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Trust the Power of the Mass for Healing

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I was reminded of the “Healing Your Family Tree” phenomenon among certain Charismatics and Exorcists while reading about Msgr. Clement Machado and watching a few of his YouTube EWTN videos.  He claims to have had visions of the Blessed Mother and St. Patrick.  I am skeptical… but who knows?  The Church has many saints and seers.  The children of Fatima were given a vision of hell so as to pray more fervently for souls.

While Catholicism certainly encourages prayers for the souls of the dead, this idea of targeting sins and woundedness in past generations for current problems faced by believers goes back to the ancient Jews.  They believed that punishment for the sins of one’s fathers could be visited upon the children.  Our notion of Original Sin is an extension of this.  However, at least as a routine source of particular ailments, Jesus seems to dismiss this notion.

“As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world’” (John 9:1-5).

While we would not deny our connection with those who have gone before us, if taken too far, we might fall into superstition or the occult.  The sacrifice of the Mass makes possible atonement but it is a sacrament that conveys grace and mercy.  It is not sorcery or magic.  Further, we cannot purely blame our problems on deceased family members.  We live in a broken world and sometimes we are our own worst enemies.  It may be that certain maladies are placed before us so that we might demonstrate or witness to a courageous faith.  Catholicism does not run away from all sickness and pain but often seeks to transform the dark realities.  They are opportunities for us to take up our crosses in following Jesus. There is already too much of a “victim mentality” inflicting our society— regarding ethnicity, gender, orientation and social status.  I am worried that such ideas as healing the family tree may often be misunderstood in this light.

We are all aware of the excesses of popular Protestant ministers who put on a big show in conducting “purported” healings.  Many pagans and so-called demonologists dangerously tinker with exorcisms.  Returning to the Catholic camp, there is a temptation, especially among the rising celebrity priests, to emphasize what they can do over what Jesus can do.  While the Church needs exorcists, it is best that the ministry be imposed upon the priest rather than enthusiastically embraced outside of an episcopal summons.  Indeed, while any priest can offer absolution and deliverance prayer, full exorcisms require the authorization of the immediate bishop.  (When I think about this issue my mind quickly recalls Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer, a wonderful defender of human life who fumbled in this area.)

Sharing information is fine, but sensationalism about the devil, exorcism and obsession can pose a real danger.  After the release of popular horror movies, chanceries are bombarded by phone calls of people who all think they are possessed.  While we battle powers and principalities, much sin finds its origin in the world of men and many who imagine they are spiritually afflicted are in actuality mentally disturbed.

During November there is a special emphasis upon prayers for the dead.  Yes, we can claim spiritual benefits for the dead and the living.  There is a two-fold action— uniting and breaking off.  A funeral Mass offered for the dead brings grace and we commend the deceased, particularly the souls in purgatory, to the mercy of God.  They are sped on their way.  We invoke the purification of God’s love, a fire that heals. Our prayer also joins us to the communion of the saints.  Simultaneously, if there are any negative spiritual elements, as with those who have rejected God’s love, then that bond is severed with the living.  The expression “rest in peace” can apply to the living just as well as to the dead.  But ultimate judgment is left to almighty God.  While there might be little or no fanfare, Catholics need to trust the sacraments, especially the Mass.  We need to encourage the offering of Masses for the dead and for healing in times of trauma.  This is the most effective and resolute manner of healing “the family tree.”

My late father back in the 1950’s spent time as a Trappist monk at Holy Cross Monastery in Berryville, VA.  He firmly believed that his life of work and prayer there, combined with the sacrifice of the Holy Mass, facilitated the translation of all our family ancestors from purgatory to heaven.  The emphasis should NOT be upon how links to the dead can plague us.  Rather, recalling that the poor souls are now helpless, we should intercede on their behalf.  As we prepare to celebrate All Souls Day, we should all recommit ourselves to praying for the dead.

