I was never drawn to Catholicism. But I certainly know what some of the doctrine points to in life. My denomination in its wisdom assigned me for 3 months to go over to the church formerly known as Trinity UCC and inventory all of the property and equipment so that it could be sold or distributed to other congregations. Every day I went to my former office and put in at least 8 hours cataloguing everything, making lists, boxing hymnals, bibles, Sunday school curriculum books, files. I knew I was not in hell—or heaven either—I had given up believing in a 2-story universe long ago. Besides, there was suffering during this period. Aha! This must be purgatory! The Catholics got it partly right after all!
It was the suffering of purgatory, a painful purification process. The ego was being put through it. Herr Pastor was dying. Actually, the image of who I was was dying. I was in a desert. I was adrift on a dead sea with tattered sails and no fair wind in sight. Abandoned by God. Alone. All hope gone. Now even “purgatory” could not hold this experience. Even my family was no solace. I could hardly face them. The only respite I found during this time of terror was in learning to play O Sacred Head Now Wounded on the Hammond organ. When I would find myself staring at the empty room with the ghosts of Trinity Church appearing and disappearing, I would go to that old Hammond and play it over and over until I couldn’t stand it anymore.
“O sacred head now wounded
With grief and shame weighed down
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns thine only crown . . .”
Purgatory was not adequate to describe this period after all. There was no doctrine that could hold it. All that was left was to go through it.