Turning on a Dime: From Chick Flicks to Purgatory

 

Fill in for The Anchoress?  Cool!

So just out of the gate, what do I do?  Talk about chick flicks.  Talk about crying, for Pete’s sake!

Just in case I haven’t completely lost you big burly types (I mean guys), let me take a minute to wax philosophical.  I spent some time last year stewing about Purgatory, and I’d love to hear what YOU think.

 

 

PURGATORY AND PRESUMPTION: 
Please Don’t Forget to Pray for Me

Let’s play a game.

Let’s imagine you’re dead.  You ate a rotten peanut, or you took a bullet for your best friend, or you stumbled onto a busy roadway on a dark and stormy night….

It doesn’t really matter how it happened—but now here you are, spiraling and spinning toward eternity, lining up for your first meeting with…. well, you’re on your way to…. um…. uh-oh…. to God.

And in your deepest being, you know that from the beginning of time—since before the beginning of time, in fact—He has loved you, has yearned for you to truly love Him, too.  And you know that He has worked everything for your good, has given you one opportunity after another to recognize Him in the people around you, in the circumstances of your life.

But you were busy.

*     *     *     *     *

Before you get huffy:  I’m not trying to single you out here.  That’s my story, too—and the story of every human who has walked the face of the earth.  (Well, everyone, that is, except for His mother Mary, who was preserved from sin in order to be the perfect Ark of the Covenant, the spotless Theotokos.) 

So we, sinful creatures all, step out of this life into eternity—and we know, more clearly than we have never known anything, that we are not worthy to be in the presence of the Almighty God.  In life, we may have casually popped the Eucharist onto our tongue, drunk of the Precious Blood, then gone back to our pews to idly watch the others return to their seats, ogling the cute boys or checking out the fashion faux pax, hardly pausing to ponder the great impossibility, the unimaginable truth, that God has given Himself to us, in the flimsy gift wrap of bread and wine.  Wholly.  Fully.

We have ignored Him, too, when we have not bothered to pray; when we have gossiped about our neighbors; when we have shirked our responsibilities in the workplace, when we have allowed anger to govern our relationships or our driving, when we have cheated on our diets or (yikes!) cheated on our spouses.

We are earthen vessels, all of us.  And we know instinctively that we cannot face the great and mighty God in our current condition.  True, we have been redeemed by the Blood of Christ, and His sacrifice has made it possible for us to be with Him for all eternity.  First, though, we need to wash up—get ready for the party, for the great receiving line.

That’s what Purgatory is.  It’s the washroom, the hot shower, where we become like Him.  Were we to remain sniveling complainers, or bigots, or racists, or petty thieves, or just lazy bumpkins, we would be blinded by the great white light of Heaven, unable to bear being in the presence of He Who Is.  We must be transformed, so that we can be one with God and with all of His creation, there eternally praising Him and sharing in His glory.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1030) says that Purgatory is “a purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”  It’s a place where those “who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified” can have their souls shined up a bit, before their personal encounter with God.

Purgatory is nothing like Hell—in fact, people in Purgatory experience some modicum of joy, knowing that they are en route to an eternity with Christ.  Those who are confined to Hell have no such consolation—having, in their great pride, rejected God’s grace in their lives and turned their faces away from Him for all eternity.

So these folks with whom I (and you) will hopefully share a spell in Purgatory are aware that Heaven is their destination.  This good news buoys them, even as they learn how to be More Like God.  The Catechism (CCC 1031) explains that “this final purification of the elect… is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.”

The hot shower just ain’t so bad.

*     *     *     *     *

Where is all this going?  Well, my mother died last year; 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 fact, still await admission to the pearly gates….)

*     *     *     *     *

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.

  • http://www.holysouls.ino Johan Cyprich

    Great article. Praying for the holy souls is very important, and sadly a neglected practice by many Catholics. The problem is that most people don’t know what to do and why we need to pray for them. This is why I built a web site (www.holysouls.info) and published a free book (Purgatory 101). Once you learn more about Purgatory, it will be hard not to find the time to help the people there.