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The Reality of Ghosts

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“When Saul saw the Philistine camp, he grew afraid and lost heart completely. He consulted the LORD; but the LORD gave no answer, neither in dreams nor by Urim nor through prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, ‘Find me a medium through whom I can seek counsel.’ His servants answered him, ‘There is a woman in Endor who is a medium.’ So he disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and set out with two companions. They came to the woman at night, and Saul said to her, ‘Divine for me; conjure up the spirit I tell you.’ But the woman answered him, ‘You know what Saul has done, how he expelled the mediums and diviners from the land. Then why are you trying to entrap me and get me killed?’ But Saul swore to her by the LORD, ‘As the LORD lives, you shall incur no blame for this.’ ‘Whom do you want me to conjure up?’ the woman asked him. ‘Conjure up Samuel for me,’ he replied. When the woman saw Samuel, she shrieked at the top of her voice and said to Saul, ‘Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!’ But the king said to her, ‘Do not be afraid. What do you see?’ ‘I see a god rising from the earth,’ she replied. ‘What does he look like?’ asked Saul. ‘An old man is coming up wrapped in a robe,’ she replied. Saul knew that it was Samuel, and so he bowed his face to the ground in homage. Samuel then said to Saul, ‘Why do you disturb me by conjuring me up?’ Saul replied: ‘I am in great distress, for the Philistines are waging war against me and God has turned away from me. Since God no longer answers me through prophets or in dreams, I have called upon you to tell me what I should do.’ To this Samuel said: ‘But why do you ask me, if the LORD has abandoned you for your neighbor? The LORD has done to you what he declared through me: he has torn the kingdom from your hand and has given it to your neighbor David. Because you disobeyed the LORD’s directive and would not carry out his fierce anger against Amalek, the LORD has done this to you today. Moreover, the LORD will deliver Israel, and you as well, into the hands of the Philistines. By tomorrow you and your sons will be with me, and the LORD will have delivered the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.’ Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, in great fear because of Samuel’s message. He had no strength left, since he had eaten nothing all that day and night. Then the woman came to Saul and, seeing that he was quite terror-stricken, said to him: ‘Remember, your maidservant obeyed you: I took my life in my hands and carried out the request you made of me. Now you, in turn, please listen to your maidservant. Let me set out a bit of food for you to eat, so that you are strong enough to go on your way.’ But he refused, saying, ‘I will not eat.’ However, when his servants joined the woman in urging him, he listened to their entreaties, got up from the ground, and sat on a couch. The woman had a stall-fed calf in the house, which she now quickly slaughtered. Then taking flour, she kneaded it and baked unleavened bread. She set the meal before Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they got up and left the same night.” (1 Samuel 28:5-25).

If genuine, then Samuel was a ghost summoned by a medium.  He would be regarded as a hero of faith and today as a saint.  However, he would have come from the limbo of the fathers as Christ had not yet open the way to true heaven.  Genuine or not, the manner in which the ghost was called forth was a violation of God’s law.  I suspect that he appeared, not because of the medium but rather by God’s permission to announce judgment against Saul.

Jews and Christians alike are forbidden to use mediums, oracles or fortune-tellers (see Deuteronomy 18:11 and Leviticus 19:31).  God was already displeased with Saul.  Now Saul had sealed his fate by employing the services of a witch.

Many of us are intrigued by ghost stories.  Protestants more so than Catholics, tend to regard them as either pure fiction or as demonic deception.  Many Catholics have an open mind about such phenomena.  Indeed, some of the stories seem to reaffirm our teachings about purgatory.  If there be ghosts, from where do they come?  This topic can be somewhat dangerous.  We are warned not to be obsessed by such preoccupations.  Séances and Ouija boards are condemned, not merely as superstition but as a slippage into witchcraft or the occult.  Catholics pray for the dead and invoke the saints to intercede for us.  However, we do not seek direct two-way communication.  The proper focus of all prayer, even sanctoral orations, is always almighty God.  There are stories of the saints appearing and speaking with the living, as in the life of Joan of Arc.  However, there is a difference between what God permits and what men might seek.  The danger is demonic subterfuge and lies.  There are cases where supposedly demons masqueraded as the souls of the dead.

An article, “Fourteen Questions About Heaven,” by Dr. Peter Kreeft speaks of three types of ghosts:

  1. Ghosts from heaven;
  2. Ghosts from purgatory; and
  3. Ghosts from hell.

I have already made some reference to the first.  There are numerous other cases in the long history of the Church.  These are the apparitions of visionaries, often with messages.  Like the Virgin Mary, they always direct us back to Jesus and implore repentance and faith.  We are urged to pray and to remain steadfast. They are not subject to diabolic necromancy or sorcery.  They would never promote rebellion against the Lord or his Church.  Neither would they tolerate or legitimize immorality.  If a paranormal entity is malicious then it is not from heaven.

