Monday, November 2, 2015

Angels and the Holy Souls

Catholic tradition has given us some fascinating teachings and thoughts on the role of our guardian angels after we leave this life for the soul-cleansing confines of purgatory. (Assuming, of course, that we make it there and not any lower.) 

According to early Church Fathers, the guardian angel leads the soul to purgatory and thereafter visits and consoles that soul until its release. The angel also helps the soul by inspiring friends and relatives left on earth to pray and offer Masses for their departed loved one.

Moreover, some spiritual writers believe that the angels reveal to the poor souls the identities of those who are praying for them on earth so that, in reciprocal fashion, the holy souls can pray for them. 

As St. Augustine tells us: “The departed may be informed by the angels of things happening in the world, insofar as this is permitted by Him to Whose judgment everything is subject.”

Some saints have even "visited" purgatory (via mystical experiences or spiritual bilocation) and witnessed for themselves the close relationship between the poor souls and their angels. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque wrote that during her experience she saw:
" . . . an immense space filled with flames and glowing coals and, amid these, a great number of poor souls in human form, raising their hands to Heaven and imploring mercy. But all the while their Guardian Angels were at their side, inspiring them with courage and comforting them in the most tender manner."  (The Guardian Angels, Our Heavenly Companions, 1956)
St. Lydwine was also shown purgatory, having "flown" there on several occasions in the accompaniment of her own guardian angel. On one of her visits she saw a sad-looking angel keeping company the soul of a man who had been languishing there for twelve years. When Lydwine "returned" to her earthly surroundings, she immediately offered her physical sufferings for the soul of that man. Several days later, the man's angel appeared to her. No longer sad-looking, the angel joyously declared that the man had been freed from purgatory, thanks to Lydwine's sacrificial acts.

And what about that last part? The "get out of jail" part? Well, the language in this passage is a little old-fashioned, but it gets the point across nicely:
"As soon as the hour of release has struck for one of the suffering souls, the Guardian Angel of that happy soul is commissioned by God to descend into Purgatory, to open the doors of its prison and to lead the delivered soul without delay into the eternal habitations of Paradise. The good Angel descends with the rapidity of lightning into the dismal prison of pain to carry out the work of release because his love for his cherished ward urges him to liberate the Poor Soul and to lead it to the sight and possession of God. The Guardian Angel is often accompanied by other Angels or by a whole multitude of Angels, and then the entrance of the released soul is truly a triumphant one."  (ibid)
It is worth remembering that our Tradition also teaches that those of us who had the most devotion to our guardian angels on earth will have the most assistance from them in purgatory.

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