Dear Friends of the Jesuits,
As we anticipate November, the month of the Holy Souls, the Church invites us to think about those who have gone before us, and those who are “in purgatory.” To me, the concept of purgatory has always been a difficult one, and one that is hard to grasp. What is this “place” that is neither Heaven nor Hell?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us purgatory and the importance of praying for the dead:
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. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.
While Pope Francis explains purgatory like this:
Even now we experience a communion between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven through our union with those who have died. The souls in heaven assist us with their prayers, while we assist the souls in purgatory through our good works, prayer and participation in the Eucharist. As members of the Church then, the distinction is not between who has died and who is living, but rather who is in Christ and who is not.
These explanations are helpful, but of course we the living can never be certain if someone who has gone before us is in heaven or in purgatory. We can, however, be sure that following Pope Francis’ suggestions of good works, prayer, and participating in the Eucharist will help all of the dead.
One again this year, the Jesuits of Canada invite you to send us the names of important people in your lives who have died. These names will be placed in a basket at the altar of the La Storta Jesuit Community in Pickering, Ontario. Throughout November, the Jesuit community will pray for your loved ones during their daily Eucharist.
We sincerely hope you will join us in this prayerful remembrance of the deceased. May our prayers and actions during November help all those in purgatory attain the glories of Heaven. As always, the Jesuits are grateful for your support.
Barry J. Leidl