Category Archives: Eschatology

Is eternal punishment in Hell just?


-half panel, The Crucifixion & The Last Judgment, Jan van Eyck, ca. 1440–1441, oil on canvas, transferred from wood, 22 1/4 × 7 2/3 in, 56.5 × 19.5 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


-by Karlo Broussard

The Eternity of Hell

Okay, someone may concede that punishment in general is not inconsistent with God’s goodness.

“But,” they’ll say, “eternal punishment? Doesn’t that seem unjust, since eternal punishment would be disproportionate to the sin that’s committed only in a small moment of time?”

Here are a few ways we can respond.

First, the objection assumes that a punishment has to be equal or proportionate to a fault as to the amount of duration. But this is false. If the duration of punishment had to correspond to the duration of an offense, then it would be unjust to give a murderer a prison sentence any longer than the time it took for the murderer to kill his victim.

But that’s absurd. As the Jesuit philosopher Bernard Boedder writes, “[T]ime cannot be the standard by which punishment is to be determined” (Natural Theology, 340).

The measure of the punishment due for sin is the gravity of the fault. Aquinas explains, “The measure of punishment corresponds to the measure of fault, as regards the degree of severity, so that the more grievously a person sins the more grievously is he punished” (Summa Theologiae suppl. III:99:1).

In other words, it is the internal wickedness of an offense that is the measure of expiation for it.

Now, as Aquinas points out in several places within his writings, the gravity of an offense is determined by the dignity of the person sinned against. For example, punishment for striking the president of the United States is going to be greater than punishment for striking a fellow citizen in bar brawl.

Since God is ipsum esse subsistens (subsistent being itself), he is infinite in dignity and majesty. Therefore, his right to obedience from his reasonable creatures is absolute and infinite. There is no right that can be stricter and every other right is based on it.

A willful violation of this right, which is what a mortal sin is, is the most severe offense a human being can commit. Boedder explains it this way: “A willful violation . . . of this right implies a malice which opposes itself to the foundation of all orders” (Natural Theology, 340).

For Aquinas, it is an offense that is “in a certain respect infinite” (Compendium Theologiae, 183). And because it is infinite in a certain respect, Aquinas concludes, “a punishment that is in a certain respect infinite is duly attached to it.”

But, as Aquinas points out, such a punishment can’t be infinite in intensity because no creature can be infinite in this way. Therefore, Aquinas concludes, “[A] punishment that is infinite in duration is rightly inflicted for mortal sin.”

Now, it’s important to note that for Aquinas an infinite duration of punishment can be just only if the sinner no longer has the ability to repent and will the good. Well, the sinner after death no longer has the ability to repent, since the soul can no longer change what it has chosen as its ultimate end after death. Therefore, we can conclude with Aquinas that the infinite duration of punishment in hell is just.

The Alternatives Don’t Work

Another way that we can respond to the “Eternal Punishment is Unjust” objection is to see the alternatives to eternal punishment, temporary punishment or annihilation, don’t stand up to the scrutiny of reason.

Consider temporary punishment. Perhaps the soul receives an intense dose of punishment and then enters heaven upon being relieved of it. This would be an injustice. For example, let’s say I find out that my fourteen-year-old son ditched school and went to a party with his older teen friends and got drunk and smoked a joint (this is merely hypothetical, mind you).

Suppose further that I punish him by saying, “Son, you’ve been a bad boy, and as a result you’re going to stay in your room for ten minutes. But when that time is up, pack your bags because we’ve got tickets to spend the weekend at Disney Land and visit the new Star Wars Land.” (He loves Star Wars).

How does this register on your justice monitor?

My guess is that it doesn’t rate very high—especially if my son refuses to apologize for his misconduct. The duration of the punishment is much too small relative to the reward he is given.

Similarly, a temporary stint in hell—no matter how long the term—is much too small of a punishment relative to the everlasting happiness of heaven. It would be unjust for God to give heaven as a reward to a person that committed the most grievous offense of all, the permanent rejection of God’s absolute right to obedience, worship, and love.

Annihilation is also an unreasonable alternative.

