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The Weight of Sin, and the Truth of Purgatory

  /   Wednesday, November 16, 2016   /   Comments(0)

In my last article, I wrote about the need to pray for the holy souls in Purgatory who are undergoing immense suffering. However, some people who may have read this don’t believe in Purgatory. If you don’t, I would invite you to take a look at 1 Corinthians 3:15 if you need a Scriptural reference. Catholics also have 2 Maccabees 12:46 as a reference, but Luther and others removed this from the Bible that Protestants now use.

Think about this … do you know yourself to be a sinner? Will you die still a sinner? Will you sin once you reach Heaven? Most of us will die a sinner, but we will no longer sin in Heaven. What changed, and how did it change? We know that Jesus paid the price for our redemption, but we know that, upon becoming a Christian, our faults do not immediately disappear. We have to struggle against them to grow in holiness. If the work isn’t finished here, wouldn’t God need to finish it before we could be in his presence? If God doesn’t, except in extraordinary cases, change us in an instant in this life, isn’t it reasonable to believe that any purification done would also entail some process?

Perhaps you may wonder why it matters to God. Many of us have heard people tell us not to worry about the law because it is love, which they rarely define, that matters. Are we Catholics so obsessed with sin that we imagine that God takes pleasure in handing out pain and punishment for every sin? No, we know that God takes great pleasure in showing his mercy, and Purgatory is not just a part of God’s justice, but also very much a part of his mercy.

It is important to understand in this that nothing about God is arbitrary. God created this world, and he is fit to rule it. He knows everything about his creation and wants what is best for us all. The laws of God are not some randomly decided precepts but are instead the key to our happiness and the happiness of others by living in the world as God created it to be lived in. They just seem like an imposition to us at times because we have a fallen nature. The lie that God wants to arbitrarily restrict us has worked for Satan for so long that he has never had to come up with another one.

Because of this, sin is not just the breaking of some arbitrary law. Sin is real, and it has real effects whether we can immediately perceive them or not. Some we can perceive. If I take a baseball bat and break someone’s window, that person has a broken window in need of repair. If I steal money from someone, that person is deprived of some of his or her money. Even if I am forgiven, there is still a broken window in need or repair and/or money that someone is missing. This will be true of any sin.

The stain left in our soul and the demands of justice can be taken care of in this life. They need to be. Our sins, being real, create a distance between us and God. God wants to completely remove them from us and let us be free of that distance so that we can be in his presence.  He is all good and all holy, and nothing impure can be in his presence.  If he left us with our impurities, there would forever be a distance between us and him.

As for the demands of justice, if God simply let them go, it would be for him to say that he shows mercy to the sinner but isn’t concerned about the victim. In fact, in the case of theft, restitution is required for forgiveness. Of course, the victim may excuse the sinner from restitution, which is essentially an indulgence. However, even one who forgives has the right to expect repayment of what is owed. There is still a temporal punishment merited with every venial sin.  If you don’t believe this, then do you believe that every criminal, after having sought God’s forgiveness, should be immediately released from prison?

Therefore, Purgatory is not some cruelty. There is no cruelty in God. It is the merciful means of completely freeing the sinner from all stain of the sins committed. God makes us clean and holy and able to forever live in the beatific vision. However, Purgatory is not our goal in this life. We need to do penance here and now, and God will not only cleanse us, but he will increase the grace in our soul. It is possible to die in such a state of union with God as to bypass Purgatory. However, as long as we die in the state of sanctifying grace, we are assured of our salvation, and God will make sure we are ready for Heaven.

Category: Cathechesis, Catholic, Doctrine


Please Don’t Say This When I Die

  /   Sunday, November 06, 2016   /   Comments(0)

Death is never a pleasant subject. It was not part of God’s original plan for the human race, but it came into the world because of the sin of our first parents. When someone dies, it’s only natural to look to give or receive some consolation in light of this terrible reality. However, I don’t believe in trying to give comfort by compromising the truth.

