A lot going on this weekend and this week. First, today, November 2, is the Commemoration of All Souls. The purpose of this feast is mainly to pray for the dead. This prayer is directed not for those who are in Heaven already, as they do not need prayers; and certainly not for those who are in Hell, since prayers would be useless. Rather, we pray for those in Purgatory, who are being prepared for their entrance into Heaven.
Many Catholics nowadays wrongly think Purgatory is an outdated remnant from the Middle Ages, even though Christian belief in Purgatory is rooted in Jewish doctrine (2 Maccabees 12), and was well established in the early Church. Many other Catholics, in their grief, prefer to think of their departed loved ones as already being in Heaven, and can’t bear the thought that they might be in Purgatory.
But the doctrine of Purgatory is not something to fear or avoid, because it is a doctrine of God’s love and mercy, and reflects the reality that none of us is perfect. All of us sin or cling to things of this world—however small or seemingly insignificant. But Scripture tells us “nothing imperfect [or “impure”] shall enter” into Heaven (Rev. 21:27)—and rightly so, since Heaven is about perfect happiness, perfect love, etc… Given this, and confident in Our Lord’s mercy and His desire for all to be with Him in Heaven, Christians have always believed that between death and Heaven we pass through a state of purification, or purgation, where we’re cleansed from all imperfections, i.e., made perfect. This state, or “place,” we call Purgatory.
Now, we must remember that Purgatory is NOT anything like Hell, and all the Souls in Purgatory are good and “worthy” of eternal joy in Heaven—we call them the “Holy Souls.” So thinking of them as in Purgatory is not an insult but praise. Moreover, these Souls are certain they are going to Heaven, so they are filled with a joy beyond anything experienced on earth.
But we must also remember that there is suffering in Purgatory. The simplest way for many of us to understand this is to think of the suffering related to change. All change is difficult. Consider the person who is trying to lose weight, or exercising for an athletic competition. The effort involved in change is painful, but as you see progress you are also invigorated and happy, seeing your goal approach.
Even so, since 1) Purgatory involves pain, and 2) we want our beloved dead to swiftly enter the joys of Heaven, we should never neglect praying for them. Yes, in our grief we may be inclined to deny their imperfections, but in our love for them we remember that they deserve our prayers. And if they are already in Heaven, no prayer is wasted, since every prayer is an act of love, and they hear each prayer as telling how much we love them.
So in love, let us pray for our beloved dead today. And let us also remember all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us pray especially for those “most abandoned,” the individual souls who no one else remembers to pray for.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls, and all the souls of the faithful departed, especially the most abandoned, rest in peace.
Today is also “Vocation Awareness Sunday,” and Mr. Blaise Radel, one of our Arlington seminarians (Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, Ohio) will be speaking at the end of all the Masses to promote vocations. I have known Blaise since he was a little boy, and he has served many Extraordinary Form Masses here at St. Raymond’s, so I am very happy to welcome him back to our parish.
God is calling many of our young men and women—members of our families—to the special vocations of priesthood or religious life. It is so easy to resist this call; I know, I did that until I was 31 years old. But there is nothing to fear. Yes, it can be a demanding life, but no more demanding than the life of a spouse and parent, and there are so many rewards in this life and the life to come. And there is nothing better than to live one’s life knowing that you are doing what God has called you to do.
I encourage all of our young people to pray and consider if God is calling you to one of these special vocations. And I strongly encourage all families, especially parents, to help their children or siblings in pursuing this call. It is a great blessing to have a priest or friar or a nun in the family. And if you love them, and wants what’s best for them, help them to accept God’s plan for them. Don’t push, just encourage and support.
Let us pray for all those discerning a vocation to priesthood or religious life, especially those in our own families and our parish. Remember particularly our parishioners who are already in formation, including Teri Tolpa (Sisters for Life), and Jacob McCrumb and James Waalkes (Arlington seminarians); and don’t forget Blaise Radel.
Pro-Life “Thank Yous.” A quick but heartfelt thanks to all those who participated in “40 Days for Life”—and there were so many of you! Another quick “thanks” to Noelle Zorzi, a student at Robinson High School, who participated in a “Pro Life Day Of Silent Solidarity” in honor of the babies who never received a voice. She was silent throughout the whole school day, and carried a card explaining why. God bless you, Noelle, and any others who joined in, for your great courage to be a witness to life for your peers.
Filipino Archbishop Here Next Sunday. I am delighted to announce that retired Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan, from the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao (Philippines) will offer our regularly scheduled 5pm Mass next Sunday, November 9. There will be a second collection at that Mass to aid the elderly and sick priests of his Archdiocese.
Constant Contact. In the last few months the parish office has been using the service Constant Contact to send mass-emails out to all parishioners to remind of them of important events. It is my intent to send these out very sparingly, maybe once or twice a month. If you haven’t received several of these emails from us please either check your computer’s settings that might be blocking them, or send us your current correct email address to make sure you are on our list. Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Election. In the last month I have preached and written about the importance of the election this Tuesday, November 4. Catholics can disagree on many issues, but not on the key issues of defending the right to life, traditional marriage and religious liberty. So remember your solemn and grave duty to vote this Tuesday and to vote like a Catholic.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles