How to Become a Better Weekday Catholic

Ite Missa Est. The recessional hymn sounds and Mass is complete. You’ve fulfilled your Sunday obligation. Sometimes people will rush out of the church building so fast that they don’t realize what just happened or Who they just encountered.

A person may unknowingly “activate” their faith at the beginning of the Mass, but then it deactivates at the end of Mass. It’s a sense of obligation. You “have” to be there, but in reality you’d rather be sleeping in or doing something else, anything else, than to be at Mass.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” –Matthew 18:20

It is possible for laity such as you and I to get more out of being Catholic, and to get more out of just some Sunday obligation. The answer is to become a weekday Catholic.

There is a very simple approach to becoming a weekday Catholic. Not only that, but a devout weekday Catholic. It’s so simple that anybody can accomplish such even with a demanding, overflowing schedule.

Attending a beautiful and reverent Mass is a first step to applying your faith in a practical sense during the week. The reason for this is you need the beautiful experience to plant the seed to become a weekday Catholic. That seed of desire will be planted at a reverent Mass. We desire to be satisfied at Mass yet hungry for more. It’s a hunger for more Catholicity that you can continue to enjoy during the week. Not only that, but prayerful practices during the week can make you hungry for the Eucharist on Sunday. It’s cyclical.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” –Acts 2:42

Christ wants to be part of your life every day, not just for one hour a week at Sunday Mass. Being a weekday Catholic is not difficult. Some speculate that it’s overbearing and time consuming, but being a weekday Catholic is simple with the right approach. Satan wants you to think that being a weekday Catholic will take too much time out of your day from work or obligations. Satan wants you to think Jesus is an afterthought, that prayer is dull, that the sacraments are rigid. If the devil can get you to think that being a Catholic is low on the priority scale, then he has won.

People make time to eat. Eating is important, especially eating healthy. If you stopped eating and drinking that would be bad for your health. People make time to do the things they either need to do or want to do. Spending time with Christ, such as prayer, each day works along the same line.

Prayer is essential to your spiritual health just as eating is to your physical health. Prayer nurtures and feeds the soul. Poor eating habits eventually catches up with the person and they become sick. The same with poor prayer habits. Prayer is easy to do every day. One of the most satisfying prayers outside of the Mass is the Rosary. I’ve mentioned the importance of praying the Rosary before, because the Rosary really is that powerful of a prayer.

“Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” –Matthew 6:33

Praying the Rosary takes minutes out of your day. The Rosary can fit into anyone’s schedule. Praying the Rosary together as a family is powerful. The Blessed Mother wants to be part of your prayer life with Christ at the center. It takes no time at all for the Rosary to become habitual. Praying the Rosary around the same time each day helps to create a better habit. No matter how busy I am I will stop what I’m doing to pray the Rosary out of habit as well as a desire to pray. It makes a tremendous difference.

Some parishes offer Eucharistic Adoration and Reconciliation during the week. The Sacrament of Penance is essential for those that have grave matter on their soul, but confession is not only for mortal sins, but also venial sins. Make a habit of weekly sacramental Penance for even the smallest of venial sins. After an examination of conscience there’s at least one venial sin that could stand absolution. Afterwards spend a few moments before the Blessed Sacrament, whether it’s exposed in Adoration or reposed in the tabernacle. Regular visits to the confessional keeps the soul clean. Reconciliation also fortifies the soul when temptation emerges. Make a habit of the Sacrament of Penance.

The daily scripture readings are easily accessible for free on any smart phone or tablet. It takes minutes out of a busy day to read the daily scripture. Allow God to nourish your soul with His Word. Time is precious but so is God’s Word. There is always time to be a weekday Catholic. A few minutes here. A few minutes there.

 “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” –Romans 10:17

Over time as your weekday Catholic habits grow, daily Mass is a great option. Why wait for Sunday for the Eucharist when a parish near by may offer daily Mass during the week. If you’re hungry for the Eucharist, go to daily Mass.

Being a weekday Catholic is a great way to prepare you for being a great Sunday Catholic at Mass. Your soul will be prepared for the Liturgy. Rather than run out the door as soon as Mass concludes you may find yourself sitting there in the pew for a moment and reflect on what and Who you just encountered–a beautiful Liturgy and Christ in the Eucharist.

by John Connor

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Lord, I’m Not Worthy

At the Holy Mass a perpetual, thanksgiving sacrifice is offered to God at the hands of the priest which we assist at in Mass through worship and adoration. During the Liturgy, we encounter Christ in a mystical, realistic sense. The mere thought of the second person of the Trinity, Christ, coming to us in the form of bread and wine is beyond our comprehension. This is a physical occurrence. He becomes physically present to those in attendance.

