Thought you guys might like to see the letter to the parents in our Relgious Ed. Program that was on the flip side of our November calendar. We're talking about purgatory.
During the month of November, “we remember all of those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith” (from the Eucharistic Prayer). We start the month with All Saints’ Day, a day where we celebrate all of those people who are saints in heaven, but who have not been canonized or beatified. November 1 is their feast day.
Immediately following is All Souls’ Day. On this day, we pray for all those who are in purgatory, getting ready for heaven. We offer prayers and Masses for them that they may be released from purgatory soon and spend eternity with the Lord.
When I talk with the children about purgatory, we first talk about why the Church teaches that there is such a place. Let’s say you have just been eating lunch in a fast food restaurant. You leave and get in your car and you smell like Chicken Nuggets and French Fries. You’ve got a big fancy party to go to later that night, and you don’t want to go to the party smelling like old fast food, so you go home and get a bath and put on your party clothes and then you go to the party.
Purgatory does for us what that shower after the fast food place does for us. People who are in purgatory are absolutely going to heaven. There is no question about it; they are on the way. They just need to get the “smell” of earth washed off first. They are purified from the venial sins they committed before they go to heaven forever.
Many of our non-Catholic Christian friends find purgatory to be a big stumbling block when they think about Catholicism. They ask where we can find such a teaching in the Bible. We can find these answers in the Catechism of the Catholic Church Paragraphs 1030-1032. In Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 3:15, and in the First Letter of St. Peter, Paul and Peter speak of a purification as if through fire, like gold that is purified by fire. As Pope St. Gregory the Great pointed out at the turn of the 7th century, in Matthew 12: 31-32, Jesus talks about sins that will not be forgiven in this age or in the age to come. “From this sentence,” St. Gregory says, “we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.” Also, in the Second Book of the Maccabees in the Old Testament, there is mention of the Jewish tradition of praying for the dead. From the Church’s earliest days, it was customary to pray for the dead and to offer up almsgiving and works of penance on behalf of those who have died.
We set aside an entire month to remember the dead because they can’t do anything for themselves right now to make their time in Purgatory go faster. They need us, those who are on earth working our way to heaven, to remember them and to offer our prayers, our trials, and our good works on their behalf. I know a man who, when he kneels in the pew to get ready for Mass, offers the Mass for the soul who is closest to entering heaven from Purgatory and also for the soul who is the farthest away. He calls it “inviting” those two souls to Mass with him.
When you go to church these November weekends, please “invite” some soul in Purgatory to Mass with you. Please remember those souls in your prayers. Someday, we will be in Purgatory waiting for someone down here to “invite” us to Mass so we can be closer to being with Jesus in heaven.
God bless, Amy Giglio