Today is the day we remember the dead -- All Souls' Day, or, in Mexican tradition, Dia de los Muertos. And despite sounding somewhat morbid to this death-denying society of ours, this day is anything but sad. It is about connection to the family and friends who have died but live on eternally. It is about resurrection. It is about hope.
When I was waiting for Mass to begin this morning, I was reading my Magnificat and came upon Pope Benedict XVI's moving explanation of purgatory, which of course ties in directly to this day when we pray for those who have died and are perhaps waiting for that moment in eternity when they will finally see the face of God:
"I would go so far as to say that if there was no purgatory, then we would have to invent it, for who would dare say of himself that he was able to stand directly before God. And yet we don't want to be, to use an image from Scripture, 'a pot that turned out wrong,' that has to be thrown away; we want to be able to be put right. Purgatory basically means that God can put the pieces back together again. That he can cleanse us in such a way that we are able to be with him and stand there in the fullness of life. Purgatory strips off from one person what is unbearable and from another the inability to bear certain things, so that in each of them a pure heart is revealed, and we can see that we all belong together in one enormous symphony of being." -- Pope Benedict XVI
As usual, the pope manages to put in simple but eloquent terms a concept that most non-Catholics and many Catholics find difficult to understand. I have always loved the teaching on purgatory. To me it is such a hopeful and common-sense belief. What could be more hopeful and comforting than the knowledge that even after death all is not lost. We can continue to grow toward perfection, toward the time when we are ready to meet our Maker.
Head on over to my own Catechism Corner by clicking HERE to read my take on purgatory from The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Catholic Catechism.
And, if you want to know more about Dia de los Muertos, I must defer to the late Ann Ball, a wonderful Catholic writer who died earlier this year. Click HERE to go to Ann's Web site, which is still up and running and providing all of us with much-needed information and inspiration on so many Catholic traditions.