At the end of time, he said, “we will be face to face” with God. “It’s beautiful to think about this, isn’t it, to think about heaven. All of us will be there, all of us. It’s beautiful and gives us strength.”
Hmmm, all of us? Does this mean Francis follows von Balthasar on this question, who famously asked (and answered affirmatively), Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved? (The ensuing dustup brought about the clarification that the key word is “hope,” not “claim.”)
Or did Francis mean “all of us here in St. Peter’s Square today”? (A few thousand were gathered under umbrellas, we’re told.)
Or “all of us Catholics”? I don’t think so.
Or maybe the sense is that “all of us who will be there will be there”? That would save it. At least for those busily twisting themselves into pretzels the last 20 months trying to saving Francis from his seemingly untraditional comments. I doubt he had such logical contortions in mind.
So… what is it? Just asking.
FWIW, here’s my hunch: Francis is a nice guy, a pastor at heart, who is filled with God’s love, and he can’t help from it spilling out all over. Probably best to read his comments in that sense, rather than search for a precise doctrinal formulation.
* * * * *
Oh good. I see that the pope believes in purgatory. I personally think that, at the ecumenical bargaining table going forward, so to speak, we Catholics can’t negotiate away purgatory.
Pope Francis said this today:
We are always invited to offer good deeds, prayer and the Eucharist itself to alleviate the suffering of souls who are still waiting for the bliss without end.
One of my pet peeves is preachers who reassure mourners that “So-and-so is in heaven now.” Really? Then why are we offering the Eucharistic sacrifice for the deceased at the funeral, and why are we using orations of the Missal that claim no such thing? I wonder if such well-meaning happy-talk priests realize just how much of the whole Catholic theological and liturgical edifice they’re undermining with their casual generosity.
I feel a bit small-minded complaining about this, as if I want my God to be less loving, as if I want to extract more punishment from other people. I hope it’s not that. I just believe that growth doesn’t stop at death, that God isn’t done with us yet. And that the grave doesn’t separate us from the deceased and that’s why we can pray from them. And of course they’re outside of time, so we needn’t worry too much about (or try to understand) how it is that we pray “now” for those who are at some point “already” in heaven. There’s no “now” and “already” over there.
So how about we make this rule? You can and should say all the most happy, positive, generous, and loving things you can think of about the fate of beloved deceased. Just make it a hope, not a claim. Keep in mind that the judgment of the world has been given over to the Son of Man, not to the Catholic priest or lay minister. Make it a confident hope, that is the proper Christian spirit. But don’t say “Anthony is in heaven.” Say something like “I’m sure our loving God will bring Anthony to himself in heaven,” or “God is merciful and wants Anthony and all of us to be with him forever,” or “Let’s pray for Anthony, confident that God forgives all sins.”
Whaddayathink? Do I need a bit more of Francis’ generous, pastoral spirit? Am I being too logical?