How could a person experience the punishment justice demands for permanently rejecting God if he were annihilated? The gravity of violating God’s absolute right would be reduced to nothingness if there were no punishment for it. Justice would not be served.

Furthermore, it would violate God’s wisdom to annihilate the human soul.

Why would he create a human soul with an immortal nature only to thwart it?”

Love & His mercy,
Matthew

Ghosts & Demons


-by Jimmy Akin, a former Presbyterian, Jimmy is a convert to the Faith and has an extensive background in the Bible, theology, the Church Fathers, philosophy, canon law, and liturgy.

Question: Is it sinful to want to learn more about ghosts and demons?

Answer: Learning about ghosts and demons is part of our Catholic Faith. The key is not becoming unduly curious about or preoccupied with either, especially demons.

Ghosts are disembodied human beings, something we all become at death. Praying for the repose of the faithful departed and others who have died is a good thing. In addition, asking the prayerful intercession of the saints is also a good thing.

What is not good is seeking out communication with the dead, e.g., through séances. This is an example of divination, which is strictly prohibited (see CCC 2117-19). These are the problematic activities people often have in mind re: learning about ghosts, not praying for the dead, learning about the saints or asking for their intercession.

Demons are fallen angels and thus pure spirits who have irrevocably chosen against God and His people. They are powerful and malevolent, and we must not make ourselves vulnerable to their nefarious machinations.

Rather, we must be wary of their activity and resist them as Sts. James and Peter counsel (Jas. 4:7-8; 1 Pet. 5:6-10). In that light, it’s good to know ourselves and our weaknesses, and how the devil operates in general in trying to lead us away from God, and how he might try to tempt us in particular.

At the same time, we must not become preoccupied with either ghosts or demons. Instead, our minds, as St. Paul reminds us, should be focused on that which is good (Phil. 4:8).”

Love,
Matthew

Where’s Purgatory in the Bible?

“Any Catholic who is familiar with apologetics knows to answer with 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

Paul is talking about the day of judgment that comes after death (see Hebrews 9:27). And in light of the “fire” that tests the quality of a person’s works, Catholics argue that the person is being purified. Fire is used metaphorically in Scripture as a purifying agent—in Matthew 3:2-3,11 and Mark 9:49—and as that which consumes: Matthew 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). This state of existence can’t be heaven because the individual has the defilement of bad works and is suffering loss. Nor can it be hell because Paul says the person “will be saved.” A state of purification in the afterlife that is neither heaven nor hell—that’s purgatory!

But for Protestants it’s not so clear. They offer a few reasons why they think this doesn’t refer to purgatory.

One is that Paul says these things will only happen at the final judgment—“for the Day will disclose it” (v.13). For this text to support the Catholic doctrine of purgatory, so the argument goes, it would need to speak of an intermediate judgment before the Second Coming. Since it doesn’t, a Catholic can’t use it to support purgatory.

What should we make of this Protestant counter? Is it a precious stone that would survive the fire of scrutiny? Or is it more like straw?

Let’s test it and find out.

It’s true that when Paul speaks of “the Day” he is referring to the final judgment—that is, the judgment at the end of time when Christ comes in glory (Matt. 25:31-46). But this doesn’t prevent a Catholic from using this passage to support purgatory.

Paul was not envisioning this passage for such an intermediate state because, as some scholars point out, Paul wrote this at a time (c. A.D. 53) when he thought the Second Coming was imminent, and that he and most of his audience would experience it. For example, he writes in reference to it, “we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17; Cf. 1 Cor. 15:51).

Given this, we wouldn’t expect Paul to think that these events take place during an intermediate judgment before the final judgment. But what if the time horizon shifted and most people died before the Second Coming? Could we say they received some kind of judgment prior to the last judgment? And would these events that Paul describes have taken place at that judgment?

The time horizon indeed does seem to shift for Paul. In 2 Timothy 4:6, he tells Timothy that he knows his death is imminent: “For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come.” If he knows he’s about to die, then surely he doesn’t expect to be alive for the Second Coming.

What about an intermediate judgment before the final judgment? Scripture reveals that such a judgment does exist, and it occurs immediately after death when God determines a person’s final destiny—what the Catechism calls “the particular judgment” (CCC 1022).

