Thursday, October 18, 2007
What's He Got That I Ain't Got
I guess October really is Ghost month. We have had a lot of discussion about the souls of the dead.
Meanwhile, we have found another fabric store. Sister St. Aloysius refuses to go there at any time of the year because she says is too crazy in there. I take her advice on all things crazy, especially is thread is involved. I'll brave it, however. The Souls in Purgatory need me.
I'm a new reader and I really, really enjoy your writing. Tonight, however, I do have a question regarding this post. You said to NOT pray for your aunt unless she's been canonized? Why is that? Haven't many saints been prayed to for their intercession BEFORE they were canonized? Surely you've heard of people praying for the intercession of Pope JP II and Mother Theresa since the moment they've died (and I do think with the Church's blessing as well). Help me out on this one. Thanks!
You have brought up an very interesting dilemma, even though you have things a little backwards. Let's walk through it a step at a time:
1. We do not pray to anyone but Jesus...or God...or the Holy Spirit, Who are One but also separate. It's the Sacred Mystery of the Holy Trinity. Sacred Mystery is "Catholic" for "just let it go".
2. We do not pray to any saints or Mary. Even though we often say, "Pray to St. Anthony" or whoever, what we really mean is "Pray for the intercession of St. Anthony". We are asking St. Anthony to pray to Jesus..or God...or the Holy Spirit, Who are One but also separate. It's no different than if I asked you to pray for me.
When I speak to people I always try to make that distinction, so as not to confuse people further. But it's much easier to say "pray to" than "pray for the intercession of". I would prefer just to say "pray to" myself, and that everyone would just GET that that's not exactly what I mean. It makes life easier. Oh, well...one more thing to offer up for the Poor Souls in Purgatory.
3. We do pray for the dead, because until someone is canonized a saint we don't know where they ended up. Everyone who is in heaven is a saint, but we don't know for a fact if someone is in heaven or not unless they have been canonized. Canonized means we have proof they made it. Everyone else is in doubt and gets the benefit of the doubt of our prayers to hasten their trip to heaven.
Unless they went to hell. No amount of prayers and sacrifice will get them out of there. We give everyone the benefit of the doubt there, too. We never ever say that anyone, not even Hitler, is in hell. At the last second, he could have said, "What was I thinking!?"
So in answer to your question, of course you can pray for the soul of your dead aunt Sally.
We discourage you from praying for the intercession of your Aunt Sally(euphemistically called praying to Aunt Sally), since unless she has been canonized, we don't know that she's in heaven. But you do bring up an interesting question.
Indeed, we can't canonize anyone in the first place unless someone has prayed for their intercession and a miracle has occurred.
I would remind you that Pope John Paul II isn't your Aunt Sally. He certainly isn't my Aunt Sally, good old gal that she was. He has one thing, as the Wizard of Oz says, that she hasn't got.
There is another important criteria for sainthood: heroic virtue. Note the word, heroic. Note the word virtue. Not just virtue and not just heroism. Virtue that goes above and beyond the call of duty. My aunt Sally was very virtuous and she may well be in heaven, but she wasn't heroic. My Uncle Frank was heroic. But he was not virtuous. To say the least.
In these cases of heroic virtue we have more than enough reason to believe the person is in heaven. We just want proof. The miracles are to prove the person is in heaven, since the devil will never do anything nice.
So, you may pray for the intercession of your Aunt Sally, but we discourage it. Certainly pray for Aunt Sally.
Of course, some day, if I make it to heaven, I'm sure my Aunt Sally will be there saying, "Why didn't you ask me? I would have prayed for you in a heartbeat!" Then we'll both pray for Uncle Frank. I'm sure Purgatory has sobered him up some.