  • http://www.savkobabe.blogspot.com Gayle Miller

    Some of us experience a part of our purgatory here on earth. In my own case, it just takes watching an episode of “Keeping up with the Kardashians” to give me my taste of perdition!

    All kidding aside, things that make us cry vary so thoroughly. I was awash in tears on Saturday late afternoon while watching the Ice Dancing portion of the U.S. Championships. There may be something more perfect on earth than the performance of Davis and White (the FIRST Americans to ever win an Ice Dancing World Championship), but it moved me to complete maudlin excess! And I’ve seen that program 5 times! But not done to that level!

    For me, the tear response is frequently an occasion to release some pent-up angst that has nothing to do with the ostensible trigger. But then I’m an old broad with lots of sadness in my past.

    Are these primaries ever going to be over?

  • Cheryl-Helene Thomson

    You may be a Benedictine Oblate, but you are a disgrace. And the people who comment on this blog are just as lost, lost, lost, as you are. Professional Catholics are not even going to end up in Purgatory. Surprise.

  • Verushka

    Love that you mentioned that 14 year old girl from Fatima. I think about her quite a lot. The only thing that I can come up with is perhaps she never went to confession? Surely much can be forgiven in confession, but if one doesn’t take advantage of it, one could end up like her.

    But then again, we never hear about temporal punishment, and that’s one heck of a sucker punch, once you realize: yes, you’re forgiven but yes, you still have to do the time for the crime.

    I’m sure I’ll be on the purgatorial clean-up committee, having to mop up the filth and turn out the lights, after everyone else is gone….

  • Jane Hartman

    To Charlene-Helene, Are you saying they’re going to hell?

  • Mark

    Kathy Schiffer – That was a great post. My mom just passed in December. There’s so much we can do for the souls in Purgatory. Having the Holy sacrifice of the Mass is one, Gregorian Mass is another, more intense option. I have my entire family enrolled in the Purgatorial Society at
    http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2012/01/rorate-caeli-purgatorial-society-fifty.html

    There’s November 2nd (All Souls Day) and its associated indulgences, the entire month of November and the Plenary indulgences associated with visiting a cemetery All Souls Day or any of the 1st 8 days (I believe 8, but I could be wrong) of November. I always include the souls in Purgatory in my daily Rosary intentions, especially my relatives and the souls that have no one to pray for them.

  • Mark W.

    I highly encourage everyone to buy the booklet/CD “Pray the Rosary For The Souls In Purgatory” by Susan Tassone and Fr Benedict Groeschel (St Joseph Communications should still carry them) Both authors are truly evangelists for tradition in the sense that Purgatory has never evolved into something else dogmatically.
    The CD/booklet is fruitful in that the rosary decades have biblical quotes regarding the hereafter that really makes the point about the four last things and the existence of Purgatory as being irrefutable.

  • Mike R

    Thanks for a great post. I have made same request to my family that they pray a lot for me and they very quickly say yes :) . We have had several family members pass on during the last few years and I pray for each especially at Mass. I think the most efficacious time is at the moment of consecration when Heaven and Earth become one. At that moment I ask our Savior to allow just one droplet of His most Precious Blood to fall upon the soul of my loved one in Purgatory. And as you mentioned if they are already in full Communion with God, then I pray that it fall upon the soul who has no one to pray for him or her. Peace

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Gee, that was a long post!

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    “Pray for me, and I will pray for you.”

    You got it, and I probably need it way more than you. God bless on a very engaging blog. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  • Sue from Buffalo

    Great post. I’m a church organist and I have a mental list of souls to specifically pray for at each and every mass I play for/attend. My Mom passed away in 2010 and my Dad in 2009. I’d truly appreciate any prayers offered up for the repose of their souls. (So would they). Thanks.

