In the final moments of one of television’s greatest dramatic series of all-time, “Lost”, the character of Ben Linus finds himself in a situation that sums up our understanding of purgatory very well.
He is just not ready to join the rest and move on into the light. Ben is left on the outside of the group, outside the church and the joyous gathering going on inside.
Most people know that this coming Thursday is Halloween, and many are aware that the following day is celebrated as “All Saint’s Day”, the feast which commemorates all those who have obtained the beatific vision in heaven, and which is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church.
But you may not be aware that it is followed immediately by another very important remembrance day, “All Soul’s Day”, which is set aside specifically for the cause of the entire Church praying for those souls of the faithful who departed this life, but who were not first cleansed of their venial sins and/or separated from their attachment to mortal sins.
These faithful have not been abandoned by God permanently. They have not been damned to the hell of the lonely desolation that will be the eternal separation from His glory, which is the fate awaiting those who have willfully died as non-believers.
These faithful in purgatory may still be helped on to the eternal glory of heaven by our prayers, especially through the sacrifice of Mass, in which numbers of believers join together.
Personal prayer is always beneficial, always powerful. But when our prayers are joined with others, that power multiplies many-fold. This is the importance of attending formal religious church services, to join with others in a prayer community.
On All Soul’s Day later this week, pray for the faithful departed. It is very likely that among them are people who you have known in your lifetime. Family members, friends, work associates, school classmates, neighbors, teammates. People who believed in God, believed that Jesus Christ died for their sins, prayed on their own, attended church services, lived generally good lives. But who, for whatever reasons, continued to live in sin to the moment of their death, and never made that final peaceful act of contrition.
Like Ben at the end of “Lost”, they sit outside the church, separated from the joy inside, incapable of joining their saved loved ones, of moving into the light and on to the happiness in the eternal presence of the Lord. But their cause, like his, is not lost forever.
Your loving memories of them and the positive presence and beauty they brought into your own life, coupled with your sincere intercessory prayers on their behalf, may make all the difference in the ultimate saving of their immortal souls.