Jesus makes this clear in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus is “carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22) and receives a fate of comfort (v.25). The rich man is taken to Hades where he experiences “torment” (v.23) and “anguish” (v.25). The different fates assigned to each man immediately after death imply a particular judgment.

Hebrews 12:23 speaks of our union with “the spirits of just men” as members of the New Covenant. That we approach their spirits suggests they are dead. And that they are a part of the heavenly reality that Christians participate in tells us that they exist in heaven, and thus have been judged.

Revelation 6:9 implies the same thing, for the martyrs in heaven beg God to avenge their blood on their persecutors who are still on earth. Revelation 7:9-14 describes those “clothed in white robes” who “have come out of the great tribulation” of the first century experiencing their eternal reward in heaven.

Now that we know there is such a thing as an intermediate judgment (“the particular judgment”) before the final judgment, the question becomes: “Can we apply the events that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 to the particular judgment?”

We have good reason to think that we can.

The events that Paul describes have no intrinsic relation to the timing of judgment, but to judgment itself. Works are being weighed, and the soul receives its final destiny (in this case it’s heaven).

This is what happens at the particular judgment. According to the Catechism, each person has his works weighed (CCC 1021) and receives his “eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death,” “either entrance into the blessedness of heaven—through a purification or immediately,” or “immediate and everlasting damnation” (CCC 1022).

Since the type of judgment that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (e.g., works are tested, the soul’s final destiny is determined) is the type of judgment that takes place for souls at the particular judgment, then it’s reasonable to use this passage to describe what happens at the particular judgment. And if the particular judgment, then purgatory.”

Love,
Matthew

Hell


(Ed. THAT is scary. Run away from any human who says that. That is not an offer of love. That is a lie. Born out of some pathological unsatisfied sinful need. Satan is the Prince of Lies. Secondly, consider the source, outside of the demonic origin of that statement. A sinful human, even a demonically possessed one, or just pyschopathic one is lying when they say they can do that as a consequence of some failure of action on the part of another. Then, consider God. When God speaks, it happens. God has merely to think it. It happens. Consider the loving, merciful Creator of everything, Who created out of pure love. We bring nothing to God by our existence. God brings everything to us by our existence. God lives in perfect beatitude. God needs nothing. Desires nothing, least of all us or our love. We OWE God, not the reverse. We OWE God because He brought us into being and maintains us in being by His very thought. If God stopped thinking about us, even for an instant, poof! No creation. The fact we remain in existence is proof of God’s perpetual love. Indifference, poof! To be separated from God, now, in an existential way, is Hell. To be separated from God, source of all hope, all light, all goodness, all life, all beatitude, etc. eternally is the very definition of Hell.

How do we know Hell, or Heaven for that matter, exist?  Jesus.  Mt 25:31-46.  Lk 16:19-31.  God will give you what you ask for. If it’s eternity without Him, well…)

“‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are My ways unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust?” -Ezek 18:29


-by Karlo Broussard

“Obviously, the meme is meant to express the alleged incompatibility between the Christian doctrine of hell and its belief that God is all-good. How can God be all-good and all-loving, so the argument goes, and at the same time will that someone experience eternal torment?

There are two possible reasons why someone might think that God and hell are incompatible. One is that punishment itself is a bad thing. And if that were the case, then surely an all-good God wouldn’t punish someone.

The other possible hang-up is the eternal nature of hell.

They may say, “Okay, I can accept punishment as consistent with God’s goodness, but I can’t accept eternal punishment. That seems unjust and therefore contrary to God’s goodness.”

There are two objections here, so let’s deal with each in turn.

Let’s take the first objection from punishment.

Privation as natural punishment

Our first line of response is that the punishment of hell is primarily the privation of the ultimate joy that every human being longs for, which is a natural consequence that flows from a person’s rejection of God as their ultimate end, the source of all joy (see CCC 1057).

As St. Augustine taught, our hearts are made for God and they are restless until they rest in Him (The Confessions, book 1).

If a person chooses to separate himself from God for eternity, the state of restlessness or misery (Ed. euphemism) is simply a natural consequence. The torment follows from the way God has made human nature.

