I attended Mass in a parish the next town over this weekend. I attend this parish about once a month, and I always hope that a particular priest is presiding.
He's from Ireland, and he is EXACTLY what I've always pictured old-school Irish priests to be. He's young, but his sermon style leaves you with the impression that you were just schooled by the likes of Saint Pio.
He brought up some really great points about Purgatory that I thought were worthwhile.
First, of course, is that there is a Biblical basis for our doctrine. 2 Maccabees 12: 38-46 is all about praying and making atonement for the souls in Purgatory.
Father rightly pointed out that there's no point in praying for the departed if they only go to either Heaven or Hell. If they go to Heaven, prayer is unnecessary; if they are in Hell, prayer cannot get them out. Thus, if the Bible teaches that it is a wholesome and holy thing to pray for the dead, logic necessitates a third option which Mother Church teaches is Purgatory.
I've written of Purgatory a few times before, most notably with an experience I had involving my late Aunt Loretta.
The homily given by our Irish priest was epic, though. He explained that though the holy souls experience a torment inexplicable to the living, they also possess joy incomparable to our most glorious of joys.
Their joy lies in the certainty of salvation. We do not have that certainty while on earth.
He then relayed a story I'd never heard:
A platoon of soldiers was marching towards the front lines when they met a med-evac unit that was en route to the hospital with the wounded. One soldier saw his brother among the wounded and called out to him with an anguished heart.
A doctor replied, "Son, his wound looks fierce, and he is in great pain, but it is not mortal. He will soon be as good as new. Be happy, for he is safe. You still have your battle ahead."
Such is the lot of those in Purgatory. Their battle is over, and though they may suffer greatly from the wounds caused by sin, they know that ultimate victory - triumph in Christ - is theirs.
I just felt it was a very powerful parable.
He then explained his choice of chasuble: purple with gold embroidery. Before Vatican II, black was the vestment color prescribed. Celebrants today have the choice of purple, black or white. However, even for those who choose purple or black, there must be some bit of white or gold as well, for though we remember the penitential burden these souls bear, we recognize the glory that they have to look forward to.
I loved that reminder!
His closing line was beautiful: "Let us remember to always pray for these holy souls so that we may celebrate them on the Feast of All Saints."
Just sending a shout-out to this phenomenal priest who always does such a stellar job of teaching his congregation about the beauty and depth of our Faith. Bless him!
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