We have a number of things to think prayerfully about as we come to this Monday morning. It’s the last day of October, and as always, I invite you to thank God for the blessings of this month and rededicate yourselves to His service in all our tomorrows. Then, it’sHallowe’en, a word meaning the evening before All Saints Day. Let’s try to get beyond the skeletons, witches, jack-o-lanterns and black cats and remember the real meaning of the observance. This is the time of the year when the harvest is usually brought in, and therefore it is a kind of harvest festival. It’s not a long step from the natural harvest of crops to the supernatural harvest of souls. And so the Church proposes for our prayer the reality of all the saints in heaven, even those we know nothing about and who have never been officially recognized by the Church. It may well be that our own parents, ancestors, and many of our friends are among those who are honored on All Saints Day.
On the following day, we pray for those in Purgatory, whom we can help by our prayers here on earth. Their salvation is assured, but they still have what is called “temporal punishment due to sin” to atone for. They cannot help themselves to do that, but we can be of service to them. That is why the Church, at every Mass and very frequently outside of Mass, prays for the dead. We are not praying for those in heaven nor those in hell, but rather those on their way to heaven but detained in order to balance the scales of divine justice.
Then at this time of year, our Protestant brothers and sisters celebrate Reformation Sunday as they did this past Sunday. It commemorates the fact that on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther is said to have nailed on the church door of Wittenburg, in what is now Germany, a list of ninety-five theses disagreeing with the doctrine or the practices of the Catholic Church. Luther was an Augustinian priest, and some of his objections against the Church=s practices were justified. However, he was a stubborn man, lacking in the kind of humility that is needed when one’s views are contrary to those of the Church. The upshot of the conflict was his being excommunicated and his founding not only another church, but leading a religious movement called the Protestant Reformation. In the year 1500, practically all of Europe was at least nominally Catholic. By the year 1600, about half of Europe was not Catholic at all, but Protestant. Five centuries later, we can view these events more calmly than they could at that time, and all those calling themselves Christians should pray that there may be, as Jesus wills, one flock and one shepherd. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This Message was composed some years ago.