El Dia de los Muertos and the Catholic Take on Death

Dia de los Muertos

So here in America when October 31st rolls around, we all get excited for Halloween. We think of ghosts, zombies, witches, and candy. I’m not quite sure what we are actually celebrating in America anymore, to come to think of it.. Maybe that we like playing dress up and eating candy? But Halloween has a pretty interesting history. The word “Halloween” comes from “hallowed evening” or “holy evening,” because it takes place on the evening before November 1st, which is to Christians All Saints Day. November 2nd is All Souls Day.

Dia de los Muertos is such a cool tradition.. in Latin cultures it’s less about fearing death but more about embracing death as the next part of life. In this tradition, it is said that the souls of children come back the 1st, and then the souls of adults come back on the next day. Families put out offerings for their loved ones who have died to welcome them home. This tradition is kind of a combination of both the indigenous traditions of the native peoples and the tradition of the Spanish Catholics, and I see a lot of beauty in it: especially in revealing how we should be honoring and praying for the dead, and that death is not something to be feared.

But I can only talk about Dia de los Muertos so much. I’m white. I learned about that stuff from Spanish class. What I can talk about is the Catholic take on death. I think in our culture, death is pushed to the back of our minds, we try to forget about it. But it happens, doesn’t it? Death is actually the reason why I’m giving this talk.. Perla’s aunt, her Godmother, passed away last week. Perla is back in Mexico grieving with her family right now.

But here’s a fun question: do you know anyone that didn’t die?

Jesus? Nope.

Jesus died, but then He Resurrected, didn’t He! That’s an important point.

Let’s start at the beginning. Were Adam and Eve created to die? No! Adam and Eve were created to live forever in paradise with God.. the Garden of Eden. They didn’t have to work, had no pain, walked around and spoke with God in the garden, etc. They had the life! Man was not created to experience suffering, pain, and death. As it says in the Book of Wisdom (2:23), “God formed man to be imperishable.” As a missionary, I go around asking people about deep stuff like this all the time. Basically everyone universally believes that there is some sort of afterlife, some sort of meaning behind everything that we struggle through in this life, and there is truth in that! All people, no matter our faith, still know deep down that we were meant for eternal life. ..But then something big happened that changed the course of history. Adam and Eve sinned: they disobeyed God. God warned them beforehand, of course. Eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge wasn’t just a rule for the heck of it- God told them that they shouldn’t eat it because they would die. Genesis 2:17, “From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.” It seems explanatory enough for me. But they went ahead and ate from it anyways.

We messed up, didn’t we? God warned us, then we messed it up. That sin affected everything about the human condition, from death to the need for clothing. In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans he says, “The wages of sin is death.” Our relationship with God was fractured forever- you can think of us and God being on the opposite sides of the Grand Canyon. We need God’s forgiveness to repair this relationship. You know, if I do something wrong to Ania, I can’t forgive myself. No, I need Ania’s forgiveness for our relationship to be ok again. It’s the same way with our sin and God: we need God’s forgiveness.. we can’t just go on with our lives pretending that everything is alright when it isn’t.

Let’s see how God comes to forgive us. Jumping forward through a couple thousand years of Jewish history, we land in Bethleham around year 0. In a little stable there’s a baby boy in a manger: an animal’s feeding trough. This boy is God incarnate. Emmanual: meaning God with us. Jesus: meaning God saves.

