I Don’t See Ghosts But God Does.

The Parish where I serve has a history stretching back to 1893. Though our current buildings reach back only to 1938, even that is a stretch of over 70 years. As I walk these buildings, especially in the quiet of the night I sense a connection. I surely have never seen a ghost but in my mind’s eye I sense those who once walked the aisles of my Church, who sat in the pews. I ponder the many, many baptisms, at our font. The thousands of brides who walked our beautiful aisle. The thousands of first communions, confirmations, the thump as penitents knelt in the confessionals still in use after all these years. And yes, the many funerals.

How many times have those venerable old doors opened to admit a soul loved by God? How many tens of thousands, maybe over a hundred thousand have cumulatively prayed in my parish.

Late at night, I often visit the Church which is connected to the rectory, and I can almost see them. Perhaps too a faint echo of organ or choral music from the deep past echoing faintly in the shadows of the hallowed hall we call our Church.

In the rectory too, I wonder at the many dozens of priests who once occupied my room, who once sat at my dining room table. Most of them long dead, some still living. At times I sense their presence. I remember one priest who is dead now. Some years ago in the early 1990s when I was assigned here for the first time I occupied the rooms he once did. I felt a strong mandate from the Holy Spirit to pray for him. He was quite old but still living at the time and had left in 1970s for a schismatic church. Three years ago he died. Recently a brother priest told he that he had reconciled him to the Church just weeks before he died. Praise God. And now here I am again, back living in the same pastor’s quarters he once lived in. I feel a connection to him and the other priests who once walked these halls and lived in these rooms.

Somehow the past reaches forward and touches me and I know it is real. For the past is just as present to God as the present moment is and every future moment. It’s all knit together by God who is eternal. For eternal means the fullness of time. It  means that the past, present and future are all the same to God, each equally present to him. So in God all those church events of the past are just as present to him as I am now. And tomorrow’s sermons is already accomplished for God as are all my sermons and Masses. And every priest who will one day come after me,  and all that they will do,  is already present to God. It’s all equally present to Him.

I don’t see Ghosts, but God does. And they are just as present and real to him as I am. And God sees those who will come after me too. The great mystery of time and God’s eternity unfold in these hallowed halls and in yours too.

The picture at the upper right is my parish in 1956.

This video is an unusual one. It depicts three priests singing of the history of a parish. And as they sing that history becomes present. There are men and women depicted going back to the 16th century. Sacraments are celebrated, people pray, and light candles. And gradually the people look more and more modern and then are of the present. Every parish holds the past as well as the present. For since God is present, so is the past, and so is the future.

27 Replies to “I Don’t See Ghosts But God Does.”

  1. I don’t believe in the past reaching the present due to some pschic, magical, or psycological means but I do believe in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that wonderful and divine communion with God and all His heavenly servants past, present, and future.

  2. I quite like your parish. I wish I lived closer so I could visit more often. I’ve got similar feelings about the ER in which I serve, regarding pondering the souls that have traveled through it for many years. One morning, the sun was shining very brightly in our trauma room. I reflected on how peaceful and beautiful it looked and actually took a picture of it. I also reflected on how many patients have died and lived in that room. How many patients have fought very hard to live. How many times we’ve had 20 people crammed into that small room to pray for a patient. On a funny note, I once looked up at the ceiling and wondered how charcoal and EKG stickers ended up there. Well, the charcoal is pretty easy to figure out, but the EKG stickers on the ceiling will forever be a mystery to me.

    1. Yes, I too have had a similar expereince. I have sometimes visited a parishioner in a hospital room perhaps on several occassions. Then they died and it seems so odd to walk past that room and not see them there, but someone else.

      1. I work as a nurse in hospice services. Frequently people will report seeing a loved one visiting them as death draws near. Men most often report visits from their mothers, women, their husbands or fathers. I like to think that the angel who has come to minister to them takes the form of whoever it is that will give them the most comfort at that time. On the other hand, the dying will report seeing children, not “a child”, but children. These children cause great annoyance. This a an indicator that it’s time to call in Chaplain Services or their own pastor should they have one.

  3. Hi Nick,

    Perhaps I am misinformed but I have read and like to think that if you pray for the souls in purgatory; and that the best time to do that is when the priest raises the Host at the Consecration in the Mass ‘ because at that point in time you are; as I have read, united with the entire Mystical Body of Christ: the Church Militant (on earth), the Church Triumphant (saints and angels in heaven) and the Church Suffering (souls in purgatory), that when the souls in Purgatory get to heaven they will remember your prayers and never cease to plead for you before the Throne of God. I confess that even though I cling to this glorious and comforting image, I often forget the souls in purgatory too. We frail human beings it seems never cease to need to be reminded. Perhaps we just have a tendancy to repress any thoughts related to death.

