August 19, 2012

I had assumed there are no ghosts in Italy because when Catholics die, their souls do not hang around here on Earth but go either straight to heaven or to hell. 

As a fervent Catholic my wife believes that the apocalypse is imminent. She monitors earthquake activity daily via Google. Her mission is to convert me from Anglicanism to Catholicism before it is too late.

Italian ghosts, according to Carla, are not ghosts but are instead demons the Devil deploys to vex and possess human beings. If I understand her correctly, ghosts cannot be the souls of dead humans marooned in purgatory. They are therefore in no way human. 

Purgatory? That place between heaven and hell where souls too pure for hell but not yet fit for eternal salvation linger until their venial sins are purged? Well, yes, there is always that. But surely purgatory is not down here, either.

With the Devil, who is extremely cunning, anything is possible. So it is entirely feasible that a ghost is indeed the soul of a human being the Devil has hijacked, presumably after death. Who knows?

It was time to seek a little clarity on the Internet. What struck me as strange in my online meanderings was that during the 16th century it was Catholics rather than Protestants who believed that ghosts were marooned human souls rather than demons. Such souls came from purgatory, which was not on Earth and had been allowed to return here to warn the living of the need for repentance. 

Protestant theologians rejected the idea of purgatory and regarded it as a corrupt device invented by the Catholic Church to extract money either for indulgences or prayers for the souls of the deceased. In those days it was Protestant, not Catholic, theologians who insisted that ghosts were demons. Today, despite the persistent Catholic belief in purgatory, it is the other way around.

How empty my life seems by comparison. I have never seen the Virgin Mary. Neither have I seen an angel. Nor have I seen the Devil and all those demons of his. I”€™ve seen nary a fairy, hobgoblin, or imp. And I”€™ve definitely never seen a ghost.

But I have witnessed a miracle: My five young children.


Sign Up to Receive Our Latest Updates!