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WORLD SERVICE IS THE NAME WE ARE GIVING TO A WEEKLY SUNDAY SERVICE AT 3PM. ITS PURPOSE IS TO PRAY FOR THE NEEDS OF THE WORLD. EACH WEEK A DIFFERENT WORLD PROBLEM WILL BE HIGHLIGHTED AND PRAYED FOR. THE SPECIALLY CONSTRUCTED SERVICE WILL TAKE PLACE BEFORE THE BLESSED SACRAMENT EXPOSED. IT WILL LAST ONE HOUR.
26 October. The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed
Next Sunday will be the feast of All Saints. This means, of course, that next Monday will be the day we remember and pray especially for the faithful departed, particularly those whom we have loved and whom we look forward eventually to being reunited with in Christ. For the past three years we have held an Evening Mass on All Souls Day which has proved increasingly popular. During that Mass, the names of all those who have died during the last three years are called out. When the name of the person you have come to pray for is mentioned, you get up from your place and go to the altar. There you light one of the candles which have already been set beneath the altar, the altar servers giving you a hand if you need it.
Now, as you might expect, there is more to this than a sentimental exercise. It is based on a text (6:9) from the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse): When the Lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.
You might justly ask what on earth is that all about! The Book of Revelation was written by St John when he was in exile because of his Christianity and when he was already an old man. It was a time when the Roman persecutions against Christianity were raging wildly. John was writing to his fellow Christians but, so as not to get them discovered, he wrote in cipher, in secret code, a code which the Christians would understand but to the Romans would be absolute gibberish. The Lamb, of course, is Christ. Those who had been slain were those who had already been martyred for the word of God, i.e. the WORD of God, i.e. Jesus the Word made Flesh, and for his testimony, i.e. the witness He gave by his Sacrifice on the Cross. The Martyrs, the souls beneath the altar, are begging the Lord to bring this persecution of their brethren to a speedy end. Then they were given a white robe i.e making them candidates for heaven (our word candidate comes from the Latin candidatus meaning white) just as they had been dressed in white when they were first baptised into Christ (the origin of our baptismal shawl) and told to wait a little longer there under the altar, i.e. in Purgatory.
The Church has not given up on her teaching about Purgatory, and the fact that we pray regularly for the dead is proof of our living faith in the reality of Purgatory. No one would now pray for the soul of Pope John Paul ll, for example, for we know he is already in heaven; yet we readily pray for the ordinary women and men whom we have known and loved. The Church, from earliest times, has taught the existence of Purgatory following many indirect references to it by Our Lord.
Medieval people, as we all know, went to town on it, giving their imaginations free play and creating all sorts of erroneous images of Purgatory and Hell. Take a look at Michelangelo’s famous Judgement Scene in the Sistine Chapel. The Reformation railed against these false images which people had conjured up for themselves and when the Council of Trent met to clear the Church of this kind of thing and to set right the false teachings of the Reformers, it turned its attention, among many other things, to Purgatory.
Maybe you would be interested in reading exactly what the Council of Trent had to say on this subject as it met in 1564. Since the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, following the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, taught in sacred councils and very recently in this ecumenical council that there is a purgatory, and that the souls there detained are aided by the suffrages (i.e. prayers) of the faithful and chiefly by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar (i.e. the Mass), the holy council commands the bishops that they strive diligently to the end that the sound doctrine of purgatory, transmitted by the Fathers and sacred councils, be believed and maintained by the faithful of Christ, and be everywhere taught and preached….. The bishops shall see to it that the suffrages of the living, that is, the sacrifice of the Mass, prayers, alms and other works of piety which they have been accustomed to perform for the faithful departed, be piously and devoutly discharged in accordance with the laws of the Church. .
This is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2004) deals with Purgatory:
210. What is purgatory? Purgatory is the state of those who die in God’s friendship, assured of their eternal salvation, but who still have need of purification to enter into the happiness of heaven.
211.How can we help the souls being purified in purgatory? Because of the Communion of Saints, the faithful who are still pilgrims on earth are able to help the souls in purgatory by offering prayers in suffrage for them, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice. They also help them by almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance.
This is how your Parish Priest explains it (!): When teaching it to my Catechumens, I put it like this: Should you be out in the garden in your shabbiest clothes, with dirt under your fingernails and mud on your shoes when your Fairy Godmother, armed with magic wand, suddenly whisks you off to Buckingham Palace and positions you, just as you are, right next to the Queen, with the most luxurious food on finest china and vintage wine in sparkling goblets set before you, do you think you would enjoy the meal? I don’t think so! But that is how it would feel, only a trillion times worse, to find ourselves, in a state of sin, in the presence of the All Holy God. It would be more comfortable in hell!
Think, therefore, of Purgatory, not as a punishment from God but as a divine mercy, his last kind and merciful act to us before admitting us into his Presence. And that admittance into his Presence, by the mysterious design of God, can be somehow affected by the prayers we say and the Masses we offer. And November is the month when we make this our special intention. So, may I suggest that we all make a list of the people who have loved us and helped us through life and who are now the faithful departed? Put it into the basked at the back of the church where it will be brought up at every Mass during November and placed, where else?, under the Altar.
God bless you, Fr Antony.
Next Sunday, being the First Sunday of November, we will be taking up our Tribute Collection
CALLING ALL PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS
The Preparation for Confirmation Classes begin on Tuesday 11 November. They are held at 4pm every Tuesday at Stella Maris for Years 7 and 8.
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PRAYERS FOR THE WEEKMAYBE YOU MIGHT LIKE TO SPEND SOME TIME WITH EACH OF THE FOLLOWING PRAYERSS
Let us pray for the girls who have been, and who continue to be, kidnapped by the Islamist extremists in Nigeria. Let us pray for them that they may not be brutally treated nor harmed for life, but may return to their families safe and sound. (Pause)
Let us pray for a wise and fruitful outcome to the Ukrainian elections. Already over 1300 soldiers have been killed in the fighting in the east of that country. (Pause for silent prayer)
Let us pray for our holy Catholic Church as she begins a year of reflection on the recent Synod at Rome. Let us thank God that she will be guided, as she always is, by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. (Pause for silent prayer)
Hallowed be thy Name is the theme of this week’s World Service. Let us pray that the world, especially the West, may learn again the reverence and respect it once had for God and his Son Jesus Christ. (Pause for silent prayer)
Our Lord’s teaching in today’s Gospel is the familiar but utterly important new commandment of love. Let us pray for our Parish Family that we may live out that loving kindness towards one another, and so reveal to the outside world the real presence of Christ amongst us. (Pause for silent prayer)
Let us ask the prayers of the Holy Mother of God for our troubled world. Hail Mary…