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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Hello Sister, I love your blog! I have a question related to this angel thing. You know how in the movie "Ghost", the Patrick Swayze character died, but stayed on earth to accomplish a task? I'm pretty sure the Catholic church teaches that that is not possible, right? People that have died don't come back to earth and influence or protect or do things. I ask this because of an angel experience that we had in our family -- my son was seriously injured, and before the paramedics came, he said that he saw a crowd of people surrounding him, but in reality there was no one there. I think he was being surrounded by angels, protecting him. Part of me would like to think that my father-in-law, who was a crusty old Marine who passed away years before, was one of those beings, protecting his grandson until help came. What does the Catholic church teach on this? And do they address the whole 'believing in ghosts' thing?

Yes and no. Let's just not get carried away. The Catholic Church doesn't officially say one word about what people call ghosts. Except the Holy Ghost. The Church does talk quite a bit about Him. But people do come back and talk with us, at least according to several saints who had dead people show up and beg the saints to pray for them because they were having a rough time of it in Purgatory.

I should say these dead folks came to visit future saints, as actual saints are all also dead people who are in heaven. At any rate there are quite a number of future saints who, while they were alive on earth, had souls from Purgatory show up at their door.

"When I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament on the Feast of Corpus Christi a person enveloped in fire suddenly stood before me. From the pitiable state the soul was in I knew it was in Purgatory and I wept bitterly" - St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

Sometimes it seems as though our future saint was having a vision of Purgatory and sometimes it seems as though the souls came a knockin'. I believe it was St. Catherine of Genoa who had been at the death bed of some poor devil who appeared to her after he died begging her to pray for him in Purgatory. He was suffering so much, he said, he had been there sixty years. "Sorry, buddy," she had to say, "you've only been dead an hour."


We believe that dead people are either in Heaven or Hell or Purgatory. They aren't roaming
around looking like a mist doing the same thing over and over again or trying to find 'the light' or waiting for someone to give them a boot into the next world. They're not stuck in between worlds rattling chains or showing people how awful Christmas is going to be next year, or trying to help their poor little widow find their killer.

What the Catholic Church does teach about seeing dead people is that if you see one, ignore it, even if it's your beloved Auntie Tilly, because it's probably not Auntie Tilly, it's probably the devil dressed as Auntie Tilly. If you can't ignore it because it's throwing things off your shelf or carving it's initials on your mid-section, call a priest, even if your Auntie Tilly was known to throw things.

I'm sure your son saw angels. Anyhow, you said that a bunch of people gathered. So your father-in law would have had to actually bring a few of his Marine buddies along with him. Sempre Fi does not need to extend into the afterlife.

When the children of Fatima were talking with Our Lady, there was a 14 year old girl who had died and the children asked after her, if she would go to Heaven. Our Blessed Mother assured the children that the girl was indeed going to Heaven, but that the girl would be in Purgatory until the end of the world. While it is we hope that by now our prayers have freed the child, it is possible that she is still there, as Fatima was not so long ago.

And if some 14 year old peasant child from Fatima is in Purgatory until the end of the world, I can't think that the Marines, given what they do when they're on leave, have skated straight to Heaven. We hope they have all gone to their reward, but let's be realistic. When your son saw these people gathered around, were any of them on fire?


Suburban Correspondent said...

But you believe in guardian angels, don't you? Wouldn't those have been guardian angels surrounding the boy, protecting him?

Anonymous said...

When we were reading about the children in Fatima, our children became worried that Francisco would get to heaven but only after many many rosaries were said.
We, in our diocese, had the opportunity to receive a plenary indulgence last Sunday, provided all the requirements were met.
It also caused the following question: what happens if the soul you are receiving the indulgence for is no longer in need of it? We think we found the answer, that it would be part of the treasury of the Church.

Smiley said...

one guardian angel.
There is probably a scientific reason for this - see the kid was probably bleeding a lot. His brain was probably not getting sufficient oxygen. The child was trying to cling to life and was possibly thinking of home and family. The lack of oxygen possible blotted out the features etc and everything looked dazzling white.
I personally prefer the angel explanation though its nice for everyone to hear children as well as adults. Its also a good place to teach the child about the 4 last things so dont miss the opportunity.

Janelle said...

