The thing I dreaded most in boot camp was the very first PT test we had to take. I wasn’t worried too much about the pushups or the sit ups. I feared the run. I have never been a runner. I have a long torso and shorter legs and am about as graceful as an albatross on ice skates when I run. I have never had any endurance for running so I avoid doing so whenever possible. The first run we had to do in boot camp was a mile and a half in nine and a half minutes. It was done in formation at a controlled pace.
Our company recruit chief petty officer was Seaman Recruit Brewer from Louisville, Kentucky. He was a man I admired, respected, and thought of as a friend. He gave a speech to the company the night before we were to take the PT test. He told how he would be disappointed with anyone not passing the test. This made me fear the test that much more because I did not want to disappoint this man.
I did ok the first couple laps but then the fatigue and pain set in. I wanted more than anything to quit, to move to the side with the other men who weren’t up to the task. At the back of the company was Seaman Recruit Brewer. He was yelling at the company to keep going, to keep up the pace, not to stop. A few others joined him as we ran. This motivated me to keep going, to push on through the searing pain in my side. My moaning and groaning got increasingly louder with each lap. Those around me tried to quiet my screams fearing one of the instructors would pull me out of the group and fail me. None did.
Brewer’s motivation continued the entire run. We had about ten guys who dropped out unable to finish. I was not among them. Although I screamed in agony over half the run I never quit. I never fell back or out of pace with the company. When I crossed the finish line all of the pain I suffered suddenly vanished and I was awash in a happiness and joy I had never felt before. I didn’t stop running. I couldn’t believe I had made it.
As a Catholic, I pray for the dead. I believe in purgatory. Heaven is the final place for the perfected. Hell is the final place for the condemned. Purgatory is the place where those who will warrant heaven, but are not completely perfected, go to be perfected. If I were to die right now I would die in right relation with the Lord. This means, that as far as I know, I do not have any mortal sins I have not been forgiven of. I do have a laundry list of venial sins racked up. I am not even close to being in a perfected state. I need a period in the fire of God’s love to burn away all that is not perfect within me. Then, and only then, I will be able to see God for what he actually is – perfect love.
When we pray for the dead we pray for those in purgatory. Prayers are offered in love and love is never wasted with God. We become like what Seaman Recruit Brewer was for me; motivation to continue to the fulfillment of the race. Those in purgatory can hear our prayers. They provide strength and inspiration to continue with the perfection. To let go of those stubborn attachments to sin we all have in our lives. There are many who, through no fault of their own, have no one who is praying for them. They run the race alone and the temptation to quit is great.
Pray for the dead. Your act of love hastens the “time” in purgatory. A perfected person is a Saint living in heaven with God. There they can repay the love you showed them by intercessing directly to Jesus on your behalf. It is the goal of every person to get those they love to heaven. We do it on this side of heaven through our prayers for the ones who have gone before and those who have successfully finished the race do it on that side of heaven for us.
Love is great that way.