Skip to comments.Catholic Parapsychology: An Apostolate to the Holy Souls
Posted on 07/28/2010 11:56:17 AM PDT by NYer
In the course of my years as a psychotherapist, I have come across several such trustworthy manifestations: people -- who never had such experiences before or after -- claiming to hear the voice of a deceased person, or to see him, briefly but unmistakably. The "seer" typically does not know what to think about it, but is certain it was not a dream. In some cases there are multiple witnesses.
One client related that during family meetings on Sundays after the death of her mother (probably by suicide), precisely at the time her mother, during her life, normally served a drink, there was a loud, urgent rapping on the wall of the room, exactly the rhythmic and impelling way her mother used to firmly rap on the wall when she wanted to call her (adult) children to her room. Initially, no one in the company wanted to admit that this was strange, and they searched the house in vain for natural explanations. It was a recurrent phenomenon, but only during these customary family reunions. At last, one daughter, much excited, impulsively exclaimed, "Mother! Go away!" The rapping abruptly stopped, and was never heard again. I verified the story.
Italian journalist Vittorio Messori, known for his dialogues with Pope John Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger, said that when he was a young agnostic he once experienced an unmistakable signal from the "beyond." Exactly one year after the sudden death of his uncle (by an accident) -- and, as he later found out, at the precise moment in the night he had died -- Messori was awakened out of a sound sleep by the insistent ringing of the telephone. At first, he didn't get out of bed, for the telephone was at the opposite side of the apartment and he wanted to go on sleeping; but as the ringing went on, he reluctantly rose, crossed the apartment, and took up the receiver, now fully awake. He heard the noises and crackling that at the time were typical of long-distance calls, then suddenly a loud, clear voice that couldn't be but the voice of uncle Aldo: "Vittorio, Vittorio! I am Aldo! I'm well! I'm well! (Sto bene!)"
Although the meaning of this unexpected intervention from the afterlife is not certain, the experience cannot simply be dismissed.
In reaction to the publication of my book Hungry Souls, which deals with empirical evidence for the existence of purgatory -- namely, apparitions of suffering souls and the concrete traces some of them have left (burned-in hand marks, finger prints) -- readers from various countries sent me their personal experiences or those of people they know well, and at least some of these certainly seem worthy of belief. A different but very encouraging type of reaction came from persons who wrote that simple belief in purgatory never had been an issue in their life, but that now, impressed by the evidence and the neediness of the "poor souls," they had started praying for them. Others, among them persons who had consecrated their life to God, said they had intensified their prayers and "suffrages."
Why this observation? Because it shows that spreading the reliable stories of apparitions from the suffering souls does not only satisfy innate curiosity about the afterlife (although there is nothing amiss with this interest); it is an effective means of apostolate. Catholic parapsychology offers a body of empirical evidence that points to the existence of purgatory, deepens our understanding of it, and, above all, is a specific, powerful instrument to further the charitable devotion to the suffering souls.
The latter is clear if we consider that human compassion is aroused not so much by abstract reasoning, however truthful, as by concrete stories: visual evidence such as the beautiful burned-in hand mark of a passed-away priest in a corporale that is preserved in Czestochowa. Just as the most effective way to move people to donate a gift for the hungry souls in Africa can be to show a photograph of a helpless, starved child who looks at us with imploring eyes, it seems God more or less applies this method to spur on our charity toward the hungry souls in purgatory.
I therefore object to a priori objections to the empirical evidence for such apparitions, based on the unfounded belief that God simply "doesn't work that way." Some Protestants, too, have asked me if this were not promoting superstition or occultism, because their tradition excludes the notion of purgatory; others, often Catholics, in their "demythologized" ideas, simply shake off such evidence as antiquated.
Protestant skepticism can be corrected by critical study of the cases concerned, and by learning more about the distinction between true and false mysticism and about demonology. The skepticism of demythologized Catholics, on the other hand, can be corrected by insisting on the empirical, factual character of the apparitions and their objective traces, and by some philosophical reflection on the nature of human knowledge. Here on earth, we can only grasp the supernatural indirectly, by intermediary sensible perceptions and earthly images and concepts. These images/concepts are the best approximation of the supernatural that we have, so they are not purely symbolic. They really bring the supernatural nearer to us, the nearest possible: But its real reality lies beyond our intellectual powers.