Jesus did amazing things during His public ministry: water to wine, healings, multiplication of food, walking on water, and even raising other people from the dead. But the most ridiculous thing that happens to Jesus might be that HE dies. Jesus died in one of most horrific ways imaginable: He was scourged at the pillar until his entire body was bleeding, spit on and forced to wear a thorny cross that was hardly a fashion statement, forced to carry his cross, and then finally He was nailed to the cross and left there to suffocate.. your arms get too tired to pull yourself up to get each breath. Of course on top of this He was bleeding all over the place and after He died, His heart was pierced with a spear to make sure that He was dead. Here’s a quick side note: I’ve played Jesus in a stations of the cross event before, carrying a smaller life-sized cross for a half hour or so before on a flat surface.. it’s ridiculously difficult to the point where I was looking forward to those 3 falls and not worried at all whether the cross fell on me or not. I have two points in sharing this: 1. Jesus didn’t have the option of “faking” His death so that He could be “resurrected” 2. He didn’t have to do that. He didn’t have to do any of that. He could have snapped His fingers and we would be forgiven. No, God doesn’t just have a little mercy on us, a little liking for us. No, God has a Fatherly love for us where He is willing to go through whatever it takes to get us back. Think Liam Neeson talking about his daughter in Taken. “I would sacrifice anything for her.” God will leave the other 99 sheep just to go and find that lost one. Just like a good shepherd, He will even sacrifice His life to save the sheep. That’s God’s love for us. This isn’t just a “sad” love story though, this is an amazing story with a powerful ending! Jesus rose from the dead! WHAT! God died, and then He was resurrected. This is huge on the Catholic take on death and the afterlife, and now I’d like to think that I’ve set the stage enough for some Catholic theology.

As a Catholic I believe that just as Jesus died and rose, if we follow Jesus in dying to ourselves and becoming a new creation in God in our baptism, joining the Church, we can also rise with Jesus on the last day. See, Jesus didn’t just DIE for us, but He also ROSE for us, so that we can also rise and be with Him forever in paradise. In John (11:25), Jesus says “I am the Resurrection and the life.” We come into communion with Jesus every time that we go to mass, where we get to receive Jesus Christ Himself: body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the Eucharist. St. Irenaeus said of the Eucharist, “Just as bread comes from the earth, after God’s blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection.” Being nourished by Jesus in the Eucharist, we become the Body of Christ. As the Body of Christ, we can be united with Jesus for eternity. We will be united with God forever, in ecstasy forever. Most people think of heaven when they think of the afterlife, but we have to remember that our destiny is resurrection. Everyone will be resurrected, the faithful to eternal bliss in new heavens, new earth, and the cruel to eternal despair.

See, what’s new about Christianity is that death isn’t the enemy anymore. Death has been defeated, as long as we’re clothed in Jesus in the Church, with the sacraments. Loving God is our purpose and meaning, and death should not scare us anymore. Our earthly lives will testify to how we love. Jesus said, “No greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The martyrs are great witnesses to this beautiful truth. A great example of this is St. Ignatius of Antioch, a bishop and disciple of the apostle St. John. St. Ignatius was captured for his Christian faith in the 1st century and taken to Rome, where he was martyred in the Roman Coliseum, probably eaten by lions. He wrote this while he was on his way to martyrdom, “It is better for me to die in Christ Jesus than to reign over the ends of the earth. Him it is I seek- who died for us. Him it is I desire- who rose for us. Let me receive pure light; when I shall have arrived there, then shall I be a man.”

I suppose it is worth a moment to talk about hell and purgatory. Of course we believe that there are two destinations: heaven and hell. Don’t think of them as physical places, but rather states of relationship with God. God is always seeking us, but are we seeking Him in return? God gave us free will, if we truly don’t want Him then He is going to give us what we want. Unfortunately for the souls in hell, life separated from God sucks pretty bad. Nobody is predestined to heaven or hell, it takes a willful turning away from God, or mortal sin, and persistence in it in order to be in danger of hell. But for those who are on their way to heaven but haven’t quite been purified of all their sins, there is a place of final purification called purgatory before heaven.

Heaven: being intimately with God forever, is our goal. There we will see God face to face. Often this is compared to a wedding feast. You’ve probably heard of the apocalypse before, right? And when you hear about the apocalypse, what do you think of? Monsters? Darkness? Chaos? Earthquakes? Well, actually, apocalypse means “unveiling,” like the unveiling of a bride at a wedding. The apocalypse is the unveiling of the bride of Christ: the Church, and then the wedding feast and eternal bliss they share forever. It’s the perfect love story, eh? St. Cyprian commented, “How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God, to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God’s friends.” At the last day, the dead will be resurrected, Jesus will return again and will have the last judgment, where He will separate “the sheep from the goats,” “placing the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left… And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31,32,46) In this new heaven and new earth, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness, where the righteous will reign forever with Christ. In this heavenly Jerusalem, God will have His dwelling with us, and “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev 21:4.

