Purgatory is one of the more misunderstood realities of human existence. It is sometimes confused with hell, or limbo (which is not an official teaching of the Catholic Church). Purgatory, is, in fact, one of the most merciful gifts from God.
Human beings have been made for heaven, and heaven is perfect. I don’t simply mean that heaven is nice, but rather, it is PERFECT. There is no sin, or even the thought of sin. Revelation 21:27 says, “nothing unclean will enter it.” There is no anger, jealousy, or even a bad thought. What a beautiful image.
However, we all still struggle with some sin. As a result, when we die, we are not perfect. In a sense, we are not fit for heaven because some sin or even some struggle with sin still is found in us. And the consequence, is that we are not fit to enter into heaven.
Some may say, “Well, then no one can go to heaven!” And without purgatory, they would be right. However, therein lies the infinite mercy of God! If we are judged worthy to enter into heaven when we die, God gives us one more act of mercy by purging out of us any attraction to sin that may remain in us. And this is what we call Purgatory. It is that state of existence where we are finally prepared to enter into the banquet feast of the Lamb. I would sometimes liken it to the mudroom in a house. It is that anti-chamber to the dinner where we clean off whatever clings to us so that we might enter the home where we experience love.
This week, on November 2nd, we celebrate All Souls’ Day, which is a day specifically dedicated to praying for the souls in Purgatory. As the Church on earth, we are still spiritually bound to those who are in Purgatory on their way to heaven, and thus, we can assist them. That is why at funerals, the primary purpose is to pray for the soul of the deceased, and so too on All Souls’ Day. Just as on Earth, we pray for other people to help them, this is also the case with all the souls in Purgatory.
I encourage all of you to pray for all of the souls in Purgatory, especially those of your friends, loved ones, and parishioners of Nativity of Mary. It is particularly encouraged for all of us to stop into a cemetery and pray for the deceased. In doing so, you can also receive a plenary indulgence (an article for another time). So please join the Church throughout the world in prayer for the souls in Purgatory, so that we may all meet in heaven at the eternal banquet feast of God.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord…
...and let perpetual light shine upon them.
Through the mercy of God may they rest in peace.
A few weeks ago, I was having coffee with a friend and the topic of evangelization arose. The question was, how do we help people get to know Jesus Christ, whom they cannot see? It’s a difficult question. If I wanted to introduce two friends, I would have the two gather for coffee and chat. Or, perhaps, I would request their presence at an event of some sort.
So I asked this friend how he met his wife and how they fell in love. He sat back in his chair, took a sip of his coffee and said one word: “silence.” He informed me that when they first met, they were at a party with many other people and the usual banter. However, to get to know her, he needed a much quieter venue, free from distractions, free from other demands on their attention. So, he invited her to join him out on the back patio, which was vacant due to the cooler fall weather. He brought her out some tea to stay warm, and the two simply talked, quietly. He knew he needed the silence so as to focus on her. And therein lies the key for all of us to get to know Jesus Christ.
To hear someone, especially Jesus, we need to find times of silence. Though, we must understand silence in a broad sense. Silence, not only of the ears, but silence of the mind, silence of the heart, silence of the soul. To choose this type of silence can be both difficult and intimidating. We have become accustomed to having noise in our lives. I know for myself that I enjoy having music in the car immediately. I enjoy having the radio on at home. I even enjoy reading books and periodicals. I need to choose to find times where I create silence for the purpose of paying attention to Jesus and ultimately his message of mercy, peace and love.
As the season of autumn moves toward winter, I encourage you to seek out moments of silence during your week. If you have a family, help them to choose moments of silence. And in the silence, pay attention to the God who loves you, so that you may know him well and love him back.
Fr. Nels Gjengdahl
Last week, October 7th, hundreds of thousands of Poles gathered along the border of Poland to pray for peace and the salvation of the world. This event occurred on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. This event was an amazing testament to the importance of prayer, and in particular, the prayer of the Rosary.
I was taught the Rosary by my mother when I was growing up, and I would often see my great aunts, who were of Croatian descent, pray the Rosary
during quiet times up on the Iron Range of Minnesota.
