Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell

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Warning: We are about to get into some pretty deep theological discussion, well at least deep for me. As I wrote in my last post, my sister passed away last week and as one who has to analyze everything on different levels (maybe over analyze would be a better way to put it) I began thinking about Purgatory. As far as I know, I believe this is a uniquely Catholic belief.

Let me give you the textbook definition of Purgatory, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.  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:

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.

Basically we can look at Purgatory as being somewhere between Heaven and Hell, this is the place where our sins are washed away before we can get into Heaven. Of course in order to go to Purgatory, we have to profess our belief in God, even if it is on our deathbed. We have three choices of places to go after death:

  • We can go directly to Heaven
  • We can go directly to Hell
  • We can stop in Purgatory on the way to Heaven.

Once in Purgatory, we may stay there for awhile, but from what I have read and heard, we will eventually get to Heaven.

Alright, so what was I thinking about regarding Purgatory and my sister? Is it possible for us to be in Purgatory while we are still alive? As I had mentioned in my last post, my sister suffered from mental illness. For the last 35 years or so, her life (at least as I see it) wasn’t all that good. She suffered from Paranoid Schizophrenia, with all the attendant symptoms, delusions, hearing voices, paranoia. For the record, she wanted nothing to do with me for the last ten years, so I don’t have first hand knowledge of this, but I don’t imagine she was very happy or that her quality of life could have been all that good. Again, this is an assumption om my part.

Therefore, if this were in fact true, could this have been her Purgatory? If she were suffering, was this the suffering she needed to go through in order for her to get to Heaven? We as Catholics are taught that only Saints go directly to Heaven, everyone else has to go through Purgatory, but is it possible that my sister had her Purgatory while she was alive?

We always hear that God has a plan for all of us, and I believe that, but I wonder what His plan for my sister was? It wasn’t her fault she had this illness, yes, some of her actions may have contributed to it (a subject of debate between my siblings and I) but it certainly wasn’t something she chose. We all have the free will to sin or not sin, but we don’t have the choice on whether or not we suffer from mental illness.

I don’t know the answer for this, at least not yet, but I will continue looking into it. If anyone has any input, please feel free to leave a comment.

Some resources on Purgatory:

The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: Inferno (Penguin Classics)
The Seven Storey Mountain
The Biblical Basis For Purgatory

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Until We Meet Again

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It’s said that God has a plan for all of us, and I believe it. Sometimes you may not know what He is up to, or why he does what he does, but there is a plan. I think I especially wonder when bad things happen. I ask my self why? Why does God let this happen?

This week one of my older sisters passed away. She had suffered from mental illness for about forty years. It made for some tough times for us, especially when we were younger when we didn’t understand what was happening to her. And needless to say it was even tougher for my parents. Interestingly enough her illness and some of the things that went with it led to my rejection of the church, but that is water under the bridge as they say.

Why she was struck, only God knows. They say it is in the genes, so I guess it could have been any of us.

Since her passing, I have been wondering what her life would have been had she not been struck with her illness. It happened after she had graduated High School, she was unable to go any further. She worked for awhile but even that was difficult. In and out of institutions, she finally found place where they were able to help  her to eventually live on her own, with only minimum supervision.

I’ll remember her as she was, the girl in the neighborhood who always good outrun everyone else, even the boys. I’ll remember her loving the all things Beatles and how she (like fifteen million other teenage girls) was going to marry Paul. Her love of animals, especially dogs and horses, and her long, blonde hair that she had to brush at least 100 strokes a day. I have a picture of the four of us when we were quite young. She was smiling, happy, bright, that is the sister I will remember.

I only saw her sporadically in the last fifteen years, she wanted nothing to do with her family, other than one of my other sisters. She preferred to be left alone with the demons which were inside of her. At least she didn’t die alone, my sister and I were with her, I, right to the end. I asked her to forgive me and hopefully I will see her again.

This time I am not alone

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I guess I saw it coming. This morning I lost my job. First time I have ever been discharged from anywhere. So now what? I look at it like this, losing a job is not the worst that can happen to someone. I am certainly in a better position than I was the last time I was out of work, and for one reason. I am not alone.

Not only do I have the woman I love with me, but I also have Jesus alongside of me. I guess my last post was kind of prophetic now that I think about it. So the question becomes what next? I believe everything in this life is ultimately controlled by God, so I know this is part of His plan. I just wish I knew what His plan is. Is He trying to tell me it is time to move forward with my writing? Maybe ramp up the freelancing things I am doing?

Most High, glorious God,

Enlighten the darkness of my heart,

And give me right faith,

Certain hope,

And perfect charity,

Wisdom and understanding,

Lord, that I may carry out

Your holy and true command. Amen.

