It’s November! Most of the country kicks it off with a celebration of Halloween and Thanksgiving planning, and prepping for the Christmas season that follows right on its heels. We actually don’t celebrate Halloween in the ordinary way; what we celebrate is All Hallows Eve. That refers to the day before All Hallows Day, or All Saints Day. Don’t get me wrong, I love dressing up in costumes, having had my fair share of dabbling in theater throughout my life. The kids still dress up, but we just save it for the All Saints Day party on November 1st, when they choose a historical saint to dress up as. This year we had Saint Joseph, Saint Isidore, Mary Queen of Heaven, and Saint Therese, the Little Flower.
But November 2nd brings All Souls Day, where we pray for the souls of the Faithful Departed who are in purgatory. I almost forgot it this year, but for some strange things that began happening around the Farmhouse.
Nathan and I always like to get our house blessed as soon as we can after we move in, and this house was no exception. You can think of it along the lines of casting out any evil that may have been associated with the past, and asking God’s grace and peace upon all those who enter and dwell here. So, as soon as we were relatively settled, we asked our new pastor to come on a Tuesday afternoon to pray over the house and sprinkle it throughout with holy water. That night however some odd things happened.
Just as Nathan and I were going to sleep after having put the kids to bed, we distinctly heard a sound as though someone was bumping the toddler potty around in the bathroom upstairs next to our bedroom. Less than a minute later it was repeated again. All the kids were asleep in bed, the doors were locked, there were no signs of an intruder.
Odd, and unsettling. But I dismissed it – that is, until about 4:00 in the morning. I was awake (on the baby’s sleep schedule) and all of the sudden the toilet lid in the same bathroom slammed shut, waking the baby up. I had not heard any of the kids going into the bathroom, nor anyone leaving after the noise, but just to make sure I went and checked all the kids and they were sound asleep. I said a Hail Mary and a Memorare (and I think a St. Michael prayer too!) and left it at that.
The next night, my 2-year-old woke up in the middle of the night crying and asking for milk. She wasn’t fully awake, so I suspected it was just a bad dream. But when I went to get her a drink, I noticed that one of the lights on the first floor was turned on. This was around 11:30 p.m. I had been the one to turn it off before heading upstairs to bed. I checked with Nathan – he had not turned it on and again, all the other children were asleep and the two-year-old can’t reach the light switch, even if she had been able to go downstairs and through the baby gate in her semi- sleep state. Again the doors were locked and no one else was in the house.
Then, the night after that (or rather early that morning), the baby woke up to nurse as usual. When I went to get him, I noticed the upstairs bathroom light on (the same one where we heard the noises the first night). Now, the kids don’t use the bathroom at night; all but one of them are in some version of Pull-Ups or diapers overnight. And on the extremely rare occasion that they do go, we have night lights bright enough so that they never need to turn anything on (and I would hear them passing by). Again I confirmed with Nathan that he hadn’t turned on the light (I had been the one to turn it off that night as well). “What is going on?” I wondered.
There are two explanations the Church gives for paranormal events that I know of. One is that there is a demonic presence causing these things to occur. ( I have to be honest, one of my first thoughts was: “But we just had the house exorcised and blessed – did we somehow ‘leave out’ the bathroom?”) The second is less concerning. The Church has found that for some reason, departed souls that are in Purgatory can sometimes be allowed to do unusual or unnatural things in the natural world in order to get attention and hopefully thereby prayers, which will aid them in their purification, and ultimately hasten their entrance into Heaven. There are many stories about this sort of thing; there’s even a museum in Italy documenting such occurrences and housing artifacts relating to the souls in Purgatory.
With the events at the Farmhouse, there has not been anything sinister involved ( no dangerous materials, fire, etc). Nor was there ever a sense of fear, dread, loathing, disgust, or anything that might be associated with a demonic presence. And the fact that it began after the house blessing (during which the priest used the exorcism prayers) leads me to believe it was not a hostile spirit. My belief is that it was a troubled soul asking for prayers.
Supporting this theory, the previous owners had told us of some issues they had had in the past in the house with what seemed to be troubled souls needing prayers. “P” thought that it might even be related to one of the sudden deaths that occurred on the railroad tracks which cross our (very long) driveway. The house was built in the 1840s, and so has a 180 year long history of people living and dying in and around it, including at least two men who were killed on the tracks. “P” told us that many years ago, a young man had just proposed and become engaged to his love, but tragically was struck and died on the tracks that same night. When a strange presence made itself known to them (they heard footsteps on the stairs in the middle of the night, and even saw a silhouette of a person in the house), they prayed novenas and had a prayerful procession for the repose of any wandering souls in the house. After that, they had no more manifestations.
I was getting a little uncomfortable with the different unexpected things happening around the house, and I didn’t like wondering when or what might happen, and I also didn’t want the poor soul to get desperate. So, we had a Mass prayed for the repose of any troubled and wandering souls; since then we have had no more strange occurrences. Knowing the power of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, I now have great hope that there is a soul happily in Heaven, praying for us here on the old farm!
This has been a great motivation for us to continue to remember all the Poor Souls in Purgatory in our prayers every day. “Do unto others…” says the Golden Rule, and I dearly hope others will do the same for me!