I’ve never read Dante, although it’s on my “To do” list, but I do like his idea of circles for heaven and hell and I assume there are even circles of purgatory; though as I said, I haven’t read his work yet. (Is that a terrible HE mother admission or what?)
As Fr Ray points out, the Church doesn’t presume to know who is in hell and therefore there have been those like von Balthasar who suggest hell may only be populated by Satan and his fallen angel comrades. But I think if we are realistic and look hard at Free Will, (and listen to Our Lady at Fatima and other places and other saints like St John Bosco) we know that ain’t so. The angels were all in heaven before the Glory and Love of God and still a third of them chose to nose dive out of there, at the point of St Michael’s sword; so it’s only
sadly reasonable to accept that there are people who choose not to want to live in His Presence. God loves us so much He respects the choices we make, even if it’s to exist eternally as far a way from Him as possible. Dante understood this choice of wanting to be away from the fire of God’s love and had the lower parts of hell frozen to show just how far from the Fire some choose to go. Dante was also cheeky enough to name some people he expected to find in various circles.
At Mass today Father pointed out that the root of Blessedness is forgiveness. That it is those who show mercy, and forgive others who will themselves obtain mercy and be forgiven. He said forgiveness is the root of happiness – because true happiness is Blessedness.
The Beatitudes, the Gospel reading today, are expressed in both the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy. In fact Jesus says so Himself at another point in the Gospel where He describes Judgement as separating those who carried out the works of mercy; visit the sick, those in prison, feed the hungry, clothe the naked etc. The ones who didn’t do any of this went off to hell.
While today we think of the souls gone before us, most of whom we pray and hope are either in heaven or purgatory, there is the fear that even among those we know and love, some aren’t there- although we pray they are. Tomorrow is All Saints, and Father reminded us that we shouldn’t look at the saints as people so far beyond us, but as people we aspire to be.
While all the ghosts and ghouls, glow in the dark skeli’s and scary lanterns remind us of the darker side of death, what we really want to remember is that those who have died await our prayers as they pray for us.
So after Mass I lit a candle for my friend Donna whom I miss and pray she is finally Home; and I remember Dot and hope she’s Home too.
Father will take the relatives of many at Church up to the Crem and graveyard this afternoon for the Blessing of the Graves. There’s something peaceful about that.