Consider these two scenarios.

Suppose a father tells his son, “If you want to go to the movies, then you have to clean your room,” and the son chooses not to clean his room. The result of his choice is that he doesn’t get to go to the movies. He throws a fit. His “pain,” the deprivation of not seeing a movie, is a consequence of his choice. But notice that the connection between the consequence and the choice is not natural. The father imposes it.

Contrast this with the scenario of an individual who intentionally puts a plastic bag over his head and is asphyxiated. The painful effect of death is a natural consequence of stopping his supply of oxygen. It belongs to his nature that he needs oxygen to live. If he doesn’t have oxygen, then he doesn’t have life.  (Ed.  Good example, however, when religious discussions start throwing around the word “natures”, check your philosophy.  It means so much more, metaphysically, then we mean when we say “it’s all natural!”  Distant cousins in meaning, but not the same.  There’s more to it.  Mr. Broussard is providing the non-philotechnical kiddie example.)

Similarly, it belongs to human nature for a person to be united to God in order to have complete and perfect happiness. If he’s not united to God, then no happiness and only misery.

Why would it be contrary to God’s goodness to allow human nature to function according to the design He created? If God decides to create something with a particular nature, then it belongs to his goodness to treat that thing according to its nature.

God made humans to be in union with Him for an eternity (Ed. out of love, never necessity). Therefore, if anyone chooses to reject such union (free will) and end up separated from God for an eternity, which is the essence of hell (CCC 1033), his misery would be the natural result given his nature. And there is nothing contrary to God’s goodness to allow nature to take its course-whether it takes it in free will, we, to choose it in beatitude with God in Heaven or misery without Him in hell.”

Love,
Matthew

Divine Invitation & Rejection – Mt 22:2-14

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O my God, give me the sovereign grace to respond to all Your invitations with generosity.

MEDITATION

(Matthew 22:2-14) outlines the sad story—so true even today—of human ingratitude which rejects God’s mercy and is indifferent to His gifts and invitations.

“The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who made a marriage for his son, and he sent his servants to call them that were invited to the marriage; and they would not come.” The king is God the Father, the son is the eternal Word Who, becoming incarnate, espoused human nature in order to redeem and sanctify it.  God invites all men to the great banquet of the divine nuptials at which they will find their salvation; but submerged in the materialism of earthly things, they reject the invitation and the messengers. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee” (Matthew 23:37), will one day be the lament of the Son of God as He denounces before the world, not only the obstinate resistance of the chosen people but also that of all souls who have stubbornly and ungratefully rejected His love and His grace. The prophets, St. John the Baptist, and the apostles are the “servants,” the messengers sent by God to call men to the banquet of the Redemption, but they were all taken and killed. They “laid hands on his servants, and having treated them contumeliously, put them to death,” the Gospel says. [The] parable ends there, but unfortunately, human ingratitude has gone much further: not only the servants and messengers were killed, but even God’s very Son. Yet God’s mercy is so great that it cannot be vanquished; He still invites all men to His feast and even offers this divine Son, whom they have killed, to be their Food. The banquet is prepared; Jesus, the divine Lamb has been immolated for the redemption of mankind and, if many fail to accept the invitation, others will be invited. “The marriage indeed is ready, but they that were invited were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as you shall find, call to the marriage.”

We too have been invited. How have we responded to the invitation? Have we not also shown more interest and concern for earthly matters than for the things of God? Have we not been like the men in the parable who “neglected, and went their way, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise?”

COLLOQUY

“O Lord, this is what You say to my soul: ‘Why are you so far away from Me, detained by useless pursuits? Why do you not hasten to prepare a beautiful wedding garment? I suffered death to take you for My spouse. I became man for you, to preserve your life from corruption, I preferred your salvation before all My works. I prepared a nuptial couch for you in heaven, and I commanded the angels to serve you. Would you despise Me, your heavenly Spouse? And whom would you prefer to Me, who in My mercy saved the whole human race? What father could give you life as I have? What father or what spouse can love you as much as I?’

“O my God, what shall I answer You?

