Nov 30, 2014

First Sunday of Advent, Year B

The Catholic liturgical year begins today. The rest of our society will begin celebrating the Christmas Season. And once they have exchanged gifts, they will take down their decorations and soon forget what has passed. If they look forward to anything, it will be New Years Day that they eagerly await. Growing up, this used to mean Santa Claus and reindeer, Rudolph and claymation movies, a snowman that comes back to life and promises to return someday, Christmas carols and candy canes. Usually mixed in with it there was a nativity scene and renditions of O Holy Night, Silent Night, and other songs of a religious nature. Houses were adorned with lights and Christmas scenes. Everyone wished each other Merry Christmas, even those who did not believe. Perhaps our society missed the most essential element of the coming celebration: Christmas is really Christ’s Mass, the Mass of Christ. Still, something of the wonder of this time was marked by the joy with which we kept the season, even if we had forgotten the reason. Today, it is Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays (this last one means Happy Holy Days, but don’t tell them. Let them keep saying it, maybe it’ll sink in).

I know we are an Easter people. And I love Holy Week and the Easter Vigil. But I have always been a Christmas Catholic. I love Christmas. I love Christmas Carols and not just the religious ones. Something about Frosty and Rudolph and the North Pole still makes me smile. Hidden in these things is a longing for the real Christmas. An expression of the best things about being human: the giving of gifts and singing of joyful songs. The problem with secular Christmas is not the feeling of joy, or the increase of generosity. It’s not even the stories of elves, flying reindeer or a gentle, kind and merry man whose belly jiggles when he laughs. Remember Santa Claus is another way of saying Saint Claus, short for Saint Nicholas. These stories capture something of the spirit of man towards his fellow men during these joyous days. We could do with a bit more rather than a bit less of this spirit. Still, like all big days, such as weddings and ordinations, births and baptisms, there is the necessity of preparation and the building excitement as the day approaches. If we give ourselves over the exterior trappings of this Christmas Season, we should give ourselves with even more abandon to our interior preparations to receive the Christ-Child in our souls.

This begins with remembering like Isaiah, that our God is our Father and Redeemer forever. It takes place by acknowledging that we have strayed and are in need of renewing the love and joy that is proper to Christianity in our hearts. We must plead with him in joyful anticipation for the coming of our Lord. “Rend the heavens and come down!” “Rouse your power,” O Lord, “and come to save us.” “Give us new life, and we will call upon your name.” “Let us see your face and we shall be saved.” We can apply these pleadings to three things: historically, Isaiah calls upon God to send the Messiah. And faith tells us that God has done so. We join our voices to this plea, begging the Lord to come again. And faith gives us the hope to believe that it will be. We also sing out to God, that his Son may come into our hearts now. That he may be born again in us. “Come now and save me, Lord. Let me see your face now. Rend my heart now and come into it.”

Jesus tells us to be watchful, to be alert and watch. We do not know when he will come. As we look forward to celebrating the birth of the babe in Bethlehem, we have preparations to make. Is there room in my heart for him? Is my soul adorned with the same care that I decorate my home? Will I be awake when he knocks on the door of my heart and begs to enter? Leave room for him. In all the other things that will happen this Christmas Season, the singing and decorating, the shopping and present wrapping, the family gatherings and daily doings, don’t let any of these things stay in your mind and heart without leaving room for the One whom our joy awaits. If you prefer to wait for the celebrations, to avoid listening to Christmas songs and decorating and all such things, you do well – if you are preparing to receive him and not merely refusing to participate in the joyfulness and generosity around you. I must confess, I will be unable to contain myself. I’ve already put up my tree. It is disguised as an Advent tree, with purple lights and purple ornaments but there is already a bit of Christmas in my heart. I will be unable to resist the allure of Christmas music. Soon, I will decorate my car with reindeer antlers and a Rudolph nose. But I shall not tire of Christmas, I think there should be more Christmas and more Christmas spirit in the world. In whatever way we keep this season, let there be prayer and thanksgiving to God, so that our lives be enriched in every way and may we share the riches of grace bestowed on us by God in Christ Jesus. May we be filled with the Christmas spirit and as we long for that most holy of days, may we prepare ourselves to receive our Lord and King.

