works of mercy together: it is to visit the sick; it is to give drink to those who thirst for the vision of God; it is to feed the hungry, to ransom prisoners, to clothe the naked, to procure for poor exiles the hospitality of the heavenly Jerusalem; it is to comfort the afflicted, to instruct the ignorant — in fine, to practice all the works of mercy in one.” Consider what you might do for those who’ve died: offer your sacrifices for the souls in Purgatory, have Masses offered for them, pray for your deceased loved ones, etc.
·In addition to praying for those now in Purgatory, think about how to avoid this experience yourself. After all, it may be presumptuous — or at least unduly optimistic — to assume you’ll automatically enter Heaven as soon as you die. In his 1936 booklet How to Avoid Purgatory, Fr. Paul O’Sullivan offers the following suggestions:
·Give up your sins as much as possible.
·Do penance for the sins you’ve committed.
·Offer up your sufferings as a sacrifice.
·Regularly attend Mass and receive the sacraments.
·Ask God for the grace to avoid Purgatory.
·Practice holy resignation (that is, trustingly accept God’s will in all things, especially in regard to the time and circumstances of your death).
·If and when appropriate, receive the Last Rites of the Church.
·Your own love for the souls in Purgatory — expressed by your prayers and sacrifices on their behalf — is received very favorably by God. If you find yourself in Purgatory after death, those whom you’ve previously helped release from there will not cease praying on your behalf until you join them in the kingdom of God. As St. John Vianney stated, “We must pray for them that they may pray for us.”

Further Reading

Matthew 18:34; Luke 12:58-59; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15.

O Eternal Father,I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus,in union with all the Masses said throughout the world today,for all the holy souls in Purgatory and for sinners everywhere —for sinners in the universal Church, for those in my own home,and for those within my family. Amen.
Editor’s note: This article is from a chapter in Fr. Esper’s Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems, which is available from Sophia Institute Press. 


Fr. Joseph Esper studied at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and at St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1982. He has lectured at Marian conferences, spoken on Catholic radio, and written more than a dozen articles for This Rock, The Priest, Homiletic, Pastoral Review, and other publications. From his experience as a parish priest, Fr. Esper offers today’s readers practical, encouraging, and inspiring wisdom.

Is artificial insemination wrong?

Is artificial insemination wrong? Even among married couples?

Artificial insemination introduces sperm into a woman's body by use of a thin tube (cannula) or other instrument to bring about a pregnancy.

 Artificial insemination can be either homologous (using sperm from a woman's husband) or heterologous (using sperm from a man she is not married to).  Both forms of artificial insemination raise significant moral concerns.