What is noteworthy about our presence being along side the Real Presence is that in the Old Testament, the people of God could not come face to face with God. Only the high priest could enter the holy of holies once a year, speak the divine name of God in His presence and do so without keeling over. You or I would never have been able to do that. We are not worthy.

If the Hebrew people, God’s first chosen people, were not worthy to be in His presence, then his new covenant family, Catholic Christians, aren’t worthy either. Thankfully now God in His bountiful love can make us worthy, not because of our own merit, but through the sacrament of baptism we enter God’s covenant family. We are allowed present ourselves at Mass in the physical presence of Christ, God, under the veil of the Eucharist.

The state of our soul determines our worthiness, that being whether or not we should approach Jesus in Holy Communion and receive Him.

In the parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:2-14), the first group of people invited to the king’s wedding feast would not come, some even killed the king’s servants. Finally the king’s servants searched for those, good and bad, to attend the banquet. One person in particular showed up without a wedding garment and was bound up and cast out. This person was unprepared and unworthy to attend. The wedding garment was essential to obtain admission to a wedding banquet.

The fitting attire for a wedding as well as at Mass is a sign of respect, but in the parable mentioned, it’s not so much what the person was wearing is as important as his preparation.

We must prepare our souls for attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Mass is a foretaste of the Heavenly Wedding Feast. Christ, the bridegroom, and the Church, His bride. If we show up to Mass unprepared by not being in the state of grace we are henceforth unworthy to obtain the Eucharist at Holy Communion.

If the Eucharist was merely symbolic then yes, anyone can deem themselves worthy on their own account to receive Him. But Jesus made perfectly clear in the bread of life discourse (John 6:51-59) and at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26-28, Luke 22:19-20, Mark 14:22-24) that the Eucharist is really and truly the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ.

Saint Paul reaffirms this in his first letter to the Corinthians.

“And when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” –1 Corinthians 11:24-26

Paul then explains what happens if one consumes the Eucharist unworthily.

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.” –1 Corinthians 11:27-29

The Catholic Church is not a bully by refusing people to receive Holy Communion with mortal sin on their soul. Rather it safeguards and protects people from falling into further grave sin. It would be sacrilege to receive the Eucharist outside of the state of grace.

Paul emphasizes that before receiving the Eucharist we must first examine ourselves to determine whether or not we are worthy. An examination of conscience may be in order to take inventory of any possible serious stain of sin, especially mortal sin, since mortal sin cuts us off from the covenant family of God. Repenting of serious sins through the sacrament of Penance brings us back into God’s fold, united once again. Discernment in St. Paul’s case refers to whether one is worthy to receive the Eucharist. It is of the utmost importance to repent of grave sins in order to receive Communion. Best safe than sorry.

There are times people may still feel unworthy to receive the Eucharist even in the state of grace. Venial sins can cumulate and the weight can be unbearable causing an unworthy reaction. It is perfectly acceptable to go up for a blessing, or “spiritual Communion.”

The Eucharist is not a Catholic privilege, it is an opportunity to humble ourselves to be in the presence of the Eucharistic sacrifice being offered to God. In lieu of trying to make ourselves worthy to receive the Eucharist, it’s an opportunity to leave the worthiness up to God. It gives God the opportunity to lift us up to Him. We shan’t not simplify Liturgy to a mere human level, rather, yearn for God to guide us to the Eucharist. Humility and grace opens the door for God to allow us to receive Him.

“Domine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea.” (Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof; by only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.)

by John Connor

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Why I Love Traditional Catholicism

In the beginning of my Latin Mass experience I would attend the Extraordinary form, as well as the Ordinary form of the Mass, or Novus Ordo, with my family, alternating between the two liturgies. As I grew favorably closer to the Latin Mass, I found my liturgical “palate” began to change, noticing the vast difference how the two liturgies are celebrated.

“Catholic liturgy is no ordinary gathering…God, not man, is at the centre of Catholic liturgy” –Robert Cardinal Sarah

The robust appearances at the Latin Mass such as chant, ad orientem posture, spoken Latin, and Communion on the tongue are vacant at a typical Novus Ordo Mass. A growing number of Catholics are hungry for rich Liturgy rather than something that is mundane. Liturgy that will fill the soul is a Liturgy worth attending.

