When I was young and I stubbed my toe or banged my finger, my mother would always tell me to “Offer it up for the poor souls.” I never quite understood what that meant or how my suffering could help anyone else in any way. Like most normal youngsters, I tried to avoid pain as much as possible.
In recent years I’ve read a lot about purgatory and suffering in general. Friends of other religious persuasions have often told me that they didn’t get why Catholics focus so much on the suffering of Jesus.
During Lent I will fast and give up meat on Fridays and try to sacrifice for the love of Jesus and each year it seems to get a little easier. In middle age, I’m finally beginning to understand what it means to offer it up. I think often of the poor souls and what they have to endure; as the Catholic Church teaches us, those souls cannot help themselves so it’s up to us to help them. I often offer my prayers, particularly the Divine Mercy Prayer or a Rosary or even a Hail Mary to give them a boost and help to relieve some of their torment in even the smallest way.
I am keenly aware that I most likely have friends, family and acquaintances who are there hoping that I will think of them. If my small sufferings like a paper cut can be offered to help them, what else can I receive in their name? I like to think if I but take one small drop of their agony by offering my trials and tribulations of the day, then why would I not do so.
My boss gets on my nerves or my husband and I are arguing: to just take it for the poor souls or even for someone I know who is hurting can be awesome. To say I accept this annoyance or that false accusation without defending, but just saying I receive it, maybe even thank God for it, if that can help to lessen the suffering of the poor souls, it can be so empowering. It can also give you great peace to not react to whatever it tries to test your patience.
It is said that the suffering souls will pray for you, if you pray for them, and I believe it. A few days before my father’s passing, he was agitated and a little frightened by what he said were the many people who were walking around by the foot of his bed. We had been doing many rosaries and in fact, the only way to calm him when he got upset was to immediately start the rosary.
I wasn’t sure what was going on and there was no sign of dementia or confusion, so I spoke to a very religious friend of mine and mentioned the incident. She immediately told me that she believed that they were all the poor souls that he released from purgatory over the years. Praying for him and waiting to greet him. When I went to his room the next day, I rushed to tell him what she said. He immediately became peaceful and relaxed and never mentioned it again. There were many heavenly indications surrounding my father’s death, but this is one I will never forget.
In general if we sacrifice for one another it makes us feel better about ourselves and more loving towards others. If I can sacrifice for someone who is unable to help themselves with the tiniest of effort on my part then why wouldn’t I? So, how about it?
Here’s your challenge: the next time you are annoyed, aggravated, in pain, or suffering in anyway (no matter how small) do it. Accept it with love. Take that banged shin or the guy who cuts you off on the way to work and use it for the glory of God and for the release of a poor soul. Tell Jesus you will take it for someone who is suffering, whether it be for the poor souls, for someone you know who is sorrowing or even for Jesus.
Think of it, if me keeping my mouth shut when my husband is upset instead of defending myself can relieve the tiniest drop of blood from Jesus wouldn’t I do it? We can call it Perspiring for Purgatory or Sweating for Sinners. It is life-changing.
Let’s offer it up and help one another. Just imagine how much positive energy we can spread by loving one another enough to suffer for them. Can we smile at the nasty cashier without reacting to save a sinner?
In our own tiny way, we can be just like Jesus, when he stood in for us on the cross. They came to accuse him and instead of defending he opened his arms and died for each one of us. Will you do it for Him?
Copyright 2014, Maureen O’Shea