The month of November begins with the end. That is to say, we are reminded of those whose earthly pilgrimage led them across the threshold of death into eternity.
The final cause of all our actions is what moves us to act. The end, or, purpose, is called the `final cause.'
Everyone acts for a purpose and whoever intends a particular end necessarily must intend the means required to realize that end.
The carpenter who intends to build a table must intend also to use the tools, the lumber and all else that are necessary to achieve this purpose. Who intends the end must intend the means.
The end is always first in the intention and last in execution. A man is worth not what he is now, but what he strives to become.
The end is, in itself, nobler than the means. It is the end in view that determines the means to be used; the means do not determine the end. The means are used to acquire the end. Consequently, the means are not sought on account of their own goodness, but for the possession of the goodness present in the end.
End and means must be proportionate. It should be obvious to everyone that it would not be necessary to use a cannon to kill a fly, nor to jump out of an airplane with an umbrella for a parachute. The greater the end, the greater will be the means; and the more minor the purpose, the more minor will be the means to attain it. Depending upon the end to be achieved, the corresponding use of means is necessary to reach the result intended.
If we were to answer the question "Why did God make you?" it would be conveniently condensed into the simple statement: God made you to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him in this life and to be happy with Him for all eternity in the next.
The Feast of All Saints reminds us of those who asked the question, pondered the answer and then took the means to realize the fullness of this truth. If one of the means is absent, the goal or purpose cannot be reached.
Thus, it is not enough to possess a theoretical knowledge about God. Most people have sufficient knowledge about God. What they usually lack is the love that is inspired by knowledge. Since it is not possible to desire something that is not known, it follows that correct knowledge about God is fundamental to any progress towards Him.
A correct knowledge of God and our relation to Him is followed by love. Love resides in the will. It is the will that determines our actions depending upon our intellectual perception of that which is good.
Because man's greatest good is in the possession of the supreme Good _ God _ it is important for everyone to use the means necessary to attain the possession of this supreme Good.
Sanctity or blessedness is achieved in those who hear the word of God and keep it.
Those men and women and children whom we honor on All Saints Day are precisely those who have not only known God, loved Him, but who also served Him in this life. It is these souls who in their lifetime have reached that portion of their goal that is possible this side of eternity.
Faith alone does not save. Good works that are the normal consequence of love are the indisputable proof of a living faith. Faith and love are the two sides of the same coin and this one coin is spent in the service of God and one's neighbor.
God has given all mankind a model according to which all those who are saved must conform: Jesus Christ. Those who do conform themselves to Jesus Christ are the saints. And the first condition for a successful transformation is humility. There are no proud saints in heaven and there are no humble devils in hell.
Likewise, there is not a single saint who has not been conformed to the suffering and death of our Lord. The great saints of the Old Testament (the Church of the faithful before the coming of Christ) Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Prophets and all the rest whose supernatural faith longed for the promised Redeemer. Everyone of these souls suffered at the hands of their contemporaries.
Everyone suffers; but not everyone is saved through these sufferings. The classic example is found in the two robbers crucified alongside Jesus. One's suffering was rejected; the other's served to cleanse his heart.
Perhaps it is insufficient attention to the divinely revealed information we have received through faith that is often the cause for many failures to reach eternal blessedness. Those who were of the elect were sealed on their foreheads. Even though we do not know in detail how these holy people lived and died _ God knows _ we are certain of this: They lived and died faithful to Jesus Christ. Of them St. John writes in the Apocalypse:
"And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God, and for the witness that they bore. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, `How long, O Lord (holy and true), dost thou refrain from judging and from avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?'
"And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told to rest a little while longer, until the number of their fellow-servants and their brethren who are to be slain, even as they had been, should be complete." (Apoc. 7, 9-11).
The Apocalypse is not an easy Book to understand because there are so many symbols employed that may easily be misunderstood.
Of interest is the fact that St.John, in naming the tribes of Israel in which large numbers are among the elect, there is no mention of the tribe of Dan. There is never any mention of this tribe in the New Testament. Also, Ephraim is replaced by Joseph.
