Category Archives: Purgatory

Nov 2 – Novena for Holy Souls in Purgatory


-please click on the image for greater detail

-by St Alphonsus Liguori

On the First Day:

Jesus, my Savior I have so often deserved to be cast into hell how great would be my suffering if I were now cast away and obliged to think that I myself had caused my damnation. I thank Thee for the patience with which Thou hast endured me. My God, I love Thee above all things and I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee because Thou art infinite goodness. I will rather die than offend Thee again. Grant me the grace of perseverance. Have pity on me and at the same time on those Blessed Souls suffering in Purgatory. Mary, Mother of God, come to their assistance with thy powerful intercession.

Now pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and:

THE PRAYER TO OUR SUFFERING SAVIOR FOR THE HOLY SOULS IN PURGATORY:
O most sweet Jesus, through the bloody sweat which Thou didst suffer in the Garden of Gethsemane, have mercy on these Blessed Souls. Have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel scourging, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most painful crowning with thorns, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in carrying Thy cross to Calvary, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel Crucifixion, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most bitter agony on the Cross, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the immense pain which Thou didst suffer in breathing forth Thy Blessed Soul, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
(Recommend yourself to the Souls in Purgatory and mention your intentions here)
Blessed Souls, I have prayed for thee; I entreat thee, who are so dear to God, and who are secure of never losing Him, to pray for me a miserable sinner, who is in danger of being damned, and of losing God forever. Amen.

On the Second Day:

Woe to me, unhappy being, so many years have I already spent on earth and have earned naught but hell! I give Thee thanks, O Lord, for granting me time even now to atone for my sins. My good God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. Send me Thy assistance, that I may apply the time yet remaining to me for Thy love and service; have compassion on me, and, at the same time, on the Holy Souls suffering in Purgatory. O Mary, Mother of God, come to their assistance with thy powerful intercession.

Now pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and:

THE PRAYER TO OUR SUFFERING SAVIOR FOR THE HOLY SOULS IN PURGATORY:
O most sweet Jesus, through the bloody sweat which Thou didst suffer in the Garden of Gethsemane, have mercy on these Blessed Souls. Have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel scourging, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most painful crowning with thorns, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in carrying Thy cross to Calvary, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel Crucifixion, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most bitter agony on the Cross, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the immense pain which Thou didst suffer in breathing forth Thy Blessed Soul, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
(Recommend yourself to the Souls in Purgatory and mention your intentions here)
Blessed Souls, I have prayed for thee; I entreat thee, who are so dear to God, and who are secure of never losing Him, to pray for me a miserable sinner, who is in danger of being damned, and of losing God forever. Amen.

On the Third Day:

My God! because Thou art infinite goodness, I love Thee above all things, and repent with my whole heart of my offenses against Thee. Grant me the grace of holy perseverance. Have compassion on me, and, at the same, on the Holy Souls suffering in Purgatory. And thou, Mary, Mother of God, come to their assistance with thy powerful intercession.

Now pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and:

THE PRAYER TO OUR SUFFERING SAVIOR FOR THE HOLY SOULS IN PURGATORY:
O most sweet Jesus, through the bloody sweat which Thou didst suffer in the Garden of Gethsemane, have mercy on these Blessed Souls. Have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel scourging, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most painful crowning with thorns, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in carrying Thy cross to Calvary, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel Crucifixion, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most bitter agony on the Cross, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the immense pain which Thou didst suffer in breathing forth Thy Blessed Soul, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
(Recommend yourself to the Souls in Purgatory and mention your intentions here)
Blessed Souls, I have prayed for thee; I entreat thee, who are so dear to God, and who are secure of never losing Him, to pray for me a miserable sinner, who is in danger of being damned, and of losing God forever. Amen.

On the Fourth Day:

My God! because Thou art infinite goodness, I am sorry with my whole heart for having offended Thee. I promise to die rather than ever offend Thee more. Give me holy perseverance; have pity on me, and have pity on those Holy Souls that burn in the cleansing fire and love Thee with all their hearts. O Mary, Mother of God, assist them by thy powerful prayers.