I’m not just talking theory here. Just this March and April, two of my friends from college died within a few weeks of each other. Phil then Dan. Phil died in an accident. He was handicapped for nearly all his life and constantly witnessed to me what it is to be a humble servant of God. Though he could barely even move his hands and had to sit in his power chair chair all the time, he never complained about anything. When the weather was cold out and he couldn’t put on his own hat and gloves, I’d still see him driving along to class in the harsh Illinois winters. He would always say please and thank you when he needed help in the cafeteria, or with anything else. Phil is in heaven, there are no ifs ands or buts about it.

Dan is a different and more radical story. Dan was a year younger than me, he was in my bible study for a couple of years and we were good friends. I never noticed but in hindsight it’s so clear: Dan had issues with depression. He had a particularly difficult time this past school year, and would go home often. After a particularly difficult time, he needed anti-depressants. But getting off of anti-depressants transforms people: they aren’t themselves. One time the pain was too much for him and he committed suicide. Thank you God for Dan. It hit me hard, because it came out of nowhere. I never would have imagined I’d have to deal with that. I’ve actually had another good friend commit suicide before, so I kind of had an idea of how difficult it would be to grieve, but as always, I had hope in God. It helped that Dan was a Christian at least, it made me feel much better. We all have that longing for eternal life, to be with our loved ones forever. That’s how we were created to be.

I kind of went on with the hopeful but curious mindset after the wake and funeral.. after all, suicide is a major sin. God can forgive it, especially when people are not in the right state of mind, but it’s never something to joke about. So I always had hope, God is so merciful, after all. One day a week later his whole family came back down to the University of Illinois for our memorial mass for him, and his mom shared this story with us at the end: Dan has an uncle who is a Salesian priest in Japan or Korea or something like that. On the same exact day that Dan died, even at the same exact hour, Dan’s uncle was saying mass and lifting up the Host at the consecration. At that moment, Our Lady, Mary, appeared to him holding Dan. There is no way that his priest-uncle all the way in Japan could have any idea what was going on let along timing the whole thing down to that hour. Praise God for that sign, we now know that Dan is in heaven. God’s mercy is endless, and our hope has to be in Him.

I’d like to share with you Dan’s last Facebook status ever.

“Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.”

Happy Easter! He is risen indeed!

Salvation, Jesus, and Works

As I’ve been gearing up for my first year as a missionary this summer, I’ve had a unique revelation with regards to evangelization and the aspect that “works” play in salvation. I suppose a big part of this is from a Peter Kreeft (and Ronald Tacelli) book that I’m reading, Handbook of Catholic Apologetics.

First off, I’d like to share an awesome piece from that book on the importance of salvation:

“The Church also seems to be in the social service business, the counseling business, the fundraising business, the daycare business- dozens of the same worthy businesses the secular world is also in. Why? What justifies these things? The Church’s ultimate end for all these things is different from the world’s end; it is salvation. This is her distinctive “product.” Why put out a product that is just the same as other companies’ products already on the market? Why would anyone expect such a product to sell? That’s why modernist or liberal Christianity, charitable as its services are, is simply not selling. The only reason for the very existence of the Church at all, is exactly the same as the reason Jesus came to earth: to save poor and lost humanity. The Church, after all, is in the same business as her Head. When a body runs in a different direction from its head, it is like a chicken with its head cut off: it goes nowhere and quickly dies. Jesus did not come to be a philosopher or a doctor. If he did that, he failed. He didn’t solve most of the philosophers’ problems. He healed some people but left most of the world just as sick as before. He healed some bodies to show that he could heal all souls. Not only is salvation the reason for the Church’s existence; it is also the ultimate reason for your existence: your goal, point, purpose, hope, final cause, summum bonum, meaning. The difference between success and failure at life’s first task- becoming who you were meant to be- is not the difference between riches and poverty, fame and obscurity, health and sickness, pleasure and pain, even niceness and nastiness, but between salvation and damnation. Leon Bloy wrote, “There is only one tragedy: not to have been a saint.”

