Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Purgatory Makes It Easy on God

Writing on the opinion page of the Catholic Times a columnist asks what Catholics feel proud of when introducing Catholicism to Protestants. She lists the Mass, Eucharist, Confession, devotion to the Blessed Mother, all important, but for the columnist it is  purgatory. 

How difficult it would be for God if there were just heaven and hell.  Compassionate and merciful it makes it easy on God having a place like purgatory where those who were somewhere in the middle can go.  
When she walks along the streets and sees placards proclaiming "A friend of Jesus, heaven. No belief, hell," she averts her eyes and feels frightened.
She tells us she lost her parents at an early age and wonders at times where they are. Will I meet them in the next life? They did not know Jesus. Will they be in heaven? In the Old Testament, salvation was found by living according to the law, and in the New Testament by knowing Jesus.
She brings to our attention the passage in II Maccabees where the followers of Judas prayed for the soldiers who had died: "In doing this, he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view..."
The Catholic teaching reiterated at the II Vatican Council tells us not only Christians but those who follow their conscience go to heaven. What wonderful news. But she still has concerns, whether her parents followed their conscience. This is a subjective matter, but every time she recites the Apostles Creed she says she believes in the Communion of Saints: all united with those in heaven, in purgatory and on earth, so that her office for the dead, Masses and other prayers are of help to her parents.
From the time she learned this, she has prayed for all her ancestors. No matter how busy and how tired at the end of each day, she has set aside time to pray for the dead. Up until two years ago she had always performed the rites for the dead in her house; she has changed this to having Masses said. This was not easy but she feels that praying with others is more beneficial than praying by oneself.
This is the month of All Souls, and Koreans, like all Catholics everywhere, remember their dead with special prayers and visits to cemeteries. It is another way of being united to all those who came before us and of preparing ourselves to join them-- a beautiful thought.   

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