Now pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and:

THE PRAYER TO OUR SUFFERING SAVIOR FOR THE HOLY SOULS IN PURGATORY:
O most sweet Jesus, through the bloody sweat which Thou didst suffer in the Garden of Gethsemane, have mercy on these Blessed Souls. Have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel scourging, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most painful crowning with thorns, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in carrying Thy cross to Calvary, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel Crucifixion, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most bitter agony on the Cross, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the immense pain which Thou didst suffer in breathing forth Thy Blessed Soul, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
(Recommend yourself to the Souls in Purgatory and mention your intentions here)
Blessed Souls, I have prayed for thee; I entreat thee, who are so dear to God, and who are secure of never losing Him, to pray for me a miserable sinner, who is in danger of being damned, and of losing God forever. Amen.

On the Fifth Day:

Woe to me, unhappy being, if Thou, O Lord, hadst cast me into hell; for from that dungeon of eternal pain there is no deliverance. I love Thee above all things, O infinite God and I am sincerely sorry for having offended Thee again. Grant me the grace of holy perseverance. Have compassion on me, and, at the same time, on the Holy Souls suffering in Purgatory. O Mary, Mother of God, come to their assistance with thy powerful intercession.

Now pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and:

THE PRAYER TO OUR SUFFERING SAVIOR FOR THE HOLY SOULS IN PURGATORY:
O most sweet Jesus, through the bloody sweat which Thou didst suffer in the Garden of Gethsemane, have mercy on these Blessed Souls. Have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel scourging, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most painful crowning with thorns, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in carrying Thy cross to Calvary, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel Crucifixion, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most bitter agony on the Cross, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the immense pain which Thou didst suffer in breathing forth Thy Blessed Soul, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
(Recommend yourself to the Souls in Purgatory and mention your intentions here)
Blessed Souls, I have prayed for thee; I entreat thee, who are so dear to God, and who are secure of never losing Him, to pray for me a miserable sinner, who is in danger of being damned, and of losing God forever. Amen.

On the Sixth Day:

My Divine Redeemer, Thou didst die for me on the Cross, and hast so often united Thyself with me in Holy Communion, and I have repaid Thee only with ingratitude. Now, however, I love Thee above all things, O supreme God; and I am more grieved at my offenses against Thee than at any other evil. I will rather die than offend Thee again. Grant me the grace of holy perseverance. Have compassion on me, and, at the same time, on the Holy Souls suffering in Purgatory. Mary, Mother of God, come to their aid with thy powerful intercession.

Now pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and:

THE PRAYER TO OUR SUFFERING SAVIOR FOR THE HOLY SOULS IN PURGATORY:
O most sweet Jesus, through the bloody sweat which Thou didst suffer in the Garden of Gethsemane, have mercy on these Blessed Souls. Have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel scourging, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most painful crowning with thorns, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in carrying Thy cross to Calvary, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel Crucifixion, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most bitter agony on the Cross, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the immense pain which Thou didst suffer in breathing forth Thy Blessed Soul, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
(Recommend yourself to the Souls in Purgatory and mention your intentions here)
Blessed Souls, I have prayed for thee; I entreat thee, who are so dear to God, and who are secure of never losing Him, to pray for me a miserable sinner, who is in danger of being damned, and of losing God forever. Amen.

On the Seventh Day:

God, Father of Mercy, satisfy this their ardent desire! Send them Thy holy Angel to announce to them that Thou, their Father, are now reconciled with them through the suffering and death of Jesus, and that the moment of their deliverance has arrived.

Now pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and:

THE PRAYER TO OUR SUFFERING SAVIOR FOR THE HOLY SOULS IN PURGATORY:
O most sweet Jesus, through the bloody sweat which Thou didst suffer in the Garden of Gethsemane, have mercy on these Blessed Souls. Have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel scourging, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most painful crowning with thorns, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in carrying Thy cross to Calvary, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel Crucifixion, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most bitter agony on the Cross, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the immense pain which Thou didst suffer in breathing forth Thy Blessed Soul, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
(Recommend yourself to the Souls in Purgatory and mention your intentions here)
Blessed Souls, I have prayed for thee; I entreat thee, who are so dear to God, and who are secure of never losing Him, to pray for me a miserable sinner, who is in danger of being damned, and of losing God forever. Amen.

On the Eighth Day:

Oh my God! I also am one of these ungrateful beings, having received so much grace, and yet despised Thy love and deserved to be cast by Thee into hell. But Thy infinite goodness has spared me until now. Therefore, I now love Thee above all things, and I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. I will rather die than ever offend Thee. Grant me the grace of holy perseverance. Have compassion on me and, at the same time, on the Holy Souls suffering in Purgatory. Mary, Mother of God, come to their aid with thy powerful intercession.

