After Brett passed away, it seemed to me that God was giving me signs that he was saved (for which I am so grateful). I asked a priest, whom I knew was faithful to the Magisterium of the Church, if I could count on this. His answer I have never forgotten. It has helped me in so many ways even though it was difficult to hear at first!
He said that yes, God could have let me know this (and he believed it was true) but that this would be considered "Private Revelation" which is always subject to human misinterpretation and even deception from the evil one so I should not share this with others as if it is Gospel Truth. He went on to say that the danger is that this type of private revelation can lead us away from helping our loved ones with our prayers & sacrifices because we are presuming that because they are saved they are automatically in heaven. This has never been the teaching of the Church. Instead, the Church teaches that unless a person has an "St." (as in Saint) in front of his/her name we should not assume he/she is already in heaven and has no need of our prayers. This is the teaching of the Church and has been from the very beginning.
God letting me know that Brett was saved is not incompatible with praying for his soul. It is the logical next step for a Catholic Christian (or at least it should be...)
Using sacrifice beads can help us to make our whole day into a prayer & offering for our loved ones who have died.
Before I explain the beads here is some background for their use.
If you think about it, there are so many different types of suffering and crosses that people carry. There are crosses of difficult situations at work; of illness - physical, psychological, emotional, etc.; crosses of gender identity crisis; addiction, loneliness, grief, bereavement and loss; the crosses of infertility - just to name a few. It helps me to remember that this earthly life is not paradise - it is a preparation for paradise in heaven. It is a time of testing; a time to cooperate with God so that He can increase our capacity to love Him for all eternity. A time to live by the dark night of Faith which means believing in His love even when he seems absent or distant or asleep on the job. It is a time to grow in virtue and to grow in our ability to sacrificially love other people, even our enemies. Suffering & difficulties are two of the tools that God uses to accomplish all of this growth in our lives.
"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:6-9).
“Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
Our secular culture does not clearly understand this and therefore does not understand the deeper purpose & meaning of suffering. This is because our society is predominantly hedonistic, meaning that the number one goal seems to be the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain - at all costs. How different is the Way that Jesus taught us:
"If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24).
Jesus is asking us to imitate Him by the way we handle suffering and difficulties (our crosses). He accepted the pain and suffering He experienced and didn’t retaliate but instead He responded with love. He “offered his suffering up” as a sacrifice and as a prayer of intercession for us:
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
That is what he is asking us to do too because He knows that our crosses contain within them hidden treasures that He will make available to us if we struggle to do this. Accepting our crosses with trust and offering them to God with love is a means to a deeper intimacy with Him and is one of the most powerful ways that we are conformed to His image:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:28-29).
Here is a concrete example taken from scripture:
The following scripture passage uses the example of Christ’s humility & charity in suffering and applies it to Christians who were experiencing difficulties as servants at the time it was written. It gives concrete principles for us to follow so that we can imitate Christ in difficult situations where the person we report to is overbearing. I have broken it down into five steps:
Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to the kind and gentle but also to the overbearing. For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it, if when you do wrong and are beaten for it you take it patiently? But if when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps:
1. He committed no sin;
2. no guile was found on his lips.
3. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return;
4. when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly.
5. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed." (1 Peter 2:18-24).
Other scriptures that speak of how to handle difficult situations:
“Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:12).
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1Peter 3:9).
“We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (1 John 3:16).
Christ is teaching us that Christians can be inflicted with tremendous suffering, yet have a living faith that leads them to even rejoice in that suffering because of the complete dependency on God that this very suffering has facilitated and, because they know that their suffering can be used to bless other members of the Church (the souls in Purgatory are members of the Church - they are the "Church Suffering") as a form of intercessory prayer. Patiently bearing adversity can be used for intercessory prayer if we unite the difficulty with Christ and “offer it up” to him to be used as a channel of his grace.
This turns a negative situation into a win/win type situation. You win because you grow in virtue through this trial as you do your best to patiently bear the difficulty; and, other people win too because God will also bless the person you “offer up” the difficulty for - in this case for a soul in Purgatory. In response to your faith and patience, God will pour his grace and mercy on you and the person you offer it for. This is a way of praying with our suffering. If praying with words can draw down God’s blessing on others, imagine what He would do if we pray with our suffering.
Suffering this way is a pathway to joy:
"I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body that is the church" (1 Col 24).
“Instead, be very glad--for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world” (1 Peter 4:13).
Patience in suffering requires real faith and it gives God great glory because it is His power at work in us that enables us to live this way.
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Suffering in this way not only glorifies God greatly but it also matures us. His desire is that we advance in Christian maturity and He uses the suffering & difficulties that we face to bring this about.
"...we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope and hope does not disappoint us" (Rom 5:1).