Nov 29, 2014

Última Semana: Viernes / Friday 34th Week in Ordinary Time

Hay una traducción muy interesante en nuestro salmo responsorial. La respuesta dice: "Dichosos los que viven en tu casa." Pero el Latín dice: "Ecce tabernaculum Dei cum hominibus." Literalmente, significa: ¡Mira! el tabernáculo de Dios con los hombres. Tabernáculo significa morada. "Ecce" significa mira pero también aquí o allá o esta. La respuesta es del libro del Apocalipsis del apóstol san Juan: "Esta es la morada de Dios con los Hombres; vivira con ellos como su Dios y ellos seran su pueblo." La "esta" de este versiculo es la ciudad santa, la nueva Jerusalén, engalanda como una novia que va a desposarse con su prometido." Deseo señalar tres cosas que podemos aplicar este versículo.

Primero. ¿Cómo se llama el lugar en el que nos reservamos el Santísimo Sacramento? El Tabernáculo. Cuando Dios vino en carne humana, él hizo su morada con nosotros. Y para que no nos vemos privados de su presencia hasta que venga otra vez, él nos da esta misma carne para santificarnos y para mostrarnos su amor. Si Dios vino a vivir entre los hombres y nos dejó este Santísimo Sacramento, lo dejó como una promesa que iba a regresar otra vez y llevarnos a sí mismo.

Segundo. La Iglesia Católica es el lugar de su presencia. Los miembros de su Iglesia por el bautismo son el cuerpo místico de Cristo. Por eso oramos en nuestra plegaria eucarística, “para que, fortalecidos con el Cuerpo y la Sangre de Cristo y llenos de su Espíritu Santo, formemos en Cristo un solo cuerpo y un solo espíritu. Que El nos transforme en ofrenda permanente, para que gocemos de tu heredad junto con tus elegidos.” ¿Dónde? En la nueva Jerusalén que San Juan vio, que es la Iglesia Católica.

Tercero. Esto sólo sucede si contemplamos a Cristo en el Santísimo Sacramento y tratamos de imitarlo en nuestras vidas. Nuestras almas son tabernáculos del Altísimo. Y no sólo nosotros, sino también a toda alma. Necesitamos buscar a Cristo en cada lugar y en cada alma. Primero lo reconocemos en la Eucaristía, a continuación, le invitamos a entrar en nuestro corazón. Y donde quiera que no lo encontramos en el mundo, debemos llevarlo con nosotros. Sí, Dichosos los que viven en su casa. Porque ahora se regocijan en su Señor, mientras esperan su regreso.

There is an interesting Spanish translation in the responsorial psalm, today. The response says. "Blessed are those who live in your house." But the Latin says, "Ecce tabernaculum Dei cum hominibus." Literally it means, "Behold! The tabernacle of God with mankind." Tabernacle means dwelling place. "Ecce" means behold but also look, see, here, there, or this. The response is from the book of Revelation of the Apostle St. John: "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people." The "behold" is referenced to the holy city, the new Jerusalem, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." I want to point out three things to which we can apply this verse.

First. What do we call the place in which we reserve the Most Holy Sacrament? The Tabernacle. When God came in human flesh, he made his dwelling place with us. And so that we would not be deprived of his presence until he come again, he gave to us this same flesh to sanctify us and to show us his love. If God came to live among the human race and left us this Most Holy Sacrament, he left it as a promise that we would return again and bring us to himself.

Second. The Catholic Church is the place of his presence. The members of his Church by baptism are the mystical body of Christ. For this reason we pray in our Eucharistic Prayer, "grant thate we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ. May he make of us an eternal offering to you, so that we may obtain and inheritance with your elect." Where? In the new Jerusalem which St. John saw, which is the Catholic Church.

Third. This only happens if we contemplate Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament and try to imitate him in our lives. Our souls are tabernacles of the Most High. And not only us, but also every soul. We need to seek Christ in every place and en every person. First, we recognize him in the Eucharist, then, we invite him to enter into our heart. And where ever we do not find him in the world, we should bring him with us. Yes, blessed are those who live in his house. Because now they rejoice in their Lord, while they await his return.

Nov 16, 2014

First Friday, October 3, 2014

We, you and I, are fearfully, wonderfully made. What is it that makes us wonderful? It is that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Typically, this is taken by theologians to indicate the faculties of the intellect and will. This is not to exclude other reflections of God's image in man but rather to zero in on the way in which man is most like God: the capacity to love. One cannot choose something or some act of which one is not aware. Specifically, it is impossible to love what is unknown. So the very idea of the possibility of love requires both that something of the object is known and that we are free to choose. As we discuss freedom, it may be helpful to untangle this word and concept from modern misunderstandings.

