Sandro Magister (whom I really like, in case you have not figured that out yet!) has a great excerpt from Pope Benedict’ general audience of January 12 and from his encyclical Spe Salvi. In both he is discussing purgatory. The following are a couple random thoughts, including a question I have thought about for a while.
The first thing that struck me is that in his treatment of purgatory, either discussing Catherine of Genoa in his audience or in his encyclical, is that he seems to be shifting the focus from purgatory as a place to an interior notion of purgation. (I have a sense, though I may be wrong, that this is closer to the Orthodox understanding.) In particular, I was struck by this short passage from Spe Salvi:
It is clear that we cannot calculate the “duration” of this transforming burning in terms of the chronological measurements of this world. The transforming “moment” of this encounter eludes earthly time-reckoning?it is the heart’s time, it is the time of “passage” to communion with God in the Body of Christ.
Though it was never part of my personal experience, I remember the older prayer books that were still lying around in my youth which included notations such as “Recitation of this prayer gains an indulgence of 100 days”. Thinking of the discussion about Traditionalism on another thread, I am surprised that this particular sort of devotional bookkeeping has not been revived given its prevalence as recently as 50 years ago.I have also heard some traditionalists claim that Purgatory is not preached about any more, which I guess is true. Though I must admit that having heard a conservative priest preach about it at a funeral, I would be happy to never repeat the experience. It seemed a rather cold and mechanical exhortation to pray for the dead (including the deceased we had gathered to commend to the mercy of God) who are “suffering in purgatory.” To quote from the song Road to Zion by Petra:
Sometimes it’s good to look back down , we’ve come
so far we’ve gained such ground but joy is not in
where we’ve been, Joy is Who’s waiting at the end
Which brings me, finally, to my question. It is a spiritual work of mercy to pray for the dead. But I have long wondered: would it be equally beneficial to ask the souls in purgatory to pray for us? Though they are not yet with God, they are not separated from God, and their prayers would be heard. And if, as Augustine put it so well in the Confessions, pride and self-will are at the root of all sins, then wouldn’t it be a source of grace for the souls in purgatory to look outward and pray for others? Or in other words, isn’t part of the purgation to, as my mother used to say, to help you “get over yourself”?
All you holy men and women of God, Ora pro nobis.