Week of 11/5/2017
This past week we commemorated the feast of All Souls, and November is the month for praying for the deceased. A classic question that arises sometimes is “I thought we do not believe in purgatory anymore?” In fact, praying for the dead is a permanent part to every Mass celebrated; remember the formula: Church Militant is the earth, Church Suffering is Purgatory, and Church Triumphant is Heaven.
The Church’s teaching on Purgatory has deep roots not only in Tradition but in the Bible. We read in the book of Maccabees that after one battle the victorious Jews prayed for their dead who had been wearing forbidden amulets hidden around their neck. Why? That even after death, souls could be released from their sins. King David in another section prays for the dead so that they might be released as well. In the New Testament there are numerous quotes reflecting Purgatory’s existence, including Our Lord referring in the Gospel of Matthew that one would not be released until they “paid the last penny.”(Mt: 5 21 26). The early Church Fathers referred a number of times to a place after death where one would be purged of their sins. The Catholic Church would pray for the dead at Mass from the early centuries, including Masses being celebrated in the catacombs, or underground burial places of early Christians.
The Church, in following this Biblical and theological tradition reasserted the existence of purgatory at the Council of Florence in 1439 and the Council of Trent in 1563. Hence, it is a fundamental doctrine of the Church. Many persons who broke away from the Catholic Church and formed Protestant communities began to deny this long tradition, saying that God forgives and remits all punishment of sin at the same time. But part of the Catholic response to that is Christ Himself commanded that all His disciples must take up their cross and follow Him; while St. Paul exhorted that “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s affliction,” in other words the need for penance in this life or the next. We are all called as Christians to participate in the passion of Our Lord, as the apostles exhort, so we are called to purgation of our venial and the effects of forgiven mortal sins. Sin leaves damage much like a broken widow; we forgive, but we still must fix the window!
The Church’s teaching on purgatory is very beautiful and logical. It actually “widens” the gate to heaven precisely because it permits those who die with venial sin or repented mortal sin to be purged in order to attain heaven. No sin could ever exist in heaven in God’s presence, thus one must be perfect in order to enter heaven. So, it becomes a spiritual work of mercy to pray for the dead, and in such prayer Our Lord may bless us with graces of love because of our loving act. Unfortunately, some professors with theological degrees may teach Catholics need not believe in purgatory, but this is heresy. In fact, just by requesting a mass said for a loved one means we acknowledge purgatory. Let us pray frequently for those who have died, for when they enter heaven they not only attain eternal bliss but also a greater power of intercession for us still here on earth.
Please keep in mind our Knights of Columbus famous egg and cheese sandwiches after next week’s 9am Mass; please join us! Also, please don’t forget our Annual Collection: the yellow envelope greatly assists us in caring for our building maintenance each year; if everyone could give what you gave last year or the year before this will greatly help us in maintaining our regular budget; last year’s was a little lower than the previous year; so please be as generous as your means permits. Many thanks!
God Love You, Fr. Brian Gannon