The liberum arbitrium or free will is what we call the power of choosing or freedom of choice. This liberty consists in two things: libertas a coactione, freedom from external compulsion; and libertas a necessitate, freedom from internal necessity. Free will embraces both of these categories. Theologians, generally, make several distinctions when talking about free will: 1) libertas contradictionis, which is the liberty to act or not to act; 2) libertas specificationis, which is the liberty to specify acts of the same kind; 3) libertas contrarietatis, which is the liberty to choose between contraries: love and hate, good and evil. This third distinction is applicable only to humans in the wayfaring state. It is not applicable to God, to the Saints or to the Angels. It is actually a defect rather than a constitutive part of freedom. God and the heavenly courts are eminently free.

We must always be cautious of this distinction in our minds when we speak about freedom. Freedom must never be confused with license or licentiousness. Libertas is always marked by restraint and moderation, whereas licentia is marked by arbitrariness. The modern idea of freedom is excessively influenced by its confusion with license. Ironically, there is nothing particularly modern about this conception of freedom. Tacitus remarked on it saying, "Licentia quam stulti libertatem vocant." (License, which the foolish call liberty). And John Milton wrote, "None can love freedom heartily but good men; the rest love not freedom but license." Pope St. John Paul II adds: "Finally, true freedom is not advanced in the permissive society, which confuses freedom with license to do anything whatever and which in the name of freedom proclaims a kind of general amorality. It is a caricature of freedom to claim that people are free to organize their lives with no reference to moral values, and to say that society does no have to ensure the protection and advancement of ethical values. Such an attitude is destructive of freedom, such as the elimination of human life by legalized or generally accepted abortion."

Cicero once wrote. "legum servi sumus ut liberi esse possimus." (We are servants of the laws so that we are able to be free). There is, also, a ubiquitous motto, often attributed to St. Augustine, which reads "Cui servire est regnare." (Whom to serve is to reign.) The Anglican Book of Common Prayer makes use of a freer translation: "Whose service is perfect freedom." So, with apologies to Cicero, we Christians would say: Dei servi sumus ut liberi esse possimus. We are servants of God so that we are able to be free. The freedom for which we are searching is not merely a freedom from compulsion but a freedom for choosing what is true, good, and beautiful.

There is much that we simply do not have the power to change, but "even in the most unfavorable outward circumstances we possess within ourselves a space of freedom, that nobody can take away, because God is its source and guarantee." (Jacque Philippe, Interior Freedom) The place of freedom is interior. It is only secondarily concerned with exterior realities. This space is the core of the human heart created to be filled and fulfilled by the presence of God alone. The longing for or presence of anything which is not God or does not lead to God, creates a relationship of slavery because it cannot provide for the deepest desire of the human heart. Licentiousness and vice become their own punishment, robbing the person not only of their strength and freedom in choosing the good, but becoming a compulsion of habit, also robbing them of their relationship with God, the life of grace, and the One who truly satisfies and never passes away.

In our Alleluia verse from Psalm 95 we heard, "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts." This psalme is the traditonal psalm of the invitatory for the breviary. The Latin is nuanced and give wonderful expression to the sentiment: "Utinam hodie vocem eius audiatis, "Nolite obdurare corda vestra." It is more a plea than a statement of what one ought to do is one happens to hear God's voice today. "Oh, if only you would listen to his voice today." What would you hear? You would hear him saying, "harden not your hearts!" In our Gospel, Jesus uses language which sounds rather strong when he chastises several villages: "Woe to you Chorazin! Woe to you Bethsaida! And as for you Capernaum!" These, too, are pleas. If we do not respond with love for the love which God has manifested for us, we risk losing it all. We need to increase this space of interior freedom in our hearts so that, cooperating with grace, we can begin to make a response.

