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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Do Catholics Still Believe in Purgatory?



Do Catholics still believe in Purgatory?

I often include in the "Prayers of the Faithful" (General Intercessions) at Mass a prayer for the recently deceased. It somewhat resembles this: “….and we pray that their time in purgatory be brief and that they are quickly found in the loving arms of God our Father.”

For a person who believes in the concept of purgatory, the catholic doctrine, and understands that we are all sinners and void of perfection, it would seem that such a prayer would be comforting.  One might even feel grateful for having the whole parish praying to shorten the stay of the recently deceased in purgatory, especially if it were a loved one.

Yet, why would one find offense with such a prayer; why would this prayer in some way seem “Judgmental?”

Either, the person finding offense just doesn’t like me and my orthodox teaching / preaching, which just might be the case. I have been told often by many holy men that if you are not periodically receiving complaints, then you aren’t doing much.

Or, just maybe, the listener doesn’t understand, or doesn’t believe in purgatory.

If the catholic doesn’t understand about purgatory, whose fault is that? It would have to be owned by the clergy (me included) who failed to teach on such an important catholic belief. I know I have tried; here is a homily that I preached on just the subject. (sorry a little boring)!

If they have been taught but purposely have rejected the catholic belief in such, then we have a serious problem.

Why, because a lack of such a belief affects the whole spiritual life of the individual. If the person has a simple and concrete belief in just either Heaven or Hell (Sadly – many people don’t even believe in Hell), then that frees them from abundant personal responsibility.

Why do I say that it frees them? Because if they reject the idea and belief in purgatory, the state of being accountable for our sins, our failings, and our transgressions, and receiving judgment and subsequent purification, then they are free to believe that if they are more good than bad, they will go directly to heaven, pain free.

If they choose to reject the idea and belief of purgatory, they only need to feel that if they do “Good” more often than they do "Bad,” they have nothing to worry about. They really have no need to participate in the sacrament of confession and reconciliation either.

Wouldn’t it be nice to live in such a world where a person makes up his or her own mind what the catholic faith is, or better yet, what the catholic faith means to them, and then apply that concept to a sort of “Personal Doctrine” that they fell compelled to hold others accountable to.  NOT!

When will these sorts of people understand that as long as they are applying their spin on the beliefs of the Catholic Church, picking and choosing what is important and what can be dismissed (i.e. Cafeteria Catholics), they will never experience the freedom and joy that only comes with the truth, surrender, obedience, discipline, etc.

Does it surprise you that many Catholics don’t believe in purgatory? Why should it?

What would you say if I told you that only 30% of modern Catholics believe in the Real Presence? Well, it's true. A mere 30% of Catholics today believe that the sacrament of Holy Communion is actually Jesus, the Son of God.

Many think, "Oh, sure, it's a symbol of God".

But, no, it's the real thing. Christ instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion in order to remain with us until the end of time (Jn 14:18). He intended us to believe in Him and, doing so, eat His Body and drink His Blood so that our life would be eternal. If we do not believe, we are not fulfilling His plan.

Furthermore, the deeper our trust in this Presence, the more surely we will be saved; the more surely we will be sanctified; and the more effectively -- beyond our wildest dreams.

Yet, there is such a culture of non or limited-belief, a culture that exists right in our own church (the whole  church). I am not talking about the pagans, or the non-believers, I am speaking of a diverse population that attend Mass all over the world.

So how can we begin to correct such heresy that exists in modern individual “catholic” belief? 


We must speak the truth. Yes, it can be spoken in love and kindness, but not watered down, nor softened so much that it appears to be “Optional.”

The truth is Jesus Christ. 


He is loving and forgiving, but when he taught, it wasn’t negotiable, nor did he change what he taught when others found what he was saying objectionable. I recall when he was describing the need to eat his body to have everlasting life, and a large number of disciples walked away, he didn’t call them back, nor did he attempt to clarify his teaching, he let them go.

The Catholic Church isn’t for everyone. 


We are to teach and preach the truth, and if they choose to walk away, we should use Jesus as our example and let them go. ( don't get me wrong - I don't mean push them away).


But this is a perfect example of free will. If they truly protest Catholic Doctrine, are they really Catholic?


We have been so conditioned to political correctness, and avoidance of possibly hurting ones feelings, that the truth, God's truth, has been watered down and at times isn't recognizable, at least in many Homilies and Sermons. There are huge numbers of parishioners hungry to be nourished, yet a few make so much trouble that they are deprived of just what they are yearning for. And the clergy who attempt to  preach the truth might just find themselves under attack from the few.


However, just like Christ, we will always keep a door open for when they want to return, contrite in heart, and succumbing to the complete and full teachings of the Holy Catholic Church.


This short post is in no way an official response from the church, 
but just a simple response from a humble and imperfect man.

1 comment:

Barb Schoeneberger said...

I'm glad you wrote about this and told the truth about Catholic teaching. Every Novus Ordo funeral I've been to in my diocese virtually canonizes the person on the spot. I like your manly blog and I'm glad Victor at Time for Reflections mentioned it. Your photographs are great.