Keep your eyes open!...


November 25, 2015  


(Col 3:12-17) Put ye on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience: Bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another. Even as the Lord hath forgiven you, so do you also. But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts, wherein also you are called in one body: and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly: in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God. All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

BISHOP THOMAS J. TOBIN: The Holy Mass: The Perfect Thanksgiving

CATHOLIC REVIEW: Counting our blessings: Prayers to enhance your family’s Thanksgiving feast


There’s a Jewish folk-tale which runs something like this:

There once was a young man who aspired to great holiness. After some time at working to achieve it, he went to see his Rabbi.

“Rabbi,” he announced, “I think I have achieved sanctity.”

”Why do you think that?” asked the Rabbi.

”Well,” responded the young man, “I’ve been practising virtue and discipline for some time now and I have grown quite proficient at them. From the time the sun rises until it sets, I take no food or water. All day long, I do all l do all kinds of hard work for others and I never expect to be thanked.

“If I have temptations of the flesh, I roll in the snow or in thorn bushes until they go away, and then at night, before bed, I practice the ancient monastic discipline and administer lashes to my bare back. I have disciplined myself so as to become holy.”

The Rabbi was silent for a time. Then he took the young man by the arm and led him to a window and pointed to an old horse which was just being led away by its master.

“I have been observing that horse for some time,” the Rabbi said, “and I’ve noticed that it doesn’t get fed or watered from morning to night. All day long it has to do work for people and it never gets thanked. I often see it rolling around in snow or in bushes, as horses are prone to do, and frequently I see it get whipped.

“But, I ask you: Is that a saint or a horse?”

This is a good parable because it shows how simplistic it is to simply identity sanctity and virtue with self-renunciation and the capacity to do what’s difficult. In popular thought there’s a common spiritual equation: saint=horse. What’s more difficult is always better. But that can be wrong.

To be a saint is to be motivated by gratitude, nothing more and nothing less. Scripture, everywhere and always, makes this point.

For example, the sin of Adam and Eve was, first and foremost, a failure in receptivity and gratitude. God gives them life, each other and the garden and asks them only to receive it properly, in gratitude—receive and give thanks. Only after doing this, do we go on to “break and share” Before all else, we first give thanks.

To receive in gratitude, to be properly grateful, is the most primary of all religious attitudes. Proper gratitude is ultimate virtue. It defines sanctity. Saints, holy persons, are people who are grateful, people who see and receive everything as gift.

The converse is also true. Anyone who takes life and love for granted should not ever be confused with a saint.

Let me try to illustrate this: As a young seminarian, I once spent a week in a hospital, on a public ward, with a knee injury. One night a patient was brought on to our ward from the emergency room. His pain was so severe that his groans kept us awake. The doctors had just worked on him and it was then left to a single nurse to attend to him.

Several times that night, she entered the room to administer to him—changing bandages, giving medication, and so on. Each time, as she walked away from his bed he would, despite his extreme pain, thank her.

Finally, after this had happened a number of times, she said to him: “Sir, you don’t need to thank me. This is my job!”

“Ma’am!” he replied, “it’s nobody’s job to take care of me! Nobody owes me that. I want to thank you!

I was struck by that, how, even in his great pain, this man remained conscious of the fact that life, love, care, and everything else come to us as a gift, not as owed. He genuinely appreciated what this nurse was doing for him and he was right— it isn’t anybody’s job to take care of us!

It’s our propensity to forget this that gets us into trouble. The failure to be properly grateful, to take as owed what’s offered as gift, lies at the root of many of our deepest resentments towards others—and their resentments towards us.

Invariably when we are angry at someone, especially at those closest to us, it is precisely because we are not being appreciated (that is, thanked) properly. Conversely, I suspect, more than a few people harbor resentments towards us because we, consciously or unconsciously, think that it is their job to take care of us.

Like Adam and Eve we take, as if it is ours by right, what can only be received gratefully as gift. This goes against the very contours of love. It is the original sin.

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Visions

10. Macarius wanted to encourage the brothers so he said, 'A little while ago a mother came here with her son who was vexed by a devil, and he said to his mother, "Get up, let us go away from here." But she said, "my feet are so bad that I can't walk away." So her son said to her, "I will carry you." I am amazed at the cleverness of the devil, how much he wanted them to flee from this place'.

November 23, 2015  

(Mat 10:16) Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves.

