Dear Father Angelo,
I wish to ask you a particular question about the soul.
I have heard that sometimes, for instance in the case of a coma or other near-death experiences, the patient was able to see his weak body from the outside, together with the people around him.
I ask you whether in these instances the soul leaves the body, even if temporarily.
And I also ask you whether if it is possible that this could happen with other diseases, too, for example senile dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Indeed, I wonder if the disease that makes the brain unconscious, causing the clouding of higher faculties, could correspond to a clouding of the faculties of the soul.
But, if the soul remains aware, intelligent and preserves its memory and will, then in a mentally ill person it stays in the body and falls silent?
I am asking this because, for about a month, my 87-year old mother has been showing symptoms of dementia, and she often does not recognize me as her daughter.
Sometimes, though, I did not know how to act, because I had the impression of feeling my mother by my side, encouraging me, while instead she was in front of me, saying something else.
Is it just my imagination? Or does my mother’s soul come and help me outside her body?
I thank you in advance for your reply.
May God bless you for your apostolate, which announces the truth and clears every doubt.
The priest’s answer
1. the soul, which is the principle of life, separates from the body only at the moment of death.
Until the body is alive, it is connected to its soul.
The so-called near-death experiences happen to people who are still alive, and whose soul is perfectly united with the body.
These experiences are unique psychological states, hard to explain.
2. We cannot talk about people who went to the afterlife and then came back.
Especially since their descriptions often do not match those realities that the Divine Revelation and the Church teach us, and so that at the end of our life there is the judgment, which is immediate and it is soon followed by the state anticipated by the soul itself: hell, purgatory, heaven.
3. Sure, we cannot deny a priori that the Lord can manifest himself in a particular way to some people dying.
This is confirmed by the experience of several Saints who saw the Lord and the Virgin Mary meeting them.
And it is also confirmed by those who, at the very end of their life, even saw the devil wanting to tempt them, as you can read in the story of St. Martin of Tours’s death.
4. Likewise, we cannot deny that the Lord may convey some particular sensations, similar to near-death experiences, to make people understand the danger of their situation and convert them.
From this perspective, we can interpret the testimonies of people whose truthfulness is undeniable and who showed this with unequivocal signs in their bodies, together with an authentic conversion of life.
But it is always the experience of people whose soul had not yet left the body.
Because, as soon as the separation occurs, there is the judgment and we enter the state for which our soul had prepared.
5. Now, about elderly people suffering from certain diseases, it should be said that their soul is perfectly united with their body, keeping it alive.
However, some faculties of the soul, such as the mind and the will, are weakened, clouded and sometimes almost paralyzed, because their sensory part (the brain and other sensory faculties) do not function as they should.
6. We, looking from the outside, sometimes perceive these people as befuddled.
But we do not know what is happening inside of them.
It is sure that God never abandons anyone with His salvific will and He always looks after everyone with his endless mercy.
Their salvation, though, is still connected to their free correspondence to grace.
7. About the sensation of feeling your mom next to you, while seeing her in her diseased state at the same time: we cannot exclude that the Lord wanted to comfort and strengthen you through that feeling.
But one thing I am sure of: your mother’s soul did not leave the body at that time. She would have died.
I wish you all the best, I entrust you to the Lord and I bless you.
Translated by: Francesca