Sunday, November 10, 2013

Shooting for...Purgatory? Or not?

An attitude occasionally expressed today is that of aiming for Purgatory, that is, not entering into grave sin, and when one does, going to Confession but continuing with venial sin. It's not that big a deal!

This often leads to aiming for Purgatory, but winding up in Hell. Sin is turning away from God. It is his absence, for God is all-good and thus cannot be where evil abides. We must seek to be free from venial sin. A regular participation in the sacramental life of the Church, one that builds up grace is an important step on the road to purging even venial sin from one's life.

We should desire God above all else. St. Augustine said, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You." That's a very interesting thought: we should not only work to be with God, but to be in him. To come into communion with Him, in imitation of the communion between the three hypostases Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of the Most Blessed Trinity that is an eternal exchange of love. Yes, that is what we were made for.

It seems that the crisis of belief in the modern world described in Introduction to Christianity by Joseph Ratzinger (reading it for theology class, and I'll return to it another time. So wonderful!) has lead to this and worse. The first situation above is among under-catechized Catholics. Then there are Catholics and other Christians who believe in Heaven as a happy place, a good place. This is true. God is all-good, and it is a place in a sense, even if we can't quite comprehend it.

But it's not enough. Heaven is transcendent, above all things visible and invisible. So we must understand Heaven as the place where the saints in the presence of angels are in communion with God and have received the beatific vision. It is just awesome, in the most proper use of that word in relation to the divine. There's just no way we can comprehend it other than in this rather definitional way, for it is truly above reason.

Fr. Leger once said that he was at a funeral, and he heard someone say that he didn't want to go to Heaven if their dog wasn't there. What?! That displays issues in the formation of this man's formation on salvation, Heaven, the body and soul, among other topics. If anything, this is a reduction of Heaven to our needs and ours alone and not understanding it (imperfectly on this earth) as the dwelling place of God, the angels, and saints. This is a result of the Church indifferent as Father Z called the mentality of the last several decades.

Then there's everyone else, non-Christians and such. Basically, they want God the Father-begetter, the begotten Son-made-flesh, and the Spirit who proceeds, the God who is love to exist. But for whatever reason they believe He can't. So there's nothing to strive for. This life is terrible and meaningless, so we must fill it in some way. It involves making our own meaning or living vicariously since there's no afterlife. Only the present counts. These aren't new ideas precisely, but they have taken on a powerful form in today's philosophy.

Those are generalizations, true. Not every member of said group holds those opinions, but remember, no matter who you are or what you hear from others, as Léon Bloy said, “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.”

Il faut vaincre par l'amour qui dure toujours pour les siècles des siècles.

I just like the sound of that in French, by the way.

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