I haven’t blogged in the last week not because I haven’t wanted to, but because I just didn’t have the energy to. My mom passed away on the 22nd, and it has been a long and tough week for me. In that, a lot of muck in my soul has been stirred up: regrets, frustrations, fears, sorrows, and memories.
The state of her soul is what has actually been on my mind the most the last week. I know what the Baptists believe about her soul: that she accepted Christ as her Savior at a young age and from that moment on had eternal assurance of her salvation and she is now in heaven with God. It’s just a little different though from reality. I know that she received the Sacrament of Baptism when she was young, though neither she, her family, or the pastor, believed that it was a Sacrament (all you need to do is read Acts and 1 Peter to see that it is though). Outside of the indelible mark of Baptism on her soul I don’t know a lot about her faith in Christ, but I think that it had been increasing recently because of the illnesses God was allowing her to deal with. And I DO believe that she was on her way, albeit slowly, to becoming Catholic, if only I would have had a little more time to show her.
In the end, though, unless she were canonized, which she never will be, I can’t know where she is. I can’t say with confidence that she is in heaven because salvation isn’t a prayer you say as a child like a magic get out of jail free card, it is discipleship and obedience to God and it requires both faith and deeds as the letter of James clearly and emphatically states. But often that discipleship isn’t something that is shown to the world. The cross that we are asked to bear for Christ is often deep in our soul, hidden from the eyes of the world. Our life and prayer with God should be done in secret to increase humility. I will never know the depths of my mother’s soul. I will never know what her relationship to the King of the Universe was like, but it must have been pretty good in order to get through what she went through.
So like a good Catholic, I assume that she is in Purgatory, but I hope that she is heaven and not damned to hell. Obviously many non-Catholics and even Catholics don’t know what Purgatory is: it is a place where all the souls residing therein are on their way to heaven. Purgatory is not a second chance for the damned. Purgatory is also not a permanent place. At the end of time Purgatory will be empty and any who are there will be admitted to heaven. Purgatory is a place of purification, where the sanctification (not justification) that was incomplete in this world is completed, so that we may enter heaven with the purity required of God. The souls that reside in Purgatory are much holier than us and are much closer to God than us, but they are no longer able to earn merits from themselves, that is they can do nothing to increase the grace in their souls. On earth we can do many things that increase grace in our souls which is why the Apostle is able to say “work out your salvation.” Through prayer, almsgiving, and fasting, we are able to cooperate with Christ in accepting his reforming grace. The afterlife is devoid of this ability. The souls in Purgatory, therefore need others to intercede for them. God allows us to pray for them since we are still in a place where we can cooperate to increase the grace in our souls.
This is why I need to pray for my mother. Not being Catholic, she was unable to avail herself of the greatest sources of God’s grace on this earth: the Sacraments, particularly Confession and the Eucharist. She did not have access to the ordinary ways that God works in the souls of men, so there is a good chance that there is work to be done in Purgatory. And not being Catholic, there are not many to pray for her. Will anybody at her church pray for her soul? No, they do not believe that she is in need of prayers. I have a group of 40 friends who are praying for her, but they do not know her, and after awhile that group will dwindle until nobody is praying for her, its just natural that people’s prayers will shift back to the people in their own lives. So that leaves my sister and I, and a few aunts and uncles who may be praying for my mother. And I trust no one. I must pray as if I am the only one praying for her.
Eternal rest grant unto her Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen.