November 1st and November 2nd every year are set aside for commemorating All Saints and All Souls respectively. The one for this year took place on Sunday and Monday.
During the mass on Sunday, our Chaplain, Fr. Hyacinth Okafor was at his best going through Church history, the scripture and the teachings of the Sacred Magisterium. He once again exposed us to the beauty of Catholicism borne principally out of her divine origins.
All Saints, he explained, celebrates all the saints we know, both those in the canons of the Church or those not there; named and unnamed. The implication is that we might have celebrated my father or your father on Sunday. Fr., quoting the name of the Ministry of Fr. Prof. Bona Christus Umeogu – “Communio Sanctorum,” explained what communion of saints means while touching on the Church tripod: Church Triumphant, Church Sufferers and Church Militants.
Fr. used different spiritual passages to buttress the import and biblical support for the feasts. I shall not go into All Saints because it is not as controversial among non-foundational Christians as its brother, All Souls.
Once All Souls as a day is mentioned, what comes to the minds of informed Catholics is the doctrine of purgatory, which non-foundational Christians condemn because they do not understand it. On All Souls day, we pray for the souls of the departed, those presumably in purgatory, for God to have mercy on them and admit them into His Kingdom, because they are incapable of praying for themselves though they can pray for us (Father explained vividly).
What is Purgatory?
Where is Mr. Ngige Nwachukwu my friend and trouble maker, he is one of those with the capacity of rendering it in the words of the old and loved Catholic Catechism.
Now get this, when we talk about “eschatological parousia,” the defining words are Heaven or Hell. The point I want to pass is the fact that on the last day, we have just two realities: Heaven or Hell. Purgatory is not a place but simply a state.
It is the state of souls that died with venial sins or that have not properly paid the penalty due to forgiven sins. It is not a permanent state for the souls in purgatory will eventually enter heaven. This is a unique teaching of the Catholic Church with more than enough biblical passages to back it up.
During All Souls Day, our chaplain explained it through all possible ways: appeal to common sense, the scripture, revelation and the Magisterium.
Our Chaplain made a beautiful analogy using grading system in our school, where we talk about pass, weak pass and failure. Weak pass is the scriptural correlate of souls that did not pass satisfactorily and have to be given a little push to cross the River Jordan. These are souls in purgatory, where they are purged of the last vestiges of sin and made fit for the beatific vision.
On revelation, he told us the story of Amelia. You may wish to read it up in the Fatima Apparition.
The Chaplain also appealed to scripture in explaining the sources of Catholic belief in purgatory. Indeed, Maccabees 12:39-46 made allusion to that but it can be argued for the sake of argument that the canonicity of the book of Maccabees is in dispute. The fact, however, is that it still recorded the beliefs and the way of life of the ancient Jews.
Matthew 12:32 talks about forgiveness of sins in this age and the age to come. The question is what age and what sins? Matthew 5:25-26 talks about paying the last penny.
I Corinthians 3:11-15 is regarded as the plainest biblical support of purgatory, it talks about saving through fire. Which fire, since the fire of hell has not salvific value?
For me the most explicit reference to purgatory in the bible is the differentiation between venial and mortal sins as could be seen in this quote: “ If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. 1 John 5:15-17.”
We are told that some sins do not lead to death, we ask: what happens to those who did not commit those sins that do not led to heaven in the light of the biblical passages that say that nothing defiled and imperfect shall enter the kingdom of heaven. Common sense tells us of a place where they will be made perfect and fitting to enjoy beatific vision.
You see why Catholic Church can never be faulted on theological matters, no matter how controversial they may appear?