Treating people as objects
Bringing about a pregnancy by introducing a cannula through the reproductive tract of a woman and injecting sperm into her body raises concerns about reducing her to a kind of conduit for the purposes of obtaining a child.
These actions fail to respect the most personal and intimate aspects of a woman's relational femininity and her sexuality.  She ends up being treated or treating herself as an "object" for the pursuit of ulterior ends.
A man also violates his sexuality, as his involvement becomes reduced to "producing a sample," usually by masturbation, which technicians then use in order to impregnate his wife or another woman.
Similarly, any child conceived in this manner is potentially treated as an object or a "project to be realized," rather than as a gift arising from their shared bodily intimacy and one-flesh union.
Moral concerns
Back in 1949, a prescient Pope Pius XII already recognized some of these moral concerns when he wrote:  "To reduce the common life of a husband and wife and the conjugal act to a mere organic function for the transmission of seed would be but to convert the domestic hearth, the family sanctuary, into a biological laboratory.  Therefore . . . we expressly excluded artificial insemination in marriage."
The Catholic Church addressed this matter again in greater detail in 1987 in an important document called Donum Vitae (On the Gift of Life), noting that whenever a technical means "facilitates the conjugal act or helps it to reach its natural objectives, it can be morally acceptable.  If, on the other hand, the procedure were to replace the conjugal act, it is morally illicit [unacceptable].  Artificial insemination as a substitute for the conjugal act is prohibited."
Any exceptions?
Some Catholics have nevertheless suggested that artificial insemination might occasionally be permitted in light of another passage from the same document which they interpret as allowing for an exception: "Homologous artificial insemination within marriage cannot be admitted except for those cases in which the technical means is not a substitute for the conjugal act but serves to facilitate and to help so that the act attains its natural purpose."
These actions fail to respect the most personal and intimate aspects of a woman's relational femininity and her sexuality. She ends up being treated or treating herself as an "object" for the pursuit of ulterior ends.
Interestingly, at the present time, there do not seem to be any real-world examples of insemination technologies that facilitate the conjugal act.  Hence, while the statement above is true in a theoretical way, in practice there do not appear to be any specific technical methods to which the statement would in fact apply, so the claim of some Catholics that an exception exists for homologous artificial insemination does not appear to be correct.
The core problem remains that even if sperm were collected without masturbation, the subsequent steps of introducing a sample into a woman's reproductive tract, through a cannula or other means, would invariably involve a substitution or replacement of the conjugal act, which would not be morally acceptable.
To procure sperm without masturbation, a couple could use a so-called "silastic sheath" during marital relations (a perforated condom without spermicide).  This would allow some of the sample to pass through, and some to be retained and collected, and would assure that each marital act remained ordered and open to the possibility of transmitting the gift of life.
Yet even when using a morally-permissible sperm procurement technique, the subsequent mechanical injection or insemination step itself would raise serious moral concerns.  Clearly, a marital act would not cause the pregnancy, but at best would cause gamete (sperm) collection.  The pregnancy itself would be brought about by a new and different set of causes, whereby the mechanical actions of a technician would substitute for, and thus violate, the intimate and exclusive bond of the marital act.
Homologous artificial insemination, in the final analysis, does not facilitate the natural act, but replaces it with another kind of act altogether, an act that violates the unity of the spouses in marriage and the right of the child to be conceived in the unique and sacred setting of the marital embrace.
The beauty of the marital embrace and the noble desire for the gift of children can make it challenging for us to accept the cross of infertility and childlessness when it arises in marriage, even as it offers us an opportunity to embrace a deeper and unexpected plan of spiritual fruitfulness that the Lord and Creator of Life may be opening before us.


Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph. D. "Is artificial insemination wrong? Even among married couples?" Making Sense Out of Bioethics (September 4, 2014). 
Father Tad Pacholczyk, Ph. D. writes a monthly column, Making Sense Out of Bioethics, which appears in various diocesan newspapers across the country.  This article is reprinted with permission of the author, Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph. D.

The Author

tadFather Tadeusz Pacholczyk earned a Ph. D. in Neuroscience from Yale University.  Father Tad did post-doctoral research at Massachusetts General Hospital/ Harvard Medical School.  He subsequently studied in Rome where he did advanced studies in theology and in bioethics.  He is a priest of the diocese of Fall River, MA, and serves as the Director of Education at The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.  Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk is a member of the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.  See http://www.FatherTad.com.

Welcoming Gays: How Do I Do That?

Welcoming Gays: How Do I Do That?

The buzz word in the synod on the family, and in the general discussion about homosexuals is the word "welcome."

We are to "welcome homosexuals".