November is the month of remembrance for the faithful departed in the Catholic Church. The first day is All Saints’ Day. The second day is All Souls’ Day. Often times, when someone dies, people say “He is not suffering anymore.” or “He is at peace.” This is especially tempting when a loved one has suffered a long illness. I ask that you please do not say these things if you are still here and learn of my death or are at my funeral. You may be doing me a great disservice.

I’d be afraid to meet someone who would not hope that I would be saved and be with Our Lord. It is a real possibility that I might not be. If that’s the case there is nothing you can do. However, the best thing to do is hope for the salvation of those who have left this world but realize that they may have to undergo their final purification in Purgatory before being admitted to Heaven. In fact, the primary purpose of a funeral Mass is to offer the Eucharist for the soul of the departed.

The souls in Purgatory are in fact suffering more than the worst suffering in earth. The magnitude of all sins committed and graces spurned by them is seen very clearly at this point. However, the Church teaches us that the purifying fire is altogether different from the punishment of the damned. In fact, such souls, though suffering, will never experience the punishment of the damned. Once a soul is in Purgatory, he or she has avoided Hell forever. There is nowhere to go from there but to Heaven. This is why we refer to the souls in Purgatory as holy souls.

Although I would love to be one of the souls who can go directly to Heaven, there’s a good chance I will need your prayers and other offerings for my soul. Your other departed friends and family will appreciate the same. It will mean far more to them than merely trying to comfort yourself with thoughts or statements that they are not suffering. It will mean more to you, too. After all, do you think that those whom you helped will forget you once they reach Heaven (or even before)? No way! You will have gained a grateful and powerful intercession for yourself before Our Lord. So, take the opportunity to pray for the faithful departed, and help them to reach the place where there truly is no more suffering and no more tears.

Category: Cathechesis, Doctrine, Spirituality, Uncategorized


Trying to Figure Out This Election

  /   Thursday, October 27, 2016   /   Comment(1)

If I were looking for an attention grabber, I’d could start this post with some statement about how this is the worst presidential election in the history of the United States. Well, it could be, but how would I know? I may not be young anymore, but I haven’t been around long enough to speak for our country’s entire history. I can say that this is the worst one I have ever voted in. In every other presidential race, I have known how I would vote well in advance. This time I am not sure what I will do. We have our usual two major party candidates, and neither is fit to be president.

I can’t think of any way that a Catholic, or any Christian for that matter, can justify voting for Hillary Clinton. The fact that she is very pro abortion is enough to disqualify her. And, no, you can’t say she is just respecting other people’s decisions). She is a supporter of the radical LGBTQ agenda. I know these aren’t the only issues out there, but these are two very important issues that are non-negotiable. Oh, and don’t get me started on her Catholic in name only running mate.  

If she continues along e trajectory of the Obama administration, then it’s likely that the only Christians who will be able to own a business or even practice certain professions will be the ones who are compromising the Faith. It’s her party that is in a dispute with the Little Sisters of the Poor because they tried to mandate that all employers provide free contraception in their insurance plans. She’s even made mention before that deep-seated religious beliefs need to be changed. Some may believe that the statement was taken out of context and/or magnified, but the fact that the phrase was uttered at all is very concerning.

Donald Trump’s conduct during the campaign is highly problematic, and it has gotten worse towards the end. I don’t think he would have done much worse if he were trying to lose the election. He is alienating people who otherwise might support him. His character is problematic, as evidenced by the disgusting conversation from years ago that was released and his response to the revelation.

On the other hand, his public policy statements suggest that he will support more pro-life, pro-family policies than Clinton, and he has chosen a very pro-life running mate. He has even sent a letter to the folks at Catholic Vote stating he will protect religious liberty. However, I am unable to find a past track record to back up what he states are his policy positions, and the possibility that he won’t follow through deserves much consideration.

The Libertarian party candidate Gary Johnson is pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, but may be somewhat better than Clinton in protecting religious freedom. The former Green Party now independent (at least in Tennessee) candidate Jill Stein has a similarly problematic platform in those areas with no mention of religious freedom on her platform page of her web site. While I don’t agree with everything on the platform of the American Solidarity Party (I’m strongly against a single-payer health care system.), their platform poses no moral problems and is overall more in line with my thinking. The problem is that their candidate is neither on my ballot nor certified as a write-in candidate in Tennessee last I checked, and his profile online doesn’t really help me to understand how he is qualified to be president. One independent who is a certified write-in candidate is Evan McMullin, and there are a lot of good things in his platform also.

