In Preface 1 for the Dead, a line reads, “Life is changed not ended.”
Such a statement attests to our belief that the dead have gone on a journey which we are not a part of but a journey, nevertheless, which will have us all landing at the same destination at different times and in different ways. These journeys, although individual, combine together in the one journey of Jesus Christ who is our hope for reaching the same destination.
The Church does not say a lot about Purgatory but, what it says is full of hope. Purgatory is a place of further refining. God’s love continues and one enters more deeply into the Body of Christ who came to atone for our sins.
In our pilgrimage on earth, we all have purgatorial moments. Suffering and struggle have hopefully purified us in our faith and brought us closer to God. As we believe that God has not left us, so it is with those in purgatory. Theirs is a purifying journey – God does not give up on any of us.
The Second Vatican Council taught, “Our union with the Church in heaven is put into effect in its noblest manner especially in the sacred Liturgy … This Sacred Council accepts with great devotion this venerable faith of our ancestors regarding this vital fellowship with our brethren who are in heavenly glory or who having died are still being purified.” (extract Lumen Gentium, 50-51).
For the Church, November is traditionally a time for praying for those who have died, especially for souls in purgatory. Getting to heaven is not an easy ride. It happens because of Jesus but, its unfolding in our lives is about a journey of commitment.
We pray for our loved ones who have died as much as we pray for our living loved ones who are sick or in need of comfort and support. Our prayers are equally as meaningful for the dead as they are for the living. As a Church, we believe that the living and the dead are all connected in Jesus Christ.
Including the names of our deceased members in the mass offerings is a means by which we concretely make our commitment to the Eucharist as a meeting point of prayer with the Saints who also pray for the journey of the living and the dead.
Fr Bob Harwood