During this month of November, a month dedicated to saints in heaven and souls in purgatory, let’s take advantage of this time and reflect on one of the more mis-understood teachings of the Church, which is Purgatory. It is not a second- chance hell, or even hell-lite as some claim it to be, but a teaching and a place that reflects the beauty of our Creator. Some things to consider:
- Taught by the Fathers of the Church: This is not something that was made-up during the middle ages, but has been part of the doctrine of the Church from the earliest days. While it is true that the term ‘purgatory’ may not have been used, the teaching or idea is not new. In The City of God Augustine states, “But of those who suffer temporary punishments after death, all are not doomed to those everlasting pains which are to follow that judgment; for to some, as we have already said, what is not remitted in this world is remitted in the next, that is, they are not punished with the eternal punishment of the world to come.”
- Souls in purgatory will know their fate. One wonders, if a faithful Christian dies and finds himself suffering in the afterlife, will he be able to tell the difference between hell and purgatory? Will he know that he is heaven-bound? On this issue, the answer seems a decisive yes. The ancient Liturgies and the inscriptions of the catacombs speak of a ‘sleep of peace,’ which would be impossible if there was any doubt of ultimate salvation.”
- We pray for souls in purgatory, but it is good to ask them for prayers as well. We may not know the effectiveness of these prayers until we leave this world, but as souls closer to God than us, this makes them powerful intercessors.
- As part of the Church Suffering, the poor souls are united with Christ, and remain a part of the Mystical Body of Christ. Although the poor souls do not yet enjoy the Beatific Vision, they are not in a completely separated state, but are in union with Christ and other poor souls serving God’s purpose.
- St. Catherine of Genoa, author of a treatise on purgatory, says that once the soul sees what is in store in heaven, it immediately casts itself into purgatory. She also states that there is more to purgatory than the sense of pain and suffering that we tend to focus on. In fact, she sees it as a state of great happiness: ‘I believe no happiness can be found worthy to be compared with that of a soul in purgatory except the saints in Paradise’.
- Purgatory makes saints: Catholic teaching states that those souls that have reached a state of sanctity that they do not need the purifying fires of purgatory go straight to heaven. These we call saints. Those that have not yet reached this state of sanctification go through a period of purification. Simply put, only saints get into heaven, purgatory makes saints out of all who enter.
Prayer of St Gertrude: Eternal Father, I offer You the most Precious Blood of Your Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for all sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O’ Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon them