Today’s feast of All Souls, and yesterday’s feast of all Saints, could not be more different. Yesterday, we acknowledged how happy we are that some of our race have made it to heaven and received the Promises God promised to the Just, the “poor in Spirit”. Today, we acknowledge that it is not that easy to get in, given our attachments to property, money and habits and lifestyles.
If there were no Purgatory, we would have to invent one. We can’t walk into our Grandparent’s living room, onto their clean, white carpets, with muddy feet. And, let there be no mistake, we all have muddy feet.
Today we remember our loved ones who have passed away. It is a good and holy thing to be sad when a loved one dies.
Often when someone dies, especially, if he has suffered much, we are relieved, as if the suffering is over. We are quick to put people in heaven, probably a little too quick. We are not doing them a favor. Many of us, even the best of us, will not go straight to heaven, but will have to spend some time in purgatory, to be cleansed of our attachments and desires toward sinfulness as well as for any sins for which we have not done sufficient penance. We tend to underestimate purgatory as well, maybe because people there are assured of getting into heaven. While it is true that people in purgatory probably experience a joy beyond anything we will experience in this life, they also experience more intense suffering than anything we have experienced in this life. The suffering of purgatory is similar to the suffering of hell, and we know we don’t want to experience that.
Maybe up to now, I have thought of purgatory as nothing more than a kind of long waiting line for heaven, that I have to stand in until God sees fit to let me in – that the sufferings of purgatory are nothing more than I experience in the supermarket on a busy day – the boredom of having to wait, the frustration of someone ahead of me taking too long.
No. Purgatory is nothing I want my loved ones to experience if I can help it, nor do I want to go there myself, if I can help it. The great thing is, I can help it.
The Living Hold the Keys to Purgatory: What am I willing to do to avoid purgatory? Up until now, have I even thought of it as something to be avoided? Do I realize that all the sacrifices I can make in this life to avoid purgatory do not add up to what it will be like to suffer in purgatory? Do I ever remember that my loved ones may be there now? Perhaps while they were in this life, they suffered greatly and I was relieved by their deaths because now their “suffering was over.” Am I an “out of sight, out of mind,” kind of person? Do I think there is nothing more I can do for them? Or am I genuinely concerned about the likelihood that they may be in purgatory? Do I realize that my prayers and sacrifices represent the key to release them and that I can use it if I want to? Do I care about using it? Do I dare to be angry with God about the existence of purgatory when in his mercy he has put the key in my hands – that if he is the warden, I am the jailer? He wants me to use the key and I have forgotten that I had it. On this day when we remember the souls in purgatory, it would be good to do something for those who are there, especially for the ones we love the most.