It was during my college years, on the plains of North Dakota, where I learned how to not just “say” the Rosary, but how to truly “pray” the Rosary. Like many Catholics, I was under the impression that the Rosary prayer was merely a recitation of formulaic prayers (and sometimes a sleep aid if you couldn’t fall asleep). It was not until I joined a group of young Catholics at the Newman Center (next to NDSU) that I learned how to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary.
The Rosary is a prayer that enters into the very heart of salvation, for it is through the Rosary where a person focuses his or her mind on the very mysteries of God’s merciful love. While the verbal prayers are being said aloud, the mind of the person at prayer focuses on one of twenty events that are called “mysteries.” These “mysteries” are important events in the life of Jesus Christ and are categorized into four sets of five:
· The Joyful Mysteries (Annunciation, Visitation, Birth of Jesus, Presentation, and Finding of Jesus in the Temple)
· The Luminous Mysteries (Baptism of Jesus, Wedding at Cana, Proclamation of the Kingdom, Transfiguration, and Institution of the Eucharist)
· Sorrowful Mysteries (Agony in the Garden, Scourging, Crowning of Thorns, Carrying of the Cross, and the Crucifixion and Death)
· Glorious Mysteries (Resurrection, Ascension, Descent of the Holy Spirit, Assumption of Mary, and Coronation of Mary)
The idea is that while a person recites the prescribed “Our Father” and ten “Hail Mary” prayers, the mind is
remembering these events, focusing on what they mean, “seeing” them in his or her mind, noticing the events and what they mean for each person on a personal level, and how God might be calling the person at prayer to
understand His love for them again.
The Rosary is one of the most universal and yet personal prayers that the Church has ever received. I encourage all of you to pray the Rosary on a daily basis. If you do not know how to pray the Rosary, or it has been a while, there are many resources in books and online. Pray this prayer individually and even as a family. Make this prayer a regular encounter with the love of God for you.
Our Lady of the Rosary...pray for us.
“We proclaim Christ crucified.”
- 1 Corinthians 1:23
These were the words that I had on the back of my ordination card in 2007. As a priest, I had no idea where I would be assigned, what my future would hold, or what God had in store for me. All that I knew was that these words from St. Paul would be my guide as I lived out my priesthood. No matter where I was assigned, this would be my mission. And this still holds true for me today as I begin my ministry here at Nativity of Mary in Bloomington.
I was born and raised in North St. Paul (home of the world’s largest snowman), where I attended public schools from kindergarten through high school. I was involved in just about every “nerd” activity available: math team, band, jazz band, chess club, NHS, and even lettered four years in yearbook! Throughout this time, my parents were planting the seeds in my life that would later blossom into my vocation to the priesthood, though at the time, I was unaware of the hidden work of the Holy Spirit in my soul.
When I graduated from high school in 1999, I attended NDSU where I studied engineering and it was there that my faith life exploded. I began attending daily mass, praying the rosary, spent time in Eucharistic adoration and voluntarily went through the RCIA program, even though I was already confirmed. This was the time in my life when God became real and I wanted to build my relationship with Jesus Christ.
It was some time during my sophomore year at college where the question began to arise in my heart, “Is God calling me to be a priest?” I had never honestly asked that question of myself and so that became the heart of my prayer. After months of prayer and examining, I made the decision to change my major to philosophy and enter the seminary.
After six years of seminary, as I was preparing for my ordination, we were asked to have a holy card made for that special day. I selected an image of Jesus Christ on the cross and I was not sure what quote to put on the back. I was in the chapel, reading Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians when I read 1:23 and these words spoke very clearly to my heart that this would be my mission as a priest: Preach Christ crucified.
We preach Jesus Christ, his love, his mercy, his peace and his healing for a world broken by sin. Though, it is interesting to note that St. Paul even says that we preach Christ “crucified.” We preach Christ who has made the ultimate sacrifice out of love for his people. St. Paul wanted to emphasize that he is one who was willing to give everything to God the Father and for the good of humanity. That is what we preach. And so, it is with this short verse in mind that I begin my ministry here, serving the people of Nativity of Mary.
I am excited to be with you and to serve you. Please pray for me and for our parish.
Fr. Nels Gjengdahl