By Mary Lou Rosien
Although I was raised in the post-Vatican II tradition of the Catholic Church, my grandpa insisted we learn the “Penny,” or Baltimore Catechism, by heart. Vatican II did not diminish this Catechism, but made efforts to enhance it. Still, when I am questioned about faith issues my mind automatically goes back to the answers I memorized when I was young.
Who made you? God made me.
Why did God make you? To know Him, Love Him and serve Him in this world and be happy with Him forever in the next.
Who makes up the Communion of saints? Those in heaven, on earth and in purgatory, are in communion with each other, as being one body in Christ.
November is dedicated to the Holy souls in purgatory. Why should we care? How do we even know purgatory exists? The Catholic Church teaches that we know purgatory exists from the constant teaching of the Church and from the doctrine of Holy Scripture.
“For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct. “ Mt 16:27
“And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” Mt. 25:30
There are other stories in the Bible about having to spend time in prison for certain crimes. These readings back up the Church’s teaching about purgatory.
So then, what do we teach our students about this difficult concept? I have often explained it like this; Suppose I broke my neighbor’s window. I was truly sorry and told them so. The neighbor immediately forgave me, but wanted some compensation for the broken window. I am forgiven, but my error caused someone else pain and came at an expense I must pay. This is a simplified idea of purgatory. Our sins are forgiven, but they have hurt our friends, family and God, so we need to show some reparation for them.
Another idea is to compare purgatory to a bath. When we sin, it is as if we are smudged with dirt before an important dinner. We say to God, “I am so sorry for getting dirty before coming into your house!” We might even wonder if we should still come. But our loving Father says to us, “Of course I want you to come! I long to see you. Clean up and then join me as soon as you can.” Purgatory makes us clean and beautiful before we join the Lord.
Now purgatory makes sense, but what does that have to do with us? The church teaches that we should pray for those in purgatory and offer sacrifices for them, just as the Saints in heaven do for us when we ask for their help. In this way, we are all part of God’s family, working together until we are all together in heaven.
To read Mary Lou's parish column for November, Faith and Fumes, click here»
Mary Lou Rosien lives the Catechism in North Chili, NY. She is the author of Managing Stress with the Help of your Catholic Faith (OSV Publishing); write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out her blog at http://stillwaiting.blogs4me.com/ .
Catholic Faith Resources | For Catholic Parishes | Order OSV Products | RSS | Advertise | About Us | Contact Us | Jobs