Preparing for All Souls
I know, I know. Halloween is next week, which means All Souls Day comes right after. But the theme of spirits and demons, along with the salvation of souls, plays a large part in today’s “From The Feedbag” letter, which comes from a listener who is grieving the loss of her nephew, who took his own life.
Dear Fr. Leo,
I heard you on Catholic Answers radio show and the subject was spiritual combat. Thank you for being on the show. I listened on my way home from work.
My nephew took his life this past July. He stopped taking his medication and thought he was possessed by a demon. My question, my sister feels that since he prayed the rosary and wore the scapular he is in Heaven? Can we be certain that his soul is in Heaven? He was married and was expecting his first child this month.
Thank you for any advice or literature to read concerning the Church’s teaching on suicide.
God bless you.
A Sad but Hopeful Aunt
Dear Sad but Hopeful,
I want to express my sincere and prayerful condolences to you and your family for this sad and unprepared-for loss. Suicide is a desperate form of communication of hopelessness, at least for that moment for the person who died.
The Church continues to believe that taking a life, including your own, is a sin because no one has that right but God. At the same time, however, the Church understands the pastoral necessity to explain, along with the sound teachings of true and authentic psychologists, that sometimes a person who commits suicide is not “free” to know the entire scope of their actions. In other words, they may be trying to escape, rather than trying to kill - even if it turns out looking and feeling exactly the same - namely, death.
No doubt there is great confusion for a person that wants to take their own life. However, it may or may not be a case of demonic possession. Yet, recently Church has unfortunately experienced a slight increase in the reporting of demonic possession. But I cannot confirm or deny that in this particular case. We have to be delicate in explaining the balance that evil exists, but just because a person feels he or she is possessed, that may not necessarily be the case. It could be a sign of many things that deal more with psychological and personal imbalance, rather than spiritual reality.
One of the things I tell people during this heartbreaking situation is that God understood what the suicide victim was going through and that God loved that person beyond measure - especially at the moment of the death. Sometimes, a person commits this deathly act because there is a loss of hope, a fearfulness of the unknown, and even an impatience with a current situation, especially if the person is trying to escape from pain, physically or emotionally. Can God forgive a person for these sins and sinful inclinations? Yes, most certainly He can.
Therefore, it’s very important for us to remember and ask God to continue to forgive the sins of people who have died. We can intercede on their behalf by telling God that we still love that person who died, even if they are imperfect. We can beg God to forgive them for their sins and to bring them to Heaven. The Church teaches we can have a certain hope: that God loves us and wants us to be with Him in Heaven. Yet, only God can decide that. Therefore, we must always and forever continue to pray for that person, because it can help us to learn how to avoid the same pitfalls of depression and turn more and more to God for the help to make it through the depressing stages of our life.
I realize this may not be the exact answer you want, but it’s the most sensitive response I can offer in this difficult situation, especially since I don’t have all of the facts about this situation. At the same time, I can tell you that your question gave me a chance to address all of our subscribed members by reassuring them that God is a forgiving God – as long as we are willing to ask for it for ourselves and others.
Regarding possession and the demonic, I also offer our members a caution that it is real – very real. As America prepares for Halloween, and Catholics prepare for All Soul’s Day, we have to remember the reality of the spiritual life, to take it seriously, and to take caution not to dabble in things that can invite dark or evil spirits into the heart or your home.
Also consider protecting your family from the spirits that want to destroy the home by praying together, providing appropriate and beautiful sacramentals in the home - such as a holy image of the Lord or the Saints, and by making sure the family prays at Mass and talks about Faith around the dinner table.
I can say for sure that my own family experienced struggles in the psychological, emotional, and spiritual realm. But one thing that keeps us strong, safe, and joyful (notice, I didn’t say “perfect”), is a regular celebration of our faith, around the Table in God’s Church (i.e., Altar at Mass) and around the domestic church’s altar (i.e., the dinner table each day together)
NOTE: You may notice some changes and/or technical difficulties on our website. We apologize for any inconvenience but the good news is that our new website is officially going to be ready to launch by November 1, 2012 (All Souls Day) and will help more families to grow together in faith and fun.
ALSO, with the Christmas Holiday season coming up, we hope you consider sharing Fr. Leo’s newest book Spicing Up Married Life with friends and family of all ages. Head over to the new GBM Shopping Cart and place your order, and if you want Fr. Leo to SIGN & DEDICATE your books or apparel, then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to get them to you as soon as possible.** More discounts and ways to save will be coming soon.
**For those who wish to have dedications, please allow an additional week for delivery to account for Fr. Leo’s availability. He’s all over the place!
|Let us pray: Father, protect families from evil. Keep them focused the on theological virtues of Faith, hope and love. Remind them of God’s healing power. And give comfort to those who continue to mourn the death of family members through the sadness and brokenness of suicide. Forgive their sins, have mercy on us all, and bring us to everlasting life with You in Heaven, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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