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Saints & Purgatory

While we can always be mindful of those who have gone before us, November is considered a special time to pray for the dead.  We begin the month on November 1st first with the celebration of All Saints’ Day.  Anytime I speak of the saints I always like to begin with clearing up a misconception that some people have.  Catholics do not worship the saints.  We worship God and God alone.  We venerate the saints.  To venerate is to give honor and respect.  We ask for the intercession of the saints as the ones who are in Heaven but we ask for their prayers knowing that it is God who performs the miracles.

There are many saints known by name such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic, and St. Peter.  These are the people officially canonized by the Church but all who have entered into the eternal kingdom of Heaven are saints, whether they are known by name or not.  On All Saints’ Day we give honor for the good lives they lived and ask that they be praying for us before God.

On November 2nd, we celebrate The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, more commonly known as All Souls’ Day.  On this day, we especially pray for the souls in Purgatory.  Some Catholics think the Catholic Church no longer believes in Purgatory.  Protestants might say it isn’t in the Bible.  The Bible does mention praying for the dead.  It is found in 2 Maccabees 12:38-46 which is found in the Old Testament (found in the Protestant Apocrypha).

Purgatory is not a bad thing.  It is a gift.  Our sins are forgiven in this life when we ask for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  But that sin has an effect on us and is part of who we are.  In Purgatory, we are cleansed of any effect of sin and transformed to be with God in his glory.  Purgatory is God’s way of making this happen (Philippians 3:21).

The Catholic Church also speaks of the Communion of Saints.  When we say “The Saints” we are referring to those in Heaven.  The ‘Communion of Saints’ involves three groups, those in Heaven (The Saints), those in Purgatory, and those of us alive on Earth.  We are united by our common baptism.  The Saints in Heaven pray for us, we pray for those in Purgatory, and God provides for all.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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