As Jacque Philippe puts it, "We find confinement unbearable, simply because we were created in the image of God, and we have within us an unquenchable need for the absolute and the infinite. That is our greatness and sometimes our misfortune. We have this great thirst for freedom because our most fundamental aspiration is for happiness; and we sense that there is no happiness without love, and no love without freedom. ... man cannot live without loving. The problem is that our love often goes in the wrong direction: we love ourselves, selfishly, and end up frustrated, because only genuine love can fulfill us. Only love, then can satisfy us; and there is no love without freedom. ... Love is neither taken nor bought. There is true love, and therefore happiness, only between people who freely yield possession of the self in order to give themselves to one another."

There. The Cross. This Eucharist. Jesus hands himself over for us. He yields possession in order to give himself to us. In his Sacred Heart, he has made room for our entrance because he consented in freedom that at the last, even his heart should be pierced.

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

As the liturgical year draws to a close, the Church in her wisdom reminds us about the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. The first reading gives us the example of the woman whose value is greater than pearls. Why? Because she brings good things and not evil, all the days of her life. She works with loving hands. She cares for the poor and the needy. For this reason, she will receive a reward for her labors and her works will praise her at the gates of the city.

The woman is an image of the soul. The holy soul, like the good woman, receives a reward for its labors. The holy soul is praised by its works. But, as our Gospel tells us, every soul receives the fruit of its handiwork. The good soul receives praise from the Lord: "Well done, my good and faithful servant. ... Come, share your master's joy." What about the soul which is like the last servant? The Lord speaks the saddest words ever heard to this soul: "You wicked, lazy servant! ... Throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth." The responsorial psalm  says: "Blessed are you who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways! For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork." But, how sad the soul who does not walk in the ways of the Lord, because this soul, too, shall eat the fruit of it's handiwork.

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that eternal life is what begins immediately after death. This life has no end. It will be preceded for each by a particular judgment on the part of Christ, the judge of the living and the dead, and it will be ratified in the final judgment. (207) The particular judgment is a judgment of immediate retribution, which, at the moment of death, each one receives from God in their immortal soul, in relation to their faith and their works. This retribution consists in access to the happiness of heaven, either immediately or after an adequate purification, or it consists in eternal condemnation to hell. (208)

This is the meaning of the words of Jesus: "For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away." Those who walk in the way of the Lord, by his grace, are able to lay down at his feet the good fruit of their lives. And they will receive eternal blessedness and share in the joy of their Master. Those, however, who are before Jesus in the judgment and do not have good fruit, they will lose not only what was given to them but also the joy of the Master. They will share only in the darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Brother and sisters, we will have to give an account of our lives before the Lord. We will have to give an account of each moment, each thought, each word, and each action. What will be the fruit of our lives? Will it be good fruit or not? And St. Paul tells us that the day of our judgment, the day of the Lord, will come like a thief in the night. We need to be prepared each and every day because we do not know when the Lord will call us to give an account of our lives.

Remember, Christian soul, that thou hast this day, and every day of thy life:

God to glorify,
Jesus to imitate,
The Blessed Virgin and the Saints to venerate,
The Angels to invoke,
The soul to save,
The body to mortify,
Virtues from God to beseech,
Sins to expiate,
Heaven to gain,
Hell to avoid,
Eternity to consider,
Time well to apply,
Neighbors to edify,
The world to fear
Demons to fight,
Passions to subdue,
Death always to expect
And yourself for judgment to prepare.

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Today is the feast of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica. Most people think of St. Peter’s Basilica when they think of Rome and the Pope. However, it is the Lateran Basilica which is the Cathedral of the Pope. The full name of the Lateran Basilica is Archibasilica Sanctissimi Salvatoris et Sanctorum Ioannes Baptista et Evangelista in Laterno which translates as the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior and of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist at the Lateran. The site was first dedicated by Pope Sylvester I in 324 A.D. It was then rededicated to St. John the Baptist at the dedication of a new baptistry in the 10th century by Pope Sergius III and again dedicated to St. John the Evangelist by Pope Lucius II in the 12th century, which is how it received its full name. It may at first seem odd that we are celebrating the feast of the dedication of the Cathedral in Rome.

The prayers of the liturgy and the readings help us to understand the full meaning of this particular feast. The prayers continually reference the people of God as living stones, the temple of grace and the Holy Spirit. St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians writes, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” He says that we are “God’s building” and that our foundation is Jesus Christ. While we do celebrate the dedication of a building, we do so because of the meaning of the visible building which our Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer tells us are types, images or signs of the Church, the Bride of Christ.