So, really, the only two viable choices I see are voting for Donald Trump or writing in an independent candidate, probably Evan McMullin. I have seen quite a bit on Facebook accusing people who would vote for Trump as voting out of fear. However, there is a legitimate basis in Catholic moral theology for deciding in good conscience to vote for a not-so-suitable candidate in order to limit the evil that the other would cause if elected. Some people who are voting for Trump may see the people voting for independent candidates as really allowing Clinton to win by taking votes from Trump. There is a risk of causing that outcome, but there is also a practical strategy that may be employed.

Having a practical strategy for doing the best that we can do for our country is important. I have a hard time taking people seriously who say to just vote for the candidate you like without taking practical considerations into account. We need to consider the potential consequences of what we are doing. I’m a big believer that I need to support someone who has a realistic plan of winning, and I strongly believe that I have a better chance of becoming the next pope than a third party or independent candidate has of winning the election in the usual manner.

Fortunately, though it’s a really long shot, there is another practical strategy that could work for a third party. In this climate, a third party candidate might be able to win a state or two with just enough electoral votes to prevent either major party candidate from getting a majority, in which case the House of Representatives will choose the president from the three candidates with the most electoral votes, and the candidate they choose could be neither Trump nor Clinton if there is at least one other candidate with some electoral votes. This could be the independent candidate who carried a few states. If the thought of voting for either major party candidate is repulsive to you, this is something you can try to bank on. I don’t think it has good odds, but neither can I suggest that it’s a waste of a vote in this election. In fact, I just might do this myself.

So, to recap, I’m saying that I can either vote for Donald Trump (as this Catholic blogger is doing), because he is better than Clinton from a policy standpoint, or I can vote for a third party or independent (probably Evan McMullin) and hope that he can prevent the major party candidates from getting a majority. If I do the former, I vote for someone who has a much better platform but risk him either not keeping his promises or causing other problems in other areas (e.g. immigration, foreign relations, scandalous conduct in general). If I do the latter, I risk making it easier for Hillary Clinton to end up winning, which would be a huge problem for being able to carry out my mission to serve Jesus Christ. Now, it’s time to pray, discern what to do, and go vote. Early voting is going on now in Tennessee. For whom will I vote? Well, I have no plans to reveal that on this site.

Category: Morality, News on My Life


New Videocast: Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

  /   Sunday, September 13, 2015   /   Comments(0)

I have uploaded and published a new videocast:

I first learned about the Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal about 15 years ago when I was traveling up I-55 to St. Louis.  It’s in Perryville, which is about an hour south of the city.  The shrine is only about a mile and half off the interstate and is really easy to find.  It’s pretty simple but beautiful and well worth seeing.  The Shrine is run by the Vincentians.  They were the first religious order of priests that I encountered when I became Catholic.  They are primarily rural missionaries, and I came from the rural area of southeast Missouri.

The Miraculous Medal was revealed to St. Catherine Laboure in 1830.  St. Catherine Laboure was a member of the Daughters of Charity, the women’s congregation of the Vincentians.  Our Lady ordered her to have the medal made, and she said that graces would about for anyone who wore it with confidence.  She went to her confessor, who eventually brought this to the archbishop (after two years), and had the medals made.  St. Catherine Laboure, however, continued to live in the usual way of a Daughter of Charity for 46 more years.  A few months before her death in 1876, Our Lady gave her permission to reveal to her superior that she was the one who received this revelation, and so she did.

Really, though, I want to emphasize that it’s important to keep God at the forefront of anything we do, including our travel.  Knowing where places of pilgrimage exist help us to do this.  We can take a break from our travel to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament at a place like this and focus ourselves on Christ.  If you are traveling this way, I’d highly recommend taking a look at this place.