Salvation matters, a lot. So what does it take to be saved? When people with a Christian background talk a little about salvation, they often only mention whether or not you are a “good” person. This is nice, but is it enough? Is it enough to just be a good person to go to heaven?

The Catholic Church has a nice little clause that it seems like I’m always reminding people about (because the Church is so horrible and restricting! haha). This clause is that if someone by no fault of their own doesn’t hear the Gospel or know who Jesus is, they can still be saved by striving their very best during their life to live an upright, charitable, and selfless life, which is common sense whatever background you come from. God is merciful, much more than you and I.

Yes, that’s good and generous of God, isn’t it? The problem is that everyone who reads this blog obviously doesn’t live in a remote area and has had contact with Christians in some way, shape, or form. For people who have heard the Gospel, the nice clause of just being a good person isn’t enough to earn salvation, according to Jesus. Salvation is only possible through Jesus:

“There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” – Acts 4:12

Again, Jesus was clear Himself in this teaching:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

In Lecrae’s song Truth, he gives a great analogy for why we need Jesus. In one of the verses (around 3 minutes in) he discusses the issue of why an all  powerful loving God would allow evil to happen. He points out that though God allows evil natural disasters to happen, He also allows people to have free will and murder. Well, we all agree that stuff like that is evil, but here’s the brilliant part: Lecrae asks if lying and cheating are evil too. They are. And things like that are evil even if we just think them. So he turned around the argument: why does God allow us to live, as we all sin? Thanks be to God that Jesus died on the cross to forgive us of our sin, otherwise we’d all be going straight to hell. Only God can forgive sin, that’s why Jesus and the incarnation are such a big deal! No one other than Jesus can forgive us, that’s what St. Peter was saying to the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:12!

Please note that there’s a very important sacramental side with regards to salvation, centering on baptism (1 Peter 3:21 and Mark 16:16), confession (John 20:23), and the Eucharist (John 6:52). Salvation requires faith and works. Gotta offer this life for Jesus and live it out. But for this post I’m staying high level.

With all this in mind, I figure that most Christians- and Catholics are especially susceptible (not by bad teachings but misunderstandings of the teachings)- don’t seek to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ as much as they can because they unfortunately don’t believe that Jesus Christ specifically is very important in the economy of salvation.

Most people seem to believe that it is most important to be a good person, and if you believe in Jesus that’s a cherry on top. Actually, we see something that is quite the opposite in terms of Dismas the good thief: he was a thief and pretty bad person all his life, but when the time came, he repented and turned to Jesus in faith. Jesus promised him salvation. Jesus Himself stressed that people believe in Him and repent. He wanted their hearts to be converted not to niceness but to Him.

So is being a good person important? Yes! We ought to follow Jesus who is the way and the truth and the life! We ought to love God and love our neighbors as our self. But good works explicitly without Jesus will do nothing with regards to the economy of salvation. Takeaway: we must be more courageous in actually sharing Jesus with others instead of just assuming that they believe and are faithful.

Holiness

Holiness is a bit of a scary word for Christians: it’s pretty loaded. But it shouldn’t be so scary or seem as “far away” as it may seem.

Holiness isn’t about being some sort of thing in a museum, something that your parents told you not to touch or you’d be in trouble. It’s not being all “special.”

You don’t become holy by trying to be holy. You become holy by losing yourself, by giving your life so that you can love others and serve others, serving God! Holiness is being a servant, by seeing yourself as the least of everyone. So stop thinking about yourself and you’ll be that much closer to God.