Pardon me, save me, O patient, long-suffering Lord! Save me, O Christ, Son of God, who alone are without sin! Grant that my heart may have no desire but to respond to Your invitations, and that with the help of Your grace, I may always do Your will, and be prompt and willing to carry out Your orders, so that, with the talents I have received from You, I may be able to trade and acquire the good things of Your kingdom. Grant that I may praise You trustfully and tell You joyfully when I see You: ‘I am blessed because You have come to clothe me with the worthy nuptial garment which Your grace has purchased for me.’

I shall light the lamp, O Christ, given to me by Your grace and bounty. I shall meet You joyfully, blessing, praising, and glorifying You, O my immortal Spouse” (St. Ephrem).

Love, sincere invitation, and gracious welcome,
Matthew

Nov 1-8: Visit a cemetery, get souls out of Purgatory!!!

Bored? Looking to get a new vibe on? You’ve come to the right place, friend!!


-by Melissa Guerrero

“During All Souls Day, Catholics are encouraged to visit cemeteries to gain plenary indulgences for our loved ones who are no longer with us. Catholics cemeteries are also consecrated grounds. Yes, we have our memento mori thoughts in cemeteries and we mourn our losses, but there is also hope. (1 Thess 4:13-18)

We pray for the Poor Souls, hoping that our prayers, Masses, and indulgences get them out of Purgatory quicker. That means that we provide hope to get them to Heaven sooner, so they can finally spend eternity with God. Not only this, but we can also hope that someday they will be in Heaven, praying for us. Furthermore, we hope that future generations will be doing the same for our souls when we’ve passed on.

Are you interested in receiving an indulgence – either plenary or partial – for the soul of a loved one while visiting their grave? Here is what you can do.

Requirements for obtaining a plenary indulgence:
1. Be in a state of grace, at least when performing the indulgence act
2. Have complete detachment from sin, even venial sin
3. Confession (having gone either 20 days before or go 20 days after the indulgence act)
4. Communion (received either 20 days before or go 20 days after the indulgence act)
5. Prayers for the Supreme Pontiff (prayed either 20 days before or go 20 days after the indulgence act) or/and his intentions.
6. Complete the indulgence act; a special good work with special conditions of place and time.

What are the indulgence acts you can do to obtain a plenary indulgence?
1. Visit a cemetery between November 1st and 8th and say a mental prayer for the poor souls; you can do this once a day, every day during the 8 days.
2. On November 2nd, you can visit a church or an oratory where they’re praying an Our Father and the Creed.

If you can’t get a plenary indulgence, a partial indulgence can be obtained at any time by simply visiting a cemetery and praying for the poor souls in Purgatory with this prayer:

Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the rest in peace. Amen.

If you don’t have anyone to pray for, you can always pray and ask God to apply the indulgence for a poor soul who has no one praying for them. As Venerable Fulton Sheen once said, when we die, those souls we’ve prayed for—even people who we never met on earth—will be “coming toward us and thanking us. We will ask who they are and they will say: ‘A poor soul you prayed for in purgatory.’”

Now, get out to your local cemetery and get some souls out of purgatory!”

Love & purification!!
Matthew

Nov 2 – Holy Souls in Purgatory

“The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death—this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today. Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon? Now a further question arises: if “Purgatory” is simply purification through fire in the encounter with the Lord, Judge and Savior, how can a third person intervene, even if he or she is particularly close to the other? When we ask such a question, we should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God’s time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain. In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me, too. As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them, too, the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.”
Spe Salvi, by Pope Benedict XVI


-by Br Stephen Ruhl, OP

“Today we pray for the holy souls in purgatory. This idea of the holy souls in purgatory seems an odd notion to contemporary ears. One tends to think of heaven as the place where the holy souls go. Purgatory, one would think, is for unholy souls, an unpleasant place where it would be unfortunate to end up. As with most ideas, this has some truth and some error. Purgatory is not meant to be a pleasant place, but it is not a place for unholy souls. Rather, purgatory is for those souls who are holy, but not quite holy enough.

