Let’s Talk About Heaven and Hell

We’re a week into Lent so why not?  Most people don’t want to hear about hell.  Satan has done a very good job convincing us that he doesn’t exist and that hell doesn’t exist.  But, trust me, they do.  In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus spells it out pretty well.  First He says, “I tell you unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.”  (Where else will you go?)

Then He says, “whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.'”  (That’s where you’ll go.)  When we leave this earth we have two choices, heaven or hell.  Good or bad.  Saint or sinner.

Become a saint or go to hell!

Pretty simple, but there is another destination to consider.  It’s a place called “Purgatory”.  It comes from the same root as “purge”.  There is nothing unclean in heaven.  Before we can get in we have to get cleaned up.

My wife loves me, but if  I’ve been working on the car and I’m all muddy and greasy, she’s not going to let me into the house until I’ve cleaned up.  That’s purgatory.  It’s like heaven’s mud room.

We don’t talk about purgatory much anymore.  In fact, very seldom will you go to a funeral and hear the priest talking about grandma being cleaned up.  It’s hardly ever done, even though it should be.  It’s what we believe.  We have to spend a certain amount of time in purgatory.  Nobody knows how much time.  It may be seconds.  It may be centuries.  We just don’t know.  My biggest fear has always been that I’d get to purgatory and run into Saint Peter.

But that brings me to a little thing called an indulgence.  There are two types of indulgences:  plenary and partial.  A partial indulgence, as the name implies, relieves us of SOME  of our time in purgatory.  A plenary indulgence takes away all of our time in purgatory.

It came up today because we have the Stations of the Cross at my church on Fridays during Lent.  Participating in the Stations gets you a plenary indulgence.  There are three other things you have to do, just as you do with any plenary indulgence.  1.  Go to communion.  2.  Go to confession.  3.  Pray for the intentions of the Holy Father.  That usually means saying an Our Father and reciting the Creed.

One wonders, if praying the Stations on Friday during Lent takes away all my time in purgatory, what motivates me to do it six times?  Well, you can give an indulgence away but not to anyone who’s still living.  So, you can pass one of your six indulgences along to your mother who’s passed away, or your father, or grandma, or any of your departed friends or relatives.  Pretty cool, huh?

So, why don’t we hear more about this?  Well, way back in the day (like the Middle Ages) people were selling indulgences.  That was never allowed, but people did it and it was one of the things that got Martin Luther’s undies in a knot and why there are thousands of Protestant churches in the world today.  Marty’s 95 Theses opened the floodgates of dissent against the Church.

Anyway, you can usually find the Stations of the Cross at a nearby church.  It takes about 15-20 minutes which is a pretty low price to pay for avoiding purgatory.  Go get some fish and go to the Stations of the Cross.  That’s what Lent is all about!

heaven or hell

RIP Billy Graham

billy-graham-pope-catholic-church-vatican-false-gospelAs You’ve probably heard by now, the Reverend Billy Graham has passed away at the age of 99.  While I don’t agree with all of his theology, there’s no doubt that he led thousands, maybe even millions, of people to Christ.  I wish I had his skill with words.  It seems like once every generation there’s a Christian preacher who can reach the masses.  I wonder who will take Graham’s place.

One thing that the Reverend said that I do absolutely agree with is that “I’ve read the last page of the Bible and everything turns out alright.”

Surprisingly, NBC aired a seven minute interview with Kathie Lee Gifford where she shares her relationship with Reverend Graham.  It’s worth your time to watch.

Lent and the Winter Olympics

We’re here at the end of the first week of Lent (The First Saturday of Lent) and in the middle of the Winter Olympics.  You may wonder what one has to do with the other.  Well, as Catholics we (hopefully) do some kind of penance or preparation for Jesus’ coming death and Resurrection.  You know, the old I’m giving up candy for Lent.

But look at what these athletes have given up for a few dollars worth of gold, silver, or bronze.   They get up early in the morning to practice.  They’ve been doing that since they were little kids.  They’ve developed knowledge and skills that you and I can’t ever hope to have.  They do all this hoping to win a gold medal (which is really gold-plated silver and is worth about $570.  The silver medal is worth about $313 and the bronze has little monetary value).  And, don’t forget their parents who have spent thousands of hours and dollars taking their future Olympians to practice and to competitions.

But these kids (and they are kids ranging in ages from their teen to a few Methuselahs in their thirties) do it for the love of the sport.  Let’s face it, hardly anyone gets rich as a professional skeleton rider.  So, if they’re lucky and very skilled, their years of hard work and sacrifice pay off with a $570 medal, a kiss, and a “thank you very much from a grateful nation.”

You and I have a potential reward that’s beyond our understanding.  We have the opportunity to live forever in paradise.  What do we have to do?  Jesus told us in the Book of John.  “You are my friends if you do what I tell you.  Love one another.”  That’s it!

We don’t have to get up at 4:00 in the morning.  We don’t have to move to a place where we can practice.  We don’t have to spend hours in the cold risking frostbite and broken bones to be the fastest one down the mountain.  We just have to love one another.  That’s it.  Love God.  Love our neighbor.  Love ourselves.