FROM THE ARCHIVES (1999): Desmond Birch Commentary: Approved Catholic Prophecy Speaks of a Muslim Invasion of Western Europe Sometime in the Future

DR. TAYLOR MARSHALL: Islamic Refugee Crisis: Good Samaritan or Maccabean Response? Or both What would Thomas Aquinas Say?

NATIONAL REVIEW: There Are Serious, Unbigoted Reasons to Be Wary of a Flood of Syrian Refugees

: The great Christian writer and historian, Hilaire Belloc, argued that Islam is not a unique religion at all, but a singularly perverse Christian heresy. Belloc was an occasional collaborator with G.K. Chesterton and was president, for a time, of the Oxford Union. While I think his case is somewhat overstated, it carries deep insight into the historical phenomenon which is Islam. Certainly Islam recognizes but one God, emphasizes that man is to serve him, and posits an afterlife. Other than that, the differences are more striking than the similarities.

In Islam, God is a distant, alien thing. There is –and can be – no kinship between man and God whatsoever. The relationship is that of master to a dog, with a master who encourages a brutal viciousness in his dogs. There is no spark of divine dignity in any human, even the holiest of Muslims. They are either good pets to their malignant master or they are not. People are ever treated like things. This is how you get “honor killings” of family members for various – mainly sexual – transgressions. But those sexual rules only apply to women. A sister who has been raped is “broken, like a plate,” as I heard one moderate Muslim man describe it. She is no good anymore and must be discarded. Islam is a religion of appetites, not transcendent aspirations. It is a religion of rules, not of principles of morality. There is no kinship between God and man. Even the supposed rewards of the afterlife are purely temporal in nature – and still treat women as things. The great Muslim warrior supposedly gets 72 virgins to do with as he will. What, precisely, does a Muslim virgin get other than a vicious man?

G.K. Chesterton once said that the man who is intellectually serious about his faith must “either ascend into Catholicism or descend into disbelief.” While that may be overstated, too, it presumes that a man starts from a spark of truth to begin his inquiries. If your image of God is not as Father, as the source of good, but instead as a demanding, petulant murderer, you are severely handicapped in your search. I have said – and maintain – that most Muslims honestly want to know, to love and to serve God in peace with their fellows. I have also said – and maintain – that Islam, itself, is a satanic deception. In that sense, Belloc is absolutely right that it is one of the greatest of the heresies.

Our challenge then is to evangelize Muslims where we can and defeat Islam where we cannot. Christians can be terribly naieve. We think we have been at peace with Islam for much of the last few centuries, with some sporadic hostilities. We have not. Islam’s aim has always been to conquer the world and wipe out any remnants who will not convert. It has occasionally been engaged in strategic armistices with the west, but has been at war with it since late in Muhammed’s life. Ultimately, it will only accept victory or death.

I never propose that Christians should act with coercive aggression, even with Islam. If an Islamic nation is willing to live within its borders and maintain peace with its neighbors, it should be left alone. But the robust vigor of St. Joan of Arc and the best of the Christian Crusaders is my model for how Christians should behave in defending their faith and lands against military assault. Understand that Islam is starkly different than Christianity in how it defines the role of the state and the citizen to religion. In Christianity, individual conscience is respected. The state is expected to act justly, according to transcendent principles that guard human liberty. In Islam, religion, politics and ideology are inextricably entwined. There is no freedom of conscience, only religious rules that must be ruthlessly imposed in all walks of life.

I see myself quoted frequently as saying that Our Lady of Tepeyac is going to convert the Muslims en masse. That is true, but only half of what I have said about the matter. I say that Our Lady will, indeed, convert Islam, mainly through its women, but not until we in the west confront it seriously, both militarily and intellectually. Then it will collapse on itself quicker and more easily than anyone can imagine.


The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Visions

1. A brother went to the cell of Arsenius in Scetis, and looked in through the window, and saw him like fire from head to foot. (He was a brother worthy to see such sights.) When he knocked, Arsenius came out, and saw the brother standing there amazed, and said to him, 'Have you been knocking long? Did you see anything?' He answered, 'No.' After talking with him, Arsenius sent him on his way.'

November 13, 2015  


(Joh 20:21-23) He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.

POPE FRANCIS: "There are people who are afraid to go to confession, forgetting that they will not encounter a severe judge there, but the immensely merciful Father. When we go to confession, we feel a bit ashamed. That happens to all of us, but we must remember that this shame is a grace that prepares us for the embrace of the Father, who always forgives and always forgives everything."