The problem is, no one is really explaining what this means.
I hope those who feel strongly about this matter — who have responded with visceral compassion on the poor homosexual persons who have been the victims of bullying will not mind examining the question with an open mind.
How, exactly, does one "welcome gays" and how is the welcome we offer gays any different than the welcome we give to every other person?
Furthermore, what do we mean by "homosexual" or "gay"?
For the sake of argument I'll use "homosexual" to mean any person who experiences a predominantly same sex attraction.
I'll use "gay" to refer to those who are sexually active and committed not only to sexual relations with a person of the same sex, but also to what might be called "gay activism".  In other words, their "gayness"  is more than sexual activity.  It also involves political activism and an ideological stance.
I realize it is more complicated than that, but the distinctions are useful for the sake of discussion.
If Catholics are called to "welcome gays" then it is obvious that this is impossible except in the case that the "gay person" begins the process of repudiating their false, anti-Catholic ideology and lifestyle.  Gays would be welcome in the Catholic faith as a Communist would be welcome in the Republican party — welcome to change his mind; welcome to convert; welcome to adopt a different viewpoint, lifestyle and belief system.
The gay lifestyle is repugnant to any right thinking Catholic.  The gay ideology is anti-Catholic and the gay manifesto is manifestly un Christian.  Any attempts to meld the two and create some kind of gay Catholicism is unthinkable.  It would be a new religion which could only exist through the destruction of the old.
In saying that, there is no cause for persecution of gay people.
The Catholic Church is clear that everyone is to be treated with respect, recognizing the innate human dignity of all persons.  Catholics should therefore regard gays with the same objective compassion and concern that we have for all people.  We see gays, as we see all people, as first and foremost brothers and sisters, fellow human beings created in the image of God and therefore good and precious eternal souls.  Gays may define themselves by their sexual proclivity.  We do not.  We look beyond that to see that they are more than their sexual desires.  To accept them as fellow human beings, however, is not to condone their sexual choices or to agree to their ideology.
The welcome of homosexuals is a different matter.  The homosexual, as I defined it here for the sake of discussion, is a person who experiences same sex attraction.  They may not act on their desires and remain celibate.  They may choose to marry and defer their homosexual desires.  They may be sexually active with various partners, but regret their choices.  They may follow the path of friendship — living with a member of the same sex while not being sexually active.
If they want to be faithful Catholics, seeking to follow Jesus Christ in the path of self sacrifice, service and the pursuit of sanctity, then they are already welcome just like everyone else.
The Catholic Church already welcomes such people with the full range of pastoral care.  I therefore fail to see why there is so much discussion and pressure to "welcome homosexuals."
Of course there may be harsh attitudes towards homosexual persons in some quarters.  There are harsh attitudes to anyone who is unusual or who challenges the norms.  That's life.  Anyone who has looked into the subject, rather than simply adopting the mindless attitudes and cliches of the mass media, will know that Catholics already have a range of caring, open ended and intelligent approaches to welcome and help homosexual people.
The welcome homosexuals are given is within the context of the teaching of the Catholic Church.  With compassion and care homosexuals are welcomed as anyone else is welcomed.  If they need extra pastoral care, counseling and assistance they may receive it just as anyone else can.  If they do not wish for that assistance they don't have it forced on them.
This brings us to another core problem no one is really discussing, and that is the question, "What kind of 'welcome' exactly do homosexual people desire of the Catholic Church?"  Do they wish to be welcomed in the same way everyone else is, or do they want some sort of special treatment?  If they want to be faithful Catholics, seeking to follow Jesus Christ in the path of self sacrifice, service and the pursuit of sanctity, then they are already welcome just like everyone else.  Do they want to be assured that simply because they experience same sex attraction they will not be vilified, ostracized and excluded?  Gays may be vilified because they are perceived as the enemy, but I can't imagine homosexuals experience such exclusion.  I would have thought in most Catholic parishes, and amongst most Catholic clergy the exact opposite happens — that the homosexual person is welcomed without prejudice if he or she truly wants to be part of the family of faith.
What, therefore, is the discussion on "welcoming homosexuals" really about?
It is not about welcoming people with same sex attraction.
Let's be honest.
The only reason for this discussion is that  certain pressure groups wish for the Catholic Church to change her basic stance on homosexuality.
What the lobbyists want is for the Catholic Church to endorse same sex relationships as a viable alternative to marriage.
"You must welcome homosexuals" means "you must approve of gay sex"
If I am wrong in this assessment, then I'm happy to be corrected.  If "welcoming gays" means something else what could it possibly be?
We are called to discuss the issue and to listen.  I am doing so.