  • Pingback: Purgatory is real. Please don't let presumption blind you to the need to pray for... - Christian Forums

  • justcatholic

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this great and needed post. If what I hear from many Catholics these days (“grandma is with God now, looking down on us”, etc) it seems the Church has been infected with Evangelical certainty of salvation (“I confess Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and savior; if I die tonight I go straight to heaven”).

  • http://www.sherryantonettiwrites.blogspot.com Sherry

    Love this. Having just come from a memorial for a friend where I felt worried and troubled as people ascribed saintliness to her even though I loved her and knew she had suffered greatly, your post was reassuring that we should not be reassured, that we should pray for every soul in purgatory and that we cannot know the state of any soul save those that have been revealed to be ones of extraordinary holiness recognized.

  • http://gratefulconvert.com/ Kevin Lowry

    Kathy, you are one heck of a piece of work! Great post, I love how we blogged on the same issue. I would say great minds think alike, but my wife can attest that my mind ain’t what it used to be. Keep up the great work!

  • Montjoie

    Oh yeah, purgatory. Strike two. I have enough trouble just believing in the resurrection every day. Why do you insist on piling on these fantasies?

  • http://www.doulos.at Wolf Paul

    On the subject of how long our final sanctification takes: What about 2 Cor 5:8, where Paul expresses his confidence that being absent from his body he will be present with the Lord?

    And to Cheryl-Helene Thomson: Whatever are “professional Catholics”? If you mean “professing Catholics”, well, neither will “professing Protestants” make it to purgatory (if it exists) or heaven, unless they believe in Jesus and accept the salvation offered by him. Just read yesterday that a poll conducted by a Catholic university found that in the German state of Hesse, only 33% of Catholics and 27% of Protestants stlll believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came to reveal God to us and to die for our salvation.

  • Salvation

    Don’t Be Deceived! After Death, Judgement Follows!! Purgatory Is A Devilish Teaching…Peoples Should Make Their Path Straight While Alive!!!

  • SKay

    “only 33% of Catholics and 27% of Protestants stlll believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came to reveal God to us and to die for our salvation.”

    Sounds like the rest who claim to be Catholic or Protestant are not even really Christian.
    They need our prayers also

  • kevin

    I can’t count the number of funeral eulogies I’ve heard where the departed is declared to be in heaven. We “know” he/she is in Heaven now…

    I’m not sure when this started but it has always grated on my sensibilities.

  • HermitTalker

    Very well humanly-theologically expressed. It is good to know that every Mass every day worldwide includes prayers for those who have died; also the official Morning and evening prayers of the Church include the deceased as does HH B XV1 and all Popes from the balcony of their private quarters every Sunday at the noon Angelus which is also expected to be prayed as we pray the Angelus also. The intention is also added to the more recent addiiton to each rosary decade, which ends ” lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy.” I tell my friends who pray for “the most abandoned souls in purgatory” that the TAX Accounted turned Apostle Matthew watches the prayers and sees that no one is “forgotten or abandoned.” And of course as we pray the Hail Mary we ask for her help “at the hour of death2 so we can presume she keeps up that intercession from there through purgatory until we get to the Gate Keeper Peter.

  • Michael

    Thanks Kathy for a charitable, timely and compelling post. Coincidentally, I taught an “off-syllabus” CCD class on the Four Last Things last night because the textbooks I’ve been given these past 11 years never mention Purgatory or Hell.

    To add to Kathy’s post… According to “Purgatory: Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints” by Fr. F.X. Schouppe, S.J. (Tan), all souls in Purgatory joyfully suffer for Our Lord but they nonetheless experience great “pains” of separation from God as well as physical / emotional torment. It’s not merely a simple”spiritual shower”, which is what I used to think, too. We must be more generous in offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the members of the Church Suffering to help that 14 yrs old girl.

    To Charlene-Helene: I will pray today that you experience an increase in Charity.