“Man should tremble, the world should quake, all Heaven should be deeply moved when the Son of God appears on the altar in the hands of the priest.” –St. Francis of Assisi

When one attends Mass, that person should have high expectations in liturgical structure. The Extraordinary form is delivered in such a way that’s beautifully reverent, a Liturgy worthy of God. The priest faces ad orientem, the music is beautiful chant, young men serve the priest as altar boys, the Eucharist is presented reverently. The secular motif that can be found at a Novus Ordo Mass (e.g. praise and worship-style music) is completely absent from the Latin Mass. And there’s no room whatsoever for a priest to interject his personality into the Liturgy–to change what is perfect, respectful, and pleasing to God.

“The liturgy is inherently linked to beauty…The liturgy is a radiant expression of the paschal mystery…Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation.” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis no. 35

Pope Francis referred to the Traditional Latin Mass as rigid, asking why are so many young people attracted to the Extraordinary form? The Holy Father is correct. The Latin Mass is rigid. Rigidity is beautiful, and [young] people are attracted to beauty.

Which begs the question, wouldn’t a person rather attend a fun, entertaining, and light-hearted Mass?

People who want to grow in their faith do not want to be entertained at Mass, but to be caught up in the Liturgy and their lives transformed. Mass is not a stage for entertainment. It is an opportunity to encounter God in the flesh, in the Eucharist. A chance to worship Him honorably and reverently.

There is beauty in rigidity. Rigid is good when it comes to Liturgy. The Latin Mass is structured in a way that leaves no room for personal changes or ad lib.

“How happy is that guardian angel who accompanies a soul to Holy Mass!” –St. John Vianney

The Latin Mass is for people of all ages that are hungry for a Liturgy that duly offers the best to God. While the Novus Ordo Mass could be “reformed” to make it more reverent by adding components such as sacred music and ad orientem, a priest could possibly incur his personal taste into the Liturgy. A perfect Liturgy cannot be altered. The Extraordinary form of the Mass preserves the structure intended to offer the most holy Eucharistic sacrifice to God.

I reached the crossroads in my own spirituality. Perhaps you have too. The beauty of the Latin Mass is not only nostalgic, “it is the Mass of the Church of all times, and therefore cannot be overthrown and has equal dignity,” says Cardinal Raymond Burke.

The best decision I’ve made since becoming Catholic is to embrace Traditional Catholicism to the best of my ability. That’s what I’ve done. Does it make it wrong to attend a reverent Novus Ordo Mass? In my opinion no…although I do prefer the Latin Mass. Why? Because when I attend a Latin Mass I embrace true Catholicism with all its splendor. When you reach the point in your spiritual life that you want the most out of Mass, the next logical leap is the Traditional Latin Mass. Becoming more of a Traditional Catholic has been a second conversion for me. In the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46) That is what the Traditional Latin Mass has to offer. It magnifies your soul and your spirit will rejoice in Jesus Christ.

“One merits more by devoutly assisting at a Holy Mass than by distributing all of his goods to the poor and traveling all over the world on pilgrimage.” –St. Bernard

by John Connor

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Welcome to the Masquerade

The Roman Empire was a hostile environment for Christians prior to its tolerance by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. Even when the Romans allowed Christians to freely practice Catholicism there was still a taste of disdain between Catholics and pagans.

To be a Catholic in the first three centuries, prior to its tolerance, meant your life was on the line. Where as today if you publicly declare devout Catholicity, you may get mocked or ridiculed for believing that life begins at conception, or that marriage is between one man and one woman. You may even get bantered for being too traditional or orthodox. Sure there may be some jeering here and there, but for the early Christians you could be martyred for publicly proclaiming to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Some people were content to closet their faith and wear masks. Not physical masks, but spiritual, in order to avoid martyrdom. While other Catholics chose not to hide behind a mask. They chose to live and share their faith openly knowing full well it may cost them their life, and were willing to sacrifice their lives in order to preach the truth.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” –John 14:6

Christ is Truth. To be a Catholic, a Christian, we are called to live truth, and to proclaim that truth to others, whether it be family, friends, or strangers. Professing the truth isn’t easy when there’s hostility in the air. Truth is also rigid. It is objective rather than subjective. But we need structure such as the Latin Mass. It focuses our attention on truth. Christ never said it was going to be easy, but He promised everlasting life in heaven if we endure.

The majority of the apostles were martyred for proclaiming the Truth of Catholicism, except for the apostle John who was exiled on the island of Patmos. Many early Christians freely gave up their lives for the faith. They did not wear (spiritual) masks. They did not hide. They openly shared the faith with others. Some may assert, “yes but they were followers of Christ,” which is true, but we too are called to be followers of Christ, to be disciples. That is what it means to be a Catholic. We do not hide from Truth. We affirm Truth. We profess Truth every Mass when we say the Credo.

