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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Dark Light

There's something that has been puzzling me and I would love to hear how the church would explain the following: you can read numerous stories of after death experiences from all types of people (faith, agnostics, atheists...) having similar experiences: a bright light, feeling of extreme peace, seeing loved ones who had gone before them... Everyone mentions how they didn't want to come back, but was told it wasn't their time. Where does purgatory fit into this? Purgatory is described as a burning, purifying, suffering place to be. Can all these people be going straight to heaven? I hope you can address this one day. Thanks! Keep up the great work!

The experiences I've read about are similar, but not alike. Some people claim to have met Jesus, for example.

And please remember that not one of these people died. So there was no opportunity to go to Purgatory. The other thing that these stories all have in common is that they all say they wanted to stay, but were told they couldn't stay.

I'll tell you my very favorite story. I heard it on the car radio one evening during a long drive. There was a lady who had died several times and been "brought back".  She was a "frequent flyer" due to some rare illness she had.  She had been to the bright light, the peaceful place and shaken hands with Grandma more than once.

But she didn't always go there. On some occasions she went the other way. On one such journey she found herself on a high catwalk over a vast desert. In the desert, there were countless, endless people, digging pointless holes in the sand that filled in over and over again.

She she said that she was made aware that she was only being shown this and would not be staying. But she was also made aware...and this is that part that stuck with me...that any of these people could leave at any time. They just didn't.

Whatever that means about the afterlife or Heaven, Hell and Purgatory, what truly struck me about it was that this is so often how we live our lives. We so often create our own misery. We could leave. But we just don't.

I'm not talking about packing up the kids and taking them to a shelter. Or checking into rehab or telling the boss what he can do with his job, although certainly all of these things apply. 

I'm really talking about how we are aware that if we changed our thinking, had a different attitude, dropped what we were doing to become more compassionate, more understanding, more loving, not only would our lives improve, so would the lives of everyone around us.

But we just don't.

You will have to change your thinking when you're in Purgatory, however. 

I think of Purgatory the way I think of obese people who have to get their stomachs stapled. They don't lose weight because they have their stomachs stapled. They lose weight because after they have their stomachs stapled they have to eat the way they should have been eating in the first place. They just didn't. Clearly they can, because once they have to, they do.

I'm not pointing fingers. I fully expect to be in Purgatory, because try as I might to stay on a sin free diet, I just don't.

So don't go counting our Purgatory because people who didn't die, didn't go there. Some people did.


Mirjana Villeneuve said...

Hi Sister! First, to answer your pop quiz, I believe that the saint of the day is Venerable Solanus Casey... at least that's what I've been lead to believe. And secondly, I came across your blog today and it's great. God bless!

Sister Mary Margaret said...

Another thing all these supposed "death" experiences have in common - no one goes through particular judgement. No one ever seems to meet relatives in the afterlife that they haven't already met in this life, so my explanation is much more rational. The person isn't really dead - but they are near death, and their subconscious releases a stream of whatever it is holding onto at the time. If you believe in heaven and think you are going there, that's what you'll see. (Athiests may subconsciously believe in heaven, but consciously deny that they believe in it. You know the saying, "There are no athiests in foxholes!") All those departed relatives you see are just images of the memories of your dead relatives that you imagine to be in heaven. Otherwise, people would encounter relatives going back 4, 5, or 6 generations, wouldn't they? That a person actually "crossed over" would be more "believable" if they were able to describe the face of a relative that they had never met and had never seen in photographs, and then discover one, finding it was the same person.

Anonymous said...

How would you know it's your relative if you've never met them or seen them in pictures? Would you follow a stranger into the light? That would seem to go against everything my mother taught me.

Anonymous said...

Please include this post in one of your booklets!! If you don't mind, I am going to print this and take it to my CCD class, many of whom are well on their way to being miserable their entire lives.

johnnyc said...

Purgatory....good topic for a booklet sister!

Marion Teague said...

It's a fascinating subject! Who's to say that we actually go "straight" anywhere when we die?

Anonymous said...

The most interesting story like this I have heard involves a young woman who had one of these experiences and, after "coming back" told the people in the hospital about a shoe on a ledge on a high floor in the hospital (she had never been there )--and it was there. Fr. Barron recounts it in one of his podcasts and points out this is an inkling of a different--and glorified--WAY of being, not limited by those things that limit us here.

And there are people who have dreadful near death experiences, experiencing great pain and suffering. You just don't hear as much about them, but they exist.