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:24-25

Purgatory in Scripture

The following is a guest post by Eric Novitsky:

What does the bible teach about Purgatory? Is it a straight shot to heaven if we are saved?

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Cor 5:10).

But where exactly is this judgment seat? We know from Revelation that:

“But nothing unclean will enter [heaven], nor any[one] who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Rev 21:27).

Is there a final purification? Let’s look at some examples in the scripture that could imply such a process. A popular verse in scripture about Purgatory is 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.

“For no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire [itself] will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Cor 3:11-15).

What could it mean if a person suffers loss? Bro. Peter Dimond of Most Holy Family Monastery gives his analysis of the passage.1

“The Greek word which is translated as “suffer loss” is zemiothesetai. It comes from the Greek word zemioo. Forms of this same Greek word, zemioo – which is translated as “suffer loss” in 1 Cor. 3:15 – are found in other passages in the Bible. The word is used to mean punishment. In Exodus 21:22, Proverbs 17:26, Proverbs 19:19 and elsewhere, this very Greek word zemioo is used to mean punishment. That means that zemiothesetai, the word translated as suffer loss in 1 Cor. 3:15, can mean punishment.”

The Bible teaches that God uses fire and discipline to reform and purge His children. If this is not done during one’s lifetime on Earth, it must be done in Purgatory.

“He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” (John 15:2)

References to Purgatory are found in The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.2 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:3

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.4

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”5 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.6 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.7”

It is also stated more concisely:

“1054 Those who die in God’s grace and friendship imperfectly purified, although they are assured of their eternal salvation, undergo a purification after death, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of God.”

In paragraph 1032 there is a mention of Judas Maccabeus which references 2 Maccabees.

“Judas rallied his army and went to the city of Adullam. As the week was ending, they purified themselves according to custom and kept the sabbath there. On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his men went to gather up the bodies of the slain and bury them with their kinsmen in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin.” (2 Maccabees 38-46).

Judas acted so that the dead could be freed from their sin, possibly meaning that there is a place where the faithful departed are retained until they are absolved from all sin. Additional support for Purgatory can be found in Matthew.

“Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 25-26).

A similar example is given in a parable in Matthew 18.

“Then Peter approaching asked Him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35).

Retention in a prison might be a metaphor for Purgatory. Matthew 12:32 also could provide a reference to Purgatory.

“And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:32)

Bro. Peter Dimond gives his analysis of the passage.1

Why would Jesus say that the sin against the Holy Ghost will not be forgiven in this world or in the world to come? A father of the Church, Pope St. Gregory the Great, understood these words of Jesus to indicate that certain sins will be forgiven or satisfied for in the next world: in Purgatory.

Pope St. Gregory the Great, Dialogues (4, 40), 593 “Everyone is presented in judgment just as he is when he departs this life. But nevertheless, it must be believed that there is, for the sake of certain lesser faults, a purgatorial fire before the judgment, in view of the fact that Truth [Jesus] does say that if anyone speak blasphemy against the Holy Spirit it will be forgiven him neither in this world nor in that to come [Matthew 12:32]. In this statement we are given to understand that some faults can be forgiven in this world and some in the world to come. For if something is denied to one in particular, the intellect logically infers that it is granted for some others. But, as I said before, this must be believed to be a possible disposition for small and lesser sins.” (William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 3: 2321.)

In his book, Bro. Peter Dimond also addresses the question: did Jesus’ suffering on the cross account for all sins?1

“Some non-Catholics like to think that Jesus Christ’s passion and death made up for everything, including the penalty due to all future sins. There are no worries about something such as Purgatory, they say, because Jesus Christ paid the price for it all. It’s proven false by Colossians 1:24.”

“Now I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col 1:24).