The souls in purgatory are holy souls. They loved God in this life, and sought to do his will. They did this, however, somewhat imperfectly. These souls in purgatory strove for God during their earthly life, but hit some stumbling blocks along the way. This striving, this desire for God, is what kept them from the perils of hell, but the stumbling blocks they tripped on have kept them from attaining the fullness of joy which awaits them in heaven.

Whereas yesterday’s solemnity of All Saints was a celebration of all the men and women who have gone before us and attained this fullness of joy, today’s commemoration is a day of prayer to keep the purgatorial conveyor belt moving, as it were. The holy souls in purgatory have a desire for God, but because their earthly life has ended, they are no longer capable of performing the deeds which, by God’s grace, merit heaven. Now that their earthly pilgrimage has run its course, they are entirely dependent upon God and the prayers of those who remain on earth.

This is where you and I come in. We pray for these souls, these souls who have no one else to pray for them. We can do penance for them, we can pray for them, and in the process we can grow in holiness ourselves. In doing so, we build bonds of charity with those for whom we pray, nameless though they are. And once they attain the joys of heaven, which they certainly will after their purgation is completed, we can be assured of their intercession for us, as we celebrate them on All Saints Day.

Today we pray for the holy souls in purgatory, that they may attain the joys of heaven and be enrolled among the saints, and, in doing so, may we gain new intercessors in heaven, helping us to grow in holiness ourselves.”

Love,
Matthew

How do Catholics know they’re “saved”?

A very dear friend recently posed the following question to me:

“Matt, what do I have to do in order to be saved? What must I do to know that I will go to heaven when I die?”

Here is my response:

“Dear (friend), Catholics, in this life, never know if they will be found worthy. This is a decision only Jesus as God can make in our particular judgment immediately after death, and we cannot. It is presumptuous to think otherwise. We trust in the promises of our Lord.

Neither can we be sure of the damnation of any. Again, this is a judgment of the Lord, and not ours. For Catholics, sanctifying grace, the life of grace, must be present within the Catholic for the hope of salvation. The idea of universal salvation because the Lord is so merciful is a heresy, although not the worst. Mt 25:10.

The saints (both specific and general, the communion of saints, as mentioned in the Nicene and Apostle’s creeds) are believed to be in Heaven, We hold with strongest belief this is true, but this is also why two miracles are required for canonization. Phil 2:12.

Those outside the church have the possibility, not necessarily the likelihood, of salvation (CCC 846). Within the Church exists the fullness of the life of grace and the sacraments which impart grace.

These might help, too:

https://soul-candy.info/2018/06/protestant-catholic-different-definitions-of-grace/
https://soul-candy.info/2015/08/explicit-implicit-faith-who-can-be-saved/

Love,
Matthew

The Saints on Purgatory

“[Judas Maccabeus] took up a collection . . . to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. 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.”
– 2 Maccabees 12:43-44

“When loved ones die, many people experience, in addition to grief and loneliness, a concern over the state of those loved ones, particularly if those departed souls weren’t the saintliest people in their lifetime or if they died sudden, unprovided deaths. What has become of these souls? Those who are left behind wonder.

The Church has always taught the existence of Purgatory, a place or state of existence after death, where, if necessary, we’re cleansed of any remaining effects of our sins and made ready to enter into Heaven. Moreover, as Scripture attests, our prayers and sacrifices can be of immense spiritual help to the persons undergoing this purification process; we can pray for specific persons, such as deceased loved ones, or for the souls in Purgatory in general.

Because God loves us and wants us to be with Him in Heaven, there must be some opportunity for us to finish being healed, or purged of our sins, after death, should this be necessary.

This cleansing process is what we call Purgatory. The saints believed without reservation in this reality. They themselves, because of their immense love of God, were ready to enter Heaven immediately after death, but they were mindful of those who were not as fortunate; after all, this is one of the signs of true love: caring for those in need, whether that need be physical or spiritual.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal, who reigned as queen of that country at the beginning of the fourteenth century, had a much-loved daughter named Constance. The young princess died very suddenly after being married, causing Elizabeth and her husband, King Denis, much grief. Soon after this, a hermit came to the queen with a shocking story: while he was praying, Constance had appeared to him, beseeching him to take a message to her mother. She was suffering terribly in Purgatory and would remain there a very long time unless Mass was offered for her each day for a year.