 

Kreeft speaks about the saints who come with a message or warning from heaven. I have always emphasized the ones from purgatory who need our prayers. The third type has undergone much speculation but about which many of us were unsure. If there were an evil or malicious haunting, I would usually regard it as demonic and not originating with a human soul or ghost. However, those who speak about the need to heal the family tree and certain forms of deliverance would join Kreeft in speaking about ghosts from hell. While the living can be haunted by past trauma and memory, I would have thought the damned souls too helpless and restrained by God to intervene in earthly affairs, but I may be wrong.

I remember a story told years ago about a convent of women that felt assured about the saintliness of a particularly pious nun who had recently died.  One day while at chapel in prayer, her ghost walked toward the altar.  Turning to her fellow sisters, she told them, “Pray for me.”  She then placed her hand print in some wet mortar used to repair the wall and disappeared.  Presumptuous of her personal holiness, correction was offered; she needed their prayers as a soul in purgatory.

Argument Over Jesus & Intercession

Georgios argues:

The primary role and purpose of the devil is to take the believer’s attention as far away as possible from the truth and the blue-prints or foundations of Christians, which is the Bible.

He would have us compromise them with unbiblical diatribes so that the believer loses focus upon JESUS.

He would have the Christian weakened by diminution from 100% fidelity to the doctrine of JESUS.

JESUS is the Way and the Truth and the Life— the only way toward the Father-God.

JESUS taught with parables and he is our answer to all intentions in the spiritual process.

The parable of the sinful rich man and poor Lazarus is sufficient to verify that the saints who died are in a place where intercession for people on earth is impossible! What this means is that only the living saints have the right to do so.

God does not give exemptions to the prohibition of acting outside his Word, which is JESUS.

If Mary can intercede for us, then God is lacks constancy with his Word and that is something that God will not do. He will not oppose his Word. If God made such exceptions then he would not be God at all.

Receive this revelation of the Spirit of God— what he is saying to you Now in the mighty NAME OF JESUS!

Father Joe responds:

The devil’s primary aim is one of eternal spite. He would have us corrupted so as to offend God. He would have us embrace selfishness and a disordered love.

The devil knows well the Bible. The trouble is that what he knows, he utterly rejects. While the devil is certainly involved with error, this in itself is not his primary purpose. Good men and women might be confused or ignorant about many matters of faith. They may yet be saved. The devil places an emphasis upon the will. HE especially delights in one who comes close to the truth and then rejects it. The more you know the more that you will be held accountable.

Much of the confusion and fracturing of the Church after the Reformation has to do with men and a rejection of the shepherds appointed by Christ. You seem to infer that the Bible is self-sustaining and interpreting. This is simply not the case— historically or theologically. I suspect that the “diatribes” you condemn are efforts within the Church to prayerfully reflect upon the saving kerygma.

If you have rejected the sacraments and the teachings of the Catholic faith then you have quite literally separated yourself from elements of the revelation received from Jesus Christ. The Church follows the Lord and his two sources for Christian revelation: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Only the reformation churches, and not all of them, would utterly reject the second tier established by Christ.

Jesus is also one with the Mystical Body or the Church. That is why the early Church spoke about Christ and our life in the Church as the WAY.

Jesus taught in many ways. Yes, his parables give us insight into the kingdom of God. But he also prophesied, made commands, and witnessed the message of the Gospel.

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus does indeed speak to life after death, although there is some question as to whether Lazarus was in heaven or the limbo of the fathers. Similarly, was the rich man in hell or in purgatory? The gates of heaven are only opened by Christ, and at the telling of this parable, Jesus had yet to undergo his saving trial. Further, the parable does not offer us an instance of attempted intercession as understood by the Church. He requests that Abraham send a message to the living or make an appearance to warn them. The intercession of the saints is directed, not to another saint, but to almighty God. We pray that they will add their prayers to ours in asking God for his mercy and favor.

Actually, the trouble here is you have a very narrow notion of how the Word operates. The Word is written upon human flesh in the incarnation. The Word is breathed into the Scriptures. The Word becomes one with his Holy Church. The Word is given perpetual efficacy through the sacraments. The Word takes to himself a human mother, sanctifies her and gives her to us as a model of the Church. The Word conquers death and all who are alive in Christ can pray for themselves and others, including the saints of heaven.

Who are you to tell God his business? Who are you to make yourself the interpreter for all Christianity, including attacking a Church that was instituted by Christ, gave us the Bible and is the Mother of all the breakaway Protestant denominations? Mary can do as she did at Cana… intercede when the wine runs out.

I would caution you again hubris. You are not God’s special messenger or prophet. You are just one poor confused soul putting on airs to others.

The Apostles’ Creed, the Righteous Dead & Hell

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Bob brings up an interesting inquiry regarding the Apostles’ Creed.  He writes:

“During the celebration of the Mass and reciting the Creed we say, ‘He descended into hell.’ The classroom posters for the children say, ‘He descended unto the dead.’ Now I was taught that our Lord Jesus descended into hell to show Satan and his followers that he is the Light of the World and that he has the power over sin and death; but based on research, professors of theology are using the Greek word “Hades” meaning place of the dead and as I remember it was similar to purgatory. Please give your thoughts on this.”

Sorry to say, it sounds like Bob and others were taught wrong. The current translation of the Creed at Mass uses the word HELL. The poster has the previous liturgical translation of the Creed, UNTO THE DEAD. It changed with the newer and corrected translation of the Roman Missal. A translation that was popular in Anglican circles rendered it as UNTO THE QUICK. Hell is a more literal translation; unfortunately, it can also be misunderstood. It refers not to the hell of the damned but to the more generic abode of the dead, what the Church termed as THE LIMBO OF THE FATHERS. Such a place no longer exists. Sin had breached humanity from God; the gates of heaven were closed with the sin of Adam and Eve. None could enter true heaven until the coming of the Christ. The righteous dead (Jews and Gentiles) awaited their Savior. Jesus descends into hell or unto the dead or into the limbo of the fathers so that they might now be translated into heaven. The Eastern churches have an icon where Jesus flies from the flames carrying Adam and Eve out by the hair. Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life. There is no way to the Father except through him. He is the bridge or “pontifex.” His saving Cross makes possible our passage. We have been redeemed by the Lord. He pays the price for our entry. It is an affirmation that none are saved apart from Christ. As I said, the limbo of the fathers is not hell of the damned, not heaven of the saints and not purgatory. Those three realities still exist. However, at the final consummation and judgment, purgatory will also cease to be. The poor souls would have completed their passage to the heavenly shore.  Then there will be two realities, heaven (the victory of love) and hell (the frustration of hatred and the wrong kind of loving).

Happy All Hallows’ Evening

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I was recently involved with a FACEBOOK discussion on the topic of Halloween.  A college student was challenged by his roommate that the celebration was “evil.”  His friend was a “born again” Christian.  He asked friends to shed light on the question.

A Catholic Reflection on Halloween

Halloween in a pluralistic society means various things to different people.  Indeed, given the contemporary fascination with vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts and zombies, it might seem that Halloween is now a year-long celebration.  But the question at hand is a narrow one, does Halloween place superstition above authentic faith?  The dialogue is not only between Christians but must confront the values and meanings imposed by a liberal secular humanism and the emergence of modern paganism.

Questions of sectarian faith aside, we have also connected Halloween to the fall harvests, thus the symbols of pumpkins, apple bobbing, corn mazes, hay rides, scarecrows, owls, etc. Such a feast provides a fun dress up for children and the giving of candy, which reinforces the joy of childhood and the solidarity of the community in caring for them.

The Tension over Halloween

Certain reformed Protestants often object to Halloween because of its apparent preoccupation with the dead and their souls.  Remember, such believers reject purgatory and prayers for the dead. Other groups deny even the soul and hell, like Seventh-day Adventists.  Obviously, as Catholics, we cannot play along with arguments focused against our holy faith.  While we might regard ghosts as souls in purgatory, in their estimation the whole business is either a fantasy or a devilish deception.  Since Christ has destroyed death, any preoccupation with it is negatively judged as “popery.”  But Catholicism stresses both a personal and a corporate faith.  The saints live in a communion with Christ and one another.  The souls in purgatory are still part of the Church.  We pray for the poor souls just as we ask the heavenly saints to pray for and with us.  The bond of our unity is Christ, himself.