    To avoid Hell / minimize Purgatory (per great saints/popes – not me!): Monthly (or better Confession), at least 5 Rosary decades daily (Our Lady of Fatima said that Fransisco had to say many Rosaries to get to avoid Purgatory until the end of time), wear the Brown Scapula and the Miraculous Medal, keep First Fridays and Saturdays, pray Divine Mercy daily, all so to overcome our disordered passions so that we may freely deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him. Ave Maria!

    God bless, Michael

  • Greg

    In the main, good post. However, I would caution against your general tone of Purgatory as the “goal” towards which we should be aiming. We can’t, and shouldn’t, live our lives thinking, “I just need to get into Purgatory and I’ll be fine.” Rather we should strive to emulate the saints and become saints ourselves entering directly into the Beatific Vision. To appropriate a quote from Vince Lombardi, “[W]e will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.”

    If we aim for Heaven and fall short, we find ourselves in Purgatory, and, given our goal of Heaven, hopefully our time of Purgation will be short. But, if we aim for Purgatory and fall short, where do we find ourselves? Hell. OR, if, by the grace of God we “squeak in the back door”, our time of Purgation will be long and intense.

    Heaven is our goal, let’s live like it!

    Pax et Bonum,
    -Greg

  • kevin

    Michael, I find that interesting and it was my experience as well. I was educated in Catholic schools from grammar school (70s) to college and never heard the Four Last Things mentioned. Not once. I actually had to stumble upon and old copy of the Baltimore Catechism my aunt and uncle had in their library to hear about them.

  • http://www.patheos.com Amy

    Great post, Kathy.

    I have always believed that when the Blessed Mother said, “she will be in Purgatory until the end of the world,” it was an “agreement” allowing the young girl to save souls ‘until the end of time.’ If Jesus or the Blessed Mother personally asked any of us to suffer greatly to save souls, would we say yes, or say, “ehhhhhh, ahhhhh, gee whiz! You ask too much!” We unite our crosses with Jesus’ to atone for our own sins and for the sins of the world. We should do it with joy and without grumbling. So, I think the girl was given a test and she decided of her own free will that she would stay in Purgatory for love of Jesus to save souls.

    I also never hear of Purgatory at funerals or wakes. I told my family that I WANT the priest to speak of it when I die, to remind everyone that just because you may be a nice person, and everyone thinks well of you, doesn’t mean you are lily white. As my favorite priest used to say, if the policeman gives you a ticket for speeding and you tell him how sorry you are, he’ll say, “I forgive ya, but here is your ticket anyway;” the same is true with God. He forgives us our sins but we still have to pay the ticket!

  • http://denythecat.blogspot.com Brian Sullivan

    I was thinking about this yesterday on my mom’s 5th anniversary. I’d like to think she’s experiencing the fullness of the Beatific Vision, but I don’t know. I had a Mass said for her.

  • Kathy Bamberger

    Thank you for this article. Looks like you’ve elicited lots of comments already! I just made copies of your fine article for my children, to be kept along with other documents for them to read near my death (hopefully not imminent; I’m in good health now). My dear grown children- “good kids’ who were “raised Catholic” in the late 70′s, 80′s & 90′s – probably do not understand the Catholic teaching in your article, and they are not practicing the Faith now. I do take a great deal of the blame for it & it may be a big part of the reason I will spend a huge amount of time in Purgatory! as I trusted our Catholic school and our Parish R.E. programs too much. As I assume this is the case with many readers, I ADDED to your article as I saved it for my kids, essential information that “kids” are most likely have forgotten: Perpetual Mass Associations abound in our Catholic world. Most religious orders have them, and many dioceses, monasteries and convents depend partly on Mass stipends & donations for Rosary or Divine Mercy Novenas to continue working& run their churches and seminaries – the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, Perpetual Adoration Orders & the Marian Fathers National Shrine of Divine Mercy. We older traditional Catholics must ASK & REMININD our children to have Perpetual Masses said for us after we die! (especially if they are very lax in their own Mass attendance and very weak in their understanding and practice of the Faith. I hope asking for Masses after we die will help our younger generation to begin to meditate upon the 4 Last Things; to honestly begin get in touch with the ancient practices & faith of our Church, the Faith they were weakly, partially raised with. I am already subscribing myself, my husband and all of our family- including all the grandchildren!!!- in Perpetual Mass Associations NOW- just in case our “good but deluded kids” fail to find (in some far future dreadful day after we die) a real, traditional Catholic church resource for Masses for their dead. I hope all your readers will consider this. Perhaps you as the author could add some advice like this to your edited article or another column you write, as my reply will be at the bottom of a long list of participants on this topic, for which I congratulate you most heartily! K.B. Austin, Tx.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    I confess, I have real problems with a theology that would condemn a 14 year old girl to torment until the end of the world.