The king responded, “I believe that it is wise to do that which has been pointed out to you in so extraordinary a manner. After all, to have Masses celebrated for our dear deceased relatives is nothing more than a paternal and Christian duty.” Elizabeth accepted this advice, and arranged for the Masses to be said by a holy priest. One year later her daughter appeared to her, clothed in a brilliant white robe, and said, “Today, dear mother, I am delivered from the pains of Purgatory and am about to enter Heaven.” St. Elizabeth gave thanks to God and expressed her gratitude by distributing alms to the poor.

A number of saints (plus other mystics and visionaries) have allegedly seen Purgatory (and also Heaven and Hell). St. Frances of Rome was granted such a vision; she said that it consists of three levels. The lowest level is like a vast burning sea, where the persons undergo various sufferings related to the sins they committed on earth. The middle level is less rigorous, but still unpleasant. The highest level of Purgatory is populated by those who are closest to being released. These persons suffer mainly the pain of loss: that of yearning for God and of not yet truly possessing Him.

There’s consolation in all three levels, but especially in the highest. The souls in Purgatory know that, sooner or later, they’ll be with God in Heaven and that all their present sufferings are valuable and redemptive. Other saints and visionaries confirm this description, adding that our prayers and sacrifices — because they’re freely given — are immensely helpful to those in Purgatory, for God greatly values each one of our freely offered sacrifices, no matter how small. Some mystics have supposedly learned that when we pray for specific persons who are in Purgatory, they see us at that instant and are strengthened by the knowledge that we’re remembering them.

Many of the saints are said to have had experiences that confirmed the Church’s teaching on Purgatory. For instance, St. Louis Bertrand, a seventeenth-century priest, offered Masses, prayers, and sacrifices for his deceased father until finally he was granted a vision of his entry into Heaven. This happened only after eight years of prayer on his part. In the twelfth century, the famous Irish bishop St. Malachy learned that his sister was destined to suffer a long time in Purgatory, for she had lived a very sinful life before repenting; his prayers eased her sufferings, but did not significantly lessen her time there. In the fifteenth century, the sister of St. Vincent Ferrer appeared to him as she was about to enter Heaven and revealed that had it not been for the many Masses he offered on her behalf, her time in Purgatory would have been much longer.

A story is told about St. Teresa of Avila in this regard. A priest she knew had just died, and God revealed to her that he would remain in Purgatory until a Mass was said for him in the chapel of a new Carmelite house that was to be built. Teresa hurried to the site and had the workmen begin raising the walls of the chapel immediately, but as this would still take too long, she obtained permission from the bishop for a temporary chapel to be erected. Once this was done, Mass was celebrated there, and while receiving communion, Teresa saw a vision of the priest thanking her most graciously before entering God’s kingdom.

Showing concern for the dead and the dying is a great sign of love. Bl. Raymond of Capua, the biographer of St. Catherine of Siena, wrote that she attended her father, Jacomo, during his final hours. Learning in a revelation that this holy man nonetheless would require some purification in Purgatory, Catherine begged God to let her suffer pains of expiation on his behalf so that he might enter Heaven immediately. God agreed; Jacomo, who had been suffering greatly, thereupon experienced a happy and peaceful death, while Catherine was seized with violent pains that remained with her for the rest of her life. Raymond witnessed her suffering, but he also took note of her incredible forbearance and patience, along with her great joy on her father’s behalf.

An incident from the life of the Italian priest Padre Pio indicates that souls in Purgatory may request our prayers. One day in the 1920s, he was praying in the choir loft when he heard a strange sound coming from the side altars of the chapel. Then there was a crash as a candelabra fell from the main altar. Padre Pio saw a figure he assumed to be a young friar. But the figure told him, “I am doing my Purgatory here. I was a student in this friary, so now I have to make amends for the errors I committed while I was here, for my lack of diligence in doing my duty in this church.” The figure said that he had been in Purgatory for sixty years, and after requesting Padre Pio’s prayers, he vanished. Many other souls in purgatory are said to have asked for his assistance, including four deceased friars sitting around the fireplace in a state of great suffering; Padre Pio spent the night in prayer, securing their release.