longeneckerFather Dwight Longenecker. "Welcoming Gays: How Do I Do That?" Patheos (Standing on My Head) (October 22, 2014).
Reprinted with permission from Father Dwight Longenecker. See the original article here.
Standing on my head is the blog of Father Longenecker on Patheos.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Man died in Medjugorje

Alan’s Wish
By June Klins
     Every Monday evening, the website, marytv.tv broadcasts a wonderful program called “Fruit of Medjugorje” at 8:00 P.M. Each episode features the testimony of one or more people whose lives have been changed through Our Lady of Medjugorje. All of the programs can be accessed in the archives on their website. The following testimony was taken from Episode #133, which was originally aired on September 29, 2014. This is the testimony of Barbara Labrosse.
     As she introduced herself, Barbara explained that she wanted to share a story that happened to her brother, Alan. She began by saying that her family was from a town in Northern Ireland called Ballymena. Her mother was Catholic and her father was Protestant. After her mother’s first pilgrimage to Medjugorje in the 1980s, she began leading pilgrimages there, and after 25 years of going there and praying, her father converted to Catholicism.
     In 2009, Alan, the youngest of Barbara’s three brothers, was invited to go on a pilgrimage with his cousin and aunt. Alan protested, “I’m not going there among those holy rollers.” But his cousin did not want to go without him, so he finally agreed.
     His aunt attested that Alan was the first one to come up with the deposit. Barbara was surprised at that, because Alan, who was 29 at the time, spent what little money he had for partying.