The angel of Portugal appeared in Fatima as a radiant young man; of course, that perception did not but remotely reflect his angelic essence, but nevertheless it was not something purely symbolic, and there was a real communication between the seers and the angel. The same is true for souls from purgatory: They are somehow there, and in direct, personal contact with the seer. The same goes for visions of hell -- remember that the Blessed Virgin gave the children a look at it -- or of the abode of purgatory. Our insight into purgatory (or hell) is substantially improved by these apparitions and visions, while at the same time, paradoxically, the mystery of these places becomes ever more profound. Thus, we must gratefully learn from this "paranormal" evidence, not recklessly reject it as demonic or as medieval superstition, let alone disrespectfully scorn or caricature it as merely an illicit collection of "ghost stories."
My book Hungry Souls presents the insights of St. Catherine of Genoa (d. 1510) as crucial for a deeper understanding of purgatory and the condition of the soul in purification; she is called the theologian and psychologist of purgatory. Nothing in her remarks disproves the trustworthiness of apparitions from purgatory and their traces, or the testimonies about purgatory given by gifted, saintly souls who mystically have visited it. It is impossible, as some have tried to do, to create a contradiction between her analysis and the reports of apparitions and mystical visits. That critique flows from a wrong view of her mystical experience.
St. Catherine experienced the state of purgatory in her body and soul the moment she was in the confessional, and radically converted. "[S]he was put in the purgatory of the purification by the fiery love of God," as her confessor Marabotto wrote in her biography (Catherine never wrote anything; her statements were collected by him). She never visited purgatory or met any suffering souls; rather, "the fire of love in her soul made her understand how it stands with the souls" there. In the original Italian, vedeva interiormente en comprendera como stanno l'anime del purgatorio: "She looked in herself and understood the state of the souls in purgatory." This is not the same as going to purgatory and ostensibly seeing that there are no hungry souls visiting the living on earth; indeed, no holy soul would ever want to make or be capable of making such a visit.
Those who assure us that belief in the apparition of souls (and their traces) is superstition should be aware that their category of the superstitious comprises most Church Fathers, many popes, innumerable saints, key theologians (including Sts. Augustine, Thomas, Peter Canisius, Alphonsus of Liguori, the Curé of Ars, Padre Pio, and Faustina), and the great authorities on mysticism such as the Abbot Calmet and Father Saudreau. They, and the great mass of the faithful, have always believed in these manifestations, just as they have believed in miracles and other apparitions. Behind the apparitions from purgatory they discern the hand of God.
Their judgment is right. The apparition stories in Hungry Souls, for example, have been critically examined by theologians and other experts of the dioceses where they occurred and are ecclesiastically authenticated. The "traces," missals and pieces of cloth or wood with scorched imprints of fingers and hands, can be found in the collection of the "Museum of Purgatory" in Rome, an annex of the church that is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Suffrage. The collection was brought together from different European countries in the beginning of the 20th century by Rev. Vittore Jouët; it was part of his foundation of the Archfraternity of the Sacred Heart of Suffrage, aimed at spreading the specific devotion to the Sacred Heart as the source of all help to the souls in Purgatory (according to the revelations of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque). The items in the museum were instrumental for the propaganda of the devotion.
The location of church and museum, practically at the entrance of the Vatican, is not accidental. Pope St. Pius X actively sponsored not only the construction of the church but also protected the collection of "paranormal" objects, ensuring its continuation at a moment when it was endangered. When the collection was exhibited in a hall in the Vatican in August 1905, he paid a visit to it and showed himself content with what he had seen. Was he a sponsor of superstition
His successor, Pope Benedict XV, was the next active protector of the archconfraternity and its works. All leading priests and prelates in this enterprise were prudent men who knew that authentic supernatural manifestations are relatively infrequent, but that we must take them seriously. They warned against the two extremes of exaggerated credulity on the one hand and narrow-minded disbelief on the other. Father Jouët's successor, Msgr. Benedetti, knew these two polar reactions from daily experience, so to speak. Regarding the over-skeptical pole, he wrote:
The Facade of the Church
Parrocchia Sacro Cuore in Prati
Lungotevere Prati 12 – ROMA
PICCOLO MUSEO DEL PURGATORIO
DESCRIPTION OF THE MOST IMPORTANT RELICS
1. Photographic reproduction of the altar of Our Lady of the Rosary located in a chapel which existed before 1900 between the present church and the religious house. One can see the picture which remained on the wall after a small fire took place on 15 November 1897.
2. Three finger-prints on the prayer book of Maria Zaganti of the Parish of St. Andrew in Poggio Berni (Rimini), left by the deceased Palmira Rastelli, the parish priest’s sister, on 5 March 1871. Palmira Rastelli, who had died on 28 December 1870, asked her brother, Don Sante Rastelli, by means or her friend, for some Holy Masses.
