Tuesday, 22 November 2011


If by God's great mercy we go to Purgatory, is our tenure there because of our offenses against the Divine Justice or is it because we were not humble and docile enough to the Holy Spirit to pray, in times of temptation and, indeed, at all times?

Sin is repulsive to God and His Justice demands that we make reparation in the next life for our sins. However, I'm just wondering whether we really go to Purgatory for our offenses, when surely the root of all our sins is our neglect of humble prayer which is the source of friendship with God and the only source of any obedience to His will.

Surely, if there were any way to avoid the pains of Purgatory, we would seek ways in which to do so, even though our nature is perverse and we can choose to abandon prayer, the very life of the spirit. It is this freedom of the will that means that we can obtain salvation at the last or our perdition. We are inclined to push God to the periphery of our existence but the Catholic Faith teaches us that it is by no means impossible for us to become true men and women of prayer and to 'pray without ceasing'.

One gets the impression from the lives of the Saints that their whole existence was powered by prayer from the rising of the sun to its setting. I am gradually getting more disciplined at saying morning and night prayer, but, in between, as anyone who has been reading the blog the past day or two will be able to tell, it is a Haily Mary there and an Our Father there. It is all very sporadic, hence my asking advice about the Office. Those I know who pray the Office emanate an inner peace and quiet confidence in God. The examples of the Saints show us that they are not so much 'supermen' but humble men who learned to rely no longer on themselves at all, having discovered their different weaknesses, but instead entrusted themselves to God's love and providence at every moment.

St Augustine of Hippo tells us that our hearts can have no rest until they rest in God. This is our daily experience and yet there are some whose love for God leads them into a deep life of prayer - it is that prayer that becomes the driving force of their love, their thoughts, words and actions. I don't doubt that we go to Purgatory to 'serve time' for our offenses. Neither am I suggesting 'sinlessness' is something with which we are graced or that we shall obtain within this life.  However, I know men and women of great, frequent and fervent prayer and they are inspirational, not necessarily in what they do, but in who and what they are. Their great love for God is borne out of their humilty and perhaps constant awareness of their own dependence on God in perhaps every waking hour.  They are those who can say, 'It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me'.

Saints teach us that faith is caught, not taught and that the 'just shall live by faith'.  Saints go to Heaven really because of their intimate friendship with God, a friendship which is nourished and nurtured through prayer. We can do nothing of ourselves and it is this friendship that leads to 'good works' which, without faith and prayer, become empty and devoid of the love in which they find meaning. If we should desire the things of Heaven, then we must be willing to accept poverty of heart and dependence on God. Whenever I fall into grave sin, one of the first things I think is, 'I should have prayed, hang on, I could have prayed'. I wonder if the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for whom we should pray, think that too.

So, as is obvious, I am not actually very good at praying, but I'm becoming more aware of the fact that, as the Catechism teaches, 'It is always possible to pray'. For those who are admit they are stubborn-hearted, like I, then this truth of the Faith should be encouraging. It is, always and at all times, everywhere, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, it is always possible to pray, even if our nature is so perverse that we can go nearly a whole day without conversing with or petitioning God. How strange we are and what a great mystery Faith is. And I will admit it. Even now I am thinking, 'Yes, I will, yes, I will, after this blog post, as if this blog post is more important than prayer!'

1 comment:

On the side of the angels said...

Introduction to the Devout Life - try those meditations..they will change your life x

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