Tag Archives: catechism

Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: The Problem With Purgatory

Purgatory-Traffic-SignI was nine-years-old before I ever heard the word “Purgatory.” I playing some elaborate pretend game with a friend of mine when she announced that her character was going to die and that she would continue to interact with my character from the hereafter. (Believe me, It made perfect sense in the context of the story and if you knew anything about the two of us at all, you would understand that we were a tad…unconventional to put it mildly. LOL)

So of course we staged this dramatic death bed scene in which I hugged her, told her character how much I would miss her and then laid her to rest near a bush in the backyard that quite frankly, looked like it should have been a tombstone. A few minutes later, I watched as she stood in front of the bush with her arms out like she was waiting for the mother ship to beam her up and said, “What are you doing?”

“Getting my sins burned off in Purgatory,” she said, solemnly.

Where? I wondered. She said it so seriously like it was a real thing, but the only place I had ever heard of where fire was possibly involved was Hell. I assumed she had made up the word. “But your character was good. She wouldn’t have gone…Down There.”

My friend looked at me like I was crazy. “I didn’t go Down There, I went to Purgatory. You have to wait there for a while before you can go to Heaven.”

This was a new one on me. Prior to this conversation, I was only aware of two final destinations and none of them involved what sounded like a celestial equivalent to a doctor’s waiting room. “Let me get this straight,” I began. “God’s in charge of this Purgatory place, so it’s not like where the Devil is.”

“Right. It’s not a bad place to be, but it’s not Heaven either,” she told me.

I ran that one around in my head a few times. “So how long do you have to stay there?” I wanted to know.

She shrugged. “It depends on how bad you were here on Earth. If you die with a lot of sins on your soul you could be there for millions of years.”

Millions of years? Oh, she had to be pulling my leg. “I don’t understand. Why do your sins have to be burned off? Can’t God just take them away?”

“It’s not like that kind of fire,” she informed me, as if she had personal experience with the place. “It’s not hot. It’s warm and it makes you better. It doesn’t burn you up.”

My mother called me in for dinner after that and my friend went home, but the conversation stayed with me all throughout dinner, as I took my bath and got ready for bed that night. When my mom came in to tuck me in, I came right out and asked, “What’s Purgatory?”

“Where did you hear about Purgatory?” She wanted to know.

I offered her the five second explanation of what went down in the backyard, but before I could ask for any clarification, she dismissed the whole thing by saying, “Oh don’t worry about that. You’ll go to Heaven.”

But I wasn’t so sure. So, naturally I went to my father. “What’s Purgatory?”

My dad looked a little uncomfortable as though I had touched on something forbidden or taboo. “It’s a Catholic belief,” he said simply.

“So you don’t believe in it?” I asked.

He shook his head. “No, I don’t.”

I thought my parents had a very strange attitude where this Purgatory place was concerned and it wasn’t helping me at all. My dad was pretty smart and even though I knew there were some “differences” between his faith and mine, this seemed like a pretty big thing to disagree on. I didn’t like the idea of believing in something that my dad seemed fairly confident wasn’t there. And what about my mom? Dad said that Purgatory was a Catholic belief, but my mom dismissed the idea of it so fast, I couldn’t help but wonder if she DID believe in it. After all, she had been Methodist before she was Catholic. Maybe she didn’t believe in Purgatory either.

And if this place was so important, then WHY hadn’t I heard about it before now? I was in fourth grade. I had two sacraments under my belt, a phenomenal amount of prayers committed to memory and logged more hours in religion class than I could count. How had I missed the Purgatory discussion?

After giving it considerable thought and reading the section of the Bible where the concept is drawn from, I decided it was too loose of an interpretation for me to buy into. Now, I know this will not make me popular with hard core Catholics, but I stand my ground. The issue of Purgatory was very difficult for me to write about in The Idiot’s Guide to Catholicism because I just wasn’t sure. It was as if I couldn’t do it with a straight face or without rolling my eyes. It’s not that I didn’t want to, I just…struggled. At one point, I called my former religion teacher in desperation and said, “How am I going to sell this to the populous if I don’t believe it myself?”

“Wait a minute, why don’t you believe in Purgatory?” She asked.

God love this woman. She listened as I recounted the tale, laughing at the idea of two little girls talking about this over a game of pretend and how frustrating it must have been for me to ask my parents and come up empty on an answer. “No wonder you don’t believe in it. You grew up in a post-Vatican II world where no one talked about it. You lived in a home where it wasn’t discussed and then all of a sudden you heard about it and couldn’t confirm it? Why would you believe in it?”

She put on her “teacher hat” and began to explain Purgatory to me from the ground up. She didn’t tell me that I had to believe in it, but she gave me food for thought. I still struggle with the idea but if you haven’t believed in something for four decades, it’s a little hard to suddenly buy into it overnight. Thankfully she understood that and encouraged me to pray on it.

I have, but so far I have not reached a conclusion. While I would love to be a good Catholic girl with a rock solid faith, like it or not, God made me this way and He seems to like challenges. Who am I to deny Him of a great Fixer Upper project like me?