Why would the tribe of Dan be omitted? According to an ancient Hebrew tradition and some Fathers of the Church (e.g., St.Iranaeus, St.Hippolytus), the Antichrist was to come from the tribe of Dan.
It should be obvious, then, that there are still living descendants of the tribe of Dan. Perhaps they can be traced by ascertaining their attitude towards Jesus Christ and His Church. The Antichrist has not yet been revealed.
Ephraim also is not listed by St. John among the twelve tribes. He is replaced by Joseph
We honor these great people who followed the narrow path to eternal victory. We then turn our thoughts the very next day to those who are in Purgatory.
Purgatory is a place and a state in which the souls of the just who die with the guilt of venial sin or with the debt of temporal punishment suffer until all debts have been paid.
Souls in this condition must be cleansed from all stains, which can be of three kinds: 1. Venial sins not yet remitted, which St.Thomas, Suarez and others declare with great probability, are immediately remitted at the first instant of the separation of the soul from the body through a fervent act of love or of contrition; 2. Bad habits, which are likewise immediately effaced by one contrary act elicited with great fervor at that time; 3. Temporal punishment which is successively taken away not by meriting nor by making satisfaction, but by suffering sufficiently, or by undergoing punishments in accord with the plan of divine judgment; but a quantity of the punishment is remitted corresponding to the prayers offered for these souls.
These souls are remembered on All Souls Day. Contrary to the majority of man-made religions that base their tenets on mistaken philosophies, the Catholic Church does not believe in reincarnation or metempsychosis. The Catholic Church believes in the resurrection of the body and its reunion with the soul on the Day of the Last Judgment.
Concerning the existence of Purgatory we may begin by pointing out the errors regarding it. These errors include the so-called "Jews" who believe in reincarnation and are essentially, pantheists. These identify themselves as "God" and, therefore, find no need for a "Purgatory".
In the fourth century, Aerius asserted that it is fruitless to pray or to offer sacrifices for the dead.
The Albigenses, the Waldenses, the Hussites, and in particular the more modern ones such as the Reformers have taught that Purgatory is " a mere spectre of the devil" (Martin Luther); according to Calvin, " a deadly device of Satan."
Even those who in modern times admit of an intermediary state nonetheless have a false idea of it.
The most recent deniers of Purgatory are the Modernists of the Apostate Church. It is their common teaching that not only Purgatory does not exist, but even Hell. Thus, every funeral service is tantamount to a "canonization" and people are led to believe that the deceased is now in heaven "looking down on them."
Of course, if the deceased is in heaven, there is no need to pray for the departed soul.
What does the Roman Catholic Church teach? Purgatory exists in which the souls of the just which have not yet made full expiation are cleansed by atoning punishment, and can be aided by the suffrages of the faithful.
The Council of Trent defined as a matter of faith: "Since the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Spirit, in conformity with the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers in sacred councils, and very recently in this ecumenical Synod, has taught that there is a Purgatory and souls detained there are assisted by the suffrages of the faithful, and especially by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar "
Catholics of the Old Testament like the Macabees believed in a place where detained souls expiated for their sins and that prayer and sacrifice on behalf of these souls was beneficial.
We read in II Macabees that after victories had been won, Judas Macabeus "making a gathering, sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection, (for if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead) and because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins." (II Macabees 12, 43).
It should be noted that there is no mention of mortal sin, but rather to venial sins and the punishment due to mortal sins.
It is from the time of St. Augustine that Purgatory is spoken of more explicitly. He states: "Some of the faithful are saved through a certain purifying fire, the more tardily or quickly in proportion to how greatly or slightly they have loved the fleeting pleasures of the world." He then says that those "are raised up and comforted by the benefactions of those who survive them because the sacrifice of the Mediator is offered for them or charitable works are performed for them in the Church."
The existence of Purgatory is also defined and declared by the Councils of Lyons II, of Florence, and of Trent.
Consider the terrible injustice done to loved ones by failing to pray for them in their greatest time of need. What a foul `charity' to deceive oneself into believing that those whom we place in heaven, are painfully awaiting the prayers and sacrifices that will never come! Pray for the souls in Purgatory and they will pray for you when you find your way there.
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