Saturday, November 1, 2008


(I received this text message early today) 

Tinatamad ka bang dalawin ang iyong loved one sa sementaryo?


at i-send sa 2366.

At sila mismo ang dadalaw sa iyo!

Text na!


Today, November 1, is all Saints day, when Filipinos troop to the cemeteries to pray for their dear departed. Curiously, the ritual is supposed to be observed on November 2 - All Souls Day, while todays All Saints Day is supposed to honor saints and martyrs. How these days ever got mixed up, I have no clue whatsoever. That is not important anyway but the tradition is faithfully observed yearly by Filipino Catholics, not only in remembrance and to offer prayers for their dear departed, but also as a sort of reunion event with family and relatives. The viguor to which this is pursued can be seen by the dogged mass exodus to the provinces, seen everywhere in the teeming, heavy traffic that clogs all major routes to the North and South.

The significance of this practice cannot be described without mentioning the belief in Purgatory: the Church Suffering. In Catholic doctrine, it is the condition of souls which in the moment of death are in a state of grace, but which have not completely expiated their faults, nor attained the degree of purity necessary to enter heaven. How would we know that a soul goes to purgatory, to heaven, or to hell? (God forbid!). We cannot know. Only God knows. Thus we pray for our dear departed on the implicit acknowledgement that their souls have been transported to be part of the "Church Suffering". We hope that our prayers will lighten and shorten their suffering. Our prayers will have no effect on the saints in Heaven, they do not need it as they are already "triumphant". We can only ask for their intercession. Neither will our prayers have any effect on the souls in hell - they are beyond redemption. Our prayers can only help our brethren suffering in purgatory. 

On this subject, the Church defines two truths as the dogmas of faith: 1) that there is a Purgatory, and 2) that the souls in Purgatory may be assisted by the suffrages of the faithful. There are doctrinal questions though, that are under development: 1) the location of Purgatory; 2) the nature of the suffering; 3) the duration of the suffering; and 4) the application of suffrages. We need not concern ourselves too much with these as our hope is enough, and praying for others is an act of charity that is "is pleasing to the eyes of God".

"If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."

(1 Cor 3:12-15)

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