In every age there has been a masquerade. Some Catholics choose to don their spiritual masks, losing sight of being a witness that attests to the true Catholic faith. While others chose to live authentic traditional Catholic lives publicly. Not afraid to shout from the rooftops that they adore Christ in traditional Catholicism and all the teachings of the Church.

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” –John 10:10

Christ promised us everlasting life. That begins here and now by cooperating, living, and sharing the beauty of traditional Catholicism with others, and to affirm all the teachings of the Church.

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.” –1 Peter 2:21

We are to be imitators of Christ (Ephesians 5:1). As Catholics we are to set the example of Christian Truth to others, to lead and to teach just as Christ did. That means we must not mask what is true and authentic when it comes to Christ or Catholicism.

Everything that occurs within the Body of Christ effects you and I, whether directly and indirectly. This goes for the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of the human person, and the sanctity of gender–masculine men and feminine women.

The masquerade is here and now. We are among wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15), but Christ promised us that if we endure to the end we’ll have everlasting life. Sitting at the Heavenly banquet with Him. It is not too late. It’s never too late to change hearts. We should pray for others that their masks come off. You may know people who claim to be Catholic but don’t necessarily agree with or outwardly live the faith. There will always be to some level a masquerade in the Church, but with authentic traditional Catholicism there is hope. Thankfully more and more Catholics are finding the beauty and Truth in traditional Catholicism.

“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” –John 8:32

by John Connor

Why Be Catholic?

Christianity has been around for nearly two millennium. It is as diverse as the depths of the oceans. Vast cultural characteristics span around the globe within Christian communities. For those that are Christian, or on the cusp of considering the Christian faith, the next logical question is, why be Catholic?

Catholicism proclaims the fullness of the Christian faith. It has only been in the past 500 years or so that Christianity became diverse through Protestantism and pseudo-Christian sects. In order to live the Christian life to the fullest, we have to ask, why be Catholic? The foundation of Catholicism is that Christ started one Church, not many church communities. It is an unbroken link that leads to the present. As Catholics, we shouldn’t take our faith for granted. We need to be able to answer the question, why Catholicism?

The phrase “Kingdom of God” occurs approximately 122 times in the New Testament, primarily spoken by Jesus Himself. “The Kingdom is not a thing, it is not a geographical dominion like worldly kingdoms. It is a person; it is he. On this interpretation, the term ‘Kingdom of God’ is itself a veiled Christology. By the way in which he speaks of the Kingdom of God, Jesus leads men to realize the overwhelming fact that in him God himself is present among them, that he is God’s presence.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Part 1)

Christ in essence is the Church, the cornerstone. But not simply a mystical church, where Jesus (i.e. Kingdom of God) is spiritually everywhere or only in our hearts, but it’s a living, breathing Church.

The earthly kingdom (i.e. the Church) and the heavenly kingdom are interrelated. They are in essence one. We see this in the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus founded the Catholic Church.

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” –Matthew 16:18-19

We can establish two principles here. One, Jesus founded one church, singular tense. Two, that this church, singular tense, would have the power to bind and loose. What ever is bound and loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven. Christ did not merely establish a mystical church, He primarily established a physical church, and He made that Church authoritative in terms of binding and loosing.

Jesus passed on His authority onto His apostles (Matthew 28:18-20). The authority given by God doesn’t end with the death of the last apostle. No. Jesus proclaimed the gates of hell shall not prevail. The apostles were tasked with evangelizing. Sharing the good news (Gospel) to all known nations. In order to do this the apostles had to pass on their authority onto others. This is called apostolic succession. For 2,000 years there has been an unbroken line of bishops from the apostles authority given by Christ, to the current living bishops.

It is impossible for Sacred Scripture to be the sole authority of the Christian life. Scripture is not authoritative unless someone with authority, given by Christ, makes it so. Just like the Constitution of the United States is not authoritative unless the branches of the government, such as the judicial branch, makes it authoritative. Believe it or not, there was a time when there was no Bible. For nearly four centuries, there was no canonized Scripture. No table of contents. It took decades after the Ascension of Christ for the apostles to write the New Testament. Some theologians believe that the last writings were by the apostle John around A.D. 68. That’s over thirty years after the Ascension. Before anything was written the Church had only Sacred Tradition. Not to be confused with “traditions of men” or man-made tradition. Sacred Tradition begat Sacred Scripture, all bound by the Magisterium of the Church–the bishops in union with the Successor of Peter, the Pope.

It would take nearly a thousand years before the Church would see its first split, East and West. Then another 500 years after that before the Church would see a multiple fracture occur in the Protestant Revolt. But the gates of hell shall not prevail. The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church has stood strong since the time of Christ.

