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‘Know Your Faith’ series delves into Purgatory

‘Purgatory’ by 16th century Italian painter Annibale Carracci .

The second instalment for 2022 of the Know Your Faith series is dealing with Apologetics.

Session 1, ‘Purgatory – ‘When yuh dead yuh don’ was packed with information to help clarify misconceptions about sin, death, and purgatory.

“People think [purgatory] is a place you go and burn and torment. It is a transitionary place….this temporary state through which a soul is purified from its sins, non-deadly [sin] which is not mortal, which is venial, before entering Heaven,” said Fr Robert Christo, Archdiocese Vicar for Communications, and parish priest of St Dominic’s, Penal in his presentation.

He added that there is some suffering and purification for the souls in purgatory before going to Heaven. Purgatory is a “middle state” and the “middle man” is Jesus Christ.

Responding to the criticism that the word ‘purgatory’ is not in the Bible, he cited scripture that mention the call to be holy: Matthew 5:48, 1 Peter 1:15–16, Hebrews 12:14 and Rev 21:27—nothing unclean shall see God’s face. Fr Christo said people should not aim to go to purgatory; they should strive for Heaven.

Describing the “nature of purgatory” he said: “it is a place of stillness, a place of twilight, nobody to distract, you have no lust, no temptation, no worry about death, judgement, or Hell…souls in purgatory are saints removing any remaining punishment”.

Fr Christo listed nine ways to avoid purgatory: daily persevering prayer, frequent confession (removes temporal punishment), frequent Mass and Holy Communion, regular penance, daily rosary, offering up your death entirely to God, offering up your daily crosses, celebrating the Sacrament of the Sick and partaking of indulgences. “Don’t choose purgatory, you can try to avoid it,” Fr Christo said.

Speaking on who goes to purgatory, he clarified guilt versus punishment. He made it clear that there is a consequence for sin and degrees of seriousness for sin, “you just cannot say sin is sin”. He gave a simple example of someone who stole milk versus someone who killed thousands.

“We are making a distinction between guilt and punishment because there is a punishment, where you are going to spend that punishment, where you are going to make reparation for that, what is the suffering going to be if you die in that state.”

Fr Christo used a diagram to show mortal sin and venial sin. Grace unites with God while sin separates. To choose to remain in mortal sin is a choice. “God is love and mercy and all forgiving, but the torment comes with choice, free will.” He said in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, grace was available.

He empahsised that “disposition at the time of death”, the state of the soul at the moment of death was important. Was the person repentant? Those without sin who do not need reparation go to Heaven while those who remain unrepentant for mortal sin go to Hell.

Fr Christo’s presentation began with an explanation of apologetics and why it was important for Catholics. The word ‘apologetics’ came from the Greek word ‘apologia’ meaning reasoned defence.

Fr Christo quoted the Vatican II Decree on Apostolate of Laity #6, “…exhorts laymen according to their natural gifts and learning to be more diligent in doing their part to explain and defend Christian principles”.

He said Catholics must be ready to do this. Fr Christo stated the “crux of the matter” was summed up in 1 Peter 3:15 “always be ready to make a defence to anyone who calls on you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence”.

Fr Christo said apologetics was a ministry that requires tools and continuous formation. The purposes of apologetics are to pursue truth, provide honest/logical explanation, dispel dishonesty and false doctrine, strengthen the faith of laity, and provide tools for formation.

“We must be agents, ambassadors to accompany people on their faith. People are at different levels,” he said.

The host for the session was Shanel Bethel-Sylverton, a parishioner of St Dominic’s, Penal. Apologetics continues with Fr Christo on June 13: ‘The Canon of the Bible – Show meh in d Bible’; June 20, ‘The Papacy – Mine leader is Jesus’ and June 27, ‘Hot Topics – Hotta dan a Chulha’.

The series is hosted by the Catholic Religious Education Development Institute, the Archdiocese Office of Pastoral Planning and Development and Catholic Media Services Ltd.