A priest in Scottsdale, Arizona, has established a chapel for the souls in purgatory in part as a consequence of his own experiences with the departed on the "other side."
Father Doug Lorig, a convert from the Episcopalian faith, now pastor of one of the most prominent parishes in the Phoenix area, says the Lord has used a number of extraordinary mystical experiences to instruct him on the deeper devotions of Catholicism.
Those devotions include prayer for purgatorial souls -- something that is not followed in most Protestant and evangelical denominations (where the afterlife has just two destinations: Heaven and hell). The chapel is called the Holy Souls Oratory and has the Blessed Sacrament.
For Father Lorig, going strong at 77 and full of the Spirit, it's a matter of seeing some of it with his own eyes.
On about a dozen occasions, says the priest, he has personally encountered spirits of the dead, including at bedside during the night, and has been led to pray their souls toward Jesus.
Father Lorig, who was ordained a Catholic priest in 1984, and who is married with four children (and fifteen grandchildren), had some special experiences while at Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church in Nogales (near the Mexican border).
"It was built over an Indian graveyard -- paleo-Indians who were peaceful," says Father Lorig, pastor of Saint Maria Goretti parish (he is not associated with previous claims at this church of the supernatural).
"While we were digging a sacrarium -- a dry well [for proper disposal of Communion wine] -- the workmen came upon hand-made pots. We called the University of Arizona, which had paleontologists, and they came down.
"It was very interesting," says the priest. "They asked -- these archeologists from the university -- if there had been any paranormal events associated with finding the pots. There had been two. Every time I crossed the church and sat at a pew it squeaked, but there was also a similar squeak in a pew across the way -- as if someone was sitting down there as well. I discerned that an elderly man was following me and called the man who had been pastor before me and asked if he had experienced anything. He hadn't. But his wife did: she felt an old Indian followed her around -- 'harmless,' but a soul who didn't belong there.
"The night before the archeologists came, I had a dream. In it I saw a desert hill and an old man, bent over and carrying a young girl -- eight or nine, maybe younger; her hair was falling down and he was grieving.
"I woke up and wondered, 'what was that?' It turned out that they found a pot with the remains of a cremated old man and smaller one with the remains of a young girl -- bone fragments in the pots that were a thousand years old. They were Las Trincheras Indians. I got the feeling the girl had died tragically and the old man was her grandfather."
Once he prayed for them, the disturbances and feelings stopped.
It was as if a soul that apparently had wandered for ten centuries or at least manifested for that long simply needed prayer and acknowledgement -- and now was at peace. Father Lorig was told by a friend who has Indian ancestry that they believe an Indian has two souls, one that guards the grave and the other that goes on to the Great Spirit.
The priest, who is also author of a book, A Father's Heart: Rosary Meditations for Dads, recounts a time when out of the blue he was sent 1,300 holy cards that someone in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, had collected from funerals -- and set about celebrating Mass for each one. "From then on there were many instances," he says of the experiences. "It started out scaring me." says Father Lorig. Before becoming Catholic Father Lorig says he went to Phoenix for a convention and in the middle of the night woke up and opened his eyes only to a woman with a little dog at the foot of the bed.
“I yelled out loud,” says Father Lorig. "The next morning I went down to the desk and asked how long the man who was there had worked there and asked if a woman and a dog killed here and he said yes, there was a woman and her dog who had been killed in an accident on the street outside the hotel."
"In Dallas there were experiences with the dead that scared me," says the cleric. "I told God, 'stop this. If this is something you're doing, I don't want it.' I'd wake up in the middle of the night and see the spirit of a dead person."
But the sightings were in association, he soon realized, with intercession the Lord desired.
In one case he buried a 17-year-old boy named Tony, who had been involved with drugs and committed suicide. "I prayed for him at every Mass for a year and about a year later went to Queen of Heaven Cemetery for another funeral, of newborn, and parked car at far end of cemetery," says Father Doug. "I then went to the canopy and said prayers and consoled the family and was walking back past all these graves and just stopped because someone was calling my name.
"'Father Doug, Father Doug.'
"And there was nobody there.
"I looked down -- and there was Tony's grave! I happened to be right there. And I had a locution.
"I heard him clearly say to me, 'Father Doug:
Some souls do their purgatory on earth, says the priest; some are earthbound -- tied to a place of sin or grief, something they can not let go. The priest cites one case in which a young girl saw the spirit of another priest who had no mouth; as it turned out, the poor priest had committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth.
The priest has found an effective formula is to have a Mass said for any soul that seems to be disturbing a place and gently telling the soul, "Call to Jesus. Keep saying 'Jesus' over and over, until He comes."
[resources: afterlife books]
[Michael Brown will speak on the afterlife at a special memorial event July 31, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Niagara Falls, NY]
[Photo at top by Jose Hernandez, Altamira Observatory]