Love of Neighbor: The Communion of the Saints, The Souls in Purgatory

07-23-2020From the desk of Fr. Villa

One of the works of mercy is to pray for the living and the dead. The living get the lion’s share of our attention when we think of love of neighbor. However, love of neighbor also includes prayer and Masses for the dead. Prayer for the dead should be daily. They are dead to this world but we trust alive for God in eternity. We cannot assume anyone is in heaven except canonized saints and innocent baptized children. Even if the person we are praying for is in heaven the love being bestowed is not wasted because the Lord uses the love for some other member of the family which is the Church.

November 1st is the day we remember the saints and the angels in heaven. On November 2 we remember those being purified of the wound of sin and unforgiven venial sin in purgatory. We on earth are still striving (the Church militant) to reach heaven. This union of the saints in heaven, the souls in purgatory, and the faithful on earth is called the Communion of the Saints.

November 1st through November 8th is a privileged time to visit the cemetery. Those who do so engaging in prayer for a deceased soul may gain a plenary indulgence for that person. An indulgence is the complete (plenary) or (partial) remission of the temporal punishment due to sin or the wound of sin. All sins have two effects: they either destroy (mortal sin) our relationship with God or they weaken our relationship with God (venial sin). However even after the sin is forgiven the wound of sin remains which must be healed. This is why we receive a penance in Confession to help heal the wound. This penance is to help make up for the damage our sins have caused (satisfaction) us and the Church because our sins injure the Body of Christ to which we are united as cells in a living body. What we do for good benefits the Body of Christ; our sins drag down and injure the Body of Christ.

To be clear, the wound of sin or the temporal punishment due to sin means this: an unhealthy attachment to creatures which must be purified in this life or in the life to come. This means an attachment to some love in opposition to God’s love. Life is the battle of the loves. Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is the key to heaven and seeing God face to face. Indulgences mean, that in seeking to make up for our sins, we have the help of the holiness of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints, (the treasury)because since we are one family the holiness of one profits or benefits the other. A special share in that holiness through the action of the Church is called an indulgence.

This treasury should not be thought of as an accumulation of material wealth. Rather it is the limitless and inexhaustible value that the expiation and merits offered by Christ have in the eyes of God for the liberation of humanity from sin and the creation of communion (family life) with the Father. The treasury of the Church is Christ the Redeemer Himself. Added to this treasure is also the vast, incalculable, ever increasing value in God’s eyes of the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin and all the saints. They also have contributed and contribute to the salvation of their brothers and sisters.

Indulgences developed during the centuries when the Church began to mitigate the great and heavy penances people had to go through for serious sin in order for them to be forgiven. The Church through her power to bind and loose in Christ’s Name gives us a special share in the holiness of Christ and the saints through the performance of some religious/charitable work: in this case visiting the cemetery during the privileged time and praying for the soul buried there for whom you wish to gain the indulgence as an act of love.

To gain a plenary indulgence you must do the work prescribed; go to Confession and Communion within the week; pray for the Holy Father usually on the day you do the work; and be free from all attachment to sin even venial sin. Only God knows whether we gain the plenary indulgence. As part of our spiritual life we should always make the intention to gain all indulgences attached to our works of piety and charity.

All the mysteries are focused in the infinite Price of our Redemption like the radii of a circle converging in the center. In this devotion all the truths of faith are summed up. For this reason we say in the consecration of our chalice: the "Mystery of Faith."

Saint Gaspar del Bufalo Apostle of Devotion to the Most Precious Blood of the Lord