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Purgatory

A year after I came to Park Ridge, I got a new car. As I was driving around in the days following, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I loved the new car smell. However, every now and then the same thought would cross my mind: “How long will I be able to keep this car looking new? How long will it be before I put the first scratch or dent on this new car?” I tried not to pay attention to such negative thoughts. A couple of weeks later I was up in Wisconsin on my day off visiting my brother. They had moved into a new home and it was my first visit to their new place. Their driveway is rather tight and I knew I had to be extra careful in getting out. And yet, as I was pulling out of the driveway I heard a thud. I knew that I had banged into the stone wall on the right side. When I got out of my car to inspect the damage, I was quite upset with myself. I had done it! I had put the first dent on my new car. I was mad at myself.

As I was driving back from my brother’s home, this thought struck me. What happened to me that day is a parable for what happens to us in real life. We all would love to be perfect. Sometimes we even pretend that we are. And yet we know that as we move through life, we put dents and scratches on ourselves sometimes without realizing and sometimes deliberately. We no longer are perfect. The incident with my car reminded me that I am flawed, that I am sinful. It is important to admit that fact to myself. This awareness is the basis of our humility, our subdued stance before God and others. What is heart-warming is that this God loves us in spite of our sinfulness. He calls us to conversion and at the same time offers His love without question.

Being conscious of our broken selves, we can be compassionate towards and tolerant of others and their failures. Too often we get upset over how others behave or treat us because we forget our own lack of perfection. Being in constant touch with our flaws, we recognize how other people can also fall short. We desist from judging them or dismissing them. Instead we develop a sincere respect for the efforts they make to change their lives.

This sense of one’s personal brokenness also reminds us of the need to pray for the dead. In the month of November we remember our dear departed and pray for them. It has been a long tradition in the Catholic Faith to offer Masses for the dead. Why do we do that? The Church has not changed her teaching on purgatory. Very few people - we call them saints – go directly to heaven after their death. Most individuals need a period of purification after their death before they can fully rest in God’s presence in heaven. Unfortunately many of our images of heaven, hell, and purgatory are shaped and colored by Dante’s Divine Comedy and by Renaissance paintings. Beneath these images there lies the undeniable truth that most of us will not be ready to enjoy the beatific vision without some amount of purification. During that period of purification, our dear departed need our prayers. They cannot help themselves. I encourage all to attend more Masses during the week to pray for our deceased whom we have loved in life.

Offering Masses for the dead is good for us who are left behind. More than sixteen years ago my dear mother passed away. Her death has been one of the most painful events of my life and I still wonder how I got through it. I remember fighting with the Lord on the flight back after the funeral and I kept complaining to Him that His sense of timing was lousy. One thing that got me through that very difficult time was the Memorial Mass that we celebrated here in the Chicago area with my friends and family. Offering a Mass for my mom meant far more than I had anticipated. When my mother died, I felt totally helpless. The thought that her passing was definitive and that I would not see her in this life made me feel utterly lost. When we celebrated the Memorial Mass I realized that all connections were not broken. Suddenly the communion of saints became a palpable reality. I could pray for her just as she was praying for me. From then on, I pray to both my parents whenever I find myself in any type of difficulty.

On October 31st, our secular society gets obsessed with ghosts and goblins, with wizards and witches, as people dress up for Halloween. They forget that the origin of that celebration goes back to what the Church memorializes the first two days of November. We are called to look heavenward as we celebrate the triumphant Church in heaven and the suffering Church in purgatory. On November 1st we celebrate All Saints as we remember all those who have gone to heaven. No altars are erected in their honor and yet they have achieved their life-goal of eternal bliss with the Lord. On November 2nd we pray for our beloved dead.

Keep me in your prayers as I keep you in mine. I continue to thank God for you.

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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Contact Information

St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068


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Phone: (847) 825-7605
Fax: (847) 825-5186

Mass Schedule

Sunday

7:30 a.m. - Upper Church
9 a.m. - Upper Church & Holy Family Chapel
10:30 a.m. - Upper Church & Holy Family Chapel
12 p.m. - Upper Church
5:30 p.m. - Upper Church

Monday - Friday

6:25 a.m. - Upper Church
8:30 a.m. - Upper Church

Saturday

8 a.m. - Upper Church
4:30 p.m. - Upper Church & Holy Family Chapel