I can’t remember where I first saw a reference to the book, Hungry Souls – Supernatural Visits, Messages and Warnings from Purgatory. I saw it mentioned in a few places and what I read was enough to make me decide I wanted to read it.
I was surprised by the quality of the (physical) book. Being published by TAN, I didn’t expect much by way of paper and binding quality. This book is as well made as any Ignatius book I own. I noticed that St. Benedict Press is also listed as a Publisher. I don’t know the story there, whether it is co-published by both or if there is some sort of cooperation or partnership between the two publishers, but the result is a solid, well-bound, and nicely printed book.
This is a fairly short book ~ it took only a few hours to read. The book has 157 pages starting with an Introduction (called “Purgatory and the Paranormal”) followed by 18 short chapters, an epilogue (called “A Poor Soul Appears in 1870”) and the last 20 pages cover the author, notes and a bibliography. The listed suggested retail is $16.95. I think that Amazon’s current price, $11.53, is a fair price for the size of the book.
The author relates many stories of those who had a special devotion and duty toward the Holy Souls. There have been many throughout history who have been visited by some of these souls. The Holy Souls come to request Masses, prayers and sacrifices to aid them in their purification. These stories serve to satisfy curiosity of such things (who doesn’t love a good “ghost story”?) but also to inspire a compassion for the Church Suffering. Almost as soon as I picked up the book, a desire to relieve the suffering of these souls came upon me in a new way.
These reports took my understanding of Purgatory and those who suffer there to a deeper level, I think. I have focused so much on what a mercy it is to have a place or state where we can be fully purified before we fully embrace the Beatific Vision that I almost “forgot” how much these souls suffer. Of course, I knew it was real suffering, and I prayed for the Holy Souls at each Mass and sporadically at other times. Still, I chose to focus on the beauty and mercy of it all instead of their suffering. Maybe it’s just easier to focus on the positive than think of these souls suffering. Embracing the beauty of Purgatory is good, of course, but I didn’t have enough compassion or mercy for these suffering souls, some of whom are likely to be my own family members ~ known or unknown. I’ve not done enough for them but I am inspired to do more.
The most disturbing thing I read in this book was the mention of young children in Purgatory. Some of them very young! I am inclined to choose to disbelieve it, but if I’ve accepted the witnesses as credible in the other things they’ve said, I can’t see a way to do that. I think that this not only disturbs me because of my motherly instincts, which make me more than uneasy at the thought of any child suffering, but also because if a 7 year old needs time in Purgatory, how poorly will it go for me at the end of my life?! And this is another blessing from reading this book: I hope to more seriously attempt to amend my life and avoid Purgatory if possible (or only need a short time of purification.) I want to pray more seriously and discipline my self more rigorously in order to detach myself from the world and from sin.
The photos from the Museum of the Holy Souls and other places were interesting and worth looking through once.
Dr. Van den Aardweg included a chapter called “Holy Soul, or Demonic Imposter”. I found this short chapter to be very interesting and helpful. It served as a good reminder that demons will attempt to deceive and destroy in any way possible, even to “impersonate the dead” ~ especially if the living attempt to initiate contact.
This book also helped me with something I’ve had a bit of a hard time wrapping my head around. It seems that there are a lot of people who experience “hauntings” or “ghosts”. Years ago, I had a “theory” about this sort of thing, but it seems I’d forgotten it over time. Eventually, my initial instinct to such reports was to say it’s “bull” because we know that at death we either go to Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. There was no room for “ghosts”, I thought. In m mind (in recent years) if a “haunting” wasn’t “bull” then the next logical explanation was that it was demonic. After reading this book, I have come back around to thinking about my original theory, for it is one presented in this book. I still believe that some of these things that people experience either originate in the imagination or in the demonic. I don’t believe all of it does, however.
As I was reading this book, I was reminded of something that happened in our family several years ago when our 2 oldest were still at home and still in school. The boys came to me one evening and were quite wound up about something. They had seen a “ghost” outside of our house. This ghost was seen, through an upstairs bedroom window, wandering around the vehicles in our driveway. The oldest had also seen this ghost a bit “closer”. On a previous evening, I had sent the oldest to take out the trash and he saw it while outside, too. It was raggedy-looking and pretty scary, apparently. They were adamant that it was NOT a living person snooping around. This person they saw was not solid, they said.
Without taking time to think it through and not wanting to blow off what they were telling me as some sort of “imagination” (this was not my experience with them before… plus it was both of them!) I told them that since this person showed himself to them that it may be someone in Purgatory who really needed their prayers. I recommended that they pray a rosary for the liberation of the one they’d seen. They went upstairs and prayed a rosary for this intention. The “ghost” was never seen again.
By the way, my children still believe our house is “haunted” (though they are not frightened) because of experiences they say they continue to have. I used to tease them about it, but now that I’ve been reminded of the experience of my sons and have read this book, I am more inclined to wonder if there may be something to it, but in the understanding that some of this may be the “cries of the poor”. I will be praying more for the Holy Souls and I am encouraging my children to do the same, especially if/when they think they experience something “paranormal” or out of the ordinary. ( I wonder how many of you now think I’m a crackpot and will unsubscribe me from your reader? 😀 )
Many of the stories and teachings related here are from Saints. St Catherine of Genoa, St Faustina, St Padre Pio, as well as Blessed Stanislaus Papczynsk. Many others come from “ordinary” souls (though they seem mighty saintly to me!) who have had an extraordinary mission to the Holy Souls. Stories from the saints lend credibility to the information presented. Stories from the “regular” folks remind me that even plain, ol’, ordinary me can help.
The book also has a couple of chapters supporting the history of the doctrine of Purgatory. They are well written, but not overkill.
Since, as of this morning, you can’t “look inside” the book on Amazon, here are the chapter titles:
- The Near-Death Experience – and Beyond
- Purgatory’s Pains and Joys
- Holy Soul, or Demonic Impostor
- Apparitions of Damned Souls
- Evidence for Purgatory in Early Christian History
- The Church Fathers and later Saints on Purgatory
- The Fire of Purgatory According to Catherine of Genoa
- The Exhibits of the Museum of Purgatory
- The Burned-In Hand of Czestochowa
- Other Examples of Burn Marks
- How the Poor Souls Appear, and to Whom
- Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski: An Extraordinary Friend to the Suffering Souls
- The Modern-Day Apparitions to Eugenie von der Leyen
- A Deceased Sister Visits St. Faustina
- Ursula Hibbeln: The Simple Woman Who Helped Many Souls
- Two Apparitions to Padre Pio
- The Bohemian Widow Who Saw the Dead
- How We can Help the Holy Souls
I really like this book and I would recommend it to you.
Many years ago, when I realized how poor my own catechesis was, I took to studying the Church like crazy. I read up on Purgatory and came away with a decent understanding of it, I think. At least as a doctrine. After reading this book, it is so much more than a logical, merciful doctrine to me. I think more often and more tenderly on those who suffer in Purgatory and I have a great desire to help them. As the doctrine of Purgatory has become, ummm, more “obscure” in the everyday life of the average Christian, I believe that there are many Holy Souls who have no one to pray for them. Hopefully this book will help inspire many of us to do more for them.