    Quite honestly, if God is really that cranky, none of us have much hope. (I can’t believe that He really is.)

    On the other hand, I’m Orthodox; we don’t really go in for Purgatory, though we do consider it important to pray for the dead.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Greg, yes, this does illustrate some problems I have with Catholic theology, and one of the reasons whyI eventually left the Catholic church.

    It gets to be a bit, well—”If I can just get into Purgatory, I’ll be okay!” “If I can just have perpetual masses said for my soul—the more the better—I’ll be okay!” If you do this, you’ll be fine, if you don’t do this, it’s Purgatory, until the Apocalypse! Do this, don’t do that. It’s more like a mathematical formula, or devising a scheme for winning at Vegas. There is a Communion of Saints, and, yes, it’s important to pray for the dead, but I think so much emphasis on the minutiae of it is missing the point. As you say, shouldn’t it be more about trying to live in communion with God, in the Beatific Vision?

    I do recommend the book, “Everywhere Present” by Fr. Stephen Freeman.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Of course, as Amy says, being in Purgatory until the end of the world might have been an agreement to save souls on the young girl’s part, not punishment for sin.

    Antoher good book—C.S. Lewis’, “The Great Divorce.”

  • Quid est veritas

    Thank you for a beautiful article. It reminds me a little bit of the old english poet Cynewulf, who wanted the prayers of his readers so much that he hid his name in runes in his poems. It’s funny, but every time I read them, I pray for him and for all the souls of the faithful departed.

  • http://www.patheos.com Amy

    “In Heaven As On Earth: A Vision of the Afterlife,” by M Scott Peck is a wonderful work of fiction in which the author writes of a soul’s passage in a purgatorial state where “letting go of earthly attachments” physical and mental allows the soul to purge itself and be welcomed into Heaven. Once you’ve started to read it, you won’t be able to put it aside.

  • Rose

    It does no good to pray for dead who are not in Purgatory. The dead in Hell cannot be helped. Those in Heaven do not need our prayers.

    We aim for Heaven, but in God’s great mercy, if we fall short, He can purify us to be with Him in Heaven if we profess Him as Our Lord, and try our best to live our lives as Christ taught. Our faith must be exercised and strengthened but we should never despair but trust in God’s mercy as we do our best to follow Him.

  • Dan Buckley

    Great article. If we read Rev. 7, we find the story of Purgatory, wherein all but the 144,000 appear wearing white robes and waving palms. They have survived the great trial, and have now washed their robes (dirtied by sin) in the Blood of the Lamb. They had to do the work of the washing; the Blood is the cleansing agent, but the work of application is the duty of the soul. How merciful and generous a Savior Who provides a way for imperfect men to appear pure before the throne of God.

