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WHAT, ACTUALLY, IS THE SOUL? A SORT OF COLOURLESS BUBBLE?

What is the soul?

“Something inside you that should be clean and you make it dirty and God makes it clean again…? We outgrew that [limited] way of understanding it a little after our First Communion. But what is it now at the age of twenty or fifty or eighty? It loses its colour, for one thing – I mean black and white equally. And so it becomes a sort of colourless bubble (of uncertain whereabouts), till one day it goes ‘pop’ or, more likely, it gets a slow puncture and dies that way?

Of uncertain whereabouts?

In all good sense what is it? Or is it an ‘it’ at all? Many a thing that we refer to as ‘it’ is not an ‘it’ at all: for instance when we say ‘it is raining’. That ‘it’ does not refer to any ‘thing’. Likewise the word ‘soul’ does not refer to a thing. What does it refer to?

What does it refer to?

If you switch on the radio and listen to a foreign language (a really foreign one in which you cannot guess the meaning of even one word) you have the experience of hearing everything and yet nothing. You have to admit that you are hearing every sound: there is nothing wrong with your hearing, and speakers on radio are usually careful to speak clearly; yet it all counts for nothing. The person who understands that language hears the same sounds as you do, but those sounds are suffused with meaning. You touched the body of that language; the other person touched body and soul. In some such way the soul suffuses the body; it is the meaning of the body. It is not a ‘thing’ lurking inside it. It is its meaning, its radiance. It is its life – and how could the life of something be separate from the thing itself? In a word, your soul is the difference between you and your dead body.

When your soul ‘departs’ at death, it is not as if one part of you has left the other remains behind. You have disappeared completely; what is left behind is not you, nor part of you. We know this by instinct.

We know this by instinct

In a remote part of Ireland a simple man died. A neighbour, feeling as awkward as the family itself at being focus of attention, said to the priest at one point, ‘Excuse me, Father; the corpse’s brother would like a word with you.’ Why do we find this a very odd expression? Because we know that corpses don’t have brothers. Corpses don’t have anything.

A body without a soul

What is most striking about the appearance of a dead body is the total absence of involvement with us at every level. Our attentions, our tears, our feelings of desolation are unable to bring the person back. We tiptoe around the room as if he or she were only sick; we can’t believe just yet in the total absence; that is something we have to grow into gradually. The departure of a soul is the departure of the whole person.

Where? Is there any forwarding address?

Where? Where is that person now? Is there any forwarding address? The only forwarding address of a dead person is God; we cannot reach that person any more, except in God; we cannot touch them without touching God. As prayer is ‘addressing oneself to God,’ so now is God the dead person’s only address. Death is the realisation of God’s promise to be ‘all in all’.

‘All in all’

Along with the idea of the soul as a ‘thing’ we have the idea of heaven, hell and purgatory as ‘places’, and so the mystery of human destiny begins to look like sorting things in boxes.

In the way we sometimes talk about the next life, what is missing is any vital reference to God. (What’s left when you leave God out?) We know nothing about heaven except that ‘it’ is the presence of God; nor about hell than that it is God’s absence; nor about purgatory than that it is a process of purification for allowing God to be all in all. We find, I believe, that any improvement in the idea we have of the soul is also an improvement in the idea we have of heaven, hell and purgatory – and of God.”

– This article by Donagh O Shea OP was published in St Martin Magazine, issue July 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.stmartin.ie (external link).

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Posted by on August 13, 2015 in Words of Wisdom

 

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ST MICHAEL, ARCHANGEL, SPECIAL CONSOLER AT THE HOUR OF DEATH

“Not only during this earthly life does the glorious Archangel Michael defend and protect souls, but he is their special advocate and consoler at the hour of death.

When the last earthly hour draws near…

When the last hour of our earthly pilgrimage draws near and we are confronted by that awful moment when our soul must leave the body, which it has loved so much, satanic hosts, like ravenous lions, will make a last attack upon us. But we need not fear if during this life we have been faithful in venerating St Michael and in imploring his aid for the hour of death.

In that hour of supreme need, this invincible Archangel, ever ready to assist the faithful soul, will come to our aid with his hosts and do battle on our behalf. He will cover us with his strong shield and lead us safely through the midst of our enemies.

