Monday, October 24, 2011

So, Why Catholic? part 5

This is a continuation on the reasons I've accepted the Catholic faith.
Part 1 here.
Parts 2 and 3 here.
Part 4 here.

5. Views on Afterlife. I’ve already explained how purgatory makes sense to me. Heaven is pure, and even the best of believers might have sins that need to be purged before being capable of existence in heaven. They are still part of the communion of saints, which extends and unites through heaven, purgatory, and earth. It seems so obvious though I had never seen it this way before: Christ’s conquering of death doesn’t just mean we get to go to heaven; it means the veil between this world and the next is ripped open.

Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out praying to saints. Yes, I believe it’s like asking a friend to pray for you, but 1. I normally don’t do that and 2. Why spend time asking for prayer when I could be praying? It feels like an unnecessary step that as a former Protestant, I’m still uncomfortable with. It’s certainly something for me to work on. Yet despite my struggles with it, I think it’s beautiful that departed saints who never knew me on earth love me (and everyone) so much that they look over us and pray for us, and that when I die, I’ll be filled with that kind of caritas.

There is also the beatific vision, being able to directly see God. Being with God in heaven is not the soft picture of sitting on clouds and being dressed in white. It's overwhelming joy at God permeating all your senses. I can't imagine joy comparable to the actual presence of God. It should be the ultimate goal.

What anyone knows about the afterlife is murky, and so much of it is speculation. Some believe nothing happens, but most that believe in an afterlife believe in an existence without suffering and complete joy. Sometimes you have to follow the rules to get in, sometimes you have to be reincarnated multiple times to reach it, but once there, only good exists. Any belief in an afterlife requires faith; most faiths require belief in an afterlife. Because it is such a leap of faith, I don’t like getting hung up on the particulars: What’s heaven like? Can people who have died interact with us? In the final resurrection, what happens to people who were cremated or whose bodies have decomposed? Does hell include physical torture? How long does purgatory last? If we spent all our time on earth tossing around our speculations on the afterlife, we wouldn’t get much done, and we still wouldn’t come to a consensus. Yet I still believe and still strive.

Once you accept a faith, it’s better to not overanalyze or fear the tiny details of the afterlife. (Though it is important to study and understand the theology.) It’s much better to strive to be worthy of grace. That’s the best way to receive it.

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