It’s No Yoke

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From Panoramia

 

Anyone who grew up in New England probably took a fourth grade field trip to Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. It is a recreation of a village from the 1830’s with original buildings and artifacts from a time where day-to-day life was, well although not easier, certainly less complicated. As part of this outdoor museum there is a working farm, and on this farm there is a duck, e-i-e-i-o, wait that is another farm. There are oxen on this farm which are used for many purposes, they were pretty much the precursor to modern day tractors.

I remember watching the farmer work a pair of the oxen through the fields, pulling the mower or the tiller or sometimes a wagon. The oxen wore a yoke. This yoke helped the oxen work as a team. Back in the time of Jesus, these yokes would have been made from wood, and hand crafted especially for the ox who would wear it. When you put the yoke on each ox, it would release the burden from the other, this way, the load would be lighter. As the saying goes, two oxen are better than one.

In Matthew 11: 28-30 Jesus tells us that when we are burdened we should take his yoke, and he will help relieve our burdens. And since it is Jesus who is making the yoke, it will fit perfectly and we won’t even know it is on.

How many times do we feel overwhelmed by life’s burdens and wish we would have help? I know this is where I was for most of my adult life. I know I was burdened every day, worrying about how to pay the bills, my kids, my marriage, all the things that modern culture tells us we need to worry about. My life was all about things and getting more or them, after all I wouldn’t be happy without them, again because our culture said so. I never asked anyone, especially not Jesus to help lighten the burden. I never took the yoke Jesus was offering me and my life greatly suffered from it. Not that my life was all that bad, but as those of you who have read this blog know, I definitely believe it could have been a lot different and better.

I also remember those oxen would also wear blinders, so they couldn’t see what was going on around them, these blinders would eliminate distractions. They might not even realize there was another ox helping them. Now sometimes we shouldn’t be wearing blinders but there are also some times when we do need them. In my case, whenever I write, I have a problem getting distracted. I tend to have either the radio or the TV on, or am talking to the woman I love, or have the internet going and start surfing. This is why I need blinders, to keep me focused. In fact, they might help me stay on topic when I write, like now.

Like with the oxen, blinders will not let us know that there is another in the yoke with us. We won’t even know Jesus is there for us, working with us. He is always there but unless we ask, he won’t help us, well okay, indirectly he still does, I can attest to that, but our burdens won’t be lighter. Until I understood that Jesus was there, right next to me, and more than happy to help, I struggled. When I finally woke up (have I told the story about falling off the back of the truck?) and asked Jesus for his help, my life changed. I am still struggling, but at least I can see the forest for the trees. I know that God has a plan for me, I don’t know what it is but I know there is one, and I am doing my best to discern what it is. As I have written before, I also know what the end goal of life is, I know what I hope is waiting for me, and I am working towards that goal. Whether I reach it or not I don’t know, but I am giving it my best shot.

Jesus said to the crowds: “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest,
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” – Matthew 11:28 -30

If you go to Old Sturbridge Village, be sure to visit Saint Anne’s Shrine and Parish, maybe I’ll see you at Mass.

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And You Shall Not Be Judged

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As promised here is the follow up post to the Ferguson one, and I promise this one won’t be as political.

I am not a biblical scholar, a theologian, a philosopher, a historian or someone with a lot of letters after my name. Maybe I am not the most eloquent writer and I know I am certainly not the most eloquent speaker. Yes, I have read and read the Bible, and I have read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and can even explain some of it, I may not understand some of it, but I do understand the difference between right and wrong.

  • I know racism is wrong, whether white on black, black on white, Christian on Non-Christian, Non-Christian on Christian. But I also know that it is wrong for some people to manufacture and actually promote racism.
  • I know it is wrong to incite or participate in violence when you don’t get your way.
  • I know it is wrong to suppress free speech by shouting down, name calling, attacking another’s beliefs because their’s are not the same as yours.
  • I know rational, intelligent, discussion always works best.
  • I know it is wrong for the mainstream media to continue to spread a false narrative and a one sided view as to the extent of the “racial problem” and “hate speech.”
  • I know it is wrong for me to force my views on others as well as to have them force theirs on me.
  • I know that suppressing my right to worship and believe in God as I see fit is wrong and it is wrong for me to stop others from doing the same.
  • I know that Jesus said to treat your neighbor as you would yourself.
  • I know that morally there is no grey, only black and white, right and wrong.

Let’s finish with a passage from Paul’s Letter to the Romans:

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.  We know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who do such things.  Do you suppose, O man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? – Romans 2:1 – 3 (RSVCE)

There are many who are quick to judge others as being racist, or any other of the current “phobics” out there, and they love to spout out their “tolerance” and “Don’t judge me because I am different” lines, yet they are the least tolerant and most judgmental of all. The are tolerant as long as you agree with them. They would be well to listen to Paul, and ask themselves, “Will they escape the judgement of God?”

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