Friday, May 27, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
WE ALWAYS DO THINK OF them, don't we, as the poor souls in Purgatory. That seems curious, from one point of view; from one point of view they are so much better off than we are. You and I might go to hell; they can't. We sometimes think of them enviously for that reason. They are like friends who have gone on ahead, and successfully jumped over the precipice that lay in our path; we haven't jumped it yet - how much better off they are than we! Yes, but from another point of view they are hard up, the holy souls, desperately hard up. We can still merit; they can't. Nothing they can do can give them any relief, can bring them any nearer to the heaven which is their only desire, their only dream.
If you will, they are like people who have got plenty of money at the bank, but no cash in their pockets; what is the use of money if one can't get at it? So they ask for our prayers, which can help them; our prayers, which we ought to give generously, just as the saints give their prayers to us. So, each year, November reminds us about the Communion of Saints; about the help we can get, about the help we can give. You remember the fable about the lion which was caught in a net, and the mouse that helped it by eating through the net so that it could get out? You and I are like that when we pray for the souls of Christians departed. They are much more splendid people than you and I are; they are already on the last lap of their journey home. But they are held up on that journey, and they can't help themselves; we can help them, and it isn't presumptuous to think of ourselves as helping them, even splendid people who have fallen gloriously in battle - we are the mice nibbling away at the bonds which hold them, that is all.
- Ronald A. Knox, "The Communion of Saints (I)",
The Creed in Slow Motion
Sunday, May 22, 2011
I can still recall - with an importance borne out by the seriousness with which the grown-ups seemed to consider the topic - a Sunday evening when my evangelical pastor father's church held a Revival service. We had a guest preacher and got to dine him (No wining him - we were teetotalers!) before the church service. My sister and I speculated who would "come forward" to the altar rail to either "get saved" (in some cases, again) or renew their "personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ." In any case, it was serious, and we were inculcated from a very early age on the FACTs of the Last Four Things.
Adults can't manufacture those values; there is no winking to the audience, I am thankful to say. My father and my mother were in deadly earnest when it came to them, and my sister, Linda, and I caught those values.
So, it wasn't surprising to me to find myself after the revival preacher's sermon to find myself coming forward to the altar rail to "accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior." It wasn't that I hadn't done so before in private, so to speak; but in our neck of the woods, it you didn't trudge up where everybody could watch you do it, it just didn't count to your credit. See?
Well, I still believe in those Four Last Things, but I also know that I need the fullness of the Church that Jesus our Lord founded on Saint Peter ("Rocky") in Matthew 16, including all the sacramental grace that our Lord provides us creatures made in His image, imago dei. (For more read A Little Guide for Your Last Days.)
In fact, Dale Alquist puts succinctly the words and thoughts of fellow convert, G. K. Chesterton. (I would say fellow author, but the audacity sticks in my craw with an accompanying choking sensation.) A quick and easy essay just doesn't get much better than this one all of a Sunday evening. Read, read, pilgrim, and never forget GKC's insights in A Happy Little Reflection on Hell. And, thank you, too, Dale Ahlquist.
Don't you wish more people thought about the Four Last Things. Like those who garner power with a smug grin of happy and healthy human existence; at least, for now?