Last week, when I was visiting the 7 th grade Faith and Service class, they were discussing Purgatory. The students were animated and engaged in the discussion. I was impressed with how much they knew as well as how much they wanted to know about this topic. The conversation was a great example of how our school can continue to extend our parish mission to Know, Love and Serve the Lord. Our school is one of the largest ministries of the parish and I believe it helps our families increase their pursuit of heavenly knowledge. Thank you for your continued support of our parish school.
During the month of November, we remember in a special way the souls of the faithful departed and we are asked to pray for them unceasingly. The more I learn about Purgatory, the stronger my desire is to help the souls that are waiting there to attain their heavenly reward. Helping the souls in Purgatory is like helping one of our elderly or one of our small children safely cross the street. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to intervene to make this happen?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about Purgatory.
1022: Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven – through purification or immediately, or immediate and everlasting damnation. 1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. 1031 The church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire. (Cor 3:15) As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. 1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore (Judas Maccabeus) made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”(Macc 12:46) From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayer for them.
A few months ago, I was at Adoration and I said a rosary as a special intention for the next soul from St. Joseph that was awaiting release from Purgatory. My eyes were closed as I completed the rosary, and I had a strange sensation that there was a person standing in front of me. It was a tall man, well over 6 feet tall, thin and with gray hair. He nodded at me with a smile on his face and left the chapel. I’m not sure how to explain that moment, but as I opened my eyes, a tear trickled down my cheek and a smile broke across my face. Whether real or imagined, it warms the heart to know that our prayer can make a difference. I invite all of you to practice praying for our beloved dead. Offer Masses, rosaries, almsgiving, and daily prayers for them several times a day if you can. As you get ready for Thanksgiving celebrations this week, remember those who have gone before you. Pray for them and in return, ask them to pray for us when they reach their heavenly reward so that we may all be united in God’s kingdom.
Take a closer step to heaven today, and don’t go alone!