  • Deb

    I feel sorry for those who do not believe in purgatory nor believe in praying for the dead. They and/or their loved ones make their time in purgatory much longer as they cannot do anything for themselves while there, but the prayers of others can aid them. I suppose if you toss books out of the bible at random, you will lose things, like praying for the dead, which is in Maccabees. For those who aren’t familiar with the Maccabees, see Hannukah.
    Going directly to heaven is the goal. Presuming you will, is pretty egotistical. I have noticed that at Masses for Christian burial, there is no talk of the person being in heaven. We have hope and we pray. At protestant funerals, they do seem to think the person is in heaven, looking down and all happy. I guess if you believe what you do on earth has no consequences with God, that would be the end result. How you could believe that is really beyond me.

  • honoria

    surely believing that any element of purgatory here on earth, is the heresy of albigencism

  • Kathy Schiffer

    Hi Honoria– Thanks for reading.
    It would take entire books to talk about Albigensianism in its entirety, but let me lay out just a few of its precepts: (1) Dualism – There are two gods, both a “good” deity and a “bad” deity. (2) Marriage and the procreation of children are bad; but concubinage or deserting one’s spouse are acceptable. (3) Suicide as a means of freeing oneself from the body is good; but capital punishment is forbidden. (4) Christ was not God, but was just a created being.

    And what, from the article I posted, makes you think I believe in Albigensianism, or that I think Purgatory is here on earth?

  • Dante

    Matthew 5:25 may be a prophesy of Purgatory.
    Be at agreement with your adversary betimes, whilst you are in the way with him: lest perhaps the adversary deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison. 26 Amen I say to you, you shall not go out from thence till you repay the last farthing.

    Consult Saint Catherine of Genoa for her visions of Purgatory.

  • Kathy Schiffer

    Thanks, Dante! You are right.

    I wrote about evidences for Purgatory, in a sense, a while back on my own blog, talking about the issue of Indulgences. Perhaps you’d be interested in that link:
    http://kathyschiffer.com/friends-in-high-places-indulgences-and-the-communion-of-saints

  • Shamrock

    It has often puzzled me that in our funeral masses no mention of purgatory per se
    occurs and with most eulogies the dead quickly seem to have reached sainthood. WE know that may not be the case exactly but that is the intention of every mass said whether it be funeral or ordinary.
    That being said once dead it is safe to assume the person is outside the confinement of time. That being said how can time be determined in Purgatory?
    Also if our God can make all that is in the Universe in 7 days, can He not refine
    souls as quickly? I have read that the fire of love ( God’s love) is what refines the
    soul …one glance from the Eternal One…is all it would take therefore it seems.
    Let us all spend our time on earth doing good and walking humbly with the Lord…and leave those who have passed in His Care. I don’t pray so much for my deceased parents to be in the Lord’s Presence ( of course I do that every time I say the Divine Assistance prayer) but I pray that we may all be given the grace to be united together once more with the Lord for all eternity. Our faith is full of mystery of which Purgatory is one of the most mysterious and much of what is being said here is somewhat speculative. Trust in the Lord Who has given us the gift of eternal life. There is too much anxiety here in much of what is being said. It is not being
    presumptious to trust in God’s mercy. Without it we all would be unworthy, even the saints amongst us. Be eternally grateful, beginning this minute, for the great and immeasureable gift we have been given. Leave the rest to the Lord who loves you.

  • Melody

    Shamrock, I agree with you 100%. I firmly believe in praying for the dead; there is no such thing as a wasted prayer. And I believe that Purgatory is a merciful doctrine, especially as there are many people who die very unexpectedly and unprepared. However I believe equally firmly in the efficacy of the sacraments and the redeeming grace of God. If someone has confessed their sins, received the last Anointing, and received Viaticum, why would we not believe them to be in heaven? Of course we can never deserve heaven; Someone else paid the price for our sins so we wouldn’t have to. So I guess my philosophy is pray for our beloved dead, but do so in hope and confidence.

