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From time to time throughout History, God reminds His creatures, in very vivid ways, of "the four last things” – Death, Judgment, Heaven or Hell. In his History of the English Church, St. Bede the Venerable records one such occasion as it was told by an Irish monk named Haemgisl.

A wealthy man and a native of Northumbria in England, Drithelm was married and the head of a devout family. No particulars of his early life, other than these few, are known of him prior to the extraordinary event which changed the course of his life forever. In the year 693, Drithelm fell suddenly and gravely ill, died, viewed the afterlife, and was then permitted to return to life in order to tell others of his vivid experience.

The morning after his death, as his grieving family was gathered around his bier, Drithelm sat up. Frightened at the sight of the dead man come back to life, everyone but his wife ran away, terrified. “Be not afraid,” he said to her, “for now I am truly risen from death and allowed again to live among men... But,” he added, “hereafter I am not to live as I have been wont, but rather in a very different manner.”

Drithelm immediately left his house and went to church, where he spent many hours in prayer. Returning home the next morning, he divided up all his possessions among his wife, his children and the poor. He then gave a detailed account of his experience to King Aldfrith of Northumbria, Aethelwood Bishop of Lindisfarne and the Irish monk. At the sovereign’s request, the Abbot of Melrose Abbey admitted Drithelm into the monastery as a monk.

Drithelm spent the rest of his life in a hermitage on the banks of the River Tweed. His remaining years were indeed lived “in a different manner” as he gave himself over to constant prayer and mortification, often combining the two by standing in the freezing waters of the river, surrounded by floating ice, while reciting the psalms. To those who would comment on his extraordinary means of penance by such remarks as, “It is wonderful, Brother Drithelm, that you can stand such cold,” the monk would reply gravely, “I have seen greater cold.” To those that heeded, he would warn them to have a wholesome and holy fear of their lot in eternity, and to those who would stop awhile and listen, he would recount his vision, thereby influencing many for the good by his words and example.

What had changed Drithelm's whole way of life was an astounding vision of eternity that he had experienced while he was "dead."

After dying, Drithelm said he had found himself in the presence of a “handsome man in a shining robe.” This guide showed him three panoramas. The first was a long valley with a road running through it. One side was being consumed by a great fire, on the other blew a blizzard of freezing snow and hail. On both sides could be seen countless souls who would cast themselves from the fiery flames to cool off in the icy blizzard, and then throw themselves out from the blizzard to warm up in the fire. Drithelm thought this must be Hell, but his guide told him it was not.

They next came to a place of intense darkness. Here the guide withdrew and left him for awhile. Soon Drithelm saw a deep pit. Out of this pit, tongues of flame would throw up souls like sparks and then swallow them up again. Among those souls he saw a clergyman, a layman, and a woman. The stench of the pit was unbearable. As he stood looking, a crowd of devils surrounded him menacingly, but when his heavenly guide returned, they all fled.

The third vision was of a pleasant meadow full of sweet-scented flowers and happy people. “This is not the Kingdom of Heaven,” his guide informed him. When they went towards the kingdom and could sense from afar its light and sweetness, the guide would not let him go any farther. He then explained to Drithelm that the first valley was filled with people who had been saved only at the moment of death. They had much purification to endure, but the prayers and Masses offered for them on earth could shorten their suffering. The pleasant meadow was for those whose need for purification was slight. Those who died without imperfection, he said, would enter Heaven at once. But those who entered the dark hole of Hell could never escape.

His heavenly guide then told Drithelm that he must return to life, but should live thereafter “in a different manner.”

 


 Photo by: Unterrather

 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for January 17, 2021

People hate the truth for the sake of whatever it is they lo...

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January 17

 

People hate the truth
for the sake of whatever it is they love more than the truth.
They love truth when it shines warmly upon them
and hate it
when it rebukes them.

St. Augustine of Hippo


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Anthony of Egypt

Anthony’s parents died before he was twenty leaving him in...

