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Bright Sorrows and Holy Souls: Leaves of November


Margaret Rose Realy, Obl.OSB

Margaret Rose Realy, Obl.OSB - published on 11/01/15

So many souls, like leaves on a tree, flutter through this life

The view from my oratory revealed a rich cerulean sky with wisps of clouds drifting in the early light. It was not yet fully dawn, and a slight blush of peach showed on clouds, leaves and the birds feeding just outside the window. Autumn had arrived, and the air that morning was chilly, being in the forties.

I shelved the green Liturgy book, lifted the rosary from its tray and made the sign of the cross, asking Mother Mary to pray with me.

In the silence I listened to my little dog breathing. In the previous few weeks it had been labored and she’d coughed more; her enlarged heart pressed against the esophagus. What little medication I could afford to give the old girl was not enough. In a few days I would be at the vet’s to have her euthanized.

Death is rarely easily embraced, but I find I am comfortable with its transitory nature. I don’t know if animals have an afterlife, but if they do, there will be quite the pack waiting for me on the other side of life.

I entered into the rosary, thumbed the beads through the initial prayers and moved into the first decade. The Sorrowful Mysteries would be my meditation this morning, the Mysteries that draw me to the precious souls in purgatory.

Dying is not the usual morning meditation, being common in the evenings when I pray for the souls I’ve encountered throughout the day. I ask the Lord that there be mercy in their—and my—eternity, an eternity that begins with the grace of Purgatory.

There are a lot of prayers offered these days for the departed. I am of an age where peers, their parents and friends are passing into eternity. I remembered someone writing, “He’s had a change of address to heaven,” and still find those words reflective of a peaceful acceptance for an inevitable event.

A while back I read a column by Emily Stimpson, 9 Truths about Purgatory, a doctrine of the Church that, in her words has “long been among its most contested and misunderstood.” Her column reinforced my understanding of this strange and discomforting grace; the absence of heaven—like the grieving child for its deceased pet, the sorrowing spouse for their partner, the purging soul for its Beloved—intensify the longing.

I looked up from the beads in my hands and was amazed by the fiery glow from the leaves as they flickered in the morning sun. For as many leaves on those trees there are many times more souls awaiting their final rest.

So many souls, like leaves on a tree, flutter through this life. Leaves are wondrous things. They come and go in the blink of eternity’s eye—budding, developing, nourishing, declining. As a whole body on a branch all seem the same, yet singularly each is unique.

Sometimes it’s confusing being an intercessory supplicant. I pray for peace to surround a person in their trials. Yet for as much as I pray for peace, I hesitate to pray for ease, for it is the difficulty of the pruning that grows the soul towards heaven. It is this that in part lessens our distance from God.

While praying for the precious souls in purgatory, I am comforted by their prayers for me. Their prayers are more pure as they earn no indulgences for themselves. I do not fret my own stint in that in-between space. And maybe even look forward to a purgatory where my prayers have no benefit except for to whom they’re offered.

With the final decade—for perseverance—completed, I recited the Memorare, kissed the small silver crucifix and placed the rosary in its tray. I was in awe of the beauty of leaves outside my window and the beauty of souls becoming saints.

I welcome the purification, for if I aim for heaven, and being human incapable of perfection, miss the target, I am assured of a place to continue a spiritual life. Rephrasing St. Ignatius, I do not want to fear being stillborn into eternity.

There will always be leaves shimmering in the sun, as there will be souls yearning for the time to be dancing in the light of God. Let us continue to pray for the faithful departed that their longing for our Merciful Lord be eased.

Margaret Rose Realy is a Benedictine Oblate and the author of The Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac she blogs at Morning Rose Prayer Gardens.

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