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Monday, January 28, 2008



Would it be alright to say that that the souls of our departed loved ones are on their way to Heaven?

Stephen Sparrow

Well Kanakaberaka. I think Louis Armstrong sang that line best with, "I'm on my way now - got on my travellin' shoes". I've jokingly told my family that that is what I want played at mine - as the casket gets whisked from the church ;-)

MMajor Fan

Great essay and very true!

She wrote: The book of Maccabees says "it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins." (2 Maccabees 12:46).

Uh oh also for non-Catholic Christians. Another reason it was a very baaaad idea for those "non-Catholic non-believing-in purgatory-Christians" to have dropped Maccabees and the other books from their Prot version of the Bible! So when they tell you (as they are always informing me) that "purgatory's not in the Bible" and that "you Catholics are making it up" they are reading out of their "version" of the Bible that is missing books, such as Maccabees, that the Jews and Catholics had from the beginning and obviously retain.

Ed Peters

No, kana, it would not be ok. The only place we know for sure that every soul goes after death is to Judgement. From there, they go to only one state/place: Heaven, Purgatory, Hell.

To say that [all] souls after death are on their way to Heaven, is essentially to say all souls go to Heaven. Which cannot be proven, and which is almost certainly false. Way, way false.


The deacon's comments are similar to the false idea of "once saved, always saved" by many evangelical Christians. I think that it is a VERY dangerous teaching that may have dire consequences for some of our separated brethren.

Patricia Gonzalez

A very timely article. One of my friends is ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED she's going to heaven, because she's an evangelical (self-taught, also!) of the "once saved, always saved" club, and she's amazed that I don't share her certainty (misguided Papism, doncha know). In my former incarnation as an organist, I heard this idea pitched at every funeral I played for, by our parish priest, no less ... Of course, I ardently desire to reach heaven, and hope that the Lord gives "A"s for effort, and I pray that all my deceased friends and relatives are there as well. But St. Paul did warn us to "work out our salvation in fear and trembling", and as I always tell my kids, you can B.S. a lot of people, but you can't do that with God. Kyrie, eleison!

David Trumbull

As a former Anglican, now Roman Catholic, I believe that one thing that the old Church of England Book of Common Prayer got right was the burial office, in which is found this statement:

"In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God our brother/sister..."

It's one of the passages that the Vatican approved for retention from the BCP when Pope John Paul II created the Pastoral Provision that allows former Episcopalians to be received into the Catholic Church while still maintaining certain elements (in particular some familiar prayers) of the Book of Common Prayer heritage.

The passage sums it up rather well. We mourn at the death of a loved one but we do not despair because we have HOPE. That hope is not vague wishful sentimentality but SURE and CERTAIN through JESUS. And recognizing that the loved way may not have gone directly to heaven, we COMMEND his soul to a merciful Lord in the hope of a remittance of some of the punishments of purgatory.

Carl Olson

Also see the funeral liturgy celebrated by Byzantine Christians (both Orthodox and Catholics). An excerpt:

Tone 5

Verse: Blessed are You, 0 Lord; guide me by Your precepts.

The choir of Saints has found the Fountain of Life * and the Gate to Paradise. * May I also find the way through repentance. * I am a lost sheep; call me back, 0 Savior, and save me.

Verse: Blessed are You, 0 Lord; guide me by Your precepts.

0 Lord, I am the image of Your glory * which is beyond description, * even though I bear the marks of transgressions. * Have mercy on Your creature. * 0 Master, in Your compassion cleanse me. * Grant me the home I yearn for, and again make me an inhabitant of paradise.

Verse: Blessed are You, 0 Lord; guide me by Your precepts.

Grant rest, 0 God, to Your servant * and place him (her) in paradise where the choirs of saints and righteous shine like stars. 0 Lord, give rest to Your departed servant * and remit all his (her) transgressions.

Verse: Blessed are You, 0 Lord; guide me by Your precepts.