“Paul says that he fills up, for the Church, those things that are wanting or lacking in the sufferings of Christ. Christ’s suffering was perfect and of infinite value; so what does this mean? What St. Paul means is that many sufferings are still wanting and needed for the members of the Church to work out their salvation, which was all made possible by Christ’s sacrifice. This verse proves that Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t do away with all worries about the possibility of future punishment due to one’s sins. If so, then Paul would never say that his sufferings fill up for members of the Church that which is wanting in the sacrifice of Christ; nor would Jesus speak of the punishments for sins, which He repeatedly does. This verse, Colossians 1:24, also proves the Catholic doctrine of the communion of saints, and the effect of intercessory prayer and sacrifice.”

Other important church figures have also given support for purgatory:1

Pope Gregory X, Council of Lyons II, A.D. 1274: “Because if they die truly repentant in charity before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for sins committed and omitted, their souls are cleansed after death for purgatorial or purifying punishments….” (Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma. 464)

St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermons, A.D. 411 “…there is no doubt that the dead are aided, that the Lord might deal more mercifully with them than their sins would deserve. The whole Church observes this practice which was handed down by the Fathers: that it prays for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ…” (William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 3:1516).

St. Augustine, Faith, Hope and Love, A.D. 421 “That there should be some such fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater and lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish – through a certain purgatorial fire.” (William Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 3:1920).

References
1. Dimond, P. The Bible Proves the Teachings of the Catholic Church. The Most Holy Family Monastery, 2009.

2. Cf. Council of Florence (1439):DS 1304; Council of Trent (1563):DS 1820; (1547):1580; see also Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336):DS 1000.

3. Cf. 1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7.

4. St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4,39:PL 77,396; cf. Mt 12:31.

5. 2 Macc 12:46.

6. Cf. Council of Lyons II (1274):DS 856.

7. St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in 1 Cor. 41,5:PG 61,361; cf. Job 1:5.

YOU Were Made for Greatness!

It is sad that many Catholics today seem to think that they can’t be saints. It is commonly assumed that everyday people can’t be SAINTS. To be a saint, most think, you’d have to spend 5 hours of the day in prayer (and literally talking with God), never sin, live like a hermit, become a priest or nun, never smile or have fun, etc. I could go on.

This is such a major misconception! This is assuming that we all are supposed to become the same- some sort of super pious, strict, lonely, old man/woman who has no friends. Again, this is a major major misconception, that we can see is false by looking at examples of actual canonized saints.

God created us all uniquely. Everyone is different, and this is good! And because of this, we all should have different paths, different lifestyles! But our uniqueness doesn’t mean that we can’t become saints. We are all made to become saints, becoming the unique saint that we were all made to be!

The point is that becoming a saint does not mean being someone else but rather becoming fully who you were made to be! (what Matthew Kelly likes to call the best-version-of-yourself)

We do this by coming to know and believe in God and His son Jesus Christ, to know of His love for us and all people. Then we must follow Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life, sharing our joy and living charitably in all that we do. Very very regular people become saints. We all can! We must strive to overcome sin and truly put God first in our lives, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to go off to a convent or monastery or change the world.. check out these modern day saints that show us just how real, how attainable sainthood is!

Blessed Chiara Luce Badano

Blessed Chiara Luce, from Italy, died in 1990 at the age of 18, after a battle with cancer for about two years. Can you believe that? She only lived to be 18 and Pope Benedict has already beatified her! What made her a saint was mostly her joy that she shared with others. Even as she was in the hospital in the last year of her life, she looked for ways to cheer up HER visitors. She had a very strong faith and devotion to Jesus from a young age and even offered up her pain for Jesus. But she said that she didn’t want anyone crying when she died because she said that’s when she’d get to be with Jesus.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Blessed Pier Giorgio is another Italian youth, who died in 1925 at the age of 24. He was active in His faith, was very charitable with what he had, and really enjoyed mountain climbing, operas, and all sorts of normal things. He died from polio, which he probably got from the poor… And after his death it was the poor, the very people that he cared for, who brought his cause for canonization to the Archbishop of Turin! How cool is that!

These are a couple of special saints because they lived such short lives but they lived their lives so well, with such passion and care for others because of their love for Jesus.

Do your thing, serve God, become a saint!