CATHOLIC POST: Matthew Kelly's 3 ways to transform your faith life in a year

Matthew Kelly challenged Catholics at his Oct. 24 presentation to take one of three “game-changing” pledges which he said would transform their lives.
“Lives change when our habits change,” said Kelly, asking the 1,100 in attendance at Epiphany Church to select one of the following and see it through for the next 12 months.

Every Christian needs to answer the question Jesus posed to his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?,” said Kelly.  He described Jesus as a “radical,” pointing to teachings such as “love your enemies.” But unless we immerse ourselves in the life of Jesus by regularly and repeatedly reading the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we may not see “the gap between our lives and the Gospels.”

“We know the Word of God has the power to transform our lives,” said Kelly. “The trouble is, we pray for tweaking, not transformation.” Kelly encouraged Catholics to turn their lives fully over to Christ, praying, “Whatever you want, God.”  “You want to see miracles? Pray that prayer,” said Kelly. “God answers that prayer every single time.

"The truth is Jesus wants to turn our lives upside down, which is right side up,” said Kelly.

“Nothing will chase mediocrity out of our lives like confession,” said Kelly. Noting that no one in sports or any other activity achieves excellence without coaching, he asked the crowd, “Who are you getting your spiritual coaching from?” Regular confession and spiritual direction will make us aware where are falling short and challenge us to excellence.

“You’ll have the best relationships you’ve ever had,” promised Kelly.

Ask God to show in every Mass one way you can be a better version of yourself in the coming week. It won’t be difficult to recognize that one thing, said Kelly, who has done the practice for 17 years and has a shelf of journals to prove it.

Once you recognize the message meant for you, write it down. Then spend the rest of the Mass praying about it, said Kelly, who provided each participant with a Mass journal. “That one thing will knock you over,” he said. It will also increase your love for Mass. “You’ll actually be in the pew before Father gets to the altar,” said Kelly.



Reconciliation reminds us we're forgiven
What Confession Really Does For You
We Are Called For Penance

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Charity

24. A hermit said, 'I never wanted work to be useful to me while causing loss to my brother, for I have this hope that what helps my brother will bring fruit to me.'

November 11, 2015 Veterans Day

(Psa 139:9-10) If I take my wings early in the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea: Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me.

AMERICAN TFP: Catholic Military Chaplains: America's Forgotten Heroes

CATHOLIC WORLD REPORT: Military chaplains bring the light of Christ to some of the world’s darkest places.

MARINE CORPS A&F BLOG: Father Vincent Capodanno and the Meaning of “Sacrifice”

EXCERPT: Father Capodanno Guild

Please spread the good word about Father Capodanno's virtuous life and heroic death.
During Holy Week of 1966, Father Capodanno reported to the 7th Marines in Vietnam as the chaplain for the battalion.  Later transferred to a medical unit, Father Capodanno was more than a priest, ministering within the horrific arena of war. He became a constant companion to the Marines: living, eating, and sleeping in the same conditions of the men. He spent hours reassuring the weary and disillusioned, consoling the grieving, hearing confessions, instructing converts, and distributing St. Christopher medals.
It was during his second tour on September 4, 1967, with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines that Father Vincent Capodanno made the ultimate sacrifice. After hours of heavy fighting from a North Vietnamese ambush, Father Capodanno, himself seriously injured, sighted a wounded corpsman pinned down by an enemy machine gunner. He ran to the Marine and administered medical and spiritual attention. Despite that Father Capodanno was unarmed, the enemy opened fire and he became the victim of 27 bullet wounds. He died faithfully performing his final act as a good and faithful servant of God.
The Father Vincent Capodanno Guild was created in 2013 as a private Catholic Church association and not-for-profit corporation established to promote the Cause for Canonization of Father Capodanno.

KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS: Father Capodanno “A Catholic Chaplain Hero”

PATHEOS: Because These Catholic Chaplains Were Awarded the Medal of Honor

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Charity

23. A brother said to a hermit, 'If I see a monk about whom I have heard that he is guilty of a sin, I cannot make myself invite him into my cell. But if I see a good monk, I bring him in gladly.'  The hermit said, 'If you do good to a good brother it is nothing to him, but to the other give double charity, for he is sick.'