We praise with devotion the three-fold radiance of the One Divinity * by singing aloud: * Holy are You, eternal Father, * co-eternal Son and divine Spirit. * Enlighten us who faithfully serve You, * and deliver us from eternal fire.

Ed Peters

David, interesting. I have problems with that text...anyone else?

Brian Day

Ed Peters,

On the first reading that passage seemed odd. But after thinking about it for a minute or two, it does make sense. That may be the problem - the text shouldn't need contemplation to make sense.


I believe Maccabees was removed because it is a history book and not inspired (the Jews do not consider it inspired, but keep it as a history book). That is because the given quote (2 Maccabees 12:46) directly contradicts 1 John 5:16b ("There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.") which tells us not to pray for those who have died (since it is too late).

From the article, "nothing unclean enters Heaven": that's true. But where does our cleansing come from? Is it all from God, or partly from God and partly from us? If it is all from God, then it can happen completely at death. If it is partly from us, then why did Christ die? Why don't we just work a little harder?

Carl Olson

I believe Maccabees was removed because it is a history book and not inspired (the Jews do not consider it inspired, but keep it as a history book).

The removal, it should be noted, took place in the 1500s by Luther and Co. There was much disagreement among various Jewish groups as to the value and nature of certain OT books/groups of books. Your statement is both simplistic and misleading. See this article for a good introduction to the topic.

That is because the given quote (2 Maccabees 12:46) directly contradicts 1 John 5:16b

1 John 5:16 isn't speaking about purgatory or praying for the dead, but about mortal and venial sins. John indicates that there is a mortal sin so grave that he suggests his readers not pray for it. Mysterious? Yes. Having to do with praying for the dead? No.

But where does our cleansing come from? Is it all from God, or partly from God and partly from us?

All purification is from God, but we must cooperate with it. Put another way, if you do not accept Jesus as your Savior, can you be saved? But isn't that act of acceptance a work on your part?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately,-or immediate and everlasting damnation. (par 1022)

The different effects of Baptism are signified by the perceptible elements of the sacramental rite. Immersion in water symbolizes not only death and purification, but also regeneration and renewal (par 1262)

If it is all from God, then it can happen completely at death.

It does. And that complete purification "at death" is called purgatory.


Thank you for your response, Carl. I will make sure to review that website.

I do not believe our acceptance of God should be called a work. A better term would be "right response". When we agree with God that we are sinful, and trust in the sacrifice of Jesus to pay for our sins, we are forgiven of our sins and Christ's righteousness is given to us.

Is that not Hebrews 10:10? "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once". Can Jesus be sacrificed again to cover us again?

Carl Olson

I do not believe our acceptance of God should be called a work

But we agree, do we not, that it does involve an action and a response on our part, right? Salvation is indeed a gift from God, but we do not have to accept it. And once it is accepted, we can grow in our relationship with God (by His grace and power, but also through our cooperation); we can also damage or destroy that relationship:

The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful--for he cannot deny himself. (2 Tim 2:11-13)

Paul's point is that our relationship with God is like a marriage relationship. God will always be true to His end of the bargain, but we can fail on our end of things if we do not endure or remain faithful.

Can Jesus be sacrificed again to cover us again?

Nope, not according to Catholic teaching, as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different." "And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory." (par 1367)

The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; yet it is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church. The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present through the ministerial priesthood without diminishing the uniqueness of Christ's priesthood: "Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers." (par 1545)


I agree that there is always room to grow in maturity through Christ.

But what is the purpose of Purgatory?

I see many problems:
- it distracts us from Jesus, by concerning us with the status of long dead ancestors, and concerns about our own fate
- it emphasizes our own works over the finished work of Jesus
- it creates a lever for temporal power, in the form of indulgences
- it stretches interpretation of plain scripture, such as 1 Corinthians 3:13 (and 1 John 5:16)

Isn't the punishment due for our sins paid for in the death of Christ? Hasn't God forgotten the sins (Psalm 103:12) of those He has called to Himself?

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