Souls Guided Past Hell

SoulCarriedtoHeavenNovember offers a unique spirituality in the prayers for the deceased. In the northern hemisphere we experience the dormancy of nature, a seasonal dying back to new life in spring. The cycle in nature of death and new life is reflected in our Catholic tradition. November is the month to remember the dead and their in-between time in purgatory, waiting new life in heaven.

In an article at Aleteia I wrote about dying, and my comfort with the strange grace of purgatory. Another thought that comes to mind is the accompaniment of our soul by the angels and saints as it leaves the body.

I’ve often been curious why this would be necessary. If the soul is meant for heaven wouldn’t it be drawn to God, like a sliver of metal to a magnet?

In the soul’s journey from the body—and earth—does it, in its most vulnerable state, need to be protected through enemy territory? Does it need to be protected from evil principalities that may try to snatch it at its weakest, when fear and uncertainty are at their peak?

The Catechism (CCC 1864) teaches that sin against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable. Is this the sin we face with our last breath of whether or not to accept Mercy? I wonder if the angles and saints come to us as an affirmation of heaven when the forces of evil, at our final moment, attempt to cloud our certainty of forgiveness and thereby gain our hell.

On the Roman Catholic calendar, the Feast of the Archangels is on September 29 and that of our Guardian Angels a few days later on October 2. Celebrating the person of angels may take place a few weeks ahead, but I come to appreciate their existence even more as I pray in November for souls in transition; in the process of departing their body.

I’ve nothing concrete to base this answer, and pray my words do not conflict with the teachings of the Magisterium. I believe Our Lord in his deep love for the soul, offers it protection along the final road lined with thieves. As always, we must choose to trust His gift.

Image William-Adolphe Bouguereau [Public domain USA], via Wikimedia Commons. 

I you’re interested in creating a Liturgical garden dedicated to Archangels, a particular saint, or guardian angels, see A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac published by Ave Maria Press.

And here, a sweet offering of the Celtic Song of Farewell sung by MaryAnn Polich.

For those who prefer the Latin Rite, In Paradisum, this one from a friend.


St. Rita of Casacia and the Lovely Lebanon Statue

Aleteia Image St RitaMy excitement cannot be contained at the new sculpture of St. Rita of Cascia, the patron of desperate causes. Though she is not my patron saint, she is well loved.

The article at Aleteia, written by Sub-Deacon Antoine Antoun, Beirut, shares the story behind its origin. He notes…

How appropriate that this was done by someone from Lebanon, and from the rocks of Lebanon, specifically from Tartej. From these rocks, Nayef Alwan, who is from Aitou al-Zgharta in Lebanon, sculpted the statue of Saint Rita. This statue will be erected at the birthplace of Saint Rita—at the entrance of the town of Cascia, Italy…

The statue depicts elements associated with this saint, and as a gardener, I delight in the stories of St. Rita and her connection with bees and roses. As a Catholic I’ve also prayed to her when things seemed desperate and asked for her intercession. The artist, Alwan makes clear…

…that Christians are a foundation of Lebanon and the region and will remain in it, because nothing shakes their resolve, whatever the sacrifices and suffering…. Despite the problems that beset Lebanon this … is a sanctuary to the saint so long as she is known as the patron saint of impossible causes. Perhaps she will intercede for Lebanon and the Lebanese people after their own solutions become impossible!

Below is a small piece of St. Rita’s story, an excerpt from my book A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac, Ave Maria Press. St. Rita , also known as Margarita of Cascia, lived 1381-1457, was born Italy, passing into eternal life on May 22, her memorial date in our church calendar. She has several patronages, the first being the Patron of Desperate Causes, she also has a special miraculous association with bees that began as an infant.

In the parish church of Laarne, near Ghent, Belgium, there is a statue of St. Rita in which several bees are featured. This depiction originates from the story of albino bees, a unique gift from God, which drew near St. Rita as an infant and reappeared after her death.

On the day after her baptism, her family noticed a swarm of bees flying around her as she slept. The bees were unusual because they were white in color, and they peacefully entered and exited the baby’s mouth without causing her any harm. Instead of being alarmed for her safety, her family was mystified by this sight. It is said that one of the farmers witnessing the event, whose arm had been deeply cut by a scythe, passed the injured arm over the child to shoo the bees away and his arm was miraculously healed.

