... prayers for the departed souls became a distinguishing feature of Nicholas' spirituality and ministry.
Q. Is there a patron saint for the souls in purgatory? (Columbus, Ohio)
A. Two saints in particular are often invoked on behalf of the souls in purgatory. One is St. Nicholas of Tolentino, a 13th-century Augustinian priest, and the other is St. Gertrude the Great, a 13th-century Benedictine nun.
Not long after his ordination, Nicholas had a striking dream in which a deceased Augustinian appeared to him and begged his prayers to be released from the "purifying torments" that he was undergoing. Nicholas spent that night in prayer and then offered his Masses during the following week for the suffering priest.
A short time later, that same priest appeared again and assured Nicholas that he had been released from purgatory. As a result, prayers for the departed souls became a distinguishing feature of Nicholas' spirituality and ministry.
Gertrude the Great was one of the earliest mystics to whom Jesus encouraged devotion to his Sacred Heart. According to tradition, Gertrude was told by the Lord that the recitation of a particular short prayer would result in the immediate release of 1,000 souls from purgatory.
That supposed promise, however, appears nowhere in the recorded writings of Gertrude; and in the late 1890s, the Holy See challenged a rash of holy cards then being released with false promises and indulgences. The Vatican declared that any prayers guaranteeing the automatic release of a specific number of souls from purgatory were "apocryphal" and should be rejected by the faithful.
The feast of All Souls is celebrated by the universal church on Nov. 2, and countless Catholics pray for them regularly, especially during the month of November.
Q. Two years ago I met a perfect gentleman on a church bus tour, and we dated for a year and a half. But then he changed, and I discovered that he had multiple personalities. He telephoned me and asked me to come to his house so that we could have sex. I was shocked at the request, refused and hung up.
Then, for several weeks, the phone calls continued and became even more graphic. My question is this: Should I confess to my priest that I continued listening to these conversations? Also, this man is a weekly eucharistic minister at our parish. Should I say something to the pastor? Kindly advise me. (Maryland)
A. It would seem to me that, far from encouraging these phone calls or being entertained by them, you found them disturbing and even disgusting. So I think that you probably don't need to go to confession -- but if it would bring you some measure of comfort, then by all means do so.
As for mentioning the matter to your pastor, that would be a good idea. When I read your question, I tried to imagine what I would do as a pastor upon receiving such information. I think that, with your permission, I would approach the man and tell him that I am concerned on two counts.
One has to do with the state of his soul since, if the information is correct, what he has been doing is clearly improper and immoral. The other is that you, as the recipient of these calls, have found them disturbing -- and, as a pastor, I feel a responsibility also to safeguard your own peace of mind.
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Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.
Father Kenneth Doyle is a columnist for Catholic News Service