This also gives us the opportunity to love God and others in an unselfish way, as Christ did. In his book, "The Purpose Driven Life," the famous Evangelical pastor, Rick Warren says:
“The deepest level of worship is praising God in spite of pain, thanking God during a trial, surrendering while suffering, and loving him when he seems distant... the most common mistake Christians make in worship today is seeking an experience rather than seeking God. They look for feeling, and if it happens, they conclude that they have worshiped. Wrong! In fact, God often removes our feelings so we won't depend on them. Seeking a feeling, even the feeling of closeness to Christ, is not worship. When you are a baby Christian, God gives you a lot of confirming emotions ...but as you grow in faith, he will wean you off these dependencies” (The Purpose Driven Life, Pg 107- 109).
Now for the Sacrifice Beads…
Sacrifice/Virtue Beads are a wonderful way to remember all of this and to stay aware of our union with Christ throughout our day especially when we are experiencing difficulties. It helps us to remain in Him…
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4).
Pull a bead whenever a sacrifice or difficulty presents itself and silently pray a prayer or a Scripture verse as you pull it.
Here are some suggestions:
For starters, you can offer your daily duties according to your state in life (e.g. married, single, student, job, family, etc.), especially the ones you do not enjoy. Do them with all the love, devotion, professionalism and diligence that you are capable of and pull a bead as you offer them to God as a prayer for someone you love who has died or for another intention.
After that, you can offer what you:
do not like
did not choose and/or
You can pull a bead each time you experience a difficulty as you do your best to accept each difficulty with trust and offer it with love as a prayer of intercession for others (living or deceased).
When we offer up suffering & difficulties, "we turn pain into an act of love. We turn something passive into something active. We turn a painful rupture into a door through which good can come. To "offer it up" is the opposite of "suck it up" because when we suck it up, we take it into ourselves, shove it down, keep it in. But when we offer it up, we turn upward toward God and outward toward other people. That is one of the defining characteristics of love: it moves outward, and it is fruitful. What a gift that even our suffering can be turned into something good" (Simcha Fisher).
It might be helpful to make a prayer list and keep it in your pocket or purse with your sacrifice beads. Read your list as often as needed to remind you of the people you are praying for and offering your sacrifices and suffering for.
Practical Example of how to use the beads:
A woman is at work and is broken-hearted because some of her co-workers are gossiping about her. She begins to get very angry and is about to react with angry words. Deep down inside of her, the Holy Spirit causes love for God and her sister to rise up and she thinks “Instead of reacting in a negative way, I can do my best to bear it patiently in silence and offer this suffering up as a prayer for my deceased sister .” This she does right away by pulling a bead and praying “Dear Jesus, I open this suffering up to you. Please come into it with your love and use it as a channel of your grace for my sister. Thank you for giving me meaning and purpose in my suffering!” This act of Love helps her sister and it helps her too because it opens her heart to receive the living water of the Holy Spirit in a fuller measure and her love for God & others increases.
"Jesus said: 'He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water'" (John 7:38).
Often, it is necessary to make the same offering over and over again as the waves of sorrow and suffering wash over us repeatedly. God receives each one of them as a precious gift and he always returns them with the blessing of a fuller measure of his presence.
Offer it Up to God = Open it Up to God
When you think of the phrase “offer it up”, think of it as “open it up.” When we “offer up” our suffering, we “open it up" for God to enter into it. This makes our suffering fruitful in many different ways, two of them are:
1st, when we "offer up" a difficulty to God - instead of succumbing to it in a negative way or trying to push the pain down and not deal with it - it is as if a wall has come down in our heart and we are giving Him access to an area of our life that He was not able to come fully into before. We have "opened it up" to Him. Because He is present there now, we are not on our own and can intentionally draw from His strength and power to face the difficulty. His strength begins exactly where our natural ability ends.
2nd, now that He is present, so is His self-sacrificing love, which we can tap into in order to offer up the difficulty as a prayer of intercession for others. In other words, He is present in our difficulty - we are now yoked with him (Matthew 11:28-30) - so that we can, not only bear it patiently, but, we can go even further, and offer it up as an act of love (intercession) for other people.
Here is a picture that conveys this:
W hen we offer up/open up a difficulty to God, he pours his love into our hearts and we are strengthened and filled with living water - the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of Love. We are thus enables to be a channel of his grace & love as we offer this difficulty as a prayer for another person.
These acts of love are living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) that we offer to God.
We can pull a bead each time we experience a difficulty. This act of love is a win/win. We grow in virtue and other people are blessed too.
Here are some other scriptures to pray for strength each time you pull a bead and offer it for your loved one who might be in Purgatory (pray 1 for each bead you pull):
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13).
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak (Is 40:29).
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word (Psalm 119:28).
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor 12:9-10).
But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me (Psalm 22:19).
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Hebrews 40:29-31).
God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7).
“We make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it” (2 Corinthians 5:9).
Learn how to make sacrifice beads here