Nearly two hundred years after her death, at the monastery St. Mary Magdalene of Cascia, where St. Rita had lived, the white bees appeared again. Then, as now, they come out of the wall during Holy Week—which we as Christians know varies from year to year—and remain about the gardens until St. Rita’s feast day of May 22, when they return for their mystical hibernation until the next year. During more recent centuries the bees are no longer white, appearing as any other bee of yellow but without a stinger.

There is another miraculous story of this saint set near the end of her life. When St. Rita was bedridden at her convent a cousin visited her and asked the saint if she desired anything from her old home in Rocca Porrena, Italy. St. Rita responded by asking for a rose and a fig from the garden. It was January and her cousin did not expect to find anything at the gardens due to the snowy weather. However, when she went to the homestead, a single blooming rose was found in the garden as well as a fully-ripened and edible fig. Her cousin brought the rose and fig back to St. Rita at the convent. Legend has it that this rose bush is still alive today and often in bloom.

St. Rita’s tomb with her incorrupt body is at the Basilica of Cascia in Italy.

Image by Antoine Antoun, Used with permission.


Prayers of a Spiritual Auntie

_DSC3155It’s a very tiny ministry that began last spring, praying for little people. It began by accident—if ever a thing of the Holy can be an accident—when an acquaintance asked that I pray for his children caught in the middle of his marital unrest.

After saying I would, there was a desire to pray specifically, and I asked for the name of each child. There were several; his was—and still is—a large Catholic family that was nearly run off the tracks.

I’ve never had children, nor really been around kids much through my life. I remember a dear friend spoke of praying for her sons and daughters, and another friend told me of tracing a cross on the foreheads of his children as he kissed them good-night.

The evening after our encounter the verse in Isaiah 54 came to mind:

Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in travail! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that is married, says the LORD.

…and the one from Psalms 113 also nudged me:

He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.

Here, I thought, was a way to love children that were not through me. And so began my ministry to pray for the future of our Church, a ministry I hope you too will adopt.

Image by Margaret Rose Realy Obl OSB. All rights reserved.

Image by Margaret Rose Realy Obl OSB. All rights reserved.

I purchased a small notebook that would fit in my purse or pocket, taped an old prayer card on the cover, and began seeking opportunities to ask permission from parents to add their children’s names to the book. The usual response was an enthusiastic, “Oh, please do!” The little book goes with me to Adoration and Mass, and has been touched to the Blessed Sacrament.

Included in the notebook is a parents prayer for the protection of children against demonic influences.

Eternal Father, you have entrusted the lives and souls of these children to my care. I beseech Thee now to offer them protection from demonic influences. Protect their eyes, ears, and lips from the lies, deceits, and seductions of the devil. Defend them from the attacks of the evil spirits, as well as those from wicked persons who align themselves with the dark forces. Guide them to virtuous desires and interests, shielding them from music, projections, and written words which are of a diabolical nature. Enlist your angels to stand beside them, leading them away from circumstances which would seduce them to sin. Keep them pure of heart to avoid the temptations of the flesh and physical gratification outside the confines of holy matrimony. Assist them as they struggle against the enticements of the world, showing them that all good things come from you alone, and that by following your laws they will not only attain true happiness, but the gift of eternal life with you in heaven. Amen.

I liked being a spiritual aunt if not a physical parent, and feel a special kind of joy when I see pictures of those for whom I pray shared on social media.

Each morning I ask Mother Mary to pray with me for the protection of the children whose names I bring to her Son.

I kind of like having kids in the oratory.


Image of boy and water by Gaborfromhung at

True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of Life, by Lisa Mladinich

tru radiance resizedWomen often struggle with discerning their inner beauty, wrestling with the flesh of our being as we age. A friend, Lisa, who exemplifies what it means to be a lady and age with grace, has written a lovely book on seeing ourselves as God sees us.

The promise of True Radiance is simple: Prayerful, faith-filled women become more beautiful as they age, not less. As a woman matures spiritually, as she grows in wisdom and holiness, she increasingly reflects a radiant inner beauty that touches others in countless ways.

If you’ve ever felt negative about the onset of middle age with its array of physical and psychological challenges, this book can help you redefine your perception of aging. Along the way, you’ll gain a greater understanding of the possibilities for relevance, value, and contribution waiting to be discovered.

Positive, personal, and practical advice from fellow traveler Lisa Mladinich will inspire and motivate you to thrive in the second half of life.