I was reading an article in a diocesan newspaper about the ordination of new priests when I came upon a troubling quote. In reference to his deceased father, one of the newly ordained priests stated, “I believe my father is now in heaven with my mother”. That quote would be concerning enough if it came from a lay Catholic, but the fact that it came from a priest makes it worse. When I read this, I got the same feeling that I get when I see a Catholic Mass Card containing the “Safely Home” poem (the one that begins with “I am home in Heaven, dear ones…”). You may be wondering why I’m making such a big deal of this. It’s not like they are denying the existence of purgatory, is it?
Even if we give everyone the benefit of the doubt and attribute this to just being careless with their words (as opposed to not understanding the dogma of purgatory), this kind of talk discourages people from praying for the dead. I don’t know about you, but when I die I don’t want people assuming that I’m in Heaven (not that it’s likely to happen!) . Instead, I want people to be praying for my soul! If they want to assume anything, let them assume I’m in purgatory.
We need to remember that, other than canonized Saints, the Church has not declared that any humans are in Heaven. Conversely, she also has not declared that anyone is in Hell (including mass murderers, abortionists, terrorists, child abusers, etc.). Praying for the souls of all the deceased is still one of the Spiritual Acts of Mercy.
Why not take this opportunity to ask The Lord to have mercy on the souls of your deceased relatives and friends? While you’re at it, say a few extra prayers for all of the deceased murderers, criminals and terrorists that come to mind…
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.