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St. Anthony of Egypt

Anthony was born in 251 in the village of Koman, south of Memphis in Egypt. Anthony’s well-to-do parents died before he was twenty leaving him in charge of a younger sister, and the owner of a considerable estate.

In 272, wishing to leave all to follow Christ, after securing his sister’s support and upbringing, he distributed his holdings among the poor, and retired to a life of solitude. He lived a life of penance, sleeping on a rush mat on the bare floor, eating and drinking bread and water. The devil was allowed to attack him grievously, on one occasion subjecting him to a beating that left him for dead, only to be saved by friends.  Anthony emerged victorious from all these trials.

At the age of thirty-five, the holy hermit moved from his solitude in the vicinity of his native village, to a location across the eastern branch of the river Nile where he made his abode in some ruins on the summit of a mountain. There he lived for twenty years, rarely seeing any man except one who brought him bread every so often.

St. Athanasius, his friend and first biographer, speaks of Anthony as not only spending his time in prayer and meditation but also in making mats. He also gardened.

At fifty-four, being sought out by men who wanted to follow his way of life, Anthony founded his first monastery in Fayum in a series of scattered caves, which he visited occasionally.

In 311 as religious persecution again broke out under Emperor Maximinus, Anthony left his solitude to give courage to the martyrs in Alexandria. When the persecution abated, he returned to his previous solitude. He later founded another community of monks near the Nile called Pispir, though he continued to live on his mountain.

Years later, at the request of the bishops, Anthony again journeyed to Alexandria to confute the Arians, who denied the divinity of Christ. All ran to hear the holy hermit, and even pagans, struck by the dignity of his character, flocked around him. Heathen teachers and philosophers often sought him out, and were astounded at his meekness and wisdom.

Anthony died at age 101 surrounded by his spiritual sons in his hermitage on Mount Kolsim. His last words were, “Farewell, my children, Anthony is departing and will no longer be with you.” Thus saying, he stretched out his feet and calmly ceased to breathe.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him h...

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Mary and the Muslim

Don Octavio del Monaco was a wealthy citizen of 17th century Naples. Like many of his class, Don Octavius had several Muslim slaves in his household. These children of Islam were amazed at the kindness of their “master.” He fed and clothed them better than they received in their native land. In return, his slaves attended to their tasks with diligence, as Don Octavius did not over work them, but assigned them duties in keeping with their dignity as children of God.

If these Muslim slaves had any reason for complaint, it was the gentle persistence with which their master and his wife exhorted them to give up their false religion and become Catholics. Don Octavius even went so far as to invite the slaves to join his family in the chapel to worship the one true God with them!

Our story today is about one young slave in particular. His name was Abel, like the slain son of Adam and Eve. He felt drawn in a peculiar way to a lamp that burned in front of a shrine to Holy Mary. Abel would purchase the oil needed to keep the lamp lit from his own meager stipend. As he continued to practice this humble devotion, he would say, “I hope that this Lady will grant me some great favor.”

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian. At first the Turk resisted. But she placed her hand upon his shoulder, and said to him: “Now no longer resist, Abel, but be baptized and called Joseph,” conferring on him a name that was very dear to her Immaculate Heart indeed.

On August the 10th, 1648, there was much rejoicing in Heaven, for on that day “Joseph” and eleven other Muslims converted to the Christian faith and were baptized. Their conversion was brought about by the kindness shown by Don Octavius and the special intercession of the Mother of God.

Our story does not end here. Even once this son of hers was safely baptized, Mother Mary delighted in visiting him. Once, after having appeared to him, she was about to depart. But the Moor seized her mantle, saying, “Oh, Lady, when I find myself afflicted, I pray you to let me see you.” In fact, she one day promised him this and when Joseph found himself afflicted he invoked her, and Mary appeared to him again saying, “Have patience", and he was consoled.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian.

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