Now pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and:

THE PRAYER TO OUR SUFFERING SAVIOR FOR THE HOLY SOULS IN PURGATORY:
O most sweet Jesus, through the bloody sweat which Thou didst suffer in the Garden of Gethsemane, have mercy on these Blessed Souls. Have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel scourging, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most painful crowning with thorns, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in carrying Thy cross to Calvary, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel Crucifixion, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most bitter agony on the Cross, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the immense pain which Thou didst suffer in breathing forth Thy Blessed Soul, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
(Recommend yourself to the Souls in Purgatory and mention your intentions here)
Blessed Souls, I have prayed for thee; I entreat thee, who are so dear to God, and who are secure of never losing Him, to pray for me a miserable sinner, who is in danger of being damned, and of losing God forever. Amen.

On the Ninth Day:

My God! How was it possible that I, for so many years, have borne tranquilly the separation from Thee and Thy holy grace! O infinite Goodness, how long-suffering hast Thou shown Thyself to me! Henceforth, I shall love Thee above all things. I am deeply sorry for having offended Thee; I promise rather to die than to again offend Thee. Grant me the grace of holy perseverance, and do not permit that I should ever again fall into sin. Have compassion on the Holy Souls in Purgatory. I pray Thee, moderate their sufferings; shorten the time of their misery; call them soon unto Thee in heaven, that they may behold Thee face to face, and forever love Thee. Mary, Mother of Mercy, come to their aid with thy powerful intercession, and pray for us also who are still in danger of eternal damnation.

Now pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and:

THE PRAYER TO OUR SUFFERING SAVIOR FOR THE HOLY SOULS IN PURGATORY:
O most sweet Jesus, through the bloody sweat which Thou didst suffer in the Garden of Gethsemane, have mercy on these Blessed Souls. Have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel scourging, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most painful crowning with thorns, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in carrying Thy cross to Calvary, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer during Thy most cruel Crucifixion, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy most bitter agony on the Cross, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
O most sweet Jesus, through the immense pain which Thou didst suffer in breathing forth Thy Blessed Soul, have mercy on them.
R. Have mercy on them, O Lord.
(Recommend yourself to the Souls in Purgatory and mention your intentions here)
Blessed Souls, I have prayed for thee; I entreat thee, who are so dear to God, and who are secure of never losing Him, to pray for me a miserable sinner, who is in danger of being damned, and of losing God forever. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Nov 2 – Litany for Holy Souls in Purgatory


-by Wilhelm von Kaulbach (1805–1874), “The Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus”, painting, 1846, oil on canvas, Height: 585 cm (19.1 ft); Width: 705 cm (23.1 ft), Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany, please click on the image for greater detail.

O Jesus, Thou suffered and died that all mankind might be saved and brought to eternal happiness. Hear our pleas for further mercy on the souls of:

My dear parents and grandparents, my Jesus mercy!
My brothers and sisters and other near relatives, my Jesus mercy!
My godparents and sponsors of confirmation, my Jesus mercy!
My spiritual and temporal benefactors, my Jesus mercy!
My friends and neighbors, my Jesus mercy!
All for whom love or duty bids me pray, my Jesus mercy!

Those who have offended me, my Jesus mercy!
Those who have suffered disadvantage or harm through me, my Jesus mercy!

Those who are especially beloved by Thee, my Jesus mercy!
Those whose release is near at hand, my Jesus mercy!
Those who desire most to be united to Thee, my Jesus mercy!

Those who endure the greatest sufferings, my Jesus mercy!
Those whose release is most remote, my Jesus mercy!
Those who are least remembered, my Jesus mercy!

Those who are most deserving on account of their services to the Church, my Jesus mercy!
The rich, who now are the most destitute, my Jesus mercy!
The mighty, who now are powerless, my Jesus mercy!
The once spiritually blind, who now see their folly, my Jesus mercy!
The frivolous, who spent their time in idleness, my Jesus mercy!
The poor, who did not seek the treasures of heaven, my Jesus mercy!
The tepid, who devoted little time to prayer, my Jesus mercy!
The indolent, who neglected to perform good works, my Jesus mercy!
Those of little faith, who neglected the frequent reception of the Sacraments, my Jesus mercy!
The habitual sinners, who owe their salvation to a miracle of grace, my Jesus mercy!
Parents who failed to watch over their children, my Jesus mercy!
Superiors who were not solicitous for the salvation of those entrusted to them, my Jesus mercy!
Those who strove for worldly riches and pleasures, my Jesus mercy!
The worldly-minded, who failed to use their wealth and talents in the service of God, my Jesus mercy!
Those who witnessed the death of others, but would not think of their own, my Jesus mercy!
Those who did not provide for the life hereafter, my Jesus mercy!
Those whose sentence is severe because of the great things entrusted to them, my Jesus mercy!

