All Souls’ Day

The day after Halloween is All Saints’ Day (in the Catholic Church calendar).  The next day is All Souls’ Day.

The soul.  Many agree it is the mystical core of our being…our existence.  This is the blank slate that gets stained and marked and written upon through our deeds in life.  When our corporeal bodies are laid to rest…the soul ‘lives’ on.  In some religions, it is what gets passed along in the reincarnation cycle.  In Christian theologies, the soul is what gets looked at during the Last Judgement.

When I was in Catholic school, I was told that on All Souls’ Day, I could go into the church and, after saying a certain number of prayers, a soul would be released from Purgatory.  I could do this all day…freeing souls to continue onto Heaven.  The only catch was I had to get up and leave the church…then come back in to start over.  A hassle for me in foul weather, but a good thing for the souls stuck in the line to Bliss.

Then, quite to my surprise, the Church demoted Purgatory.  It wasn’t an item of belief anymore.  (I still think I’m destined for the place…so I fall back on the indulgences of the past, also on the “out” list of the official Church teachings.)  So, I let cars make turns in front of me to keep the flow of traffic going and to keep knocking off those million years I’m sure to spend paying for the sins of my youth.

But, the soul is also supposed to be the entity behind ghosts and hauntings.  These souls are “caught” between this world and the next…according to theory, anyway.  I tend to go along with this concept.  Especially when I think of  murder victims…who never saw it coming. That is why I think battlefields are probably quite haunted, indeed.  A poor 17 year-old gets hit by a mini-ball in the temple and…one minute he’s thinking of his girlfriend…and the next he’s looking down on the carnage below.

The soul.  I read that there was an experiment by a Doctor who put a terminally ill patient on a very accurate scale…and waited until this individual took his or her final breath of earth’s air.  He found, much to his astonishment that the soul had mass (weight).  For those of you interested in these things, the soul’s mass is 21 grams. (There was a movie made in the last few years with this title).  For you non-metric types, think of 21 average sized paper clips.  Heft those clips in your hand.  That is the mass of whatever it is that has been called the “soul”.

All the collective human experiences of sins, good deeds, pain, tears, fear, loss, joy, love, knowledge, hate, and pity are in that tiny mass that feels like the paper clips in your palm.

I’m not a religious person and I am a skeptic when it comes to ghosts and apparitions.  (But I love a good scary tale).

But, since science will never be able to explain certain things…then the power of belief must fill in the blanks.

The soul. I feel that something is within us.  Something that knows the difference between evil and good, love and hate and the satisfaction of forgiveness.

I think the soul and the heart are the same.  Not the heart of muscle and valves…but the heart that can be filled with joy and amazement…and the heart that can be broken by a single word.

The photograph below is one I found on several Internet sites.  It is purported to be the “soul” of a deceased person taken at the moment of death.  I cannot speak to its authenticity.  I just thought you’d find it interesting if you’ve never seen it before.






Waving My Way Out Of Purgatory


I’m absolutely convinced that I’m going to Purgatory. I know for certain that I’m going to Purgatory. Even my high school girlfriend told me I was going to Purgatory.

“Why am I going there?” I would ask her.

“Because.” She would reply. “I saw the way you looked at me just now.”

“But I didn’t do anything,” I said.

“You didn’t have to,” she replied. “You thought about it. That’s sinful.”

I’ve even had non-Catholic friends who don’t believe in Purgatory tell me that’s where I’m going. A Rabbi once said to me:

“You’re going to Purgatory.”

“Why?” I asked. “You don’t even accept that as part of your faith. Why?”

“Just because,” was all he said.

I wasn’t going to win, so after several years of being informed of this, I knew I was going to Purgatory.

Not for all eternity, just for several hundred million years. Heaven and Hell are those places where you spend “till the end of time”, which is a kind of play on words because, theologically speaking, time does not exist in those places; therefore, there can be no end …to something that doesn’t exist.

Some things can seem eternal in this world, which does have time, like a Miley Cyrus CD, yodeling, bagpipe music and two hours of outtakes and bloopers from Duck Dynasty. These things will never really end. You just have to do the best you can.

But, I’m all about something very different here.

Theologically speaking, Heaven can be gained at the moment of death if you’ve lived a perfect sin-free life, like Mother Theresa, or Bono.

There’s no need to wash up before this dinner.

At the other end of the spectrum, theologically speaking is Hell. This place is reserved for the truly evil people who will spend the rest of…whatever. We’re talking about individuals who have done unspeakable things to other human beings. People like Hitler, Mengele, Goebbels, Jeffery Dahmer, Bernie Madoff and the person who selects the background music at Wal-Mart. (Sometimes I include Leona Helmsley on this list, but I’m still making a final decision.) Again, no need to shower before dressing for Hell.

Which brings me to Purgatory.

Theologically speaking, this is the “holding pattern” for those who aren’t in Hitler’s league or in Pope John Paul II’s dugout. It’s a time of cleansing. The little insignificant sins and transgressions need to be cauterised off your soul. These sort of actions include telling people that Loni Anderson is your wife, you’ve summited Mount Everest by holding your breath, you’ve gone over Niagara Falls with nothing but a Mylar balloon that says “Happy Birthday, Grandpa!” or telling your wife you’d like to pick up the latest Playboy “to read the fiction piece by Hemingway”.

Now, I’m fully aware that officially, the Roman Catholic Church has distanced itself from the concept of Purgatory, theologically, that is. After Vatican II, they dropped it faster than you can say “St. Christopher”.

Well, I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it. It makes all the sense in the world that you can’t go directly to The Big Creator, without first straightening your tie and spitting on your shoes.

My game plan to override this Toll Booth is rooted in the Middle Ages. This was a time when rational thought and critical thinking skills were at their highest. All one needed was to build a chapel, a convent, an Abbey or simply donate a monthly sum to the local parish, and the years you were destined to spend cleaning up for heaven would be shaved off. These were called Indulgences. Another, and cheaper, method was to pray. Not just any prayer, but certain prayers would carry an Indulgence of, say, 500 days trimmed from Purgatory. I even remember seeing how much trade-in value certain prayers carried printed in my missal. I was an altar boy so I had time do some head math and then find a pew where I could erase my Purgatory time caused by my behavior on a Friday night date.

But, I don’t have my prayer-book now, so what’s a guilty and terrified guy to do?

It’s simple. The answer presents itself to me every day.

Random acts of kindness. These must be the modern means of gaining Indulgences.

So, now when I drive into town, I’m always on the lookout for cars that are stuck in traffic on side streets. I slow and wave them in. Sometimes this causes a back up behind me, especially when the car is unable to make a move because of on-coming cars in the opposite lane. But, hey, I can wait.

I slow for pedestrians who need to cross the street. I sometimes even stop and wait for them. This can be a problem when they didn’t intend to cross the street in the first place; they were just standing on the curb taking to someone.

I make them cross the street anyway.

I’d like to think that the traffic in my town moves more smoothly since I began my efforts to trim my Purgatory time.

One thing I haven’t been able to figure out is exactly how much time (in years, days?) do I get off for my noble and selfless road behavior. I’ve asked priests this question and they just stare back at me and then move slowly away.

In the end, theological speaking, it really doesn’t matter what the algorithm is. I’ll be doing less time in the waiting room, less time waiting for the light.

Less time behind the velvet ropes that will allow me to enter the Big Night Club.

The rest of you who weren’t smart like me and planned for the future beyond your usual funeral highlights, will simply have to bide your next 400,000,000 million years.