V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
R. And let the perpetual light shine upon them.
And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Most of us are touched by the loss of a loved one at some point in our lives. It is one of the inescapable four last things: death, judgement, heaven and hell. We grieve the loss, mourn the passing of the loved one, but frequently in this era, we extol the one who has died, and promptly enshrine them in heaven. In this confused era, it is even often said that they become guardian angels to those they have left behind! This is an error, and one which is grossly uncharitable to the dead whose judgment found them not quite pure enough to enter eternal life in God's presence. Yet.
Our life here on earth is fleeting, though it may seem interminable and full of suffering at times. In that suffering we are tested, and shaped. We make choices in every moment that bring us closer to or further from our King. Ever ready to draw us closer to Himself, He allows our free will, and we often use it to turn away. When the time comes, as it does for each of us, to face Him and be judged, some of us are not in that state of purity that is ready for Heaven. While in a state of grace, having confessed all mortal sins, the soul is assured of final salvation, but is not yet perfectly prepared for the presence of God. In His unfathomable mercy, God allows a soul to enter into a state of purification, known as purgatory. This is a gift we must not ignore. Souls in purgatory are dependent upon the intercession of the community of saints, including those souls who are living now. US. They are waiting, longing for our prayers!
The Church is ever mindful of the suffering souls in purgatory. They are remembered in every Mass with the words in the Eucharistic Prayers for the faithful departed. Those who have gone before us depend upon us to offer sacrifice and prayers for them, to remember them at Holy Mass, and to assist in their release. It is especially valuable to have Masses said with the expressed intention of the repose of the soul for whom we pray.
To presume to know that our loved one is already in Heaven, or to share platitudes such as "Oh, she was such a good person, and now you have a guardian angel in heaven to watch over you…!" is to neglect our Christian duty to pray for the dead. We actually might be the cause of our loved one spending a lengthy time in purgatory, simply for want of our prayers. Some forgotten souls have been granted the ability to come before a living soul to beseech the necessary intercession. There is a small museum in Rome which houses artifacts bearing marks left by souls who have been visitors to living souls, to beg prayers and consolations. A number of saints were visited by suffering souls imploring their prayers, or by jubilant souls offering thanks for their offerings which brought them release from purgatory.
Through the month of November, we remember the souls in Purgatory in a special way, but we should remember and pray for our dead always. They are no longer able to pray for themselves. They long for us to relieve their suffering. When a soul is released from the suffering that is due for remission of past confessed sins, and gains Heaven because of your prayers and sacrifices, their gratitude is so great that you are assured of their efficacious prayers for you from Heaven!
We do not become angels upon our death. God created a guardian angel for each of us eternal souls. Her guardian angel took St. Faustina Kowalska to see Purgatory. She saw them suffering in flames, and asked her guardian angel what their greatest torment was. The reply? Their great longing for God tormented them most. Our foolish ignorance and neglect stands between the suffering soul and the beatific vision. When we console ourselves with our own presumption of our loved one's presence in Heaven, we deny them the very place they most desire. We prolong their suffering!
Saint Monica begged her son, St. Augustine to remember her always at the altar of the Lord (at Mass). Teach your families not to place you in Heaven upon your death; teach them the great need many souls have for expiation of their sins, even after death has taken them in the state of grace. Remind them to have Masses said for the repose of the souls of their beloved dead. NO one knows the state of a soul, but God. Leave the judgment to Him, and pray unceasingly for their salvation, their sainthood. They are depending on you!
November 9, 2014