This is another interesting article I read on the same Newspaper while taking my breakfast on All Souls Day yesterday. In this article, the Priest explains why some souls go beyond the forty days grace period of staying on earth instead of meeting his creator immediately. The Priest was very detailed and also careful in defining the line between the legitimate souls who need our prayers and the evil spirits who mimic souls and scare the heck out of all of us. The souls who wander on earth are those souls who freely chose to stay here in our turf because of various reasons known only to the soul: perhaps attachments or unfinished business. But what struck me is the fact that the priest has injected the concept of free will even on death. He said that even in death, God respects our free will. Hmm that explains why Sam did not immediately followed the light in “Ghost”. Read the article below, its quite interesting and I hope after reading this article, you may find time in praying for the souls of our departed loved one even those who we do not know…
Troubled souls stay longer, need Prayers
Published on November 2, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Christians believe a soul is given 40 days from the time of death to settle unfinished business before it goes to its final destination—a period rooted in Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday and his Ascension into heaven.
According to Fr. Dominador “Domie” Guzman of the Society of St. Paul, however, there are troubled souls that tend to stay a little longer on earth because of attachments to surviving relatives, worldly assets or unsettled deals overtaken by death.
Prayers are the most vital gift that loved ones can give to help these souls move on, Guzman said in a recent interview with the Inquirer.
On All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day, visits to the cemetery are always accompanied by the offering of lighted candles and flowers.
“Human as we are, we need certain symbols, and the visual reminder of a lighted candle with its smoke going up helps us understand that as we pray, our prayers rise up to God,” Guzman said.
“There are those, especially the ones who encountered tragic deaths like accidents or terminal disease. We speak of troubled souls who tend to linger around because they have not yet accepted what happened to them,” Guzman said.
In some instances, they stay on earth beyond the 40-day “grace period” because of the difficulty in getting over their attachment.
“Normally, if the person followed the right path while still alive, once the soul is separated from the body, the soul goes to meet his judgment. But there are souls who don’t go that way,” Guzman said.
“It’s a decision the souls make. They don’t like to follow the light first … It’s not that God permits them (to linger) but God respects their freedom to move around,” the priest explained. Why so?
“God always respects one gift He has given, that is free will. He respects the free will in men who are alive … Even in death, the Lord respects that freedom,” he said.
There is a distinction between the troubled souls of the dead and evil spirits that scare and harass people, Guzman said.
“There are two different manifestations of spirits. There are spirits of darkness and there are also spirits of persons who remain because of their attachments,” he noted.
Troubled souls are the ones that need prayers, Guzman said.
Filipino Catholics observe the 40-day tradition where daily prayers and novenas are recited to help the soul of a dead relative seek forgiveness and acceptance before God.
On the 40th day, they attend Mass and hold a simple feast to celebrate the soul’s final journey to Heaven.
The Church traces this to the Jewish belief that goes back to the Old Testament that the soul stays on earth for four days after death, Guzman said.
“The Jews have a similar belief that four days after death, the spirit lingers. That in four days, resuscitation is still possible,” he said.
The story of Lazarus
“This explains why in the New Testament, when Lazarus died and Jesus came, Martha says to Jesus, ‘He had been dead for four days.’ That was Martha’s way of saying (the time for resuscitation) has lapsed,” the priest added.
Guzman, the head of publications of St. Paul’s Philippines, said the 40 days were also meant to help the surviving relatives accept his death and prepare for life without the one who passed on.
“The family left behind should be able to release the person and pray that the soul be guided to the light, apart from allowing the soul to seek his peace in the other life,” he explained.
It is better, however, for the family to start praying for the soul of a dying person even before he takes his final breath.
“The moment of death should already be a time for the relatives to accompany a dying person in prayer, to make a choice for God, to put everything under God’s mercy. So that after the 40 days, the family is assured it has done its role in encouraging the soul to go into the presence of God and meet His judgment,” Guzman said.
Those in purgatory
The priest added that prayers are most helpful to souls who may have to spend time in purgatory.
Catholic doctrine says the souls of those who died but have not fully atoned for sins committed are bound to stay in purgatory.
This is to purify their souls, a prerequisite before they are finally allowed to meet God in heaven.
While the souls in purgatory can intercede for surviving loved ones, they cannot pray for themselves. Thus, friends and relatives are encouraged to offer prayers for them to hasten their ascent to heaven.
“When we pray for a person’s soul, we are not really sure where he is, but we rely on God’s mercy. And even if our prayers have already helped the soul come to the light, we continue to pray for this person. Our prayers do not go to waste, they would still benefit other souls who also need prayers,” Guzman said.
“A lighted candle is always a symbol of God. Light breaking out of the darkness is a symbol of the victory of Christ. So it is important that when we light the candles on a loved one’s grave, we know what it is all about—it symbolizes our prayers and our belief that when we pray, God is with us as the light that conquered the darkness,” he added.
Flowers, Guzman said, “are more a show of affection for those who have been dear to us.”
Romuald Matthieson: a.k.a. "bluepanjeet" has been writing in cyber space since 2005. In 2006, he jump-started his Catholic blogging a few years before the Catholic Church utilized social networks and blogs in spreading the Gospel. In 2007, in response to a realization of the growing need for Catholic Bloggers online, he officially launched his own self-hosted Catholic blog and called it "On The Wings Of My Dream" or simply OTWOMD which is a metaphor of his favorite psalm in the Bible, Psalm 63. Since then he has been blogging, (and sometimes podcasting) for the Catholic Church using his enthusiasm in the New Media, his inclination on visual and digital arts, his passion for the written word and his love for the Catholic Church. You can follow Rom's tweets on Twitter @rommatthieson