November 6, 2015  

(1Th 5:14-15) And we beseech you, brethren, rebuke the unquiet: comfort the feeble minded: support the weak: be patient towards all men. See that none render evil for evil to any man: but ever follow that which is good towards each other and towards all men.

BISHOP THOMAS J. OLMSTED: INTO THE BREACH-  An Apostolic Exhortation to Catholic Men, my Spiritual Sons in the Diocese of Phoenix
CATHOLIC ACTION FOR FAITH AND FAMILY: Catholic Church Doctrines are not Optional! by Fr. John Trigilio, PhD, ThD.

Q. Some Church teachings and rules seem too complicated or difficult. Do I need to accept all the Church’s teachings?

A. While everyone may not have the same level of knowledge or understanding, there is no doctrine or dogma which is considered optional or up for grabs. Like the laws of physics or the formulas of chemistry, they must be accepted in their entirety. The difficult teachings and regulations of the church are there for our own good. Law exists to protect people. I may choose to ignore or disobey the law, but it is ultimately to my own demise.

If I disregard the warning on the label that says DO NOT IMMERSE IN WATER WHILE PLUGGED INTO OUTLET, I will still get electrocuted for placing the hair-dryer in the bathtub. The prescription label on my medication tells me to take one pill every day for ten days. This is no suggestion. It is a prescription, something I must obey. If I disregard it and decide to take two pills a day for five days or take five pills for two days, I risk an overdose and possible death.

I may not understand how a water molecule is formed but I cannot dispute the fact that water is still two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen (H2O). Likewise, the mysteries of faith as divinely revealed by God are not totally comprehensible to any human intellect. We take it on faith and trust in the One who revealed them. The dogma of the Holy Trinity (one God in three Persons); of the Incarnation (Jesus Christ is one divine Person with two natures, one human and one divine); of Papal Infallibility, the Real Presence, the Virgin Birth, etc.; all of these can be complicated and difficult to understand. So is differential calculus. Both theology and science are true. Some have an easier time with scientific truths than do others. The same goes for philosophical or theological truths.

Truth is not always easy but it is necessary and is preferred to what is not true, i.e., what is false. Some used to believe the world was flat. That did not make it so. Some Christians do not believe in seven sacraments, yet that is what Jesus instituted and entrusted to the Church.  Atheists and agnostics do not believe God exists, yet he most certainly is real.

Knowledge is when there is a correspondence between your mind and reality. You know 2+2=4 but we believe there is only one God who is also three Persons in that one Godhead. That is not knowledge, that is faith. We believe what God revealed because He revealed it. Faith does not contradict reason, it complements it. What we do not or cannot know by reason, we can believe by faith.

Therefore, one cannot be a Catholic Christian and only believe some or most of what the Church teaches. One must embrace the totality of the deposit of Faith since it all comes from God who is Truth itself. Cafeteria Catholicism is not an option. What you or I do not understand, we must trust and believe nevertheless if the Church teaches it for she was founded by Christ and she teaches in His name. You may not have always liked or agreed with everything your parents told you but as a child living in their home, you were bound to live with it and had no liberty to dissent from it either. What seemed arbitrary as an adolescent may now be appreciated as true wisdom once we become older adults and are raising our own children.

Holy Mother Church teaches as any good parent would. She also disciplines as any responsible parent does. What she teaches (doctrine) and what she demands (discipline) is meant for our own benefit. That is why Catholics are expected to believe and to obey. The difficult teachings, say in sexuality, are not there to punish or burden us but to protect us. It is irresponsible to remain silent when a serious danger is present. Smokers do not like to be told about lung cancer, but it is the truth. Some behavior is dangerous to our physical and/or our spiritual health and well-being. So the Church condemns these because we have a wounded human nature.

Original Sin resulted in a darkened intellect, a weakened will and a disordering of the emotions and passions. Hence, we do not always think clearly nor do we always have the strength and courage to do what ought to be done. Divine Grace compensates for the wounded nature and Divine Revelation helps us see better. Divine and natural laws exist because we are sometimes weak and need guidance if not just boundaries for our own protection.