While Holy Mother Church is the pinnacle of holiness, there is still the human element attached to the Church. No Catholic parish is perfect. No priest, bishop, or even the pope is perfect, or impeccable. The Catholic Church itself is perfect. We have a perfect Liturgy in the Traditional Latin Mass, full of beauty and reverence, with all the “smells and bells.” We have a perfect Eucharistic sacrifice given to us by Christ Himself that occurs at every Mass. Catholicism is the fullness of Christianity. Even though modernism and the progressive movement emits itself within the Church today, we can and should embrace our traditional Catholic faith.

“Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” –St. Ignatius of Antioch, c. A.D 110

by John Connor

Do We Really Need Advent?

Recently I visited a 4th grade CCE (Continuing Christian Education) class to teach the kids about Advent. “Who can mention the seasons of the Church,” I asked. Eagerly, the kids raised their hands. “Summer,” the first kid said. “No.” I replied, pointing to another kid. “Winter,” another kid quickly blotted. I turned to another kid, expecting a good answer this time. “Spring,” was his answer. Then I knew that I had to lower my expectations. “I mean the seasons of the Church year,” I explained. At that point, some of the kids gave me the “what is he talking about” look.

Eventually, they mentioned Lent and Easter. But they had a very poor understanding of Advent. Then I realized that for these kids, and many kids, and even adults, the season of Advent is like the “appetizer” which you can skip, depending on how hungry you are. Everyone who is really hungry is looking forward to the main meal – Christmas. Worse still, the over commercialization of Christmas, seems to make Advent less appreciated, and more negligible. But is Advent just an appetizer? If yes, why does the Church devote so much time and energy in celebrating these four weeks before Christmas, and how relevant is the season of Advent?

Advent (Lat. adventus) means arrival. The question is whose arrival? When you hear songs like “Oh! You better watch out, You better not cry, You better not pout, Cause I’m telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town!,” it seems that we are preparing for the arrival of Santa Clause and not Jesus Christ, the Savior. I call those who put too much emphasis on Santa Claus and shopping, “Santaholics.” These are not just the kids, but adults as well. Some would rather say “Happy Holidays” than “Merry Christmas.” It is really difficult to tell what a good number of people celebrate during Christmas. That raises the question: when people are preparing, what are they preparing for? How are they preparing?

Advent is for those who are preparing for the arrival (birth) of Jesus Christ on Christmas day. The four-week period of Advent emphasizes penitence and joyful expectation. Different parishes have different events scheduled. They include penance services, in addition to regular confession times. There is also communal adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Advent season also encourages works of charity and mercy. The color purple is the liturgical color for the season to mark the penitential nature of the season. Floral decorations are used in moderation. The organ and other musical instruments are also used in moderation. The “Gloria” is omitted during Mass. The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday. The color rose is used at the liturgical color to expresses a joyful note of anticipation for the coming of the Savior. All these are done to suit the character of the season. Advent emphasizes the first coming of Jesus as Savior and Redeemer, and His second coming in glory as Lord and Judge. Therefore Christ himself has instructed us on how to prepare for his coming by saying, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” (Mk 13:33). Clearly, there is more to preparing for Christmas than knowing the date and shopping for it.

Scripture tells us how Jesus prepared for His coming: “he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance …” (Phil 2:7) The self-emptying, taking the form of a slave, and then coming in human likeness, all describe elaborate preparation. If the Lord did such elaborate preparation for His coming, why would He find us unprepared when he arrives? Material preparation is very important, no doubt. But moral and spiritual preparation is much more important. Otherwise we would be like those described thus: “he came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gave power to become children of God ” (Jn 1:11-12)

Advent is to Christmas what John the Baptist is to Jesus – preparation for the real thing. But not just in the sense of an “appetizer,” but in a more profound and meaningful way. He declares: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (Jn 1:23).

One of the titles of Jesus Christ is “Emmanuel” – God is with us. God desires to be, not just with us, but in us, in our hearts. “It is by faith that he dwells in our hearts, in our memory, our intellect and penetrates even into our imagination. What concept could man have of God if he did not first fashion an image of him in his heart?” –Saint Bernard.

It is only by God’s grace that we can fully utilize the great opportunity provided by the season of Advent. We need the wisdom, courage and humility to know and to do what it takes to prepare for the coming of Christ. In the words of St. Anselm, we pray to God: “Teach me to seek you, and when I seek you show yourself to me, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor can I find you unless you show yourself to me.” This is one of the main reasons why I would answer: Yes, we really need the season of Advent.

by
Rev. Augustine Uchenna Ariwaodo
Parochial Vicar, St. Mary’s Catholic Center
College Station, Texas

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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