Purgatory and the Battle of Good and Evil
Though 15 years have passed since the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, the horrific event was foremost on the minds of those who attended the 6th Annual Holy Souls Sodality Conference, which took place Sunday, on Sept. 11, at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Father Dan Cambra, MIC, the spiritual director of the Marians' Holy Souls Sodality, opened the conference with a story about one of his seminary classmates from the Diocese of Rockville Center, New York, who was faced with 340 funerals following the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. "Some of his parishioners waited four months for the remains of their loved ones," he said. But Fr. Dan also also recounted a story about a man who was in the World Trade Center who survived the attack and how, after that life-altering experience, this man found his purpose in life.
"We, too, have one purpose," Fr. Dan told the 150 people gathered at the conference. "We have an important task of saving lives from a more eternal disaster — the fires of hell," he said. "And we can help people who are [in Purgatory] move on to their destiny, which is Christ."
The conference began at 11 a.m. and included a keynote talk by Fr. Dan, followed by Adoration, praying of the Holy Rosary, and Holy Mass at the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine. The day closed with praying of the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
In his talk, Fr. Dan talked about evil — such as the kind we witnessed on our own soil with the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. 15 years ago, as well as those we continue to witness around the world today. But there is no such thing as absolute evil, he said. "Even in hell, there is no demon who is absolutely evil," Fr. Dan explained.
He said that people looked at Saul as someone who was absolutely evil, but Saul thought he was doing a good by keeping people away from the Christian faith. The Christian response to Saul was atypical because Christians were praying for Saul, Fr. Dan said. "That's why after St. Paul [formerly "Saul"] accepted Christ, he would tell people who were following him to 'pray for your persecutors'."
Even today, when we are confronted with evil, our response is often harsh, and it's difficult to come up with a Christian response. But harsh words and slander are not going to help anyone, he reasoned. Rather, we need to pray that those who commit evil, come to conversion. Like the early Christians, we need to have a different response. We can't have this "us/them" mentality, Fr. Dan said. This kind of mentality led to slavery, and Nazism, and to modern-day Isis. He urged us to think like the early Christians who had the mentality of "us before God" — before a God who is absolute goodness.
Evil can sometimes have a semblance of good, but it is not a good, he said. "Sometimes, when we taste the fruit that tempts us, we want it again and again," Fr. Dan said. But evil can teach us patience and fortitude, he explained. "When we endure evil in our lives, if we endure it with grace, it will help us to increase in virtue."
Sometimes, like in the parable about the wheat and the weeds (see Mt 13:24-30), it's hard to tell the difference between good and evil, Fr. Dan explained. Indeed, it's only when they both mature that we can see that something went wrong and can then see the hand of the enemy. He said, though, that wheat can't become weeds, but good people can become bad people. Alternatively, bad people can become good people by the grace of God.
"You and I are in the battle of good and evil," he said. "By praying for the souls in Purgatory, we are daily involved in conversations about good and evil, and, while we need to continue to pray for those who are persecuting the Church, it is the eternal call of our lives to do the good that we are capable of doing."
And what we are capable of doing is praying for the Holy Souls.
Visit PrayForSouls.org to learn more about devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory.