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Inside the hospice: St Joseph’s, Heaven ... and Purgatory

by Fr Peter Michael Scott

I admire the honesty of the saints: ‘I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, He can work through anyone,’ as written by St Francis of Assisi. Or: ‘sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine,’ as advised by St Thomas Aquinas. I am also grateful for their encouragement: ‘Don’t drag yourself any longer to his feet. Follow that first impulse that draws you into his arms. That is where your place is.’ 

(St Therese of Lisueux)
No saint is the same, and as St Augustine stated ‘there is no Saint without a past, no sinner without a future’. Saints are as different as chalk and cheese and I am certain we can all find one who is a tiny bit like ourselves.
Heaven and the hospice share one major attribute in common: they are both made up of ‘look alikes’ of you and me. When a patient arrives in the hospice, they quickly find among the staff or volunteers a friend, someone who shares their interests, humour, background or age. I do not think they expect this, but it nearly always happens. Heaven is, I am sure, the same: amongst the saints there will be one or two with the same humour, background and age as us. If we have not discovered them yet, then it is important that, while we have the time, we find them and pray to them.
Letting go of living, to enter into eternity can be a difficult step. Many patients speak about how they will miss family and friends. I always say that when they came into the hospice they did not expect to make new acquaintances, and they do, and that heaven, in the company of the saints will be the same.
However, just remember, we might have to spend a little bit of time in purgatory, but as one Westminster auxiliary bishop (now at peace) described: it is like being asked to help at a Mother Teresa refuge where we are the destitute but with food and shelter and where we get ready to face God’s love and in doing so, own up to our own faults. As St Augustine states ‘there is no saint without a past’. Take heart, like heaven and like a hospice, purgatory is a community of souls, made up of friends like you and me.
Please pray for the patients, staff and volunteers of St Joseph’s Hospice.