The so-called pagan foundation of Halloween (as in Samhain) is a modern exaggeration. The roots are actually Christian, or Catholic. The name Halloween is a derivation of All Hallows’ Evening or Eve. Neo-pagan religion, perverse occultists, and New Age believers would attempt to make it something else.  Catholic immigrants from countries like Mexico are also introducing the similar “Dia de los Muerto.”

Some have the peculiar notion that All Hallows’ Eve is a night where spirits or ghosts enact violence.  This is nonsense!  It is the made-up stuff of the occult and/or horror movies.  It probably has roots in the pranks played by juveniles while dressed up and moving from house to house.

Puritans and/or Calvinists associated prayers for the dead with witchcraft and necromancy.  Their religious descendants are still among us.  Today when we think of Puritans, the legacy of Plymouth Rock is tarnished by the legendary Salem Witch Trials.  Religious hysteria brought about the condemnation and execution of innocent women.  Each year witches, real and imaginary, pilgrimage to Salem, Massachusetts. Tourism soars as revelers come to celebrate the holiday.  This has even precipitated seasonal tension between Wicca or naturalistic pagans and those who perpetuate the caricature of witches on brooms. I recall that the Salem Knights of Columbus hall had to cancel contracts when they realized that renters were using their facility for genuine witchcraft, not the make-believe variety.  It is precisely because of such fears that a number of Christian communities have now utterly rejected Halloween.  Of course, certain Christian cults reject any holiday or special day that is not clearly scripturally based.  Others object just to be different from Catholics or to illustrate their disdain for Rome’s authority.  That means that a number of these faith communities do not celebrate Christmas, Easter or the Sunday Observance.

The fundamentalist Christian critic insists that Halloween is a capitulation of the Christian commission.  This seems to be a bit of a stretch, at least in terms of boys dressed as cowboys and girls as princesses.  My only regret is that I would have children yearn for Holy Communion as much as they race to fill their Halloween bags with candy.

While some Protestants politely agree to disagree with Catholicism and about the celebration of Halloween; other Christian groups condemn the festive day as devilish and pass out anti-Catholic “Chick Tracts” to the trick-or-treaters.  Still other Christians, like most Catholics, see nothing inherently wrong with children dressing up and collecting candy.  Certain Catholics and Protestants will pass out alternative treats, like crosses, prayer books, religious stickers, etc.  Concerned about the direction that Halloween is taking, a number of Catholic families and churches urge the children to dress up as saints.  I recall one little boy who was quite upset when Sister at school told him that he could not dress as a monster.  When Halloween came she pulled him aside, angry with his costume.  She lamented, “I thought I told you that you had to be a saint?”  He answered, “I am a saint, Sister— I’m John the Baptist… after the beheading!”

The weekend of our Halloween Party at Holy Family Parish, a lady rebuked me after Mass for celebrating the “devil’s holiday.”  If such were true then Christians could have no part of it.  But the case cannot currently be made.  Baptist and Catholic churches both have Halloween parties and trunk-or-treat activities in their parking lots.  As Christians our strength is in the Lord.  The children of light are in conflict with the darkness.  But the game is fixed.  There may be casualties who reject the Lord but the victory over sin and death is already accomplished.  We need no longer be the devil’s property.  We have been redeemed or purchased at a great price.  Jesus dies that we might live.  Prayer and the life of charity are the essential ways that we confront darkness.  God made the pumpkins, the spiders, the bats, the owls and us.  He made candy sweet and gave innocence to children.  God gave us the day and the night. Halloween belongs to God.

The negative critic feels that Halloween gives the devil a foothold in the lives and hearts of Christians.  However, as in our recent parish Halloween party, I saw selfless volunteers running games, cooking, and distributing goodies to children out of a Christian love for youth and their families.  The devil will have nothing to do with real love.

A Christian Understanding of the Symbols of Halloween

Some authorities trace the carved pumpkin to Irish folklore about a drunk who trapped the devil in a tree and carved a cross upon it.  Having made a deal with the devil never to be tempted again by drink, Jack was denied entry into heaven.  He was given a cinder of fire in a turnip for light.  Supposedly the turnip became a pumpkin in America.  The jack-o’-lantern became a visible against compromise with the devil.  It also serves the same function as the gargoyles on the Gothic cathedrals of Europe. They became a type of sacramental to invoke divine protection.