The scriptural images of the new heavenly Jerusalem and its temple are less about the descent of a city or building made of stones than it is about the living building of the people of God made perfect, sanctified and glorified by their participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. When Jesus became man in his incarnation, his visible human flesh became the holy place of God’s dwelling among us. His crucified and resurrected flesh communicates this holiness to his people. His humanity is the means by which, through baptism into his death, we, too, become dwelling places of the Most High God. What he is by Divine Nature, we are able to share by participation because he condescended to become a sharer in our human nature. Jesus identifies himself in the Gospel with the temple: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. ... He was speaking about the temple of his body.”

The physical and visible is not unimportant because it is a sign for us. God, in his Divine Nature, is accessible everywhere and at all times, because the Divine Nature is not material or physical but spiritual and so is not confined to being in any place at all. But the means of our salvation is the very real and physical humanity of Christ. Church buildings have a real impact on us. Their physicality is something that we can experience with the senses. Their architecture and art tell us something about the faith. The beauty and magnificence of church buildings vary. I used to visit regularly the Basilica of St. Mark’s in Venice when I lived in Italy. I still think it one of the most beautiful and breathtaking places of worship I have ever been in. I have also served Holy Mass for Fr. Paul Sullivan in mud huts with tin roofs in aldeas near Comayagua, Honduras. The living stones of those churches had a simplicity and beauty as well. I do think that where we have the means we should build magnificent and beautiful churches that really express the transcendent glory of God, as much as it can be expressed. I also think the people deserve to have the visible reminders and the instruction that proper church buildings can give us. And I think that the beauty of the church building is helpful in encountering God in the contemplation of his presence during prayer and in the celebration of the liturgy.

Still, we are not less than members of the Church or of our parish when we are away from this building, whether we are at work or in our homes. We are members of the body of Christ wherever we might be. But the fullest meaning of being Church has its greatest sign value and most profound reason when we are here, gathered together and participating as one in the worship and sacrifice of our head, Jesus Christ. At the Holy Mass we join our joys and sorrows, our thanksgiving and needs with the prayer of our Most High Priest. And here he makes present his humanity; he himself becomes present here under the visible signs of bread and wine. And when we participate in this prayer by our songs of worship, contemplating the Sacred Scriptures, and especially in taking part in the prayers through our responses and in communion, whether through spiritual communion or sacramental communion, we join our hearts and voices together with all the Angels and Saints.

At the heart of it, this is what this feast is about. The visible building of the Lateran Basilica reminds us that we belong to a communion of the members of the Mystical Body of Christ. The Second Vatican Council taught in Lumen Gentium 4 that the Church is “a people made one with the unity of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” This unity is not simply in intention but is a real visible and physical union, together with our bishop, a successor of the Apostles, and the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. Again the Second Vatican Council in the same document (23) taught that “The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful. The individual bishops, however, are the visible principle and foundation of unity in their particular churches, fashioned after the model of the universal Church, in and from which churches comes into being the one and only Catholic Church. For this reason the individual bishops represent each his own church, but all of them together and with the Pope represent the entire Church in the bond of peace, love and unity.” This is a good feast for us to reflect upon our relationship with the universal church and the manner in which we keep one another, our local bishop, and the Pope in our hearts and our prayers.

Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed - All Souls

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, more commonly known as All Souls, was celebrated this year on Sunday. In the liturgical calendar it follows upon the celebration of the Solemnity of All Saints. Holy Mother Church celebrates the saints because they are further proof of God’s love. They show us that God is capable of taking mere fallible humans from every race and nation and turning them into creatures that shine like the stars because they participate in his own divine life and love. On the very next day, Holy Mother Church presents us with the offering of the Mass for those souls in purgatory who will enjoy such participation but do not currently do so. The liturgy itself takes its readings from the funeral liturgy. The preface to the eucharistic prayer is the preface for the dead. Even when November 2nd falls on a Sunday, as it did this year, this liturgical commemoration takes precedence over the usual Sunday liturgy. And so the singing of the Gloria is omitted on this day. The liturgy celebrated is essentially a memorial Mass for the dead. It is a timely reminder for us of our obligation to pray for the dead and of the traditional doctrine of purgatory.