The popes, kings and rulers, my Jesus mercy!
The bishops and their counselors, my Jesus mercy!
My teachers and spiritual advisors, my Jesus mercy!
The deceased priests of this diocese, my Jesus mercy!
The priests and religious of the Catholic Church, my Jesus mercy!

The defenders of the holy faith, my Jesus mercy!
Those who died on the battlefield, my Jesus mercy!
Those who fought for their country, my Jesus mercy!
Those who were buried in the sea, my Jesus mercy!
Those who died of apoplexy, my Jesus mercy!
Those who died of heart attacks, my Jesus mercy!
Those who suffered and died of cancer, my Jesus mercy!
Those who died suddenly in accidents, my Jesus mercy!
Those who died without the last rites of the Church, my Jesus mercy!
Those who shall die within the next twenty-four hours, my Jesus mercy!
My own poor soul when I shall have to appear before Thy judgment seat, my Jesus mercy!

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them: For evermore with Thy saints, because Thou art gracious.

May the prayer of Thy suppliant people, we beseech Thee, O Lord, benefit the souls of Thy departed servants and handmaids: that Thou mayest both deliver them from all their sins, and make them to be partakers of Thy redemption. Amen.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let the perpetual light shine upon them.
May their souls and the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

“Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they?” -C.S. Lewis

“C.S. Lewis, the author of Mere Christianity and The Chronicles of Narnia, was not Catholic but he did believe in the existence of purgatory. He knew dying does not change our sinful hearts, so God must do something to us after death in order to make us fit to spend eternal life with him. Lewis said, “Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they?”

1 John 5:17 says, “All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.” The Church accordingly refers to mortal sins as our freely chosen, gravely evil acts that destroy God’s love in our hearts. These sins forfeit our hope of eternal life with God unless we ask God to forgive them through the sacrament of reconciliation (confession).

Unlike mortal sins, venial sins hurt the soul but do not kill God’s grace within it. These are sins that people commit in their day-to-day life that do not completely separate them from God but do hurt their relationship with him. Catholics don’t have to confess these sins to a priest (but they can if they wish), and the Eucharist also cleanses us of these sins. But what happens to people who don’t seek the sacraments and die in an unclean state of venial sin?

Since these people died in a state of grace and friendship with God, there is no possibility they will go to hell. But Revelation 21:27 says that nothing unclean will be in heaven. It logically follows, therefore, that these saved souls will be purged of their sins prior to spending eternity with God. According to the Catechism, “The Church gives the name purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1031).

Purgatory is not an alternative to heaven and hell nor is it a “second chance” to choose God. All souls that go to purgatory belong to people who died in God’s friendship. Purgatory isn’t a place as much as it is a state of existence after death, where we will be purified from sin. C.S. Lewis understood that because God loves us so much he won’t let us stay attached to any kind of sin, including minor ones, for all eternity.

It is natural for humans to want to make up for the wrong they have done, but no amount of work on our part can make up for the wrong caused by our sins against an infinitely holy God. (Only Christ’s sacrifice can do that.) We can, however, make up for the temporal or earthly consequences of our sins.

Here’s a way to understand the difference.

If my five-year-old son recklessly breaks a neighbor’s window, I will pay for the window because he cannot. If my son is sorry for what he did then I will forgive him, but I will also ask him to perform extra chores to make up for his bad behavior. This satisfies his conscience’s desire to make amends and also helps him learn a valuable lesson.

We might think discipline is the opposite of love, but if you’ve ever been around a spoiled child you see that the lack of discipline can make a person angry, frustrated, selfish, and just plain miserable. Since God is our loving father, he also graciously corrects us, or as the Bible says, “The Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Heb. 12:6)

If Christ’s sacrifice is perfect and infinitely atones for sin, then why is purgatory even necessary? It’s necessary because Christ’s perfect sacrifice must be applied to each individual in different ways.

Those who reject Christ’s offer of salvation, for example, won’t have the saving effects of Christ’s sacrifice applied to them. Believers who are attached to sin in this life will have the effects of Christ’s sacrifice applied to them after death in purgatory.

