Catholics in Shrewsbury are being encouraged to use Lent to consider final judgement, heaven, hell and purgatory.
The Rt Rev. Mark Davies, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, said in a pastoral letter to be read at Masses in the First Sunday of Lent that meditation on the “Last Things” might help the faithful to accept the invitation to conversion in their lives.
In his letter, the Bishop noted the observation of Blessed John Paul II in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, that many people today have lost the sense of the “Last Things”, the body of teaching that deals with death, judgement, the destination of our immortal souls and the bodily resurrection.
“Being aware of this limited time on earth and all that is to follow – our judgment, our purgatory, heaven or hell forever – becomes an urgent invitation to conversion in our lives,” the Bishop said.
“This is the urgency to which Lent and Easter now recalls us with the poignant mark of ashes.
“It is the realisation of what the Psalmist calls ‘the shortness of lives’ which helps shape our priorities and gives each day a new urgency in the light of all eternity before us.”
Bishop Davies (pictured preaching and administering ashes in St Werburgh’s Church, Birkenhead, on Ash Wednesday) also explained why the Catholic Church resists the temptation to simply look back in a “celebration of life” at funerals, saying that the focus is instead the final destination of the soul of the deceased in view of the pledge of eternal life promised by Our Lord.
“The Church always prays as she believes and so it is not because we disapprove of the lyrics of Frank Sinatra or the chants of the football terraces that we insist that secular songs find no place in the prayer of the Christian funeral,” the Bishop said. “It is that the Church prays only as she believes.”
Bishop Davies also reminded Catholics that besides the great hope of heaven, there is also the “terrifying reality” of hell of which the Gospel repeatedly speaks. Purgatory, the Bishop adds, is a “consoling hope” for us because it offers the assurance of salvation, that the soul might finally “rest in peace”.
(Photos: St Gabriel News and Media)