3. The apparition, in 1875, of Luisa Le Sénèchal (born at Chanvrières; died on 7 May1873), to her husband Luigi Le Sénèchal, in their house at Ducey (Manche-France), asking him to pray for her and leaving as a sign the print of five fingers on his night-cap. According to the document authenticating the apparition, the burn on the night-cap had been by the deceased lady so that the husband could give a concrete proof to their daughter of the request to celebrate Masses.
4. A photocopy (the original is kept at Winnemberg near Warendorf in Westfalia, Germany), of a burn mark made on the apron of Sister M. Herendorps, a lay sister of the Benedictine Monastery of Winnemberg, on Saturday 13 October 1696 by the hand of the deceased Sr. Mary Care Schoelers, a choir sister of the same order, a victim of the plague of 1637. The lower part of the photocopy shows the impression of two hands made by the same Sister on a strip of linen.
5. A photo of the mark made by the deceased Mrs. Leleux, on the sleeve of her son Joseph’s shirt, when she appeared to him on the night of 21 June 1789 at Wodecq (Belgium). The son related that for a period of eleven consecutive nights, he had heard noises which almost made him sick with fear, at the end of which his mother appeared to him on 21 June 1789. Reminding him of his duty or having Masses said in compliance with the terms of a legacy left him by his father, she reproached him for his way of life and begged him to change his behaviour and to work for the Church. Then she put her hand on the sleeve of his shirt, leaving on it a very clear impression. Joseph Leleux was converted and founded a congregation of pious laity. He died in the odour of sanctity on 19 April 1825.
6. A finger print left by the pious Sister Mary of St. Luigi Gonzaga, when she appeared to Sister Margareth of the Sacred Heart, on the night between 5 and 6 June 1894. As recorded in the annals of the monastery of St. Clare of the Child Jesus in Bastia (Perugia), Sr. Mary suffered from tuberculosis, high temperature, coughs and asthma, and was so depressed that she wished greatly to die so as not to endure such suffering. Being a very fervent soul, however, she resigned herself to God’s will. She died a holy death a few days later, on the morning of 5 June 1894. That same night she appeared dressed as a Poor Clare nun in a hazy atmosphere, but Sister Margareth could recognize her. To Sister Margareth’s surprise, the deceased nun said that she was in Purgatory to expiate for her lack of patience in accepting God’s will. She asked for prayers and as a proof of her apparition she placed her forefinger on the pillow and promised to return. In fact, she appeared again to the same nun on June 20 and 25 to thank and give spiritual advice to the Community before she went up to Heaven.
No. 7: Fr. Panzini’s Handprint and Cross
7. Marks left on a small wooden table and on the sleeve and chemise of the Venerable Mother Isabella Fornari, abbess of the Poor Clares of the Monastery of St. Francis in Todi. The four marks were left by the deceased Fr. Panzini, former Abbot Olivetano of Mantua, on the 1st November 1731. The first mark is on the left hand impressed on the table which Mother Isabella used for her work (it is very clear and bears the sign of a cross cut deeply into the wood); the second is of the same left hand made now on a sheet of paper; the third is of the right hand and was made on the sleeve of the Abbess’s tunic; the fourth is the same made on the tunic, but which passed through the tunic and left an imprint on the sleeve of the chemise, stained with blood. The account of this event was given by Fr. Isidoro Gazata of the Blessed Crucifix, the confessor of the Abbess. He ordered her to cut off from her tunic and chemise the parts where the marks were made and to give them to him to keep.
8. Mark left on the copy of «The Imitation of Christ» belonging to Margherite Demmerlé of Ellinghen Parish (diocese of Metz) by her mother-in-law who appeared to in 1815, thirty years after her death in 1785. The deceased lady appeared dressed as a pilgrim in the traditional costume of her country; she was coming down the stairs of the barn sighing and looking at her daughter-in-law, almost as if begging for something. Margherite, on the advice of the parish priest, spoke to her and received the following answer: «I am your mother-in-law who died in child-birth thirty years ago. Go on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariental, and have two Masses said for me there. After the pilgrimage she appeared again to Margherite to tell her that she had been released from Purgatory. When her daughter-in-law, on the advice of the parish priest, asked her for a sign, she put her hand on the book and left a burn mark. After that she appeared no more.
No. 9: Joseph Schitz’ fingerprints on a German Prayerbook
9. Fiery finger prints by the deceased Joseph Schitz when he touched with his right hand the (German) prayer book of his brother George on 21 December 1838 at Sarralbe (Lorraine). The deceased man asked for prayer in expiation of his lack of piety during his life on earth.
