As we remember those who have died this week through All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, Leonard DeLorenzo joins the show to discuss his new book, “Our Faithful Departed: Where They Are and Why It Matters.”
Father Dave notes that Catholic teaching does not guarantee that a believer is automatically in heaven when they die, but they may need sanctification in purgatory. DeLorenzo expands on this saying, “I think our imaginations get really fuzzy as soon as we start to think about heaven. When we think about those we have loved who have gone before us in death, it is in some ways easier to sort of release them into [heaven], that hope and that bliss. It’s more challenging and more difficult to maybe see ourselves as, in some way, still responsible for those we have loved, but maybe even to see those we have loved in some magnificent way as responsible for us.”
“Purgatory is a hopeful doctrine, but it’s also a doctrine that’s not just about those who have died. It’s about us now,” he says. “Those who have gone before us are being healed and made capable of the fullness of life with God. But it also means that I am being healed with them even now, which is a strange thing to say that I’m involved in purgatory even now…I think it’s a demand of each of us to exercise penance, to exercise charity, to pray for forgiveness, and to commend our beloved dead into the healing grace of God.”
DeLorenzo explains how the saints are also “longing with us and for us to join them” in heaven. He reflects on the words the priest prays over the offerings at All Saints’ Day Mass, which ask that we may experience the saints’ concern for our salvation. “The great communion of saints desires our well being, “ he says. “We matter to the saints and not just some kind of pious glossy way. For what it means to be a saint, they give themselves over to their care for us.” In this same way, we are called to give ourselves over to one another now as we strive to become saints.
Father Dave connects this to part of the Eucharistic prayer in the liturgy. He says, “We pray for ‘our faithful departed,’ but also we say and, ‘and all those who have died in your mercy, Lord.’ So in every single Mass, because it’s in all the Eucharistic prayers, we pray for people that have died who believe in Jesus, and people have died who haven’t believed. As a priest, I think that’s beautiful.”
DeLorenzo relates this to a story about a fellow faculty member in the McGrath Institute for Church Life named John Cavadini. He grew up with a boy who was bullied, and found out later in life that this person died alone in a treatment center. DeLorenzo says, “John now prays for this man every day because he said to me, ‘wouldn’t you want someone to be surprised that they’re loved, loved more than they knew?’” DeLorenzo invites and challenges us to extend our prayer in this way as we remember those who have died.