  • JARay

    I offer the following reason for the very neccesity of Purgatory.
    All souls in heaven are united with God. They are part of Jesus’s Mystical Body.
    Nothing imperfect can possibly unite with God, who is Perfection.
    We are (most of us anyway) IMPERFECT.
    Hence, in order for us to unite with the perfection which is God, WE MUST BECOME PERFECT.
    Hence, Purgatory is ESSENTIAL for the imperfect to be made perfect!
    Thank God for purgatory.

  • james hughes

    Thank you for this beautiful article which has prodded me into praying more for my deceased parents ,grandparents and lots of others. I not your comments about your own children and how you confessed to relying on school and parish for their religious instruction. That, I must say , struck a raw nerve with me . I sent all my kids to a jesuit school expecting that the school would take good care for their religious instruction and welfare. Unfortunately ,somewhat belatedly, I discovered that about six or seven of my kids were taught RE by a woman who was Jewish and had been married four times. They were all well acquainted with all of the other great religions but knew little of their own. I don’t think the CCC even figured in all of it and in fact two of my daughters think abortion would be ok in a rape or incest situation and clearly don’t believe in papal infallibility. I too have to confess that I relied on ‘The system ‘ and singularly failed to be properly informed about what was going on. This is something which is giving me a lot of concern about what will happen when I meet almighty god and even worse what about my kids(?) saving their souls if they don’t believe because of my defects. I try and go to mass and say the rosary on a daily basis ( often being accused of being a ‘god botherer’ ) but I think I am going to have to rely on god’s love and mercy if I am to make heaven ,domine non sum dignus…sed tantum dic verbum et senabitur anima meum. I just tell my kids that I have been bothering god since the day and hour I was born . Please pray for me and my family as I will for yours. AMDG

  • catharine

    Kathy, excellent article. Only one correction–I checked, and it was an 18-year-old girl who was in purgatory until the end of time.
    I believe it was St. Augustine who said that if a soul is already in heaven, that they are in possession of the Beatific Vision and in no need of our prayers, as they already possess all good. If they are in hell, no amount of prayer will help them. The only reasonable assumption to make is, that they were saved, are in purgatory, and are in need of our prayers and suffrages.
    2 Maccabees 12:39 indicates that the men fallen in battle all were found wearing a pagan amulet under their clothing, and “it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen.” Also, 12:43-45 says (where he took up a collection to take to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering, “In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. 44 For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. 45 But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.”
    I think we should all bear in mind the Gospel saying that, the measure with which we measure out to others is the very same measure that will be measured to us. If we fail to pray for the souls in purgatory, who are helpless to help themselves, we cannot expect relief for ourselves when our time comes.

  • Maximillian

    OH PLEASE!

    I go to Mass every day and see that nearly everyone, almost all of them elderly, take communion and are incredibly holy prayerful people who are trying to save their souls in retirement now that they have the time. True, generally the lines for confession are almost nil.

    Few, including priests apparently, know much about the Faith, apart from the socializing parish functions and “ministries”.

    Purgatory? Just go to Mass, take communion, maybe confession every couple of years, smile more and be friendly. God’s not going to be severe with you for this!

  • Dex

    “In life, we may have casually popped the Eucharist onto our tongue, drunk of the Precious Blood, then gone back to our pews to idly watch the others return to their seats, ogling the cute boys or checking out the fashion faux pax, hardly pausing to ponder the great impossibility, the unimaginable truth, that God has given Himself to us, in the flimsy gift wrap of bread and wine. Wholly. Fully.” –There is a lot of truth in this. Made me smile. I don’t ogle on boys though : )

    Too bad not all people believe in Purgatory. My wife only believes in Heaven and Hell. That is why whenever we’re at a funeral I sarcastically say to her “There is no sense in praying for the souls of the recently deceased.” and she would defend herself by saying “I am only paying my respects.” I think that’s a hint of pride in her part. I still kept praying she could see the light (the one, holy and apostolic Catholic Church), there’s so much she could learn not only from Scriptures, but from Tradition and those who really followed the way of Christ.


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