All Souls’ Day

Dear Sally,

I detect a certain diffidence in the tone of your note, as if you disapproved of, or at least felt uncomfortable with, the traditional visit to the cemetery to pray for the dead on today’s feast, the commemoration of all the faithful departed.  Is it perhaps because that young man (non-Catholic, I might remind you) you have been “spending time with” lately doesn’t like the sound of the word “purgatory”?  My dear niece, your response to such indirect attacks against your faith should be to counterattack, not to retreat.  Nobody likes the word “purgatory,” just as no one likes the word “hell.”  But whether we like the words or not, our Lord has told us about them for a reason.

Since the earliest days the Church has prayed for those souls who have died in friendship with God, but sill hampered by selfishness, still weighed down by sin and sinful tendencies.  The Bible itself praises such prayers (2 Maccabees 12:43-46), which is one of the reasons the reformers excised the Book of Maccabees from their Bibles.  Finally, logic is on the side of this doctrine: we all agree that there is no sin in heaven, yet most of us die without having been perfectly cleansed of our sinful tendencies.  Therefore, in order to enter heaven we have to be somehow purified.  That purification is purgatory (the word means “purification”).  How long and what form this purification takes is open for discussion, but the need for it is an article of faith.

So don’t take your walk through the cemetery with trepidation, take it with gladness – your prayers for those God is preparing for heaven will help speed up the preparation process, which in turn will help them arrive home sooner.  And take advantage of the feast to remind yourself that you too are destined for God, and that he will be sure to purge every vestige of selfishness from your soul, either now or later, so that you can embrace him fully, and enjoy him utterly.  It is not morose for a Christian to consider death; it is morose not to.

Count on my prayers,

Uncle Eddy

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