Cafeteria Food

Vesper homily for the Vigil of the Memorial of St. Dominic (patron saint)

I attended a morning of reflection the other day for parish and diocese staff about the ministry of administration.  The talk was a little awkward at the beginning and the end because the author of the book we were reflecting on tried some rather trendy prayer techniques. That is my feeling but I know others liked it.

What was surprising, however, as the author was discussing forgiveness in the workplace and she mentioned that it was hard to truly forgive (and that is true) she commented that was why the church still carried the doctrine of purgatory! My heart and mind screamed.

The reason the church ‘still carries’ the doctrine of purgatory is because it is doctrine! It is a foundational belief of the Catholic Faith. To infer that it was just another piece of luggage not only does damage to that doctrine but it does damage to all doctrine.

Purgatory exists! The Catechism of the Catholic Church has three paragraphs that discuss it.[1] This doctrine is based on long standing tradition and upon the Second Book of Maccabees[2] and other parts of Sacred Scripture.[3] It exists!

But even more; this incident highlights an issue that has been around since the beginning of our faith. One that our patron saint Dominic was well acquainted with and has taken on a more intense ‘persona’ since Vatican II – fitting the faith into a more convenient belief system. In this case, a person, of some importance, giving a reflection to a large group and undermining the reality of the faith by either not fully understanding the faith or choosing to nuance it to her preconceived ideas of how the faith should be perpetuates the ‘cafeteria catholic’ malady.

Brothers and sisters, we need to be vigilant; vigilant but loving; loving but immovable as to the truths.  Faithful to our Lord and His whole revelation, not just parts of it. If we hope to celebrate with the heavenly hosts and our Triune God at the eternal banquet our determined vigilance is paramount.

Let’s face it, cafeteria food is never as good as a full banquet.

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[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 130-132
[2] 2 MACC 12:39-46; (2 MACC 12:46 – Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin.)
[3] Rev. 21:27, Hab. 1:13, II Chr. 6:30, Matthew 5:24-26, I Cor 3:11-15

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Family

Our Sunday Vesper prayer group lost a member this past week – Miss Roberta Little was called home to our heavenly Father.

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I don’t know about you; but Jesus’ final words in the Gospel today: ‘So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ Gives me chills.  How am I going to measure up to such a high mark?  How can I possibly hope to meet that desire, that expectation?  But if we look at who Jesus is taking to, we can see that it is possible.  True, Jesus is talking to me, but He is also talking to each of you.  Christ is talking to the community of believers.  Christ understands our weakness, He understands that His call to conversion, for an individual, is an impossible mission; so He has given to each of us a community to help with our journey.

We are born into the Mystical Body, through Baptism individually – but we are given this gift through community.  No one can baptize themselves – they need others. We journey through life and strive to grow in our faith, through community.  We rely on each other, to correct, to encourage, to enlighten, to teach us what the Lord has revealed; and we especially rely on each other’s prayers.  Through this community action of witness and prayer we can, together, join with the Holy Trinity in a journey that leads to our heavenly home – there is strength, physical and spiritual, in community – there is love.

But to view this as an earthly community would be to narrow it to here and now, and this reduces our understanding of family, community, to such a small few.  Holy Mother Church has proclaimed that our family is much, much larger than those who are alive, those on the earthly journey.  Our family is here on earth, those in heaven, those in purgatory, and sadly those in hell.

Our prayers for each other reach past the limits of this earthly reality, it stretches to purgatory and to heaven.  Those in heaven have no need of prayers on their behalf but they can pray for us.  Those in purgatory need our prayer just as we need theirs – through their purgation they can and will offer prayers for our wellbeing.  We are in constant dialog with this family of Christ – we are never alone.

This should give us comfort, especially in these days with the passing of Miss Roberta; we are not cut off from our sister.  Her efforts in the Mystical Body for those she loves hasn’t ended, hasn’t even changed – she helps us through her prayers – her love.  Our efforts haven’t changed either, we pray for her and all those who have preceded us, and we ask for her and their prayer as well.

As we go through a period of mourning we should realize that, as painful as it is, it is a good thing.  We loved and we lost, that is good and holy.  The only way to keep from this pain we feel is to not know love; be numbed like Satan and that, of course, is hell on earth.  Through this period of mourning and pain we need to remember that love reigns supreme and we need to keep communicating with our beloved sister and our community with prayer.  In this way we help each other achieve what we prayed for at Mass in the Collect: that, always pondering spiritual things, we may carry out in both word and deed that which is pleasing to God. – that we can ‘be perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect.’ Remembering always that we are not alone.