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November 9, 2014

Some of you may wonder where I was this week.  I am among 30 priests in the diocese attending a program called “Good Leaders, Good Shepherds.”  Here are the goals of the program:

  1. A deeper understanding of and better appreciation for Jesus’ model of leadership
  2. Vital, sustainable leadership skills designed for pastoring today’s parish.
  3. Increase confidence and competence in governing, and therefore, in ministry.
  4. Comprehensive pastoral formation in support of our ministerial lives
  5. Regular fraternal support; strengthened presbyteral unity.
  6. Vibrant Catholic parishes that continue Jesus’ mission through grace and leadership.

Please pray for us.

The good thing in Medicine Hat is we do not have snow yet!  But from Brooks to Calgary, snow covers all the fields. When I first came to this country in the middle of winter, I saw trees with bare branches, I thought to myself: “Why don’t the people cut these dead trees down.”  Trees in Vietnam have green leaves all year round.  A few months later, I knew how ignorant I was.  Those trees were not dead, they underwent a transformation to the new life in the spring.

In the month of November, as Catholics, we pray for those who have gone before us and undergo the process of purification in a place called “Purgatory.”  You can’t find the word ‘Purgatory’ in the Bible, but you can find the idea.  Jesus himself implied that some sins must be atoned for in the next world when he spoke about the unforgivable sin of refusing to ask forgiveness (Mt 12: 32).  Jesus also spoke about a certain prison where souls will be sent for certain sins.  They will not be released until the last penny of their debt has been paid (Mt 5: 6).  St. Paul spoke of those whose work in this world is not perfect, yet they are saved as through fire (1Cor 3: 14).

Even the Old Testament points to a Purgatory. Judas Maccabeus, the Jewish leader, took collection and set aside sacrifices to be offered for the dead.  “It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins” (2Mac 12: 46).

The holy souls cannot merit any longer and they cannot commit sin.  They cannot help themselves but they can help us.  They suffer mainly because they cannot be with God and see God.  They suffer a cleansing pain that can be compared to the pain of fire.  But they do have joys; they are absolutely sure that they will get to heaven.

Many of these souls are loved ones of ours.  We can help them by our prayers, our work, and especially by the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Purgatory highlights many of the main truths about God.  It fulfils the deepest desires of human hearts.  Pray for the holy souls.  Offer Mass for them.  Help them and they will help us.

This week, on Tuesday, Remembrance Day, Canadians pause in silence to remember those who have died in war and to pray for the victims of aggression and inhumanity throughout the world.  This is a day to pray for peace, to consider what we are doing as individuals, as a community and as a nation to bring God’s peace into the world.

It also reminds us of our readiness for seeing the Lord face to face.  It also reminds us of our readiness to see the Lord face to face.  During the end of the Liturgical Year, the Church wants us to hear again the warning of Jesus that we really don’t know the time when death knocks on our door.  Our readiness or watchfulness must be a daily thing.

Our readiness or watchfulness must be a daily thing.

Jonny learned his first lesson of being alert the day he returned from school to find his guinea pigs missing.  He rushed to ask his mom about them.  She answered, “I gave them away because you didn’t take care of them.”

-“But I did take care of them,” Jonny protested.

-“Jonny, I gave them away ten days ago.”