Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Occupy Heaven?! An All Saints' Homily Gone Bad

Father got me all riled up in the first few minutes of Mass this morning. Not good.
Today is All Saints’ Day. Tomorrow is All Souls’ Day. I really don’t see a reason to combine them. But Father does.
“Today, we commemorate all the saints,” he said. “Not just the ones with an ‘s-t’ in front of their names, but also the ones who are in Heaven but just haven’t yet been canonized: these are your parents, your grandparents, your children, your friends…all your loved ones. They are in heaven, too, but maybe just haven’t been recognized as saints yet.”
He continued in this vein in his homily. I began to wonder: what’s the point of celebrating All Souls’ Day. But he answered that question, too.
“Tomorrow is All Souls’ Day, and we commemorate all those souls who are still in purgatory, who just haven’t quite made it to Heaven. Maybe they just need a little bit of a push to get them into Heaven, and that’s why we pray for them.”
All righty, then. Perhaps Father has been reading too much about “Occupy Wall Street”. I can picture the souls of the faithful departed standing outside the gates of Heaven with their signs: “Occupy Heaven! We are the 99% - Redistribute Grace!” (Oh…wait a minute. God already does that.)
Father went on to say that the souls in purgatory were likely just the recently deceased people in our parish, whose names are displayed in front of the lectern to remind us to pray for them all through November. Father mentioned that he was sure that most of them were already in Heaven, because he knew them, and they were all good people, so if they aren’t in Heaven now, they should be by the end of the week (okay, he didn’t say that last part, but he certainly implied it!). “Occupy Heaven” again!
Taking a deep, cleansing breath, I will analyze some of the problems here. In fact, I will just focus on the harm Father has done by making these inaccurate remarks, which my spiritual director tells me are not really heresy, but just “squishy theology” (but I wonder if he was just trying to alleviate my rising blood pressure).
There are three ways Father does damage:
      1) He misleads the Faithful who are listening to his homily.

2) He deprives the Faithful Departed of needed prayers, we may now all assume they are in Heaven, based on Father’s homily, and so we need not worry about (pray for) them.

3) He harms himself by doing the above.

Misleading the Faithful. Father is certainly correct that there many saints in Heaven whose names we do not know. But we cannot assume that our loved ones are in Heaven just because believing so makes us feel better. And we must not assume that getting to Heaven will also be easy for us. The Saints with an “s-t” in front of their names went through some heavy trials. The souls who have reached Heaven have certainly undergone a purging that we on earth cannot even imagine. And just thinking happy thoughts will not change that for them or for us.

Harm to the Faithful Departed. Perhaps some day, these priests who make every funeral Mass into a canonization ceremony will get a clue. If the deceased is already in Heaven, why would we pray for him or her? Isn’t the intention of a funeral Mass to pray for the deceased person – at least in part? And if the person is already in Heaven, why would we continue to pray for the repose of his or her soul? Why should we bother to offer Masses for the deceased? Puh-lease! We should not assume that our deceased loved ones are in Heaven; rather we should continue to pray for them as if they were in purgatory! The graces will not be lost, even if they have gone to Heaven. Our Blessed Mother will apply the merits to some other soul in need.

Harm to the Priest. The priest is responsible for the souls of those in his parish. If he misleads them, he is derelict in his duty. And if he is derelict in his duty, his soul suffers. The parish priest has much more to answer for than do his parishioners. They count on him for guidance, and if he leads them astray…well, what does the Gospel say about that? “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). By preaching as he did today, Father was shooting himself in the foot.
He probably believes that “All Dogs Go to Heaven”, too.

Oh, by the way, this is not the first time Father has preached this nonsense. And he is probably not the only priest who preached in this manner today.


  1. I agree totally! But how sad is it that I am just grateful that your priest believes in Purgatory??

  2. You're right, Leila - there IS a silver lining after all!! LOL. Yes, at least he gives lip service to purgatory, even if he does seem to think it's as benign as a doctor's waiting room.


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