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From the Pastor 10/28/17

During the month of November we remember those who have gone before us in death. And in a special way we especially remember our loved ones who have passed away this past year.

But we do not just remember our loved ones; we also commend them to God. To “commend” someone is to present or mention a person as worthy of notice or kindness. This entire month we commend the dead, those who we have known and loved, to God. In our prayer for the dead we tell God that the person we pray for was loved, and therefore we hope that God will find our love a worthy commendation for God’s ultimate gift of salvation. Fr. Bede Jarret, O.P. an English Dominican spiritual writer, expresses well this prayer of commendation that we express as well:

We seem to give back to you, O God, those whom you gave to us. Yet as you did not lose them in giving, So we do not lose them by their return. Not as the world gives, do you give, O Lover of souls. What you gave, you take not away, but What is yours is ours also if we belong to you.

As Christians, death is not destruction; it is rather, a call from God to return to God. We must remember the consoling words from Jesus in the Gospel of St. John. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and faith in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places; otherwise, how could I have told you that I was going to prepare a place for you? ... I shall come back to take you with me.”

Many consider Purgatory in terms of “paying the price for past sins and the temporal punishment or residue that is left over from past sins.” Others relate to Purgatory in terms of doing time, hoping for God’s mercy through reliance on the prayers of souls on earth and the saints in heaven. Many of us think of Purgatory as a place somewhere between earth and heaven, and that our prayers ask God to let souls “out” of Purgatory.

Although all these ways are not wrong, they are not entirely right either. Purgatory is rather something that God does for us. Even in our Communion Rite we pray, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Purgatory is really an answer to prayers. Facing our sinfulness and the sinfulness of our relatives and friends is not a pleasant experience.

Purgatory is about finally and ultimately facing our sins and admitting to God our responsibility for them. We should look upon Purgatory as a necessary and merciful experience of cleansing. Gram Green, an English author and great novelist of the last century, put it so pointedly, “One begins to discover Heaven, when one has found Hell.”

No one really knows what Purgatory really is. But rather than punishment, we are coming to know it as God’s final act of mercy and healing in our lives. At our death, we shall face God and see all that God is, and realize how far we have strayed for all that we could have been. To a great extent it will be a moment of regret for all of us. Purgatory is the opportunity to rely totally on God.

All the souls in Purgatory know they have been given the gift of being with God, but not yet. They must rely on the prayers of souls on earth and the saints in heaven, and ultimately God’s mercy, to release them from the bonds of Purgatory. Knowing you have eternal life, but having to atone for sins and temporal punishment attached to sin, is indeed a greater punishment than anything we can experience while here on earth.

We pray that God will see that we loved our deceased relatives and friends, and that we want them to enjoy all the promises of salvation. We do not pray so much that a person be “relieved” of Purgatory, but rather that God will in fact purge them of sins and that they may live with God forever. In a real sense we should look upon Purgatory as a place of merciful cleansing.

Ultimately we rely on God’s mercy and most especially on the prayers of the Most Glorious Virgin Mary. She is the ultimate sign of being with God forever, in the state of perfection.

A most ancient pray to Our Lady recited by the Camaldolese hermits, the first prayer they recite as they rise in the middle of the night for their morning office, seems to express so well how much we must rely on Mary for her intercessory prayers over our lives:

Queen of Angels, we greet you! Blessed Lady of all the angels, You the dawn, the door of morning, From whence the world’s true light is risen, O, be joyful, glorious Virgin, Beautiful beyond all women, blessing to you. O most Gracious Virgin, at the throne of God, Pray for us forever.
And as the ancient prayer of the Church expresses so well, “Eternal rest grant onto them, and let God’s perpetual light now shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, now rest in peace. Amen”

During the month of November we have placed the All Souls envelopes with the names of your loved ones near the tabernacle in church. As their names are close to Jesus here on earth, we pray that they will soon be with our Divine Savior in the Kingdom of Heaven.

God bless you all, and have a wonderful week. Please pray for your pastor, as you are in my daily prayers as well.

A blessed week to all,

Rev. André-Joseph LaCasse, O.P., Pastor