It doesn’t take hours of practice.  We just have to practice the golden rule.

But, I still love watching the Olympics.

Photos from Getty Images

Friday after Ash Wednesday

As I’m sitting here in my office pondering the mysteries of the universe and being just a little irreverent (who me?) I can’t help think about what the Church calls this day.  I wonder, is there an office at the Vatican where a Cardinal or two gives things names.  I’m reminded of the Monte Python skit about the Ministry of Silly Walks.

The Cardinal(s) in charge of naming things must have thought long and hard to come up with this one!  Friday after Ash Wednesday.  Oh well,  That’s what it is so Happy Friday after Ash Wednesday, everybody.  (Isn’t next Friday also Friday after Ash Wednesday.  Maybe today should be the First Friday after Ash Wednesday).  I guess that’s one reason why I’ll never be a Cardinal

Since this is the first Friday after Ash Wednesday, it’s time to scope out the local fish fries.  I write this assuming every city has Catholic fish fries during Lent.  Maybe not.  Maybe it’s a Saint Louis thing like toasted ravioli or gooey butter cake.  If you’re reading this somewhere else, let me know.  If you don’t have fish fries, you’re missing out.

If you’re in Saint Louis, why not let me know in the comments who you think has the best fish fry in town.  Maybe I’ll find one I haven’t tried.  Right now I’m leaning toward Saint Cecelia’s which has a Mexican fish fry.  There’s Mexican music and dancing and rice and beans among the side dishes.  The only problem is it’s always so crowded.  So, if you’re here in the Gateway City, try this one next Friday.  I’ll mention some of my other favorites as Lent progresses.

Another thing about Lent.  I LOVE tuna fish sandwiches and my wife only fixes them during Lent.  I don’t know why.  That’s just the way it is.

Finally, a family story about Lent.  My Aunt Fern wasn’t Catholic.  Frankly, I’m not sure what she was.  I never saw her go to church.  But if it was Lent and it was Friday, she would have rather have had a sharp stick driven into her eye than to ever eat meat.  No meat on Friday during Lent!  Period.  End of story.  Salmon patties and creamed peas was the special of the day at my aunt’s house for six Fridays in a row.  As they say in the South, bless her heart.  Even though she never went to church,  I imagine Aunt Fern is waiting to see me in heaven.  I hope I make it.

80 degrees on February 15

As I sit in my office on the day after Ash Wednesday with the window open I can’t help but wonder about the weather here in Saint Louis.  It’s 80 degrees!  But not to worry, tomorrow the high is supposed to be in the thirties.  We’ve been on a meteorological roller coaster this year.  It’s been cold, then hot, then cold again, over and over.  Don’t get  me started on global warming.

But the temperature, precipitation (or lack thereof) is small potatoes compared to what the people in Florida are suffering today.  More children have been taken from us by a sicko with a gun.  Notice that I’m not blaming the gun any more than I could blame the car in a hit-and-run accident that caused one or more deaths.  How do we stop the killing?  Let’s start by paying attention.  Apparently, there were warning signs that this individual was going to snap.  But nobody paid attention, or nobody wanted to get involved.  Whatever the excuse,  this massacre could have been avoided.

Father Z blogs today about the role of the Main Stream Media in all this and as usual I agree with him 100%).  He writes

Say you are someone who wants to create maximum pain and be remembered for it.  Time and again you see running children, interviews of tear streaked survivors, lines of officials in uniforms at microphones, politicians pushing each other out of the way to convey their “thoughts and prayers”.  An endless stream of attention and – in a twisted way – affirmation that, “HEY!  Yeah… I could do THAT!”

He refers to the Main Stream Media as MSM (mass shooting media).  “I can’t hear the network execs: “But CNN is down there with about 20 producers and cameras!  If WE don’t go, we’ll lose market share tonight!”  Go to Father Z’s blog and read the whole post.  There’s nothing I can add.

And don’t forget that tomorrow is Friday, Fish Fry Day.

Ash Wedndesday

Remember you are dust.  And to dust you shall return

So once again we begin the penitential season by being reminded how insignificant we really are.  Not only are we nothing more than dust, but in the end that’s all we’ll be again.  You may have grand plans.  You may think very highly of yourself.  But, guess what?  You’re dust.  Your plans are dust.  You’re much like the alcoholic who attempts to join a twelve step program.  He (or she) has to get past the first step,

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.

Let’s begin Lent with this prayer from Catholic  Household Blessings and Prayers:

Merciful God,

you called us forth from the dust of the earth;

you claimed us for Christ in the waters of Baptism.

Look upon us as we enter these forty days bearing the mark of ashes,

and bless our journey through the desert of Lent to the font of rebirth.

May our fasting be hunger for justice;

our alms a maker of peace;

our prayer, the chant of humble and grateful hearts.

All that we do and pray is in the name of Jesus,

for in His cross you proclaim your love,

forever and ever, Amen.