Because They Can't Help Themselves
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Today is the Feast of All Soul's Day in the Catholic Church. It's one of only 2 days when priests are obligated to say three Masses - the other one's Christmas - meaning you should probably show up even though it is not a HDO and you just went yesterday.

My Baptist/Non-Denominational/But Definitely Not Charismatic, aka "Generic Christian" husband just doesn't get most Catholic holidays, but this one in particular flummoxes him. Today we go to Mass to pray for the dead. Not in a Witch of Endor divination kind of way, but in a "Go Team Go" kind of way. We're not looking for lotto numbers or the name of our future mate, we're asking God to have mercy on them.

See, Catholics believe in an immortal soul. They believe that when someone dies, just because they are separated from their body does not mean they have no idea what's going on down here on earth with the rest of us mortals. Scripture tells us that the angels in Heaven rejoice when even one sinner repents... Catholics believe the Saints in Heaven are rejoicing too, especially the souls of that sinner's family and friends, who knew and loved him on Earth. This is why Catholics pray to the Saints - we ask them to pray for us, just like we would ask our neighbor or parishioner to pray for us. Except they pray for us literally in front of the throne of God.

We pray today for the dead in Purgatory. Purgatory is another Catholic doctrine that Luther wasn't too fond of and got rid of when he decided to invent his brand of cafeteria Catholicism.
Basically, Catholics believe that sin marks your soul. Makes it look like the undercarriage of your car after a jaunty 4-wheeling adventure. (Catholics also believe that Baptism leaves an indelible character on your soul, forever marking you as belonging to His Church). We don't believe that we are a dung heap covered with a blanket of snow, as it were. If that were the case, well, there'd be a lot of cr** in Heaven, covered or not, which doesn't make much sense because we know that everything in Heaven is perfect - not just masked by a quick spray of Febreze, as it were. Catholics believe that Christ actually forgives and forgets, and the marks caused by sin are actually removed. Our souls, in Heaven, are actually snow white through and through, not just a thin layer.

Often, sin has a great impact both externally and internally. We have do penance and make reparation in order to actually get all the grubbies off our soul. We can ask for forgiveness and receive it, but if you've ever been a teacher, you know that sometimes there's residue left over even after erasing. Purgatory is the stopover to perfect our souls before we are admitted to the Beatific Vision. Kinda like the Lion in the Wizard of Oz got his hair curled and beribboned before getting an audience with the big Kahuna. Purgatory is not a second chance - if you die condemned, then, well, you're condemned, and we all know where that leads. Straight down.

Catholics also believe that no man is an island... we're all in this together. Just as St. Paul beat his flesh and suffered to make up what was lacking in the body of Christ, His Church, our suffering isn't wasted. We can offer it up in place of the penance and purgation (hence the word, Purgatory) our brothers and sisters in Christ should suffer. We can help a brother out.

And nothing helps out the suffering souls like a Mass offered on their behalf. So go to church today. If you can't make it, at least take the example of the children of Fatima, and do some small penance. If you don't have a hair shirt, put a rock in your shoe. If you can't go on bread and water all day, skip meat at one meal or pass over dessert. For a real penance, make brownies and give them all away. And don't forget to offer it up!

DISCLAIMER: This is not an exhaustive theological dissertation. But I can give you links for some if you're interested, or just follow the linkies in my little essay for a good start straight from the horse's mouth.

Tags: Catholic
posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/02/2006 03:24:00 PM | Permalink | |