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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 April 19, 2021

He asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise....

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April 19

 

A dying man asked a dying man for eternal life. 
A man without possessions asked a poor man for a Kingdom. 
A thief at the door of death asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise. 
 
One would have thought a saint would have been the first soul 
purchased over the counter of Calvary by the red coins of Redemption. 
 

But in the Divine plan it was a thief 
who was the escort of the King of kings 
into Paradise.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

 
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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Alphege of Canterbury

Alphege hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing...

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St. Alphege of Canterbury

As a youth, Alphege became a monk in the monastery of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire, England, afterwards an anchorite and later an abbot in a monastery in Bath. At thirty, at the insistence of St. Dunstan and to his great consternation, he was elected Bishop of Winchester. As bishop, he maintained the same austerity of life as when a monk. During his episcopate he was so generous toward the poor that there were no beggars left in the diocese of Winchester.

Alphege served twenty-two years as bishop of this see and was then translated to the see of Canterbury at the death of Archbishop Aelfric.

During this period, England suffered from the ravages of the Danes who joined forces with the rebel Earl Edric, marched on Kent and laid siege to Canterbury. When the city was betrayed, there was a terrible massacre, men and women, old and young, dying by the sword.

The Archbishop hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing through the crowd begged the Danes to cease the carnage. He was immediately seized, roughly handled, and imprisoned.

A mysterious and deadly plague broke out among the Danes, and, despite the fact that the holy prelate had healed many of their own with his prayers and by giving them blessed bread, the Danes demanded an exorbitant ransom for his release. As the Archbishop protested that the country was too poor to pay such a price, he was brutally assassinated.

St. Alphege was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die a violent death. In 1023, the martyr's body was translated with great ceremony to Canterbury accompanied by the Danish King Canute. Although he did not die directly in defense of the Faith, St. Alphege is considered a martyr of justice.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a...

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The Robber Who Stole Heaven

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. His occupation being what it was, he would only increase his property by decreasing that of his victims.

One day, he was admonished by a local religious to change his course of life and thereby insure his eternal salvation. The only answer the robber gave was that for him there was no remedy.

"Do not say so," said the religious, "do what I tell you. Fast on each Saturday in honor of the Virgin Mary, and on that day of the week do no harm to anyone. She will obtain for you the grace of not dying in God’s displeasure.”

The robber thought to himself, “This is a small price to pay to insure my salvation; I will do as this holy man has prescribed.” He then obediently followed the religious’ advice, and made a vow to continue to do so. That he might not break it, from that time on he traveled unarmed on Saturdays.

Many years later, our robber was apprehended on a given Saturday by the officers of justice, and that he might not break his oath, he allowed himself to be taken without resistance. The judge, seeing that he was now a gray-haired old man, wished to pardon him.

Then the truly miraculous occurred. Rather than jump for joy thanking the judge for his leniency, the old robber, said that he wished to die in punishment of his sins. He then made a public confession of all the sins of his life in that same judgment hall, weeping so bitterly that all present wept with him.

He was beheaded, a death reserved for the nobility, rather than hanged. Then his body was buried with little ceremony, in a grave dug nearby.
Very soon afterwards, the mother of God came down from Heaven with four holy virgins by her side. They took the robber’s dead body from that place, wrapped it in a rich cloth embroidered with gold, and bore it themselves to the gate of the city.

There the Blessed Virgin said to the guards: "Tell the bishop from me, to give an honorable burial, in such a church to this dead person, for he was my faithful servant." And thus it was done.

All the people in the village thronged to the spot where they found the corpse with the rich pall, and the bier on which it was placed. And from that moment on, says Caesarius of Heisterbach, all persons in that region began to fast on Saturdays in honor of she who was so kind to even a notorious robber.

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

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. 

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