And when at length our souls have been freed from their earthly bonds…

And when at length our souls have been freed from their earthly bonds, he will conduct us to the judgment seat of Christ, where he will undertake our defence and implore the forgiveness of our sins. Finally, if we have merited to be numbered among the elect, he will take us beneath his glorious banner and conduct us to the blessed home of light, where all the Angels and elect children of God glory in the eternal praise of their Creator.

It is therefore a commendable practice daily to invoke St Michael to lend his assistance at the critical hour of death. Many are the faithful clients of St Michael who have experienced his help in that hour.”

– From: ‘Neath St Michael’s Shield

 

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“I COUNT ON NOT BEING IDLE IN HEAVEN”

“St Therese’s activity on behalf of the Missions has not ended with her death. Her letters to her Brother Missionaries throb with the expectancy of how far more effective she will be on their behalf in Heaven.

If I am leaving the battlefield it is not with the selfish desire of taking my repose

‘I count on not being idle in Heaven, for it is my wish to continue to work for the Church, and for souls. I ask this grace from God and I am certain He will grant it. So you see, if I am leaving the battlefield it is not with the selfish desire of taking my repose.

I will teach you how best to sail the world’s tempestuous sea – with the self-surrender of a child

‘When I myself have reached the port I will teach you how best to sail the world’s tempestuous sea – with the self-surrender of a child well aware of its father’s love and of his vigilance in the hours of danger.

Brother, I am so happy to die – because, far more than on earth, I shall help the souls I hold dear. O what joy when comes the happy hour of going Home! I shall not die – I do but enter into life and whatsoever I cannot tell you here upon earth I will make you understand from the heights of Heaven.’

What attracts me to the Homeland of Heaven is the call of Jesus

But more fully still she writes: ‘What attracts me to the Homeland of Heaven is the call of Jesus, the hope that I may at last love Him as I have so longed to love Him, and the thought that I shall bring a multitude of souls to love Him, who will bless Him for all eternity. Brother, you will not have time to send me the list of things I can do for you in Heaven, but I guess them; and in any case you will have but to whisper them and I shall hear you and faithfully bear your messages to Our Lord, to our Immaculate Mother, to the Angels and the Saints you love.’

Till the Angel shall have said: ‘Time is no more.’

Her work for the Missions still continues, and there is every evidence that it will continue, as she prophesied it would, until the end of time.

‘I feel that my mission is about to begin – to make others love God as I love Him – to teach souls my Little Way. I will spend my Heaven in doing good on earth. This is not impossible, for the Angels keep watch over us while they enjoy the Beatific Vision. No, there can be no rest for me till the end of the world – till the Angel shall have said: ‘Time is no more.’ Then shall I take my rest, then shall I be able to rejoice because the number of the elect will be complete.’

These striking words were spoken during her last illness, 17 July 1897, less than three months before she died. Sure of the unfailing support of our Saint, whom Our Lord through His Church has specially given us as our Patroness in these difficult times, the Church in the Mission Field can look forward with quiet confidence to the days that lie ahead.”

– From “The Little Way Association” booklet, Issue No 94 – Little Way Association, London. Internet contact: http://www.littlewayassociation.com (external link)

 

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GIVE ME GRACE, O LORD, TO BE JOYFUL IN TRIBULATION – PRAYER OF ST THOMAS MORE

Give me the grace, Good Lord, to set the world at naught. To set the mind firmly on You and not to hang upon the words of men’s mouths. To be content to be solitary.

Not to long for worldly pleasures. Little by little utterly to cast off the world and rid my mind of all its business. Not to long to hear of earthly things, but that the hearing of worldly fancies may be displeasing to me. Gladly to be thinking of God, piteously to call for His help.

To lean into the comfort of God. Busily to labour to love Him. To know my own vileness and wretchedness. To humble myself under the mighty hand of God. To bewail my sins and, for the purging of them, patiently to suffer adversity. Gladly to bear my purgatory here.

To be joyful in tribulations. To walk the narrow way that leads to life. To have the last thing in remembrance. To have ever before my eyes my death that is ever at hand. To make death no stranger to me. To foresee and consider the everlasting fire of hell. To pray for pardon before the judge comes.

