By Anacletus Anyanwuocha
The ultimate message Christians can draw from the celebration of the feast of All Saints is that it is a call on all to live holy lives in order to be in Heaven hereafter. “By virtue of our baptism every Christian is called to holy life.”
Chancellor of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, Very Rev. Fr. Christopher Bologo stated this in a chat with the Good Shepherd recently in his Garki office, Abuja. Explaining issues about the Catholic feasts of All Saints and All Souls, Fr. Bologo said the Church believes that the vast multitude of people who die every day may all not be so good to enter Heaven or so bad to go to hell, hence the Church, he said set aside a day to pray for all the souls of the faithful departed. “So there must be a place for spiritual cleansing where people who may not be too holy to enter Heaven or too bad to go to hell will be cleansed in order to prepare them for Heaven. This is the doctrine of Purgatory which we hold so dear in the Catholic Church,” he said.
Fr. Bologo further stated that the celebration of All Saints and All Souls is built on the foundation and belief that some dead faithful are not in heaven and yet not in hell and need prayers to prepare them spiritually to be cleansed to enter Heaven, reason the Church prays for them.
When asked if there is any Biblical authority to this doctrine of Purgatory, Fr. Bologo replied in the affirmative saying; “Yes there is a basis for this. Though you cannot find any word like Purgatory in the Bible, but you can find in the Book of Maccabees Chapter 12 verses 44 – 45; where we are told that it is a good thing, an honorable thing to pray for the dead. Reflecting on this quotation, Fr. Bologo rhetorically asked, “So if you conclude that once somebody dies he/she either goes to Heaven or hell then there will be no basis for praying for the dead. If a passage in the Bible says as I have quoted above that it is honorable and good to pray for the dead, it means that even after somebody has died, he is in a state where somebody can pray for him or her to enter Heaven and that state is what we believe is Purgatory.”
What is the position of the Church about those people who might have lived holy lives while on earth but nobody seem to be acknowledging them as the Church merely celebrate the recognized or Canonized saints? Rev Fr. Bologo gave answer thus; “The ultimate is to live a holy life and go to Heaven. The saints that we celebrate almost on daily basis in Church are those who have been officially recognized by the Church to have lived holy lives while on earth. They are a tiny minority, a very small minority in deed because there are so many people who had lived very holy lives who have died and we have not officially recognized them as so lived.” He however said that does not take away the fact that such people had live holy lives. “Yes we have few who are recognized by the Church and set as examples, as models of how we should live on earth. It doesn’t mean that those who have not been recognized are not saints or that they did not live holy lives.” He explained that All Saints Day celebration is in fact made for the celebration of saints that are not recognized, those unknown.
“The other saints we celebrate on daily basis include those unknown too but we celebrate more those who are unknown who have died and are living with God. Mind you there are saints who have died and are still living.”
Fr. Bologo used St Mother Teresa of Calcutta as a good example of a person known to have lived a saintly live even while on earth. “She was known to be a living saint so All Saints Day celebrates both the dead and living saints. When Catholics celebrate All Saints, the priest further explained, it is a way of saying yes we thank God for those people who have lived holy lives or who are still living holy lives. “We are saying that all hope is not lost about those who have left us. We don’t know where they are. They may be in Heaven, they may be in Purgatory and so there is need to pray for them so that they can enter Heaven because some of them may have been earmarked to stay in Purgatory for a long period. Ones stay in Purgatory depends on prayers that help cleans him so that his soul can be released to Heaven.
A major lesson for Christians from the celebration of All Saints is that it teaches us to work harder so that when we die, we may not need to go to Purgatory but straight to Heaven.