Cardinal Caesar Baronius (1538 - 1607) recorded the story of a pious woman who had been singularly generous to the Holy Souls. When she was dying, the pious woman was burdened by a deathbed depression where she thought so badly of her life that she started to despise herself so much she was induced to self-deception that there was no hope for her soul. Simultaneously there was a concerted effort by the powers of Hell to drive the pious woman to lose faith and to think that Our Lord would never have mercy on her. This was done in a bid to reduce her to the mortal sin of despair, so the demons could claim her soul. Suddenly, the pious woman saw the souls of thousands of supporters come towards her who bolstered her confidence and assured her victory in the good fight was hers for the taking and that she could attain the Heavenly Prize. She was lifted up from her depressive fugue, but she didn't recognize these myriad souls and so she asked them who they were, only to get the answer, "We are the souls which you have delivered from Purgatory, we, in our turn come to help you, and very soon we shall conduct you to Paradise." The pious woman's heart was gladdened, and soon afterwards she died in enviable happiness.

While there is something about this account that is very antique (granted it took place in Italy hundreds of years ago), I think it is a very real reality in our times that a person may find themselves depressed at the thought of their sins, and little by little they give away piece by piece of their hope that there is hope for them to be redeemed, and suddenly an avalanche of despair descends into their soul. This is especially true if sins of the past blare like a bad movie in the back of one's mind.

If you find yourself in this situation, then consider developing a devotion to the Holy Souls, because they are endlessly grateful to the point that they may strive to deliver you from a depression that threatens to force you into despair. They may rescue you, in the same manner you rescued them from Purgatory. I do not write this in the abstract, because I had more joy than I thought possible in helping the Holy Soul who was a beloved friend of my friends.

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I smile when I look up the biography of Cardinal Baronius because his birthday was August 30th, the same birthday as my late friend Richard Collins. As an amazing aside, Richard was born on his mother's birthday, her name was Mary Ellen and when she was alive every August 30th, she and Richard celebrated their birthdays together. Richard died on October 11th - the same date his mother Mary Ellen died. Mother and son were born on the same day and died on the same day.

May we be in Heaven for all eternity with Richard and Mary Ellen.


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