Purgatorio: Prayers and Reparations

Our life on earth is an opportunity to respond to God’s love. We choose our eternal destination, Heaven or Hell, by how we respond to living out our Catholic faith on a daily basis. If we choose to love God, we also desire to follow Him, His Commandments, and the Church’s teachings. It’s not always easy, but the foretaste we consume from the Eucharist encourages us to do just that–live the Catholic faith. The Eucharist is indeed an “appetizer” of what we’ll receive in Heaven.

“Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Denying oneself is an act of humility. We strip away our selfish pride, and we follow Christ to the best of our ability. Jesus also said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) We are called to love God and neighbor with our whole hearts.

God Almighty does not burden us with unnecessary requests or commands. He prepares us for what heaven will be like. In heaven we will worship God unceasingly (Revelation 4:8). We are invited to the heavenly banquet–the marriage supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19:9) Preparations indeed are in order.

“People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” –Revelation 21:26-27

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “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.” (CCC 1030)

Nothing unclean may enter Heaven. People who have died in the state of grace, meaning all mortal sins have been forgiven before the time of death, will one day bask in Heavenly Glory. There may be the remains of particular venial sins or even temporal punishment due to the sins already forgiven that require purification before crossing into the threshold of Heaven and experiencing the Beatific Vision.

“We must say many prayers for the souls of the faithful departed, for one must be so pure to enter heaven.” –Saint John Vianney

Purgatory is a purification process where the removal of all venial sins, vices, and inclinations to sin that are not considered grave matter (i.e. mortal sins). This purification allows us to enter into heaven, as clean Souls ready to encounter Christ face to face.

Fire is often the vision we incur when we think about Purgatory. Paul writes, “If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:15) The penalty, or loss, is not referring to the fire of Hell, because the person is saved. No one can be saved in Hell. The purification process may feel like fire, and it may hurt, because we’re being stripped of our desire to sin. For some people humility can be a painful process, but a necessary one. We yearn for Heaven as we are being purified.

“This mountain’s of such sort that climbing it is hardest at the start; but as we rise, the slope grows less unkind. Therefore, when this slope seems to you so gentle that climbing farther up will be as restful as traveling downstream by boat, you will be where this pathway ends, and there you can expect to put your weariness to rest.” – Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio

Praying for one another isn’t limited to our earthly life. No. We can ask the Saints in Heaven to pray for us. We can and, rightly so, should pray for the Souls in Purgatory. The Church has taught for many centuries that we should pray for the Souls in Purgatory. We do not pray for the Souls only on All Souls’ Day. The month of November is dedicated to the Souls in Purgatory, and even beyond that to praying for them daily. In recent decades praying for the Souls in Purgatory has been deemphasized. Requiem Masses and black vestments have been replaced with feast-like Masses with white vestments on All Souls’ Day and funerals. Our mortal minds cannot comprehend the importance of praying for the Souls in Purgatory.

Prayer is powerful and we should not limit our prayers only to the living. One of the great joys we’ll receive in Heaven is to see how our prayers had on the Souls in Purgatory. Once the Souls enter Heaven they too will be praying for us. Praying for the Living and the Dead is a wonderful Spiritual Work of Mercy and the effects of this pious act cannot be downplayed by the implications it can have on others lives.

We join with the Communion of Saints in praying for all Souls, including those in Purgatory. That is a powerful expression of how much we love God and want to feast together at the Banquet in Heaven. We get a foretaste of that at every Mass in the Eucharist. Let us together offer up prayers to the the Souls in Purgatory. They too will pray for us.

by John Connor

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Born to Be Magnificent
Battling Sin
Angels & Demons

God’s Love on the Cross

According to tradition, in the fourth century the Emperor Constantine’s mother, St. Helena, discovered the true Cross of Christ while on a pilgrimage in Jerusalem. Helena and Constantine ordered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to be built on the holy site where Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected from the dead.

Constantine abolished crucifixion c. AD 337. Until then crucifixion was an extreme means to kill the victim in an excruciating and dishonorable way. Before Constantine, the early Christians saw the cross as torture and capital punishment.

Eventually the cross became a symbol of life and love, rather than death, through the Resurrection. Jesus Christ died on the cross, and changed the course of history by being resurrected.

His death on the cross is what saves us, and the Resurrection is proof that He is the Son of God.

“For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.” – John 3:16

Jesus loves us so much that He was willing to die on the cross for our sins. God the Father did not punish Jesus on our behalf, rather, Jesus as the second person of the Trinity, took upon Himself to lay down His life so that we too may have everlasting life with Him in heaven. Jesus willfully, out of pure love, laid down His own life to save us.

As Christians we look at the Cross today as an instrument or symbol of what love really is.

“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness.” – 1 Corinthians 1:23

The reason we have crucifixes, rather than empty crosses, is to remind us of the ultimate sacrifice Christ made for us out of love. He loves us so much that He gave up His life for all of salvation. As Catholics we do not leave Christ on the cross (e.g. crucifix) as punishment, rather it’s a fitting reminder of what He did for us. Save us from our sins so we make have everlasting life.

The cross was a brutal way to die. We see the cross is a symbol of love. We look to the cross and give thanks to God almighty for his love for us. His willingness to sacrifice Himself on our behalf. We do not deserve it, but we can certainly appreciate by receiving and accepting this precious gift of new life.

That is why we venerate the cross certain times of the year, such as Good Friday, and celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross every September 14, to remind us of the love God has for us and the cross was used as a means to save us from our sins.

God could have chosen any manner to save us, but He chose to die for us. Sacrificial love is the most perfect act of love. In Greek, the word agape refers to the highest form of love one can offer to someone.

The next time you’re at Mass and you see the crucifix, remind yourself of the love (agape) God has given you. We can offer our love back to him at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

by John Connor

Forgiveness is Divine

Forgiveness is an act of the will. In order to forgive others we must first seek God’s will. God never runs out of mercy. The doors to forgiveness never close. We must know that we are not alone.

In the Our Father we pray, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If we want God to forgive our sins, we have to be able to forgive the sins of others, especially when those sins have hurt us. We cannot pray the Our Father sincerely without looking at our own faults, our own sins. Yes, we want God to forgive our sins, but we also pray that He forgive the sins of everyone around us.

There is a cloud of emotions that we have to muddle through in order for our will to conform to God’s will.

Anger is a power awareness and usually a first response during or after a confrontation with another person. Anger in itself is not a sin. “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27). We still have a responsibility to manage our anger and not let it get out of control.

It takes time to process our reactions, especially anger. We want justice and we want it right now. Rather, we leave the judgment to God, as we see in Romans 12:19, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’ says the Lord.”

Acting impulsively on our emotions can do more harm than good. Maybe there are times when you think about an encounter you had with someone and you wish it had never happened. It would be nice if things were back to normal, but that doesn’t always happen, at least not right away.

When you allow the negative conscious to subside, that’s the time to place it in the hands of our Lord. If you truly want forgiveness to take place, it also must be accompanied by healing. But healing will take time, especially when someone really hurt you.

You aren’t sure how you’re supposed to react during this process. Happiness [and peace] versus anger. We do not have full control over our emotions, but we can influence them, rather than have them dictate the outcome.

If it becomes difficult to control emotions, such as anger or hatred, I strongly encourage you to go to Reconciliation. Healing takes place within the Sacraments. Keep in mind you don’t have to necessarily like the person that hurt you, but you are called to love them just as Christ loves you. To forgiven them as Christ forgives you. The next time you’re around the person that hurt you, you’re may not be sure how to react, and those feelings of anger may return. Frequent Reconciliation often. Forgiveness is a process. It will take time.

Over time a hurtful memory can re-surface. That sense of anger can be trigged. Instead, use this time to thank God for His forgiveness. His mercy endures forever.

Prayer is so important, especially the Rosary, because in the Rosary we pray the Our Father asking for forgiveness, we ask the Blessed Mother for her intersession, and Our Redeemer, Christ our Lord is at the center of the prayer.

You cannot be assured that the person in question will repent or is even aware that they hurt you. What you can do, and should do, is pray that the person will repent and God will be merciful. As you pray for him or her you will find peace. Anger may surface from time to time, but the more you sincerely pray for God to have mercy on that person the more you’ll find peace within.

Jesus is merciful and forgives you of your sins. Pray He will have the same mercy on everyone who has hurt you. Forgiveness is divine.

by John Connor

Related articles:
God’s Love on the Cross
Battling Sin
True Discipleship