Sunday, December 7, 2014

Haunted by Souls in Purgatory

        During the 1980’s a story of a haunted house in Pennsylvania received a lot of media attention. Many terrifying events happened with eyewitnesses outside the family testifying to them. To this day, it is controversial whether the house was possessed or not.  The family consulted demonologists and priests for guidance.   It was reported that a couple of exorcisms were performed on the house, but still, there was continued mysterious activity.
The story even reached Rome, and the bishop of Scranton was instructed in 1986 to investigate.  Monsignor John Esseff, a priest and exorcist of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton, was sent.  In a previous interview I had with Esseff on exorcism, he had mentioned the case to me.  “Everyone thought the house was possessed, but it wasn’t,” he said.   
Regardless of what may have happened previous to his visit, when Esseff arrived, he discerned that the former owners had never left. “There were two sisters that previously owned the home,” Esseff explained.  “They never moved out after they died and were infesting the home as disembodied spirits.  The sisters were still attached to the house.”
Instead of an exorcism, Esseff brought several Catholic sisters with him and prayed for the two former owners. He obtained their names from the deed to the house.  The Smurls, who Esseff described as “fine people,” were Catholic, and joined in the prayers. “We did an enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and said a Mass,” he said.  
“During the Mass, there was an icy chill--during the invocation of the spirits of the dead,” Esseff said.  “When I said their names and asked them to go to God, the chill went through everyone, gradually moved up, and then left.”
The sisters were in purgatory, according to Esseff.  “Souls in purgatory are in terrible torment but can remain attached to the things that they were attached to during their lives,” he said. 
Esseff explained that many souls who are unprepared at their time of death are suffering this way.  “They depend on our prayers which God, in his mercy, allows to help them.” 

Into the Light
Fr. Gary Thomas is a parish priest and exorcist working in California. The Rite a book which was later made into a movie, chronicled his training as an exorcist.   An important part of his job, according to him, is discernment as to what is causing a perceived spiritual disturbance. .  “I have a prayer team I call it a discernment team and a prayer team.” He said.   “Often times problems are found to stem from natural causes such as mental illness so they need to be screen carefully.”  He pointed out that in some cases, there is nothing demonic, but a soul who has died could be in some way causing spiritual activity.  “In some cases, there are souls that have died and still on earth that are afraid to go to the light,” he said. “They fear the judgment of God, and I will tell them to go to the light and trust in God’s mercy.’’  Purgatory, he said, is a place of God’s mercy. 

Padre Pio Visited
        Many Catholic saints have received glimpses of purgatory.  St. Padre Pio was often visited by poor souls to request prayers.  He once reported: “More souls of the dead from purgatory than of the living climb this mountain to attend my Masses and seek my prayers.”
St. Padre Pio
In May 1922, St. Padre Pio testified about one account to the Bishop of Melfi along with 5 other friars. One of the five friars, Fra Alberto D' Apolito of San Giovanni Rotondo wrote it down.  St. Pio told them that a man in a black mantle appeared to him while he was in his room in the convent.  The saint asked the man who he was. The stranger identified himself as Pietro Di Mauro and said he had died in a fire, on September 18, 1908, in that very convent which had then been a hospice for elderly.  “I died in the flames, while I was sleeping on my straw mattress, right in this room. I have come from purgatory. God has granted me to come here and ask you to say Mass for me tomorrow morning. Thanks to one Mass I will be able to enter into Paradise.”  
A few days later, Father Paolino went to the office of the register of deaths to confirm the story and found: “On September 18, 1908 in the fire of the hospice, Pietro Di Mauro died.”  

We Need Each Other
      In the newly released book Visions of Purgatory: A Private Revelation translated from the original French version that was published in 1996, a vivid revelation of purgatory is given.  The author, under spiritual direction of a priest, remains anonymous, seeking only to fulfill the mission to encourage the faithful to pray for the poor souls in purgatory who are so often forgotten.
      The author’s angel explained to him that as part of the body of Christ, the souls in purgatory need our prayers and we also benefit from their prayers for us.  “Pray for them; they need your suffrages, and they expect your faithfulness and gratitude.  God wants it that way, because your prayers for these blessed souls are an act of charity, a testimony of love which will make you progress in this virtue of faith, which expands the horizons of your charity and deepens your faith, which enriches and consolidates your hope.”
        He was told that there is no sin in purgatory, but only the remains which need to be purified.  Each soul has it’s own particular experiences but the greatest punishment is to be deprived of the beauty and holiness of God.
        The visionary was informed that the fire of purgatory is so terrible that by comparison, fire on earth is like a gentle ointment.  It provokes an atrocious thirst referred to Psalm 63:  “My souls thirsts for thee: my flesh faints for thee, as in a dry and weary land where no water is.”
        The angel told him that the terrible punishment of purgatory is a heart rendering and ardent languishing of love in the soul. “Absolutely everything for these souls—whether punishment or consolation—is a function of the glorification of God, their one and only occupation.  They would gladly stay for a thousand years in purgatory if they could in this way increase the glory of God…. When they pray for us, they only want our good which is always ordered to the glory of God.” 
      His angel told him that in purgatory there is the light of God’s mercy and the fire of his justice—both consoling and terrible. “Do you understand how much you have to pray for the souls in purgatory?  This is very much forgotten today…. Therefore, you must write and awaken this concern for the souls in purgatory and you must remind your brothers that the communion of saints is a reality with its demands of charity.”

Avoid It
     The angel pleaded for prayers and penance for the souls in purgatory and warned people to avoid it at all cost.  “Pray, do penance, sanctify yourself in silence and in the fulfillment of the duties of your state, and offer everything for the holy souls….  Really, you don't know what purgatory is like; if you knew, you would work very seriously for your eternal salvation, and you would try with your prayers to obtain the freedom of these souls who are suffering so much.
     “The time that is given to you on earth should serve to prepare you for your encounter with God.  If you really understood this, purgatory would not exist because souls would do all that was possible to be ready for the moment of encounter.”   
      To achieve this, the angel told him to, “surrender yourself totally to divine love.  You have to let yourself be transformed by love until you are converted into a perfect instrument of love…. Give yourself in everything to the pure will of God…This is the perfection that is asked of you, and you should work for one thing only: to glorify God who is love.” 

       He explained that for many souls, they are motivated to avoid purgatory out of fear but instead should seek the love of God and desire his glory. “Understand well what I am telling you now:  The only way to avoid purgatory is not to do everything to avoid it, but to do everything to go to heaven.    … Everything else is vanity.”
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For more inspiration, check out Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families. Your children will laugh while learning big spiritual lessons with Dear God, I Don't Get It! and Dear God, You Can't Be Serious. 
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