Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost—19 July AD 2015

[Ordinary of the Mass]
[English Text]
[Latin Text]
[Blessing of Brown Scapulars]

    Please pray for the souls of Gunnery Sergeant Thomas J. Sullivan,  Lance Corporal Squire “Skip” Wells, Sergeant Carson Holmquist, and Staff Sergeant David Wyatt of the United States Marine Corps, and for Petty Officer Randall Smith of the United States Navy; all of whom were murdered by a Moslem terrorist this past Thursday in Chattanooga.[1]

    Pray also for those who run our Nation, and seem more concerned with the Confederate States of America, which have not mounted a battle in 150 years, than with the Jihadists who kill in our midst.

    Now, some of you may know that I usually write my sermons on Thursday, after I have had a few days to think about what I plan to say.  But this past Thursday I woke up to a voice on my clock radio, a woman saying that she was a Catholic whose husband had died recently, but she had no idea why people were suggesting that she should pray for him.  She consulted a nun, whose explanation was that prayer would help her husband to “move on.”  It quickly became obvious that the lady who claimed to be a Catholic had never been told about Heaven and Hell, and Purgatory.

    This is really not all that surprising because one of the major heresies of the post‑Vatican II era was the heresy of Universal Salvation.  This really was an old heresy that went back to Origen of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa, who claimed that at some point in time all of God’s creatures—including evil men and fallen angels—would be restored to grace and taken to heaven.  This heresy, which denies the justice of God, was formally condemned by the Council of Constantinople in 543 AD.[2]

    The twin realities of eternal punishment and eternal reward are graphically described by our Lord in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, where He describes the events that will take place on Judgment Day.[3]  Sitting upon the “seat of his majesty,” He will separate all of humankind into two groups—those who did good in life and those who did evil.  To the good He will say: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  But to the bad He will say: “Depart from me, you cursed [ones], into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.”

    The danger is so real that elsewhere He warns His listeners that “It is better for thee to go into life maimed or lame … better having one eye … than having two … than to be cast into everlasting fire.”[4]  Fear not death, but “fear him, who after having killed, has power to cast into hell.”[5]

    So Hell is very real, and our Lord tells us that evil men and fallen angers will go there.  So much for the modernists!

    But our Catholic lady still might question: “Why should I pray for the dead?”  Even more so, “If Hell is eternal, what good can any human effort do for souls condemned to be there?”

    To be sure, we cannot do anything for those in Hell.  But we read in the Old Testament Book of Machabees—those Jewish men who battled to defend God’s religion and His holy Temple—that they sent “silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead [because they knew they would rise again, and those in God’s service might be forgiven their sins, if the living asked God for the forgiveness of their fallen comrades….   It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.[6]

    There is a middle ground between Heaven and Hell, which we call Purgatory.  There is still hope after death.  Our Lord told us that there are sins that “shall not be forgiven … neither in this world, nor in the world to come”—a clear implication that some sins are, in fact, forgiven in the world to come.”  While all sin insults God, it is clear that some sins are far more serious than others—murder or adultery or sacrilege, for example—which we call mortal sins.  The lesser sins—those we call venial may be forgiven in Purgatory.

    There is also the matter of punishment for sins.  Even those sins forgiven during life may have punishments associated with them, that may have to be satisfied “in the world to come.”  I was reminded yesterday of my example of the parents who forgive their child for accidentally hitting his baseball through the window—he is forgiven, but the window still has to be repaired.  The sufferings of Purgatory, in some measure, atone for the offenses we have committed against God’s dignity through sin in this world.

    But our Catholic lady might still ask, “How can prayer gain this forgiveness of sin or punishment?  Through prayer we can call upon the generosity of God, reminding Him of all the good things done in His honor by human beings, especially by the saints, and most especially by His Blessed Mother.  We are part of what is called the “Communion of Saints,” and can expect their intercession on our behalf.  Through Holy Mother Church, we can gain indulgences and offer holy Mass for the poor souls—and God will apply these graces according to His wisdom and mercy.

    The souls in Purgatory cannot pray for themselves, but they too belong to the Communion of Saints, and have a right to our prayers on their behalf—a particularly strong right in the case of a spouse or close relative—but a right at least in charity for all of us.  And we will call upon them as grateful saints of Heaven when God releases them from Purgatory.

    The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is closely associated with the timely delivery of souls from Purgatory.[7]  All Catholics should take advantage of this association by wearing her Scapular.  We bless them every year on her feast day, the 16th of July, which fell this past Thursday.  I can’t think of any better day on which to die than on her Scapular feast.

    Let us pray that she extends her protection to our Marines and Sailor who lost their lives on that day.  Let us pray that she soften the hearts of those under the illusion that “jihad” glorifies God.  Let us pray that she extends her protection to each of us when our time comes.

It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead,
that they may be loosed from sins.


[2]   The Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. “Apocatastasis”

[7]   Cf. The Catholic Encyclopedia s.v. “Sabbatine Privilege”



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