Wednesday, 02 November 2016 13:31

Praying for Souls

Written by Shane Dwyer

Trees CemeteryNovember begins with two significant feast days: All Saints (November 1) and All Souls (November 2). I have written about the saints previously so here we’ll think about the holy souls.

Years ago I led a seminar for a Catholic group at which some people from a more recently established Christian denomination were also present. During my talk I had mentioned in passing the Catholic doctrine of purgatory. It caused some consternation for our visitors. Their problem was this: allowing for the possibility that God can continue healing us after death undermined their black and white view of salvation. Their view was that when people died their souls either go to heaven or to hell. Hell, in their belief system, is full of individuals who died without having received Jesus as their personal saviour. That’s not Catholic.

So what is it with Catholics and purgatory? The first thing to understand is that we are not talking about a place. God exists outside space and time, and so do heaven, hell and purgatory. Instead, think of it as an opportunity. God’s desire is to have you with him for eternity. However, that which is not of God cannot exist in God’s presence. Providing you with the opportunity to be healed before coming into his presence is the loving response of a merciful God. Just what form that purification will take, no one knows. All we know is that you do your deceased loved ones a great service by praying for them as they receive the healing they need.