Scary costumes, like the carved pumpkins, fulfill a similar purpose.  These were cultural or folkloric ways in which simple people sought to ward off evil.  While it may be a bit silly, the notion that people had was that evil or dark spirits would be encouraged to pass over their homes and leave their communities undisturbed.  The assumption was that the demons might be fooled by the caricatures of themselves (kids in costume) into supposing that the area was already infested or occupied.  There is no real doctrinal weight to such a practice… just a desire to be holy and not molested by evil.  Today most people just dress up for fun.

The practice of trick-or-treating probably finds its roots in All Souls Day.  There used to be processions or parades on November 2nd.  Christians would beseech “soul cakes” (dried raisin/square bread) in return for saying prayers for dead family members.  They were mostly collected by children and the poor.  Each cake represented a soul being released from purgatory.  Dressing up and singing was often parting of “souling” from house to house.

Some Christians are unhappy with the symbolism of Halloween.  I recall one person angrily upset about skulls or skeletons.  However, this prejudice fails to appreciate that the skull is embraced by Catholicism as both an immediate sign of death and of our dependence upon God. It is used by the Knights of Columbus, in depictions of the crucifixion and even decorates certain European churches.   We do not worship death but are ever mindful of the price paid for our redemption.  Further, our time in this world is short.  The theme of death or mortality is one to which we return on Ash Wednesday. “Remember, O man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.”

It is unfortunate that venerable Christian symbols should be confused by the ignorant and bigoted as satanic.  I was in one parish where a shrine to St. Peter was vandalized, not by crazy kids or occultists, but by Christian fundamentalists.  They ripped the inverted cross from the ground and argued that it was a sign of Satan and of the antichrist.  You still hear such foolishness about the upside-down cross on the back of the papal chair.  But the bigots misinterpret an ancient symbol of martyrdom.  St. Peter did not feel worthy to die like his Lord so he asked his executioners to crucify him with his feet in the air and his head toward the ground.  Critics make a mockery of an inspiring witness to Christ.

Catholics also venerate the relics of the holy dead, wear medals and scapulars, carry and say rosaries and use holy water.  These are not talismans or the accidentals for magic.  Rather, they are visible signs of our faith in the incarnate God, the God made visible in Jesus Christ.

Keep Christ in Halloween

We read in Philippians 4:8-9:  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.”  Christians are committed to the pure and the good.

This might make us reflective of the spiritual elements attached to the secular commemoration of Halloween. We cannot buy the entire package. However, it may yet be reclaimed for Christ. The Christian effort is to Christianize the world, not to run away or hide in a spiritual ghetto. Certainly, there is innocence about children dressing up and finding delight in sweets. My growing reservation is about where adults are taking the festivity. Catholics and significant numbers of other Christians offer alternatives to trick-or-treat and spend All Hallows’ Eve at church worshipping God and recalling the witness of the saints in Christ. I agree with the criticism that there are sinister undercurrents that are seeking to hijack the expanding season of Halloween. As a child I dressed as a clown, a cowboy, an astronaut and as a superhero. It troubles me to see children attired today as characters from “R” rated horror movies. Why do they even know anything about these murderous and blasphemous characters? I am repulsed “personally” by the sleazy costumes that cast derision upon priests and nuns. Adult costumes, especially for females, increasingly celebrate vulgarity and eroticism. If Christians cannot redirect the fun away from these elements then it is true (I would agree) we might have to opt out entirely. It may be that Halloween is escalating in the direction of the occult and vulgarity.  Maybe we as good Catholics and Knights need to campaign for Halloween as we would for Christmas?  We also need to keep Christ in Halloween.  All Saints’ assures us that we can have a share in Christ’s life and in the kingdom.  All Souls’ reminds us that while we are sinners, God is infinitely merciful.  What he has started in us, he will finish.

Purgatory, Religious Life (Nuns) & the Pope

ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION

Catholics propose many things not supported in the Scriptures, like Purgatory, Nuns and the Pope. It is a serious sin to add to the Bible. Moving to the matter of the Pope, he is a man who takes upon himself the honor which belongs to God alone. People do not need the Pope to know the will of God. The testimony of Scripture is that the Holy Spirit guides each believer to all truth. All anyone needs is a bible and the Holy Spirit. The papacy has no special commission to teach; it is the pathetic attempt of the blind leading the blind. Disaster awaits them all. Catholics should abandon this man-made system which prevents them from personally knowing Jesus and being saved. Turning to Purgatory, it is purportedly a place where sins are purified after death. However, the Bible says that Jesus does this. Our fate is sealed with death– heaven or hell– nothing more.