Theologians like Pope Benedict XVI have even speculated that the cleansing fire of purgatory is none other than Christ Himself. He writes:

“Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ Himself, the Judge and Savior. The encounter with Him is the decisive act of judgment. Before His gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with Him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allows us to become truly ourselves.”

Purgatory doesn’t take away from Christ’s work, but rather it is Christ’s work. It is not something the Church created in order to force people to work their way into heaven. Purgatory is instead something God created so that the grace His Son obtained for us on the cross could make us “holy and blameless and irreproachable before Him” (Col. 1:22-23), free from the pain and penalty of sin, and ready to enter into eternal glory with Christ our Lord.”

Love,
Matthew

Thank God for Purgatory!

800px-Carracci-Purgatory

An Angel Frees the Souls of Purgatory, c. 1610, Lodovico Carracci (1555-1619), Bologna


-by Br Thomas Davenport, OP (Br Thomas earned a PhD in Physics from Stanford prior to joining the Order.)

“I knew it was going to be one of those conversations. Maybe it was the way he eagerly, yet nonchalantly, edged over to the conversation as I was explaining to some teenagers on the Metro what a Dominican was. Maybe it was the subtle sort of smile that implied recognition of, not an oddity or a friend, but a challenge. Maybe it was the business card he handed me that said in big bold letters: “YOU CAN BE 100% SURE OF HEAVEN.”

On second thought, yes, it was definitely the business card.

After a brief introduction and assurance that he had written a book on Catholicism, thus proving he knew what he was talking about, this new acquaintance of mine launched into an interrogative form of the big bold sentence on his business card. When I displayed some hesitance about whether I would go straight to heaven if I died tonight, he assured me that the dozen or so priests he interviewed for his book all answered the same way, with the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory as the culprit for such a pause.

I’d like to say that my Thomistic disputation training kicked in and that in the course of four or five stops I had managed to assuage all of his concerns about the Catholic understanding of death and judgment and anything else that came to mind… but I didn’t. We had a lively yet cordial conversation over a range of Christian topics, without either one of us giving much ground. I’d like to think that I may have given him some things to ponder on, or that I at least gave a charitable witness to those around us in the train, but all I do know is that I left the train thanking God for Purgatory.

There is a whole host of ways to argue for the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, and plenty of misconceptions about it that often need to be corrected. As always, the discussion is rooted in Scripture with its allusions to “cleansing fire” (1 Cor 3:12-15 and 1 Pet 1:6-7), of forgiveness “in the age to come” (Mt 12:31-32), as well as references to praying for the deceased (2 Macc 12:46), which only seems sensible if our prayers can still improve their lot.

These themes are taken up by the Church Fathers and confirmed both by the Church’s official statements and by the lived experience of the faithful over the millennia.

While I brought as much of this as I could remember to bear in my subway conversation, I couldn’t help but think that his conception of purgatory – as an impediment – was wrongheaded, and I tried my best to convey that message.

It’s not that I’m looking forward to actually being in Purgatory, or that I’m trying to avoid the beatific vision for a while. Rather, I’m thankful that God has provided a way to help me finish the job I have consistently proved so incompetent at, namely, being perfect.

Purgatory is both an assurance that God desires that we attain to our true end, our true perfection, and a means by which to get there. Of course, if we can, by His grace and mercy, attain to that perfection in this present life, all the better, but it is encouraging to know that while God will neither lower His standards nor turn a blind eye for us to be with Him, He still gives us every opportunity to finish the job or, more accurately, allow Him to finish the job.

As usual these gut reactions and inchoate musings have been expressed so much more beautifully and coherently, in this case by C.S. Lewis in his Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer:

Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, “It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy”?

Should we not reply, “With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.”

“It may hurt, you know.”

“Even so, sir.”

The idea that we could not stand to be before the face of God knowing that we were less than what He planned for us to be is what makes me so thankful for the doctrine of Purgatory. The added beauty of being able to unite ourselves to our deceased loved ones in prayer is a bonus almost as wonderful as the original gift itself.

I hope I was able to express some glimpse of that beauty to my companion on the train, although I’m not convinced that I did.

Nevertheless our conversation reaffirmed the very convictions he wanted me to question. While I plan to spend the rest of my life trying to cooperate with God’s grace in order to get to heaven as directly as I can, I will continue to thank God for Purgatory.”

Love,
Matthew