Category: Videos


New Videocast: The Need to Go On Retreat and the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament

  /   Sunday, July 05, 2015   /   Comments(0)

For our life in Christ, it’s important that we take an annual retreat, and really, we need to take a family retreat (either in addition to or as your retreat).  However, my wife and I have small children.  If one of us goes on retreat, the other is left to take care of them for a whole weekend.  Taking the kids on a retreat with a lot of talks isn’t a readily available option for us.  However, we can take a pilgrimage, bring the kids briefly to Adoration, and then each take turns in silence before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  In this video, I talk about the place we go, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, AL.  I have some outside footage of it as well.  I couldn’t video inside because they prohibit it in order to maintain a place of silence.

Category: Videos


Podcast Episode: About Those Other Issues

  /   Wednesday, June 17, 2015   /   Comments(0)

I have just posted my latest podcast episode.

Download it Here.

I wanted to do a couple of podcasts, and this is the first one, on issues that are often rejected by Catholics who want to follow the teachings of the Church.  This is often a reaction to people who press these issues but reject other major Church teachings.  However, those people have a point, but the issues aren’t understood correctly.

One of the pet peeves of many Catholics who are trying to be faithful to the Church is people who call themselves Catholic but either are pro-abortion or vote for candidates who are pro-abortion.  However, those who will do this will talk about other social issues like concern for the poor.  Truthfully, we do need to be concerned for the poor, and this can be forgotten by pro-life Catholics.  Many are repulsed by social issues, and it may be due to a political ideology.  It also may be because the people who champion the other issues tend to downplay the evil of abortion, provoking a bad reaction to their other concerns (whether intended or not).  Anyway, this is what I’m talking about in this podcast.

Next time, I hope to get a videocast up before I pick up another topic like this in an audio podcast.

Category: Podcasts


Podcast Episode: Get Out of Bed

  /   Thursday, May 28, 2015   /   Comments(0)

I have just posted a new podcast episode.

Download it here

This is something that I often struggle to do for reasons that you’ll probably pick up if you hear the podcast (or if you know me).  However, this is something I try to do. A good thing to do for Christian discipline is to get up at the same time each day (maybe modifying for weekends if you need to catch up sleep), and get up immediately when it is time.  Too much sleeping in can result in a temptation to laziness.  However, do be sure to get enough sleep.

Category: Podcasts


My First YouTube Video: A Tour of My Podcast Studio

  /   Thursday, May 21, 2015   /   Comments(0)

I got a brand new DSLR for Christmas last year.  While it takes awesome pictures, I’m really interested in doing some video.  So, I’m happy to introduce my first videocast!  I’ve been wanting to do this one for a long time.

Just for fun, I wanted to show off my podcast studio and mobile setups.  I always like behind-the-scenes kind of stuff, so I wanted to do my own. All of the audio that you hear in this video was recorded using whatever device I was displaying.  The camera audio was turned off.  Hopefully, I can make some more of these before too long.

 

Category: Videos


Podcast: Our Spirituality Should Be Centered on the Eucharist

  /   Wednesday, May 20, 2015   /   Comments(0)

I have finally resumed my podcast.  It has been so long that I had trouble remembering my username and password to post the episode.  I’m hoping to get more done soon and even some videocasts on YouTube.

Download the latest episode here.

This is a brief episode on how our spiritual life should be centered on the Eucharist.  As some may know, the Eucharist was something that I longed to receive for a long time.  Even after 24 years of being Catholic, I still want to receive as much as I can.  I honestly think this barely scratches the surface of this topic, but I wanted to say something about it now.  This came to mind because I’ve had a recent schedule change at work that allows me to go to weekday Mass during my lunch break.  It has been a great blessing as I have really missed going.  Because I am no longer going to podcast over my lunch break, I won’t be calling any future episodes Lunchbreak editions.

Category: Podcasts


Just What is Education About

  /   Sunday, September 21, 2014   /   Comments(0)

My first born son is in pre-school now.  We found a great Catholic pre-school that operates a modified Montessori program.  From around the time we moved to the Nashville area, I’ve been thinking about what kind of school we will send our children to.  My understanding of education has changed a lot since I was a student.  Some of what I’m going to write about here is years away, but I think it’s good for me to think about it now.