Other saints are said to have had similar experiences, including St. Odilo, the eleventh-century abbot who began the practice of offering Mass for all the souls in Purgatory on what is now known as All Souls Day, the day after the feast of All Saints.

Our prayers for those who suffer there can be spiritually valuable to them. Because the saints believed in both sin and redemption, mercy and justice, they also acknowledged the existence of Purgatory and did everything possible to relieve those undergoing purification there. As the saints were far more conversant with the ways of Divine Providence than any of us could honestly claim to be, we would do very well to follow their example.”

Love,
Matthew

Purgatory begins here & now

“…I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of His glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty. Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” – Is 6:1-7


-by Judy Landrieu Klein, 11/4/17

“God is a consuming Fire. He alone can refine us like gold, and separate us from the slag and dross of our selfish individualities to fuse us into this wholeness of perfect unity that will reflect His own Triune Life forever.” -Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

…(St John Paul II stated), “Those who, after death, exist in a state of purification, are already in the love of Christ Who removes from them the remnants of imperfection.” (General Audience, July 21, 1999)

Earlier, in Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul II had written:

“The “living flame of love,” of which St. John (of the Cross) speaks, is above all, a purifying fire. The mystical nights described by this great doctor of the church on the basis of his own experience correspond, in a certain sense, to purgatory. God makes man pass through such an interior purgatory of his sensual and spiritual nature in order to bring him into union with Himself. Here we do not find ourselves before a mere tribunal. We present ourselves before the power of Love itself … It is Love that demands purification, before man can be made ready for that union with God which is his ultimate vocation and destiny.” Crossing the Threshold of Hope, 186-187

The Bible is replete with images that portray God’s love as fire, with a key theme being that the fire of God’s love burns that which it touches without destroying it (Exodus 3:2, Hebrews 12:28). Pope Benedict XVI explained this concept pointedly in the following words:

“Jesus sets fire to the earth. Whoever comes close to Jesus, accordingly, must be prepared to be burned …It burns, yet this is not a destructive fire but one that makes things bright and pure and free and grand. Being a Christian, then, is daring to entrust oneself to this burning fire.” (God and the World, 222)

It could thus be said that purgation is the experience wherein one is immersed in the fire of the love of God, with the effect being that whatever is not of God, i.e., everything within us that is incongruent with His love, is burned away. As Catholics, we may readily accept that such purgation will happen to us after death. But what we don’t often consider is that the same love we will encounter after death is meant to cleanse us even now, while we are still alive. In fact, the degree to which we allow the fire of God’s love to purify us in this life will determine how much purgation we will need in the next!

So bring on the fire, right?

Well, it’s not quite that simple. Because purification involves the pain of suffering and death, most of us try our darnedest to avoid it.

What within us, exactly, must be purified unto death as we draw near to Christ? While St. Paul called it “the flesh,” Trappist monk Thomas Merton named it the “false self,” which he said is the illusory persona projected by the human ego that “wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love … the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires.” (New Seeds of Contemplation, 35)

This is the self that finds its identity in pleasure, popularity, power, posturing and pride instead of authentic love; the self constructed by the ego that gives us an identity of our own making instead of the identity that God invites us to discover only through love of him. This self must die that we might truly live; one must allow it to be stripped away in order to become real and true in loving God, self and others.

Purgatory now? Indeed, may it be so. Let us pray:

“Sanctify, O Lord, our souls, minds, and bodies. Touch our minds and search out our consciences. Cast out from us every evil thought, every base desire and memory, every unseemly word, all envy, pride and hypocrisy, every lie, every deceit, all greed, all wickedness, all wrath, all anger, all malice, all blasphemy, all sloth, every movement that is alien to Your holy will. Enable us to turn to you, O God, Who loves humankind, to call upon You with boldness, with a pure heart, a contrite soul, a face unashamed, and with lips that are sanctified. Amen.”
-from The Divine Liturgy of James the Holy Apostle and Brother of the Lord

Love, pray for me,
Matthew