It is not uncommon today to hear it said that “Funerals are for the living.” After all why should the dead care, really, what music is played or how we remember them? But death does matter and so do the dead. Funerals are precisely about those who have died and the obligations that the living have towards the mortal remains and towards the immortal soul. Funerals are for the living, but only because of their connection with the dead. It is also common to immediately opine that so-and-so are in a better place now (presumably, it is meant that they are assuredly in heaven) and their long suffering is finally at an end. Funerals, we are told, are to be happy affairs where the dead are remembered only in pleasant terms, with a degree of saccharine sentimentality, and all too often in a way which makes the deceased rather unrecognizable to those who knew and loved them. If ever anyone listened to the prayers of the Church on behalf of the dead it must come as a surprise that she begs mercy for their sins. The  prayers for All Souls Day asks God to “look mercifully on your departed servants,” and to “wash away, we pray, in the Blood of Christ, the sins of your departed servants,” and “humbly implores” the Lord that they may be “cleansed by the paschal mysteries.” Holy Mother Church, it seems, has quite a different approach than that of the modern culture, especially in American society.

Our society has emptied out from its memories not only the Christian doctrine of purgatory but also, the very human, and very Christian, notion that we bear any sort of responsibility towards the dead. To quote Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman: “What is the world's religion now? It has taken the brighter side of the Gospel,—its tidings of comfort, its precepts of love; all darker, deeper views of man's condition and prospects being comparatively forgotten. This is the religion natural to a civilized age, and well has Satan dressed and completed it into an idol of the Truth. ... then disappear also, in the creed of the day, those fearful images of Divine wrath with which the Scriptures abound. They are explained away. Every thing is bright and cheerful. Religion is pleasant and easy; benevolence is the chief virtue; intolerance, bigotry, excess of zeal, are the first of sins.” Of course, Blessed Newman was writing in an age where he could still say that the world had taken something of the Gospel. Our world has moved on. In his time, they kept some inklings of the Gospel where kindness and niceties are concerned – we may still find in our churches, regardless of denomination, those who are inclined to this kind of a reduced Christianity. They refuse to make a place for Divine wrath which would be manifest if only they could bear to gaze upon the Holy Cross. In their refusal, they transform heaven into the doctors waiting room, where there is only superficial politeness and boredom. They wish to enter into Heaven without any punishment for their sins. They want to remain unchanged, exactly as they are, defects and all. Just imagine the residents of heaven with all their foibles, or at least the marring effects of their sins upon their souls, spending their time in utter boredom being pleasant and tolerant towards one another. I could hardly imagine a less heavenly image. The radiant Beauty of God, his Divine Majesty, and his transcendent Glory will not allow this to be the case.

St. Catherine of Siena says that the fires which torment the souls in hell is in reality the fire of God’s love, which the obstinate sinner experiences as wrath. St. Augustine says something similar: Hell is where God’s constant and unending love licks at the souls of the damned which refuse to melt. The saint has been purified from every defect, from the stain of every sin, and so becomes radiant with God’s love and shines like the stars. Those who die in God’s friendship, yet with the effects of their sins still upon their souls are as yet incapable of resting in the blazing fire of God’s love. There are parts of their souls which do not yet reflect properly the Beauty, Majesty and Glory of God. The soul when it meets its Creator after death is for the first time fully aware of the depths of their own deformity and the heights of God’s perfections. It is not as if God wishes merely to overlook their imperfections and simply engage in that superficial tolerance and polite pleasantness which the world has come to value. He desires the soul to share as fully as possible in his own gifts. If this is punishment for our faults, it is also a great mercy on God’s behalf. For how could we ever enjoy his presence and be enraptured with his Beauty, if we were at the same time only more aware of our own faults in the brilliant light of the Truth?

Just as the saints intercede for us so that we might one day enjoy the sight of God just as he is, we pray for the holy souls in purgatory – holy because they are in God’s friendship and so destined for heaven. Our prayers are like love letters for the souls of the dead, urging them on in this process of purification. We, in some manner, relieve them of their distress since they have glimpsed the radiance of God and know most intimately their own unworthiness. God has no need of our help in this matter. Our prayers do not increase his generosity or his mercy. But it is his will that we love one another just as his Son has loved us, and love does not cease with death. In our devotions for the dead, our prayers, and other pious acts, we give help to our loved ones, even the souls unknown to us. This act of love also helps our own purification here in this world. The souls in purgatory and ourselves are being made perfect so that we might praise God with the saints forever in the life of the world to come.