[Not to add to the Bible] Add nothing to his words, lest he reprove you, and you be exposed as a deceiver (Proverbs 30:6).

[Regarding the absence of the Catholic Purgatory] Hence, now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear as second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him (Hebrews 9:27-28).

CATHOLIC TRUTH

The citation of Proverbs contends that we must not add anything to God’s revelation; taken in the strict sense of the fundamentalist, it would logically mean that everything written (including Scripture?) after the fifth century B.C. (the date of this book’s composition) is inauthentic. Not being very rational, even with their own principles, they will deny and run away from such a position. The Catholic Church adds nothing that alters the substantial message of salvation; indeed, she validates much that the anti-Catholic would steal from God’s hands. While religious life is mentioned, fundamentalist anti-Catholics are never clear about what is wrong with consecrated life. Having spoken about the Pope elsewhere, I will not add much here. The Scriptural and historical evidence is abundantly clear that the Papacy was an institution finding its roots in the significant mission given St. Peter by Jesus, himself. Even the Orthodox churches, who are not in union with the Holy See, view the Pope as the first among equals. As for Purgatory, I fail to see how the Bible texts quoted say anything to challenge this doctrine of faith. The soul in Purgatory is destined for heaven. Jesus has indeed rescued him from the death of sin. However, since we believe that justification is not so much imputation as it is transformation, the soul must be perfected and purified before entry into heaven. The fire of God’s love itself burns away the residue of selfishness to which we cling. Temporal punishment for sin is paid and the little sins which plagued us, as well as evil habits or vices, are eradicated and we are healed. Often Purgatory has been compared to a prison, but it might better be likened to a hospital. Indeed, if Purgatory is the hospital of the afterlife, then hell is the cemetery for dead souls, who have forfeited the divine life, clung to mortal sin, and hate both God and man. The Catholic citation of 2 Maccabees brings another issue to the forefront, the deletion of a book of the Bible by Protestant reformers. Of course, it still shows the orthodox mindset of the Jews regarding prayer for the dead and what Jesus would have held as one who acknowledged by words and then by his own person, the resurrection.

[Expiation for the dead] Judas rallied his army and went to the city of Adullam. As the week was ending, they purified themselves according to custom and kept the sabbath there. On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his men went to gather up the bodies of the slain and bury them with their kinsmen in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to life the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin (2 Maccabees 12:38-46).

[Clear implication that there is forgiveness of sins in the next life] “And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this world or in the world to come” (Matthew 12:32).

[Must be made perfect before entering heaven] The treasure and wealth of nations will be brought there, but nothing unclean will enter it, nor any[one] who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:26-27).

Purgatory

Matthew 12:32: “And whoever says 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 [world] or in the age [world] to come.” (Some sins can therefore be forgiven after death.)

1 Corinthians 3:13-15: . . . each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

2 Maccabees 12:45-46: (This is one of the Old Testament books omitted from the Protestant Bible). But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.

Revelation 21:27: Nothing defiled can enter Heaven.

While many Protestant critics reject Purgatory because the word does not appear in the Bible, the actual reason is that such a teaching would make their view of justification by faith alone untenable. This Catholic teaching sustains our understanding of intercessory prayer for the dead, meritorious works done in Christ in reparation for sin, the temporal punishment due to sin, and transformation over imputation in Christ. Our justification is not a mere juridical rendering from God, but the elect are made into a new creation. They are changed. Purgatory allows this transformation to come to completion. The Scriptures uphold such a teaching, despite the protestations of so-called bible-Christians. The Bible teaches that some sins are forgiven in the world to come, on the other side of death. We are not talking here about mortal sin that damns the soul. The Scriptures indicate that some, although not all, are saved in the next world by fire. Literally the fire of God’s love purifies his own and makes them ready for heaven. In addition, the value of intercessory prayer for the dead is advocated by the Bible. Like a bride who wants to look her best before meeting her bridegroom, Purgatory allows us to undergo a cleansing or purgation of any residual stain— venial sin, the temporal punishment due to sin, and the tendency (habit) to sin.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.