Sunday, February 28, 2016

How St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila) performed a spiritual work of mercy: praying for the living and the dead.

St. Teresa pleading the cause of the sinners in purgatory-Image: Public Domain

In this excerpt from the Book of Her Life, look for the ways in which St. Teresa prayed for the dead:

*She went to church to pray for the soul
*She offered up all the good she had done in her life for the soul
*She prayed earnestly and intensely (beseeched the Lord) for the 
*She asked others to pray for the the departed soul
*She prayed the Office of the Dead for the soul
*She attended Mass for the soul (in other accounts of Chap. 38)

St. Teresa was blessed with many visions and mystical experiences. In this excerpt, she explains the visions she received of departed souls. 

I was told that someone who had been our provincial was dead (although when he died he was in another province). I had had some dealings with him and was indebted to him for some good deeds. He was a person of many virtues. As soon as I learned he was dead, I felt much disturbance because I feared for his salvation in that he had been a superior for twenty years. Being a superior is something I am indeed very afraid of since I think having souls in one's charge involves a lot of danger; with much anxiety I went to an oratory. I offered up for him all the good in my life, which must in fact amount to little, and so I asked the Lord to supply from His own merits what was necessary for that soul to be freed from purgatory.

While beseeching the Lord for this as best I could, it seemed to me that person came out from the depths of the earth at my right side and that I saw him ascend to heaven with the greatest happiness. He had been well advanced in years, but I saw him as only about thirty, or even less I think, and his countenance was resplendent. This vision passed very quickly; but I was so extremely consoled that his death could never cause me any more sorrow, although I saw persons who were filled with grief over his loss since he had been generally highly esteemed. The consolation my soul experienced was so great I couldn't worry about him, nor could I doubt that it was a vision; I mean that it was not an illusion. No more than fifteen days had passed since his death. However, I didn't neglect to get others to pray for him and to pray myself, except that I couldn't do so with the eagerness I would have if I hadn't seen this vision. When the Lord shows some persons to me in this way and afterward I desire to pray for them to His Majesty, it seems to me without my being able to help it, that doing so is like giving alms to the rich. Afterward I learned--for he died quite far from here--of the death the Lord had given him; it was so greatly edifying, because of the knowledge, tears, and humility with which he died, that it left everyone amazed.

Again, she tells of another experience with a departed soul:

One of the nuns in the house who had been a great servant of God had been dead a little more than a day and a half. A nun was reciting a reading in the choir from the Office of the Dead, which was being said for the departed soul, and I was standing so as to recite the verse with her. When she was half through the reading, I saw the nun who had died; it seemed to me her soul had come out at my right side just as in the previous case and was going to heaven. This was not an imaginative vision as was the former one, but like the others I mentioned; yet this kind is a certain as the imaginative visions
The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila. Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D., and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1987, Print.

St. Teresa tells us that the Lord was pleased to show her the degrees of glory these souls possessed. After experiencing these visions, she states, "Great is the difference that lies between the glory of some and that of others."

St. Teresa recounts several other visions of the dead in her writings. You can read them in Chapter 38 of the Book of Her Life. Let us remember that we are not to seek out these experiences. We must travel the road of pure faith in which there are no signs and knowledge of the state of a departed soul. This is part of the cross that we bear in life; that we continually pray for the living and the dead. Saint Teresa herself continued to pray for these souls even after she witnessed them going to heaven, because she still had a desire in her heart to pray for them, she states:

When the Lord shows some persons to me in this way and afterward I desire to pray for them to His Majesty, it seems to me, without my being able to help it, that doing so is like giving alms to the rich.

In the Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us increase our efforts to pray for our departed brothers and sisters in Christ, the Church Suffering, who have gone before us. Let us continue to pray for all the souls in purgatory, remembering especially those who are in most need of God's mercy.

The season of Lent is a wonderful time to begin a devotion to the holy souls in purgatory. One can pray the Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, make a Holy Hour of Eucharistic Adoration, etc. Remember, too, that one can gain an indulgence for the Holy Souls by praying for the intentions of the Holy Father after you complete your devotion. 

Learn more about gaining a plenary indulgence during the year of mercy:

May all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie, OCDS

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