One cannot be a Catholic and support abortion and/or euthanasia any more than you can reject the teaching on the Real Presence or on the sanctity of marriage as being a faithful, permanent and hopefully fruitful union of one man and one woman. The Immaculate Conception and Assumption are not negotiable dogmas and neither are the doctrines on Papal Infallibility, the Inspiration and Inerrancy of Scripture, the Incarnation of Christ, and so on. Heaven, hell, and purgatory; the communion of the saints; basically everything in the Catechism is taught and expected to be accepted. We are to give an assent of faith to these teachings. The moral laws are to be obeyed because breaking them hurts us in the long run. Denying doctrine is as dangerous as breaking the law. Man was created with an intellect and will. The intellect seeks the truth and the will seeks the good. Only in God are both found perfectly and in fullness.

Membership has its privileges but also its obligations. Belonging to the Church means I can receive her sacraments and thereby get the graces I need. I also have access to the Truths of Revelation by knowing the teachings of the Church. Belonging also means I learn what is taught and I obey what rules have been made for my benefit. The common good is the ultimate end, i.e., what is good for all of us and not just me as an individual. We are a family. Baptism makes us children of God. A family is an organic unity. The parts must work together for the sake of the whole. We belong to God and to his family, the Church. Therefore, accepting the teachings and keeping the laws helps all of us.

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Charity

18. A brother asked a hermit, 'Suppose there are two monks: one stays quietly in his cell, fasting for six days at a time, laying many hardships on himself: and the other ministers to the sick. Which of them is more pleasing to God?' He replied, 'Even if the brother who fasts six days hung himself up by his nose, he wouldn't be the equal of him who ministers to the sick.'

November 4, 2015  

(Isa 46:9-11) Remember the former age, for I am God, and there is no God beside, neither is there the like to me: Who shew from the beginning the things that shall be at last, and from ancient times the things that as yet are not done, saying: My counsel shall stand, and all my will shall be done: Who call a bird from the east, and from a far country the man of my own will, and I have spoken, and will bring it to pass: I have created, and I will do it.

ONLINE BOOK: Garabandal: The Village Speaks – Ramon Perez

SPANISH SITE: Garabandal - mensajes y estudios



OPINION: The Warning coming soon?

: Expectations for the Coming Months of 2015-2016 by Thomas Fahy, September 10, 2015

What about the Last Four Months of 2015?

The only thing that I am aware of from the more highly credible sources, namely in this case, from the apparitions to the young, uneducated children of Garabandal, particularly Conchita, is what she was told by the Virgin Mary: that there would come an Important Synod, after which would come the Warning to the whole human race on earth. It seems to me that the upcoming synod on the family, October 4 to October 25, 2015 is that “Important Synod” after which will come the Warning. However, we also know from the Garabandal apparitions that the Communist Tribulation, led by Russia is to come before the Warning. In addition, Our Lady told Conchita that the Pope would go to Russia, to Moscow and that upon his return to Rome (or on the way) the Communist Tribulation would begin “suddenly and unexpectedly.”

The purpose of the Pope going to Russia, to Moscow would be to meet with the Orthodox Patriarch. Patriarch Kirill is the present Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. His subordinate is Archbishop and Metropolitan Hilarion. Last June (2015) Putin went to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis. Also in June, Archbishop Hilarion went twice to meet with Pope Francis. These meetings between Hilarion and Pope Francis involved the preparations between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis, supposedly in a neutral location. No date has been set as far as I know. Even if they do meet in a neutral place, the Pope may still visit Moscow. The prediction about the Pope visit to Moscow also includes the immediate, ‘Sudden and Unexpected” beginning of the Tribulation of Communism.

It seems to me that if it is to be that 2016 is the year of the Warning and Miracle, then the upcoming October synod is the Important Synod predicted at Garabandal. If so, then it would be reasonable to expect the Communist Tribulation to begin at some point in 2015 after the Synod closes on October 25. If not, it would seem that 2016 is not the year of the Warning and Miracle, unless God has accepted the prayers and voluntary sufferings of some soul, or souls, and has released us from this much deserved punishment.

As far as the rest of September and October, 2015 and beyond, we hear many, many reports of Economic and Financial upheaval to come in these months and of dire social consequences. Most of these warnings are coming from secular sources. Some sources are from the spiritual realm. The ones that I am familiar with, from the spiritual realm, do not fit in the category of the higher degrees of certainty. These sources of lesser degrees of certainty may have points that prove to be true and should not be summarily discounted.

RELATED: Russian Orthodox Church, Vatican in talks over meeting of Pope, Patriarch — bishop

RON CONTE BLOG: 7 Months until the Miracle of Healing

CATHOLIC PLANET FORUM: Video with explanation about Garabandal's Joe Lomangino "new eyes"

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Charity

15. One of the fathers said, 'If anyone asks you for something, and you give it to him, even if you are forced to give it, let your heart go with the gift, as it is written, "If a man forces you to go with him one mile, go with him two" (Matt. 5:41). This means that if you are asked for anything, give it with a willing heart.'

November 2, 2015  

(II Maccabees 12:43-46) And making a gathering, he [Judas] sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection, (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,) And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.

SISTERS OF CARMEL: Praying for the Dead

REMINDER: Close Connection of the Communion of the Saints

CRISIS MAGAZINE: In the Midst of Life We Are in Death

RESOURCE: Purgatory Project- Register your souls for Perpetual Masses


Why pray for the dead? Does this make any sense? What possible difference can our prayers make to a person once he or she has died?

These are valid questions. A number of objections can be raised against the practice of praying for the dead: Do we need to call God to mercy? Does God need to be reminded that the person who died was in fact a decent, warm-hearted, person? God already knows this, is already as merciful as mercy allows, and needs no nudging from us to be understanding and forgiving. Cynically, the objection might be put this way: If the person is already in heaven he doesn’t need our prayers and if he is in hell, our prayers won’t help anyway! So why pray for the dead?

We pray for the dead for the same reason we pray for anything, we feel the need and that is reason enough. Moreover the objections raised against praying for the dead are just as easily raised against all prayer of petition. God already knows everyone one of our desires, everyone of our sins, and all of our good will. So why remind God of these? Because prayer builds us up, changes us, not God.

This is the first, though not foremost, reason why we pray for the dead. Prayer is meant to change and console us. We pray for the dead to comfort ourselves, to stir and celebrate our own faith, and assuage our own guilt about our less than perfect relationship to the one who has died. In praying for the dead we do two things: We highlight our faith in the power of God and we hold up the life of the person who has died so as to let God take care of things, let God wash things clean. That is one of the purposes of a funeral liturgy, to clearly put the dead person and our relationship to him or her into God’s hands.

But this is not the most important reason why we have funeral liturgies and why we pray for the dead. We pray for the dead because we believe (and this a doctrine, the communion of saints) that we are still in vital communion with them. There is, death notwithstanding, still a vital flow of life between them and us. Love, presence, and communication reach even through death. We and they can still feel each other, know each other, love each other, console each other, and influence each other. Our lives are still joined. Hence we pray for the dead in order to remain in contact with them. Just as we can hold someone’s hand as they are dying, and this can be an immense consolation to them and to us, so too, figuratively but really, we can hold that person’s hand through and beyond death.

Perhaps the words and prayer forms we use seem to indicate something else, since they are addressed to God and not directly to the person for whom we are praying. Thus, for example, in praying for the dead we use words like: “Lord, have mercy on her soul!” “Lord, we place her in your hands!” “She loved you in life, radiated your gentleness, Lord, give her peace!” The words are addressed to God because it is in and through God that our communication with our loved one who is deceased now takes place: God’s bosom is the venue for our communication, God’s power is what is holding both of us in life, and God’s mercy is what is washing things clean between us. We can of course also talk directly to the person who has died, that too is valid enough within the doctrine of the communion of saints, but given the critical place of God’s love, power, and mercy in this situation, our prayer is generally addressed to God so as to highlight that it is within the heart of God that we have contact with our loved ones who are deceased. Hence, our prayers for the dead generally take this particular form.

And classically, within Roman Catholic theology at least, we have believed that our prayers help release this person from purgatory. What’s to be said about this?

Purgatory, properly understood, is not a punishment for any imperfection nor indeed a place distinct from heaven. The pains of purgatory are the pains of adjusting to a new life (which includes the pain of letting go of this one) and the pains of being embraced by perfect love when we ourselves are far from perfect. By praying for the dead, we support them in their pain of adjustment, adjustment to a new life and to living in full light. Purgation eventually leads to ecstasy, but the birth that produces that ecstasy requires first a series of painful deaths. Thus, just as we tried to hold their hands as they died, so now, in praying for loved ones who have died, we continue to hold their hands, and they ours, beyond the chasm of death itself.

The Desert Fathers: sayings of the Early Christian Monks: Patience

9. Poemen said, 'Whatever hardship comes upon you, it can be overcome by silence.
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