We have a tendency, I think, to forget — and to worry, instead, about our own personal concerns: the kid who is failing chemistry, the bills that are past due, the anxieties that keep all of us up at night, staring at the ceiling, whispering to God, “Help me.”
But blogger Kathy Schiffer offers a timely reminder:
Well, some of you may know that my mother died recently; and over a period of days, I talked with many people—many of whom assured me that she was most certainly already in heaven. They said it in different ways: “She suffered her Purgatory here on earth, during her time in the nursing home.” “She’s finally at rest.” “God has taken her to be with Him.” “She’s happy with your dad now, at last.”
To which I say (excuse my bluntness), “How the hell would you know that?”
The effect of Purgation, as I understand it, is that the person becomes Shiny Like God. Only when all sin is eliminated, when the soul shines with a purity and grace unknown on this earth, will he or she be ready to enter into eternal happiness in heaven.
That could happen in an instant, or over a long period of time. In our casual culture, it’s common to act as though the deceased person has already passed through any unfortunate suffering which might be imposed, and is already in the arms of the Father. But why would we presume that?
I remember a story from a childhood book on Our Lady of Fatima. Mary, speaking to the three young visionaries, told them that one young woman—a girl of about 14, if I recall—“would be in Purgatory until the end of Time.” What sort of great sins must this young girl have accumulated in her short lifetime, to warrant such a delay in welcoming her to Heaven? (You might take a minute right now to pray for that girl—since she may, in fct, still await admission to the pearly gates….)
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The Council of Trent, Session XXV (December 3-4, 1563), reconfirmed the long-standing teaching of the Church, “that Purgatory exists, and that the souls detained therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but especially by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar.”
Please don’t let Presumption blind you to the need to pray for those who have gone before us.
Please pray for my mother, who remained imperfect despite her confinement and who, no doubt, fell short of reflecting the full glory of God. Of course, much can be forgiven due to her frailty; and if we, her children, cut her some slack for her obstinacy, how much more must her Heavenly Father love her and want to hold her to Himself?
But unless you have some super-duper inside track with St. Peter at the gate, you don’t really know what’s goin’ on with Mom right now. And if she’s waiting, in need of our prayers, and you aren’t there for her, you know how much she’d like to hit you upside of the head? Pray for her. Pray for her always, until the day you die, because you just don’t understand what it’s like out there in Eternity. If she’s already in Heaven, your prayers can be reassigned to some poor bloke who needs them. But don’t stop!
Please pray for my other relatives, too. My father was a good and faithful man, and he died many years ago; but what do we on earth know of his experience outside of Time, and whether he is even yet with God in Heaven? Please pray for him.
And when I die, please pray for me. The Lord (and my husband) know that I’m not perfect. And no one knows just what it will take for me to reach that state of perfection where I’ll feel properly dressed to go in to the banquet.
I won’t be able to tell you then, so let me tell you now: I am one heck of a piece of work, and it’s gonna take a lot to polish me up for heaven. Your prayers, especially your offerings of Masses, are so needed, and so appreciated.
Pray for me, and I will pray for you.
Read it all. And pray for the souls in purgatory, okay?