10. Photocopy of a ten lire Italian banknote. Between 18 August and 9 November 1919 a total of thirty such notes were left at the Monastery of St. Leonardo in Montefalco by a deceased priest who asked for Masses to be said. (The original of this note has been returned to the Monastery of St. Leonardo where it is still kept).
Over the Door, The Holy Souls
He heard the noises and crackling that at the time were typical of long-distance calls, then suddenly a loud, clear voice that couldn't be but the voice of uncle Aldo: "Vittorio, Vittorio! I am Aldo! I'm well! I'm well! (Sto bene!)"I loved this post! Thank you.
The book on Teresa Neumann (mentioned in your post) was one of the first I read as a Catholic, and I found her story initially hard to grasp. I really enjoyed, though, when she said [and she fasted for 36 years until her death, suffering with the stigmata and the Passion every Friday, with only the Holy Eucharist as nourishment, even the water she used to brush her teeth was expelled], that the reason she was heavy (had extra weight) was because she took after her mother. Through it all, she had a sense of humor. *smiles*
My father in law had polio as a child. It left him crippled in one leg and with a weak heart. That did not stop him from marrying and producing two strapping men. This was not a religious family. They lived up in the foothills of Italy; simple country folk. Their 'house' was centuries old with a corner fireplace in the kitchen in front of which hung a hook for the stew pot. They 'modernized' the kitchen in the early part of the 20th century by installing a wood burning stove. Well ... you get the picture of what life was like in this town. The one and only church was also ancient, built into the walls adjacent to the castle. The priest assigned to the church had been there for decades and was a crotchety and miserable man.
When my father in law died, the priest refused him a funeral at the town church. The family had to make arrangements to transport him to another town for the funeral. This was early December. My husband insisted that we spend Christmas with his mother. In that part of the world, when there is a death, there is no celebration of anything, for 12 months. On Christmas Day, the butcher across the street ran into my inlaws house screaming my mother in law's name. When he finally calmed down, he said he had a dream about my father in law. "He was sitting on a bench, with no cane, and a big smile on his face."
These country people are not ones to believe in the supernatural. So you can imagine how this 'message' was received .. and on Christmas day!!
Got the chills on that one. That’s a great story; I was “transported” for a bit. Was about ready to head south to Malta to visit my friend.:)
I had a coworker whose husband shot himself while she was at Ash Wednesday Mass, and another coworker who dropped dead at the office, 40 years old. I dreamed that I saw the husband, the suicide (alcoholic, depression) on the golf course with my late grandfather, and when I told my friend, she said, “I saw him golfing, too!”
The second man, I dreamed he was sitting in my elementary school, taking the CPA exam, proctored by nuns. (It was a public elementary school ;-). He said, “I’m doing okay ... I’m halfway through.” I used to pray for him at every Mass, but I’ve forgotten to, with my choir duties. I need to keep it up! Father Meinhardt said prayers for the deceased are never wasted: they always go to help *someone* if the designee is already in Heaven.
Do you really have a friend in Malta?! I watched the coverage of the pope's visit to Malta earlier this year. Most impressed to learn the country is 97% Catholic and dreaded that Evangelicals, who also tuned in, might flood the country in an effort to save souls :-)
Put up with you? Nonsense! I too have made some solid friendships over the internet.
I had a little extra money last summer when my mother passed away, and I wanted to visit her, but I was a little afraid I wouldn't come back!:)
Go for it!! Having once worked for an international airline, I was privileged to travel at reduced rates. One destination that repeatedly grabbed my heart was Florence Italy. The attraction was so intense that I mentally decided that I would one day retire to the Florentine countryside and be buried on a hill overlooking the city. I'm getting ready to retire early, in 2 more months. But I no longer have the means to make that journey to Florence. Instead, I am now job hunting for some additional resources to keep us afloat.
One destination that repeatedly grabbed my heart was Florence Italy. The attraction was so intense that I mentally decided that I would one day retire to the Florentine countryside and be buried on a hill overlooking the city.Do you have a picture of two that you took? If so, I'd love to see ...
Of possible interest:
Holy Souls Sodality: http://prayforsouls.org/
Ah, Florence is beautiful. Though, if you really wish to live in Tuscany, the cost of living in the villages is not that high. You would need to forego much of the luxuries available in the US though. I’ve moved to Warsaw, poland and I love it here. Would love to meet you in Europe
Thanks for the invite! I would love to return to Italy but only to visit. Will definitely let you know if I decide to make the trip.