I attended Mass at a different local Parish last Sunday, so it was a little unique celebrating Mass with mostly strangers. In this instance, it was an exceptionally good experience because it allowed me to focus even more on the Mass rather than let myself be distracted by the people around me. And, this was an important Mass for me this year.
It was the first Mass since my grandmother’s Funeral Mass. The occasion and timing this year really permitted me to reflect on the members of my family and friends who have died. Of course, many of the readings, hymns, and songs during this All Soul’s Day Mass were the same or similar to what I had heard earlier in the week at the Funeral Mass 700 miles away.
The priest made it even more impactful because he actually spoke a little about purgatory in his homily. (It is amazing to me how purgatory is practically a taboo topic to be discussed in many churches. I can probably count on one hand how many times I have heard a homily or discussion on purgatory in my 50+ years.)
The discussion did not focus on purgatory, but he did explain that this Mass was to pray for those that have died and explained why the dead need our prayers and why we will need them when we die. While, in my opinion, he did not go in-depth enough, I thought he did make the connection between the reason for this special Mass and the benefits it can provide for the dead.
Message Sent, But Not Received
When Mass was over, I again had the feeling of peace that I enjoy after experiencing a fulfilling and prayerful Mass. I wish everyone could obtain this level of satisfaction after Mass. However, I was not even out of my pew yet, when I overheard a comment that made me realize that some just don’t “get it.”
The individual actually said something similar to “Wow, that Mass was a kind of a downer. It was like a funeral today.”
I thought to myself, “duh! Yes, that is exactly what it was supposed to be like!”
Unfortunately, I was caught so off-guard that I failed to interject myself into the conversation – which I typically am not shy about. I think I would have if I had been with my usual parishioners.
The entire drive home and the rest of my “peaceful” Sunday kept getting distracted by my frustration for not responding to that comment. It was a perfect opportunity to explain and/or teach about the purpose of that specific Mass and our Faith.
Since I was not a member of their parish community, I had no reason to fear rejection or my ego being hurt. There was no personal down-side to speaking up. That is what frustrated me the most.
There have a number of intriguing articles and essays on Catholic Stand concerning purgatory, so I am not going to review the same material here. However, I do believe that we should be discussing it more freely in our conversations about our faith. It is so critical when tying together the sacraments of Penance and Last Rights.
In fact, I personally believe if purgatory was better explained, understood, and accepted, we could see a dramatic change in attitude and actions by many Catholics. It is my perception that there are a significant number of Catholics that believe simply by being Catholic, not necessarily living or acting the Faith, that they have an EZ-Pass directly to heaven.
As a whole, our current society does not want to discuss negative consequences. Consequences are often deemed to be regarded as judgmental opinions by recipients when they are expressed to them.
Few topics are considered to have clear or definitive right-wrong or yes-no absolutes. There are always exceptions, caveats, loop-holes, excuses, etc. that provide mitigation for straying from an absolute position.
It is easier to just believe that if you believe in God, are sorry for your sins – even if you do not truly repent or intend to turn away from them, and do your mediocre best, that you are going straight to heaven. Oh, wouldn’t that be so easy!
I think too many Catholics, in fact, probably the overwhelming majority of U.S. Catholics, believe that attending Sunday Mass opens the gate of heaven for them. What they either do not know or understand, is that while the gate may be open, it is truly narrow and the waiting room is large. Fortunately, purgatory does not have a “no vacancy” sign (at least I have never heard that it could).
2014 Purgatory Parable
You die and enter into eternal life. St. Peter welcomes you at the gate. You are ushered into Hotel Purgatory. You are told to pick up a phone for your instructions on entering heaven.
“Welcome to purgatory! All lines are busy, please hold. There are 4,334,651 souls ahead of you. Our records show that some cleansing of your soul will be required. To move up, you will need 1,259 indulgences. If you want to verify your account, dial 1; if you want to review your account, dial…..”
Yes, I realize this may have trivialized the seriousness of the topic. This is a parable for our time, and perhaps an understandable scenario of purgatory that needs to be discussed more openly and clearly so that the consequences of not living the Faith may be more readily understood.
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