  4. Monsignor, you write “And tomorrow’s sermons is already accomplished for God as are all my sermons and Masses. And every priest who will one day come after me, and all that they will do, is already present to God. It’s all equally present to Him.” I’ve always found it confusing when someone says that everything we will do in the future has already been decided by God. I’m confused by this because it means one of two things that I don’t think are true: that either Hell is empty because God wouldn’t make decisions about our lives that would result in us going to Hell, or that God saves certain people and allows others to be pre-destined to go to Hell. In addition, if every moment our lives has already been decided by God, then it means we don’t have free will, right?

    1. Hi Gary.

      Perhaps I can help clear this up for you. God doesn’t “decide” what will happen to us, He gave us free will and out of love for us He does not interfere with our free will. God knows what we will do in the future, but He does not “make” us do those things, He only allows them to happen. God knows who will go to Heaven and who will go to Hell, but He doesn’t “make” people go to either place, He allows us to make our own decisions, and He respects our decisions.

    2. In saying that future things are already present to God I am not necessarily saying that things are “decided” by God but simply that all our decisions are already known and present to God. There is, to be sure, a mystery on how to balance God’s sovreingty and our freedom. Both are taught and must simply be held in balance. However, to be clear, that my future decisions and actions are already present to God does not change the fact that they are my future decisions and actions. That God already knows them and that they are already present to him does not “make me do them.” He just already knows what I will freely decide, and to Him, my decsion is already accomplished.

      1. Msgr. Pope:

        Is it safe to say that, since the future is present to God, that we are already in Heaven (or Hell), if that is to be our final destination?

      2. It would seem so. Again I only wnat to emphasize that we are discussing a very deep mystery and our feeble language and feeble brains can only discuss these things with a very limited perspective. But yes, I think it would safe to say that.

  5. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”- Luke 24:38-39

    YIM Catholic

      1. Msgr. Pope:

        I have wondered that very same thing. After all, Jesus doesn’t say ghosts don’t exist, only that He isn’t one of them.

  6. I think because God lives outside time and in eternity while we are still in time ( on earth) God is operating in a different dimension and can see, so to speak, all time stretched out before Him, including all that was, is and will be…and so
    all of our actions are known to Him at once. The saints say ( St. Therese of Liseaux for one) the most painful of all sufferings is to have to wait…the martyrdom of desire. I am just beginning to understand that…a little bit. For this reason the Holy Spirit gives us the divine gift of hope. In no way is our free will diminished. All things un-fold gradually even including our sanctification. Time is necessary for us and is a special gift from God to allow us to grow into Him.

  7. wonderful video; suggests the mystery of God with us without trying to explain it.
    thank you

    1. Quite an unusal video too. I suspect a lot of the details would make more sense to the parishioners there. But it is fasciniating to watch the generations process through the video along the same themes of life and death.

  8. God loves us always until the end of this world and then into Eternity.
    Ghosts are just spirits who wander this world for remission of their sins.
    No, they don’t show up when we call them but if you meditate quietly you
    can feel your family, friends and even your guardian angel with you,
    its one incredible feeling of love.
    Smile you aren’t ever alone and supported by their love, always.
    Happy Ascenion Sunday!

    1. Yes, I was trying to be careful to distinguish my reference to “ghosts” from modern and rather silly notions of ghostly apparitions ala the horror movies. I see that you too have done the same.

  9. Good day Msgr. In my experience, i can feel the presence of a human spirit or shall i say a ghost? And i have seen and experienced it the first time… one night i heard my name being called from our gate and when i looked to see who that person is. I saw a man wearing a white suit and waved goodbye. The following morning i received a message from the province that my father died..may 4, 1950. After 2 decades my mother showed me a picture of my dead father.. true enough.. he was the man who called me at the gate wearing the white suit and waiving goodbye. That’s how God loves men ..if he wants to show something that other man cannot see, God will let you experienced the truth. Like Jesus life when he rose from the dead and showed himself 40 days before He ascended to heaven. And the reality that God let the Holy Spirit to all men who believes and are obedient to Him. I would rather say a relationship not of free will but rather of obedience , the words Jesus said ..not my will Father but your will be done. Peace be to all.

  10. this music is awesome-it is like the choirs of heaven-i have played it many times-it is so moving and beautiful, words cannot do it justice.

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