Insights on purgatory at All Souls Day Mass

Purgatory is a “state of healing” and prayers for the dead are a “powerful help for their journey” to heaven, said Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, at the Diocesan All Souls Day Mass on Sunday at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.

The bishop shared several insights into purgatory during his homily, calling it “a means by which the grace of Christ strips away any remaining layers of our selfishness that might still prevent us from entering fully into God’s presence.”

The 10:30 a.m. Mass was preceded by the solemn reading of more than 125 names of Catholics from around the diocese who died in the past year. A Book of the Dead containing names handwritten by loved ones prior to the Mass was carried in the processional as “Requiem Aeternam” (“Eternal Rest Grant unto Them”) was chanted.

In his homily, Bishop Jenky echoed several central teachings of his 2008 pastoral letter on death, dying and Catholic funeral rites, including that mindfulness of death intensifies our appreciation of life.

“Facing death helps us to see that every moment of life is precious because it is unrepeatable,” said the bishop. “Life is precious and enormously valuable precisely because it is so fragile and finite.”

The good news of Christianity, said Bishop Jenky, is that God’s love is stronger than death. Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we received “the capacity for life without end.”

But because our choices in life can take us away from God, the saved may still be in need of further grace after death. The bishop said purgatory may be better described as a “process” rather than a “place” by which through God’s mercy the dead are “being transformed into the perfect likeness of Christ.”

“In this state of healing we will learn the full truth about ourselves, and the full truth about God’s great love and mercy,” said Bishop Jenky.

The bishop encouraged prayers for the dead, especially the offering of Masses, regular visits to cemeteries, and an introduction of the church’s tradition “of faithful remembrance and prayer” to young Catholics.

The previous day, on the feast of All Saints, Bishop Jenky blessed a new addition at Resurrection Mausoleum in Peoria after celebrating a Memorial Mass in the mausoleum’s chapel. The expansion moved the west wall of the chapel, including the colorful stained glass image of the cross, back several dozen feet and added 277 new crypts making it possible for another 466 people to be interred there.

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