Flowers for our beloved dead

atholic doc­trine on Pur­ga­tory is based on Sa­cred Scrip­ture and Sa­cred Tra­di­tion (from the Latin, tra­di­tio, “de­liv ery” or “hand­ing down” from the be­gin­ning of the hurch .

Palawan News - - OPINION - Vic­torino Den­nis M. Socrates FROM OUT OF THE CAVE

One en­dur­ingly haunting scene from Ten­nessee Wil­liams’ A Street­car Named De­sire—I watched re­cently the 1951 Vivien Leigh and Mar­lon Brando star­rer— is of an old (Mex­i­can) woman sell­ing flowers, call­ing at­ten­tion by chant­ing, “Flores, flores para los muer­tos” (Flowers, flowers for the dead). Ap­par­ently, in the play, Death is pre­sented as the other side of De­sire, which is the name of the street­car—and the un­der­ly­ing cause, too—that brought the tragic char­ac­ter of Blanche DuBois into the story. Some­how, her pro­mis­cu­ous past is “ex­plained” as an at­tempt to es­cape from the idea of Death. The irony, of course, is that the more one gives in to il­licit de­sires (in or­der to es­cape the mor­bid), the more one kills the pos­si­bil­ity of in­ner and last­ing peace and hap­pi­ness. But, yes, th­ese first days of November mean lots of flowers for our beloved dead. The month be­gins with the Solem­nity (Great Feast) of All Saints (Nov. 1), and the Commemoration of All Souls (Nov. 2). The litur­gi­cal year is about to end; it is a good time to re­mem­ber our beloved dead with spe­cial at­ten­tion and to med­i­tate on the after­life. Death does not sever the bonds of love among us hu­mans, ex­cept with the damned in hell, who have, by their fi­nal, ir­rev­o­ca­ble choices, separated them­selves for­ever from Love. We who con­sti­tute the “Church Mil­i­tant” (strug­gling Church) or “Pil­grim Church on earth” are ca­pa­ble of ben­e­fit­ing from the in­ter­ces­sion of the saints in heaven (the “Church Tri­umphant”). We could also add to their “ac­ci­den­tal hap­pi­ness”—to be distin­guished from the “es­sen­tial” hap­pi­ness of be­ing in heaven (i.e., the “be­atific vision” of con­tem­plat­ing God as He Is)—as they note our progress on earth. Sim­i­larly, we could help the souls in Pur­ga­tory (the “Church Suf­fer­ing”) by of­fer­ing our “suf­frages”—prayers, penances, and alms­giv­ing or other good works—to has­ten their en­trance into heaven. We could also ben­e­fit from their in­ter­ces­sion when they reach heaven, and even while they are in pur­ga­tory (since there is no rea­son why their prayers for us would not be heard). Catholic doc­trine on Pur­ga­tory is based on Sa­cred Scrip­ture and Sa­cred Tra­di­tion (from the Latin, tra­di­tio, “de­liv­ery” or “hand­ing down” from the be­gin­ning of the Church). Our Lord said: “And who­ever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be for­given; but who­ever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be for­given, ei­ther in this age or in the age to come” (Mt 12:32). And the Church teaches: “From this sen­tence we un­der­stand that cer­tain of­fenses can be for­given in this age, but cer- tain oth­ers in the age to come. This teach­ing is also based on the prac­tice of prayer for the dead, al­ready men­tioned in Sa­cred Scrip­ture: „There­fore [Ju­das Mac­cabeus] made atone­ment for the dead, that they might be de­liv­ered from their sin‟ [2 Macc 12:46].” (Cat­e­chism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 1031-1032) Also: “Grave sin de­prives us of com­mu­nion with God, and there­fore makes us in­ca­pable of eter­nal life, the pri­va­tion of which is called the „eter­nal pun­ish­ment‟ of sin. On the other hand, every sin, even ve­nial, en­tails an un­healthy at­tach­ment to crea­tures, which must be pu­ri­fied ei­ther here on earth, or af­ter death in the state called Pur­ga­tory. This pu­rifi­ca­tion frees one from what is called the „tem­po­ral pun­ish­ment‟ of sin. Th­ese two pu­n­ish­ments must not be con­ceived of as a kind of vengeance in­flicted by God from with­out, but as fol­low­ing from the very na­ture of sin. A con­ver­sion which pro­ceeds from a fer­vent char­ity can at­tain the com­plete pu­rifi­ca­tion of the sin­ner in such a way that no pun­ish­ment would re­main.” (CCC, No. 1472) Sin is es­sen­tially a “turn­ing away from God and turn­ing to­wards crea­tures”, an ori­en­ta­tion or dis­po­si­tion con­trary to that which is re­quired for union with God. While on earth, our dis­po­si­tions—and our choices, in gen­eral—are change­able. Now is the time for mer­it­ing and re­pen­tance. Af­ter death, our cross­ing-over to eter­nity, we can no longer, by our­selves, al­ter the tra­jec­tory of our soul. But since it is real­is­tic to sup­pose that many peo­ple die lov­ing God (i.e., in the state of grace) yet with some “un­healthy at­tach­ment to crea­tures”, it is em­i­nently rea­son­able that there be a state af­ter death in which the soul is sub­jected to God‟s “pu­ri­fy­ing fire”, helped by the prayers, penances, and good works of the liv­ing. An act of char­ity we may do of­ten is to of­fer suf­frages for our beloved dead, sym­bol­ized by the flowers that fill our ceme­ter­ies. To re­verse the im­agery, our suf­frages are spir­i­tual “flowers” to ex­press our con­tin­u­ing af­fec­tion; and to speed the en­trance into heaven of our rel­a­tives, friends, bene­fac­tors, those whom we had in­jured and those who may have in­jured us, who might still be in pur­ga­tory. St. Jose­maria Escriva writes: “The holy souls in pur­ga­tory. Out of char­ity, out of jus­tice, and out of an ex­cus­able self­ish­ness (they have such power with God!) re­mem­ber them of­ten in your sac­ri­fices and your prayers. When­ever you speak of them, may you be able to say, ‘My good friends, the souls in pur­ga­tory.’” (The Way, No. 571) Re­quiem aeter­nam dona eis, Domine, et lux per­petua luceat eis. (4.XI.2018)

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