Not sure the title makes sense. I’m sending this short piece on purgatory as a test of my efforts to restore a mailing list among those of you who said you wanted to continue to receive my blog postings. (If you get this, but didn’t want to continue, please just let me know.)
And, of course, one way to understand purgatory is that it is a time of testing. Perhaps like a thesis defense, or like a final exam in a very challenging course. Saints get a free pass, but most of us need some final testing.
Belief in purgatory has been laughed off the stage of contemporary Christian consciousness for all sorts of reasons. That it’s medieval Catholic nonsense with no basis in scripture. That God’s grace or mercy saves everyone, no matter what their lives or final state when appearing at the pearly gates. You know, Peter as parking manager rather than passport examiner.
At any rate, I continue to think the idea of purgatory is a good one, even if a medieval invention. There are lots of good (and lots of bad) developments in Christian thought that have no basis in scripture. One is Luther’s sola scriptura, which remains a pretty bad, and at times a very dangerous, idea!
My dad (who by now is well out of purgatory) used to sit at his bedside every night praying the rosary for the “poor souls.” I’m sure he thought of and perhaps spoke to deceased members of his family and friends, perhaps even to enemies. I’m sure he thought he’d be joining them. I too believe that. I’m no saint. Lots of Catholic guilt, but much of it real. Time for a good cleansing after death before I get to the pearly gates. And to talk especially with enemies whom I expect to join there.
I don’t share Dante’s image of purgation by fire. When I try to imagine purgatory (which may not be a good idea), I imagine some process of sorrowful reflection and repentance for all the stupid and sinful stuff I’ve done – the vices and vanities, etc. And for reconciliation with enemies.
Of course, I know rationally that all this talk of afterlife “processes” is confused by our inability to understand what time might mean after we leave this time. But I’ll leave that as a teaser for the philosophically inclined.
For now that’s enough for my test.