IG Catholicism Cover  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Catholicism is available wherever books are sold including:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/idiots-guides-unknown/1119619022?ean=9781615647194

2 Comments

Filed under Confessions of a Cynical Catholic

Happy Monday! Happy Memorial Day!

Hello Everyone!!!

It seems like forever since I have blogged, and in a way…I guess it has been! For all of you who thought I might have been dead the past few months, I assure you, my life has been crazier than usual, and that is saying something.

So, what have I been up to? Well, when last I left you, I was neck deep in my latest writing project, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Catholicism. After a few intense months of reading more of the Catechism than I EVER intended to and researching more patron saints than I ever knew existed, I am almost finished with the manuscript which will be available in January 2015. I am pleased to say that I did NOT end up being an atheist after all of this, and in fact, I have new found respect for some of the rules that prior to this writing, didn’t always make a lot of sense. I’m not saying that I think the Church is right about everything, but I definitely understand the logic they used to come up with some of these things. (And in a few subject matters, I have determined that the Church is a lot more inclusive than I gave them credit for.)

One of the fun things about writing something like this is being able to explain things in “real words” knowing that a priest has looked over it and agreed with my assessment of the subject. When I had to tackle one of the hot bed issues facing the Church, I flat out said that the language used in the Catechism does not read well and only serves to confuse the situation. One chapter is dedicated to asking a priest a bunch of burning questions and I have to say that his answers were very thoughtful, insightful and not full of the “party line.” I really worked hard on this book and I truly hope everyone likes it when it is published!

I also spent the last few months planning two weddings. For everyone who was shocked by the surprise announcement that I was getting married, rest assured…it was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. It was decided at the end of last year, but I am one of those weirdos who refuses to put every aspect of her life on Facebook. I often tell people that I “talk a lot, but I rarely say anything important.”

Wedding1    Opting out of a big “event,” we decided to get married in Disney World (partly because the scenery is fantastic) and to wrap both the ceremony and honeymoon into one occasion. This was thwarted when I learned that the Catholic Church doesn’t really “do” weddings in theme parks. No problem. We decided to get married “officially” here in Indiana and then do a small vow renewal in WDW a few weeks later. I didn’t think the Indiana wedding was going to be a big deal until my priest offered to marry us on EASTER SUNDAY. Now, I know that Easter travels around the calendar like Thanksgiving, but I am no fool…if you have the chance to get married on the biggest day of the Church Calendar, you take it!

photo-2    So I was all excited about the upcoming nuptials and the book I was working on, when FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME was released. Talk about adding fuel to the inferno of my life! LOL I had waited so long for this novel to be published and I could not wait to share the story of MonAmi with all of my readers. Everyone who has read it has been very pleased with it and has said nothing but good things. Thank you all for being so supportive. As I started the FMOF publicity campaign, Terri Stacey at WIBC asked me for an interview and when we were finished taping it, she mentioned that it would run on Easter Sunday. I had to laugh and then told her what I would be doing on Easter…she was sooooo excited that she asked me if she could announce my wedding on the radio! Could this get any better? I was so glad that I had kept it kind of quiet up to that point and would have the thrill of hearing it on air before walking down the aisle! Even my youngest son thought it was quite the coup:

 Vincent: So let me get this straight, you are getting married on Easter. The wedding is being announced on the

          radio on a show featuring an interview with you while promoting your book? 

         Julie: That is correct. 

         Vincent: Well now, that’s just a banner day for you isn’t it? 

Wedding 2    It was a small but beautiful ceremony attended by some of our closest friends and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I didn’t have to worry about centerpieces, a band, table cloths or renting a reception hall. We bought a small cake, invited everyone back to the house for some food and sat around my dining room table chatting. I didn’t feel like I didn’t “see” somebody or feel so stressed out that I couldn’t enjoy the day. As much as I love the pomp and circumstance of a big wedding…I’m telling you, there is something to be said for a small affair!

wedding 3    After Easter, the countdown was on for Disney. Again, their wedding coordinators made the choices simple so that I merely had to show up, go where they told me to go and do what they told me to do. Our biggest splurge on both events was the castle photo shoot. I’m telling you…its definitely worth the price to take over Cinderella’s palace before the park opened. (even better, it didn’t rain!)

So, now that the weddings are over, the book is almost completed and FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME has been launched, I am looking forward to the future. This summer, I will be appearing to promote my little rock star at a variety of venues, I will be covering stories once again for local magazines, playing lots of tennis and hopefully gearing up for my next big project which is TBA for the time being. (I know you understand)

Rest assured, I will have some upcoming Buy It, Borrow it or Bag It’s coming up in the near future, and we will see the return of fabulous fridays. Just know I am still among the land of the living and I thank each and every one of you for your support!

Keep Rockin’

Julie

Follow Julie Young on Twitter @JulieYoung14

Like Julie Young on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjulieyoung

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized