• The next Moms’ Prayer Group meeting is this Sunday, November 3, at 7:00 PM, in the Perpetual Help classroom. All moms are welcome!
• Students are dismissed for Thanksgiving Break on Tuesday, November 26, at 2:05 PM.
• The cross country team will be running League Finals this Tuesday, November 5. Contact Mr. Schoenfeld for more details.
Farewell, but not forever! brother dear,
Be brave and patient on thy bed of sorrow;
Swiftly shall pass thy night of trial here,
And I will come and wake thee on the morrow.
These are the consoling words of an angel sung to a human soul as it entered into the temporary pains of purgatory, as described by Cardinal Newman in his poem, The Dream of Gerontius.
It has always been the teaching of the Catholic Church, since its very beginning, that those souls who die in the state of grace but without having had their venial sins forgiven or without having done sufficient penance for their past sins, that such souls must spend a period of time in purgatory, where, as the name implies, they will be purged of their offenses against God before they are allowed to see Him in heaven. This truth also has its roots in Sacred Scripture, for instance, even in the Old Testament, in the Second Book of Maccabees, where Judas Maccabeus took up a collection of 12,000 drachmas of silver to be offered for the dead, “that they be loosed from sins.” The passage continues, It is therefore a holy and wholesome practice to pray for the dead. There are also passages found in the New Testament which imply a temporary period of retribution after one’s death and before entrance into heaven. And for 2,000 years, saints, theologians and the Church’s Magisterium have continually taught the existence of purgatory as a defined dogma of our Faith to be believed by all.
The thought of a person who dies in the state of grace, “a good person,” having to suffer in purgatory, seems to some people to be too cruel and harsh to be possible. “How could God allow such a thing?” they say. Our reaction ought to be, “How merciful our God is to allow us, even after our death, to make retribution for our sins, to be purified, so that we can eventually go to heaven and see Him face to face.” We have, indeed, a most loving Father Who, being perfectly merciful, forgives all our sins if we confess them, and being perfectly just, requires that we make some sort of retribution for every sin we commit (even though He requires from us far less than we deserve). And would He be a good God, a good Father, if He didn’t?
Think about an earthly father. Would he really be a good, loving father if he never punished his children for the wrong they’ve done? No, he wouldn’t. He would be considered negligent in his vocation as a father; and his children would become spoiled brats. So, such a thing as purgatory makes perfect sense even on the mere natural level. Even a number of the pagan Greek philosophers of antiquity had some notion of a place of temporary purgation before entering eternal happiness. Why were they able to see clearly by reason alone what so many refuse to accept on faith?
God created purgatory not out of cruelty, but out of love; because He knows that a soul still defiled by sin could not bear to see Him face to face. It would, in fact, throw itself into purgatory rather than appear before Him so unprepared. And so the souls in purgatory suffer for a time, paying back even the last penny; and yet they have at the same time a certain hope and joy which we do not have. For they know that they will soon see God; they know that they can sin no more and that heaven will soon be theirs. And yet, because they cannot do anything for themselves at this point, except suffer, they long for our prayers, for our prayers and our acts of reparation to help pay off their debt. Such is God’s great mercy, that He allows us, the surviving brothers and sisters of the faithful departed, to offer our prayers, our merits and satisfactions, for them. Such is the beauty of Christ’s Mystical Body—all His members united in charity.
Two centuries ago, a religious sister, who would later found an order dedicated to praying for the souls in purgatory, said “If one of us were in a fiery prison and we could deliver him by a word, would we not say that word quickly? The poor souls are in a fiery prison, and our good God, to open that prison, asks only a prayer from us. Can we refuse this prayer?” (La Reverende Mere Marie de Providence). The worst thing we can do for a loved one after he dies is to tell ourselves that he is most certainly in heaven and that we do not need to pray for his soul. In this month of November Holy Mother Church reminds us of the need to pray always for “the Church Suffering,” for the souls in purgatory. May we all show our love for those who have gone before us by praying for the repose of their souls. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord…etc.
• For all the benefactors of St. Michael’s Preparatory School, living and deceased.
• For all the students and families of St. Michael’s Preparatory School.
• For all faculty and staff of St. Michael’s Preparatory School.