Yes, and let's not forget about St. Augustine's speculation about beer in Heaven. I'm sure on-leave Marines could not be worse than Augustine prior to his conversion, and they would certainly know how to secure any potential beer. Really, saint stories can be much better than any movie. Ancient monks fought idol-worshippers covered in intestines and insects in the African desert. Coptic texts are like every horror film fan's dream.

DaveW said...

"I can't think that the Marines, given what they do when they're on leave, have skated straight to Heaven."

As a former Marine I find myself wondering what you think Marines do when they're on leave. Perhaps you believe a lot of what you see in the movies sister? Movies produced by people that do not exactly hold our servicemen and women in high esteem?

I used to spend a lot of my free time working in the Toys for Tots program, and my leaves were spent almost entirely at home supporting my family as my then 13 year old sister was dying of osteosarcoma.

Unknown said...

So you're telling me that Ebenezer Scrooge really was simply having a reaction to "an undigested bit of undercooked potato?"
Somehow loses some of the literary arc of the story, but makes a lot shorter read. :>)

Anonymous said...

Sister, it kind of seemed like you were saying his dad might have been one of the angels surrounding him. People don't become angels when they die.

Anonymous said...

I've seen "Ghost Whisperer" and I always think those ghosts shouldn't be hanging around bothering their relatives. When I die I want to see Europe. I didn't get to spend enough time in Rome.

Also, I've read that a lot of those Catholic mystics' visions were drug induced. We don't really know exactly what happens when we die, but that boy's story of seeing a lot of people around him is certainly not unusual.

Anonymous said...

SMM, I was a U.S. Army Sgt. in 1970-71 and on my leaves, I went home for Mom's home cooking.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister:

Another in an infinite series of Saints questions from your readers:

My besetting sin is that I am an irritable, bad-tempered, impatient person. I desperately want to change and I pray to Jesus constantly to change my heart.

I would like also to "recruit" some saints to my prayer group on this issue:

Can you recommend some saints who struggled with these sins, or conversely, were the souls of patience with sweet-natures? I need all the help I can get.

Thanks in advance!

Anonymous said...

Oh Sister I think you have riled up the marines. Personally I love the marines no matter what they do on leave. Hi guys!!;)

Shannon said...

My husband has been a Marine for almost 15 years. When he is on leave he changes poopy diapers and cooks dinner so that I can have a break! I'm sure hoping that there is a special place in heaven for him.

Incidently, I've found that civilians get into more trouble than the young Marines these days. For a lot of Marines, having people like my husband watching over them gives them a parental figure when they would not otherwise have one.

But that's just my opinion. And I do love my Marine!

Anonymous said...

O, Stroppy Expat, you know who would completely understand? Therese of Liesieux the little flow, that's who! She was a sweetie in all her actions but she really worked at it because her sister Carmelites could be so very annoying --making little ticky noises in their throats, splashing her with water, interrupting her writing, taking her eraser .....

Best wishes for your continued conversion!

Anonymous said...

Stroppy ExPat: Try St. Jerome...he had such a hard time getting along with others that he went to Bethlehem and spent the rest of his life translating the Bible into Latin. I don't think he had any friends....except maybe St. Paula and she didn't bathe.
Also St. Teresa of Avila...she had a real problem with impatience...even with God....when she fell off her mule she said to Him, "If this is the way You treat Your friends, it is no wonder You have so few of them". Gotta love her!

Dymphna said...

The marines I know go home on their leavs and listen to their wives talk about the roof and taking out the garbage. Now as for the 14 year old at Fatima. How do we know what that girl was up to before she died? She

Nancy said...

Sister...I didn't particularly like the way you answered this. I have no problem answering this question honestly and according to the CCC, but, I think she was asking a serious question and I think you poo-poo'd it...or it almost sounded like you were making fun of her. I don't think we can answer for sure what that child saw....it could have been just some strange chemical reaction going on in his body from the injury...who knows. The crack about what the Marines do on leave was just unnecessary.
Perhaps you woke up on the wrong side of the convent today.

DaveW said...

Frankly, I think unrepentant nuns that revel in their "reputation' for striking, beating and abusing innocent defenseless children with objects - and especially those Nuns that publicly BOAST about their enjoyment of that activity - repeatedly, are going to find themselves a long, LONG
long way behind the Marines in line to get to heaven.


Anonymous said...

Sister, I'm sure you've heard about the lady who recently had octuplets. Apparently, she already has six other children. As Catholics, what should be our take on all this?


Anonymous said...

Oh come on DaveW, get over it! As a graduate of the Catholic School system in the 1950's I can state there were MANY advantages to the gruff way our Nuns (Sisters of St. Joseph) taught. For one thing, we were able to learn without disruptions in the classroom (no one dared). And we entered the public High School about a year ahead of the public elementary school students.

Personally I was only knocked around once by a Nun, and in her eyes I must have deserved it!

The Young Artist said...

Wow. That is really is wierd but amazing too. My Dad was battling cancer for a very, very long time and a few days before he died, he said he saw Jesus. And Jesus said that he was going to take him 'home.' Do you think that he went straight up to Heaven, or do you think he went to purgatory and still there? I watched him suffer for a few years but I guess God thought that he was done. Do you think that he lived his purgatory when he was sleeping with the KEMO or is he still in Purgatory? If you could answer this, I would be happy. You want to know something ironic. He got all of his sacraments in a Church (St. Jude Thaddeus) and he died on the Saints feast day. What's up with that?

Titus said...

"Also, I've read that a lot of those Catholic mystics' visions were drug induced"

Ok, I'm sorry, but this is just absurd---the folks who propose this sort of thing are desperate secularists grasping for any "scientific" explanation for such things. The same people will tell you that Plato and Aristotle were on hashish too. There's absolutely no historical evidence for this thesis. If you don't believe in it, just say "I don't believe that happened."

As for apparitions, it's important to keep several things in mind:
1) Neither angels nor the faithful departed appear to the living of their own volition. If God wants to give a person the grace of an apparition, He can send an angel or the soul from heaven or purgatory. But angels aren't dead people---they're distinct beings.

2) Private revelations of this kind (i.e. where the vision doesn't persist or give instructions, etc.) aren't going to be investigated by the Church. Thus, definitively answering "what happened here?" is generally going to be impossible. You don't have to believe that this boy saw angels, or a saint. But you certainly could. There's no way to know for sure.

Anonymous said...

After reading the Gospels my human understanding is there is no better sinner or worse sinner....sin is sin. Jesus, Himself, sat with the sinners. He loved them and welcomed them as His children. There was no judging the degree of the sinner as far as my human mind can decipher. He did not accept one over another, in my humble opinion.

I worry as a Catholic how we can judge others. A fourteen year old girl or a marine.

Anonymous said...

I thought you might like this picture-It was published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette this morning, and shows the Little Sisters of the Poor cheering on the Steelers:



ashley said...

Sr. Mary Martha,
I appreciate your insightful comments on a wide variety of topics and have given you an award. Come check it out on my blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sister,
I'm retired Navy (27yrs.) Before I married and returned to the Church I did ALL those things on leave. Please pray for me.

DaveW said...

For the record Lawrence, "Sister Mary Martha" appears to have deleted my reply to your post for her own reasons.

tip2 said...

TomT adds
At Fatima,two children had died. One
was good, the other girl was not. When the children asked Mary, she told them that the good girl was in heaven and the other would be in Purgatory till the end of time.

Anonymous said...

Well, here lies our problem as professing believers in God and the Lord Jesus Christ: Either we settle on the Bible being on our source for truth, including the topic of death, or another source.

Ecclesiastes 9:5 tells us that the dead don't know anything anymore, so it can't be that a living person returned from the dead to tell anything to anyone (just as it couldn't have been Samuel that appeared to rebuke). And we're also told that believers "sleep" in the Lord (Matthew 27:52).

The Bible, via Paul who is speaking to other believers, does say that to be absent in the body (dead) is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

As for angels, we are told that angels do appear to us (Hebrews 13:2) and that there are angels (Hebrews 1-13-14) who minister to us.

Interestingly, the Bible speaks of the general body of believers as being saints (Acts 9:32, Romans 15:25, Romans 12:13, 1 Corinthians 6:2, 2 Corinthians 9:1).

Shall we let the Bible settle it or tradition? :-)

Grace and peace to all.