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From the archives:


It is the time of year to think of the deceased. It is All Souls' Day. Are we ready? Are we preparing ourselves for the afterlife? Have we prayed enough for those who have gone before us?

Those questions were taken up by Catholic author Susan Tassone in a beautiful book, Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. She has now also penned a new one, Day by Day for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

"Purgatory is an emergency entrance to Heaven for those who have wasted grace on earth," writes Susan. "What God considered the exception became the rule, and the rule -- to go straight to Heaven -- has become the exception."

She quotes St. John of the Cross as saying, "Divine Providence always provides in every life the purification that is needed to allow us to go straight to Heaven."

Are we headed there? And what have we done for our loved ones?

"This is a loving purgatory, not a purgatory of punishment," she says. "God is a God of unspeakable purity. The very vision of God causes eternal purity and blessedness. It is the sublime beauty of God that ravishes these souls, and they will not go before Him with the least stain."

In the afterlife, all that we are is visible. We "wear" it. Where is our "dirt"? What will our robes look like?

Will there be the brilliant white clothing of Heaven -- described by one woman who claimed to glimpse it as a combination of spun glass and spun cotton; will it be that or the stained ones seen in purgatory?

We enter "clothed" with the state of our innermost chambers.

"Every trace of attachment to evil must be eliminated, every imperfection of the soul corrected, " the great John Paul II once said, as Tassone relates. "Purification must be complete, and indeed this is precisely what is meant by the Church's teaching on purgatory."

When we pray, we help souls purify their heavenly attire. And they are aware of us. When we pray for them, the Blessed Mother once said, reality "scrolls" up. They can see us. And as Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once intoned:

"As we enter Heaven, we will see them, so many of them, coming toward us and thanking us. We will ask who they are and they will say: 'A poor soul you prayed for in purgatory.'"

"One day I asked the Lord, ‘Lord, who else should I pray for?’" said St. Faustina of Poland. "Jesus said that on the following night He would let me know for whom I should always pray for.

"The following night, I saw my Guardian Angel who asked me to follow him. In a moment I was in a misty place full of fire in which there was a great crowd of suffering souls. They were praying fervently, but to no avail, for themselves; only we can come to their aid." 

One day, we will not only see the effect of our prayers but the entire interaction between natural and supernatural, living and dead.

Back on August 11, 1983, Susan, who lives in Chicago, was in an accident with a cab that her left leg paralyzed. The doctor said it was permanently damaged.

This was rather intriguing because fifty years earlier -- to the day -- a great aunt known as "little Mary," who was ten at the time, was also injured in a car accident (in her case fatally).

What forces were at work with the message of "coincidence"?

"She died, I survived," writes Tassone in her new book. "A priest told me that my life was spared and that I had a mission. He said that sometimes a sacrifice is made in the family for a greater cause."

It shook Tassone up. Eventually, she visited a famous Marian pilgrimage site, and was cured. But let's get back to that family issue:

Susan's mission, as it happens, ended up being purgatory -- and since the visit to that shrine (in 1993), she has become the most well-known advocate for those poor holy souls who have not yet attained Heaven, writing bestselling booklets about them and raising two million dollars for Mass stipends.

It is her cause. It is her obsession. Was it also the tug of "little Mary"?

[resources: Praying with the Saints for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and Day by Day for the Holy Souls in Purgatory]

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