To have continually in mind the Passion that Christ suffered for me. For His benefits unceasingly to give Him thanks. To buy the time again that I have lost. To abstain from vain conversations. To shun foolish mirth and gladness.

To cut off unnecessary recreations. Of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss at naught, for the winning of Christ.

To think my worst enemies my best friends, for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favour as they did him with their malice and hatred.

These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasures of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it gathered and laid together all in one heap. Amen.

 

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“A HOLY LIFE SWEETENS THE THOUGHT OF DEATH, AND THOUGHTS OF DEATH MAKE FOR A HOLY LIFE”

“The day will come when you find yourself on your deathbed. In that moment, you will see clearly all the vanity of this illusory world, you will be separated forever from all the things you love and will leave behind all the people you hold dear.

What with the anxieties of your last illness, the temptations of the infernal enemy and the fear of divine justice, you will find yourself going through a very difficult time that caused even the greatest saints to tremble.

If you have been devoted to the loving Heart of Jesus all your life, O, how much peace, consolation and courage will be given you in those terrible moments! O, how He will help you to fight well and suffer well in that last and most decisive battle! O, how sweet death will seem to you after you have loved the Heart of Jesus who will judge you; if you take refuge in His Heart, you will not find there any condemnation.

If by contrast, you live far from the Heart of Jesus, in the midst of sins and vanity, O, what bitter desolation you will feel in those supreme moments! O, how many painful reproaches you will hear from that Heart which you have offended and treated unworthily! O, what trouble, remorse and anguish will accompany your awful death! Since the place of condemnation will not be a place of refuge, Christian, the Heart of

Jesus calls you to think clearly about death. A holy life sweetens the thought of death, and thoughts of death make for a holy life. Think about this and act on it…
HOMAGE: Honour the Sacred Heart by an act of trust and hope in His goodness, and if thinking of the four last things makes you afraid, repeat with St Margaret, ‘The Heart of my Jesus wishes me to fear nothing.’
PRAYER: Laetabitur in te, memores cordis tui.
Death, judgement, heaven and hell, call me to you, O eternal God.”
– Mons. Nicola Tafuri

 

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THE HOLY ST GIANCINTA STARTED OFF BY BECOMING A NUN MORE OR LESS OUT OF SPITE

ST GIANCINTA, PRAY FOR US!

A noble girl of Rome thought of nothing but the world, forgetting God and her soul. Her head was full of vanities, balls, parties, fashion, theatre and worldly entertainments. It happened that her little sister secured a most advantageous marriage, and the elder sister was envious and full of jealousy, and she decided to become a nun out of spite. Without a vocation she entered the convent of St Claire in Viterbo and there she behaved very badly. She was proud, vain and unrestrained, she secretly read evil novels and made fun at the other nuns. She was chided by her superiors many times, but to no avail.

In the meantime, Jesus had chosen her for Himself, and then called her in a terrifying and most effective way. She was taken gravely ill. All scientific methods of making her better failed and she seemed doomed to die. She was in great fear because death was near and she had a frightening vision. It seems she saw the highest Judge in the act of firmly sentencing her and threatening her with eternal damnation. Shaking with fear, she promised that if she got better, she would change her whole life.

By a special grace, she was completely healed; she put a rope around her neck and she contritely prostrated herself and humbled herself before the others sisters, kissing the feet of each one and asking for forgiveness, in the midst of tears and sighs, for all the disrespect and wrong she had done. The great vision of death, judgment and hell, had moved her profoundly, it had illuminated her and she became a fervent lover of the most loving Heart of Jesus. What dolorous confessions! what fervent communion! what rigorous penance! what long contemplations! What rigorous observance of her vows and the Rule of her order! What great advances in all virtues, and what heavenly treasures and graces she received from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She is the dear St Giancinta Marescotti.

If the thought of the four last things makes you afraid, repeat with St Margaret: “The Heart of my Jesus wishes me to fear nothing.”.
PRAYER: Death, judgment, heaven and hell; call me to You, O eternal God.
– Mons. Nicola Tafuri

 
 

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