Ave Maria” spelled out in stones on Cross Mountain

     The first day that Alan arrived in Medjugorje, he climbed Cross Mountain. He did the same on the second day. He said that he did not know why he was in Medjugorje, but he knew that there was a reason. On the third day, he mentioned to someone, “If there was anywhere I’d like to die in the world, it would be here.” On that same day, he climbed Cross Mountain again, while his friends waited for him in the café below. He asked them to keep an eye on him because it was very dark. He sent a text message which read, “I knew I was meant to come here. This is the most beautiful place on earth.” When he descended the mountain, he met his friends in the café.
     As he was leaving, Alan phoned his mother, Teresa, in Ireland. He told her, “I love it here. It is the most beautiful place. I was meant to come here.” His mother said that he sounded happy and said that he had had a full Confession – a good Confession. His mother was pleased because he had not been attending Mass and had not gone to Confession for many years, although he had been brought up in the faith. His mother said, after that, there was a pause, as if he wanted to tell her something. But they hung up, and she went to bed at midnight, after saying her prayers. At 2:45, Teresa was awakened to use the facilities. Upon her return to the bedroom, she heard a voice she described as coming from the Holy Spirit, clearly say, “Teresa, you must pray for Alan’s soul.” She really didn’t think much of it, because she had just spoken with Alan hours before and he sounded good. Nevertheless, she prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet for him, and then went back to sleep.
     The next morning, Barbara’s aunt went to awaken Alan and her cousin, who were sharing a room. As her cousin tried to wake Alan, he realized that Alan was no longer alive.
     Barbara’s aunt called two priests in Ireland with the news and they came to the house to break the news to Teresa and her husband. Barbara was living in England at the time, so she flew back to Ireland. She tried to make some phone calls to find out about Alan’s body, but it was difficult with the language barrier. Finally she was able to connect with someone who spoke English. They explained to her that Alan’s body could not be released until an autopsy was done. Alan died on Saturday, September 26, 2009. The following Wednesday, they got a phone call saying that Alan’s body was sent to Mostar for the autopsy and would be sent home after that.
     The undertaker who most of the Catholics in Ballymena used, Wally John, came to see Barbara and her family and explained that they would not be able to see Alan because he would not be embalmed. He said that in Bosnia, they do not embalm the bodies and usually bury them within a day because of the heat. Teresa and her husband were very distressed. Teresa cried, “I will not accept that. I need to see his face. I need to see that it was my son!” So Wally John explained that all he could do was put a glass thing over his face and under a special light, and they could see him for 10 minutes.
     In the meantime, Barbara’s aunt was still in Medjugorje, and she shared with the people there how distressed Teresa was because she would not be able to see the face of her son. People in Medjugorje they didn’t even know started to fast and pray that Barbara’s mother and father would be able to see the face of their son.
     After the autopsy in Mostar, Alan’s body was flown to Vienna and then on to Heathrow. His body stayed overnight there in a car and was brought to Belfast the next day, where it was picked up. It had been seven days now since Alan’s death. His body, which had not been embalmed, had traveled in the heat through all those different countries and climates.
     When Wally John, the undertaker, arrived at their house, they were surprised to see a smile on his face. He brought the body into the sitting room. While they sat in another room waiting, Barbara dreaded what would happen when her parents would see their son. Soon Wally John called the family into the room and opened the coffin. They were all shocked when they saw that Alan had no signs of rigor mortis. There was not a mark on him. Barbara related, “He actually was dressed and looked like a saint. He had a black suit on him, a white shirt, and a black tie.” Wally John the airport that morning. Apparently a gentleman in Mostar dressed her brother. He personally bought the suit. On the pocket it said, “To my Mama.” This gentleman wrote a letter to explain that he wanted Alan’s mother to see her son in a beautiful suit to go home.
     Wally John said that he couldn’t understand – that this was a miracle – a miracle due to the people’s prayer and fasting in Medjugorje. He said that after 25 years of being an undertaker, he could only describe it as a miracle. Alan was laid out until the third day. He was buried on the feast day of St. Faustina, October 5.
     As if this were not incredible enough, Barbara said there was more to the story. When they got the autopsy report, it said that Alan had died of natural causes. It is called “Sudden Death Syndrome.” He did not have a heart attack; his heart just stopped beating. The report said that he had died between 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning, but the pathologist in Mostar said that his heart stopped beating at 3:00 A.M. When Barbara told her parents this information, her mother jumped off the sofa and was hysterical. After she calmed down, Teresa related that the night that Alan died, she was praying at 3:00 A.M. for her son’s soul as Our Lord had requested, as He was coming for him. Here she was thousands of miles away, praying for his soul as he passed away!
     Theresa passed away 18 months later. Up until that time, she had been to Medjugorje 60 times! She had witnessed many miracles, but this one was the greatest. Barbara said, “And the greatest thing that Our Lady repaid her back for was my mother needed to see the face of her son. And [through] Our Lady – due to the people of Medjugorje praying and fasting and believing – she got her wish. She didn’t just get to see his face – she got to spend three beautiful days with him.” Barbara repeated that Alan was sent home looking like a saint – no marks or embellishments. She concluded her testimony: “And in his pocket, when his body was taken from the hotel where he had passed away – there was a medal. And on this medal was the Divine Mercy. It was sent home with him in his coffin. Amen.”
     Following Barbara’s testimony was the testimony of a funeral director from Ireland. He said: “My name is Martin and I’m a funeral director in Ireland and I just listened to Barbara’s testimony and I’m just giving a professional opinion in regard to the human remains being dead for 10 days. We’re sitting here [in Medjugorje] at the minute and it’s into the middle of September, and it’s quite warm. The human body can start to break down quite quickly after death– within a very short period of time, discoloration of the body. The more the body is moved, the more discoloration takes place… I think the family has received a great grace from the prayers and fasting of the people of Medjugorje, that [they] were able to see their brother [and son], which is a very important part of Irish culture – to be able to see this body before burial. Our Lord came back to the apostles to let them see Him after the Resurrection. I think that tells us as human beings that a loving God has given them a great grace where he has allowed the family to do their goodbyes.”