Halloween. This coming Tuesday, October 31, most people will be celebrating “Halloween.” Sadly, for some—such as satanic cults and witches—it is an evening to celebrate evil. But, thankfully, for most people its simply a day to pretend to be something they’re not. Not much harm in that, unless we pretend to be something evil. This is especially the case with children—I pray none my children at St. Raymond’s would honor evil (even unintentionally) by dressing up as devils, vampires and the like. Dress up like a superhero, or better yet, a great Saint. Let’s keep this an uplifting and wholesome day, mainly for kids to pretend and eat candy. And pray for those who turn it to some other less moral purpose.
A Holy Week. With all the attention on “Halloween” this week, most people will forget what this week is really about: All Saints Day and All Souls Day. These days are particularly important because they remind us that the Church of Jesus Christ is more than just the people we see at Mass, or even the 2 billion plus Christians on Earth. Because countless numbers of Christians have lived and died before us, and many of those are in Heaven, or on their way there.
This is what the Church means when it speaks of the “Communion of Saints”—using the word “saint” as it is most commonly used in Scripture, to refer to all Christians, both those living and those who have died in Christ. And so, the one Church of Christ has three states, or parts: first, all Christians on Earth (“The Pilgrim Church” or “The Church Militant”), second, all those in Heaven (“The Church in Glory” or “The Church Triumphant”), and third, all the souls in Purgatory (“The Church Being Purified” or “The Church Suffering”).
All Saints Day, Wednesday, November 1, is a holy day of obligation (you must go to Mass, under pain of mortal sin) reminds us of our unity with the Church in Heaven. Throughout the year we celebrate the feasts of particular “saints” whom the Church officially recognizes as now living in Heaven—these are “canonized saints”. But on ALL Saints’ Day we also remember ALL the other countless numbers of souls who have gone to Heaven, including, hopefully, many of our deceased parents and grandparents, and so many of our little children who have gone before us. This is their feast day! So, we honor them, and pray to them, asking the whole multitude in Heaven to assist us on our way to join them.
All Souls Day, Thursday, November 2, remembers our unity with the Church in Purgatory. Unfortunately, nowadays even the mention of Purgatory often triggers reactions of disbelief or even ridicule—even among Catholics. Yet this dogma goes back to the Old Testament, as 2 Maccabees 12:39-46 makes very clear. Some see Purgatory as a place of horrible torture, or even a part of Hell, and the thought that their deceased loved ones could be there seems disrespectful, or even unbearable: they want to think of them as being happy in Heaven.
But remember, St. John tells us in Rev. 21:27 that “nothing imperfect shall enter into” Heaven. The thing is, who do you know that is perfect? Almost all of us have at least some venial sin we cling to, or have some inordinate attachment to earthly things. Does that mean that all of us imperfect people will not enter Heaven, and so go to Hell? Not at all. In His great love and mercy, the Lord takes all of us who die with any imperfections on our souls (but having, before dying, properly repented of any mortal—“deadly”—sins) and He perfects, or purifies, us. Another word for purification is “purgation,” so this time/place/state of purification is called “Purgatory.”
It is true that Purgatory is a place of suffering, hence it is referred to as the “Church Suffering.” Perhaps this suffering is best understood in the light of the suffering that comes with any change. For example, when we try to get into better physical shape, or when we try to learn a new subject, it’s difficult, “painful” (“no pain, no gain”). But this pain is not something we should shun—in fact, the pain becomes a source of joy, as we begin to recognize it as a sign of change to a better state.
So, is it a surprise that the change from imperfect to perfect will be painful? Or that in spite of their suffering, St. Catherine of Genoa, after receiving a vision of Purgatory from Our Lord, wrote: “I believe no happiness can be …compared with that of a soul in Purgatory except that of the saints in Paradise.” The souls in Purgatory suffer, but they rejoice as it brings them closer to Heaven.
Even so, we must pray for the Souls in Purgatory—because they do suffer. Just as we try to help those we love on Earth by praying for them, we should continue to pray for them after death to help them on their way to perfection. Even if we hope or think they’re already in heaven, we still owe them whatever help, in prayer, we can give them in death. So, even though it is not a day of obligation, the Church encourages us to go to Mass on All Souls Day to offer that greatest prayer possible for the “Holy Souls.”
Election. State elections are now only 9 days away. Sadly, many Virginians will not vote in this so-called “off year election,” even though it will decide who writes and executes the laws and policies that govern most of our daily lives at the county and state level. So, I ask all of you to join me in voting, and also praying from now until November 7, begging Our Lord to give us the best leaders possible. Please consider praying the daily Rosary and/or the Novena prayer(s) to St. Thomas More, and offering up small sacrifices.
Lighting and Mural Capital Campaign. In the last few days all registered parishioners should have received a letter/packet in the mail explaining the renovations we plan to make in the church next summer—replacing/upgrading all our existing lighting and installing two new beautiful murals (paintings) of St. Raymond. This project will be expensive, about $400,000. So I am asking all of you to make a special donation to help pay for it.
I will speak briefly about this at all Masses this Sunday and write more here in the coming weeks, but please read over the packets we sent to see all the details. There are also some pictures and diagrams in the narthex this week that might help you get a better understanding of the project. If you haven’t received the mailing yet, please call or email the parish office. Thanks for your generosity. Please pray to St. Raymond for the success of this work.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles