A few years ago, I began praying for those in purgatory as I drove by any cemetery that I came upon. A series of, one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be prayers was a carryover from my days in the Knights of Columbus honor guards. We would do this series at every funeral wake we were asked to stand guard at. It was our way of a sendoff to a brother or sister. To me, it made a lot of sense to remember, that as Catholics, we believe that Jesus destroyed the power of death by his resurrection. As St. Paul states, “If then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.”
The idea to pray as I passed a cemetery was a routine I developed. It allowed me to pray for those who need us to pray for them, and it gave me strength to not fear death; that it was a part of life — not an end, but a beginning.
Even if we are not perfect, the purification of purgatory allows us to eventually be in eternity with our heavenly Father. I heard a priest once say, “If I just make it to purgatory, I know I’ll be OK.” I liked that saying. But we need to remember to pray for those in purgatory who can no longer pray for themselves. I hope one day upon my death, I meet someone who will come up to me and say, “Thank you for praying for me and getting me to heaven.” Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
A few years ago, I was driving home from an honor guard at a Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield. The path home I drove took me by Calvary Cemetery. As I drove down J. David Jones Parkway, I began my series of three prayers, first with the Our Father. As I finished the prayer, I distinctly heard a man’s voice say, “Thank you.” It was clear, no mistaking it. The windows were down in my car, and I did not have my radio on. I remember even turning the radio on and back off to be certain. I looked around to see if someone was stowed away in my car. I remember almost leaving the road as I did so! I went back to my prayers and realized that maybe what I heard was one of those unknown people we should pray for.
That moment is now forever engrained in my memory. My prayers hopefully brought a person closer to God, as well as it did me! It took away my fear of the mortality we face in death. It strengthened my resolve that this is not the end — it is merely the beginning. We should not fear death of loved ones. Sure, we will miss them, but we should never stop praying for them (and pray for ourselves). Remember, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Through Jesus, we shall never die but live in eternal peace.
Andrew Krug lives in Sherman and is a parishioner at St. John Vianney Parish. He is one of eight men set to become permanent deacons in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois next year.