The whole month of November is traditionally the month when we reflect on Death, those of our own loved ones and acquaintances, and our own passing from this world to the next some day. This is not a morbid wallowing in subjects that one would rather put to one side, but something natural, for death is an inevitable part of life. To be prepared for our final destiny can give a purpose and meaning to our lives, as well as a deep sense of peace. Suffering becomes meritorious; prayer and sacrifice can become powerful aids for those who are now in Purgatory and dependent on those still on Earth.
From Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.’s highly recommended book, Divine Intimacy, comes this perceptive and clear-sighted extract on Purgatory.
“All Souls’ Day makes us mindful not only of the death of our dear ones but also of our own. Death is a punishment, bringing with it, of necessity, a feeling of pain, of fear, of uncertainty. The saints experienced it, and Jesus Himself willed to undergo it. Thus the Church puts before us passages from scripture most suited to encourage us:
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord… henceforth they rest from their labors, for their works follow them.”
The life of the body dies; the life of the spirit and the good deeds accomplished during life remain; these deeds alone accompany the soul in its journey from this life and render its death precious.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”
This death has been justly defined “dies natalis” and the day of birth to eternal life. Would that our own death might be such! A dies natalis which would bring us into the beatific vision, bring us to birth in the indefectible love of heaven.
However, by inviting us to pray for the faithful departed, today’s liturgy reminds us that between death and eternal beatitude there is purgatory. Because our works do follow us, and not all of them are good works, or, even if they are good, they are full of faults and imperfections, it is necessary for the soul to be purified from every blemish before being admitted to the vision of God. And yet if we were perfectly faithful to grace, there would be no need for purgatory, for God purifies here below those who give themselves wholly to Him, who let themselves be fashioned and formed according to His good pleasure. Furthermore, purification accomplished on earth has the great advantage of being meritorious, that is, of increasing grace and charity in us, thus permitting us to love God more for all eternity; whereas in purgatory, one suffers without growing in charity. That is why we should desire to be purified during life. But let us have no illusions: even on earth total purification entails great suffering. If now we are not generous in suffering, if here on earth we do not know how to accept suffering, pure and unmitigated, as Jesus did on the Cross, our purification will of necessity have to be completed in purgatory.
May the thought of that place of expiation rouse our zeal to pray for the souls of the departed, and may it also make us more courageous in embracing suffering in reparation for our own faults.”