When I was getting ready to go to school, my marching order was “You will major in something in which you can get a job.”  I had no argument here.  I wanted to have a job and be independent, and I didn’t want to “waste” time on anything that I wasn’t going to use.  In high school, I even wrote an essay against have a liberal arts curriculum.  I balked at any kind of philosophy or intellectual tradition.  I figured that there were too many crazy people involved in that for it to be anything worthwhile anyway.  I had a roommate taking a course in logic, and I wondered why he bothered.  Before entering pharmacy school, I even asked a philosophy professor what people did with a degree in philosophy.

Then, I graduated and entered residency.  Some challenges to my faith caused me to do some searching for whether it were possible for someone to know the truth.  The intellectual tradition didn’t seem so silly anymore and neither did all that philosophy stuff.  Although I didn’t have a total picture, I realized that the Catholic Church had an intellectual tradition, and having at least some understanding of it was a major key to knowing the truth of the Catholic faith.  At least, at that time, I began to understand that the thinking skills taught by a philosophy course would help me to explain to people why faith in God and Christian morality are not just arbitrary things.

This, along with what I have discovered since, led me to have a completely different idea of the education that I want my children to have.  The very first thing that we need to be concerned about for them is their eternal salvation.  Ultimately, everything in their education should be leading them to God.  All of the stuff about going to college and getting a job is secondary and should be pointed towards this end.  This doesn’t mean that they can’t study subjects like math and science.  All true knowledge leads to God.  However, math and science cannot be the only thing they know well, as it was for me.

The National Catholic Register published a recent article about new interest being shown in a classical education.  It is described as focusing on the “trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric” and the “quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.”  The result will be students with better thinking and reasoning skills.  Most importantly, it is leading the students to an encounter with Christ.

This is in contrast to the Common Core.  From what I understand of it, which isn’t much, it is a utilitarian type of education.  In the Common Core, literature is largely replaced by informational texts.  The emphasis is on college and career preparation.  The administrator of one classical education school, on the other hand, stated that, “We don’t want our children to aim for college and a career.  We want them to aim for the good life.”  Another article that I’ve read even suggests that, in college, we should “resist the temptation to pursue degrees aimed at finding a job.”

This is an area where I do have some concern.  I do want my children, as well as other faithful Catholics, to be able to train to get a good job.  The fact is that our children will someday have to have the ability to do a job and pay our bills.  We can’t just toss this aside because it is quite simply reality.  I would not want to suggest that godly people avoid professional schools where they learn to be doctors, pharmacists, engineers, and other professions.  Otherwise, the only people who will be left in those professions are people who are not believers and whose moral compass will not lead us in the right direction.

However, I’m even more concerned about things like Common Core, education solely for the purpose of obtaining a job, and education that concentrates solely on math and science.   After all, I do not want my children formed for corporate America.  I don’t want my children to learn to, as a pharmacy preceptor during my residency would say, learn to do things “right” and not be able to reflect on whether they are doing the right things.  I’ve seen too many things about how we seek fulfillment in our careers, and yet, there is far more to life than our career.

When I went to college and later pharmacy school, I encountered a lot that I was not intellectually prepared to answer.  Some of it was pretty subtle.  I want to see my kids have the ability to critically think about what is being presented to them and not simply be ruled by sentiments or the lines of secular society.  They need to have an understanding of the philosophical history and thinking of our civilization as well as where it went wrong.  When they go to college, I want them not to fall for any of the “isms” that will be presented (The book Disorientation is an excellent read about this.).

The best way to get them ready to think is through a more classical education.  I’d like to think that I can find some kind of Great Books program or liberal studies program that will form them as people.  They especially need a solid formation in the Catholic Faith so that they know it and can explain it to others.  The problem that I’m going to have is that I never had this kind of education, and my understanding of why I needed it came later in life.  Somehow, I need to make sure my kids get what they need to be real thinkers, not people who simply swallow society’s lines in the name of “thinking for themselves.”  They need job training, but they need more than job training.  They need formation for all of life, both in this life and in eternity.

Category: Catholic, Response


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