Why is There Purgatory?

Why is there purgatory?

Image by Hans (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about the doctrine of Purgatory. Even worse, there are so many people, including Catholics who dismiss Purgatory and don’t even believe it exists. This is unfortunate because the doctrine of Purgatory is an important and even comforting tenet of our faith.

What is Purgatory?

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it states,

“1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.608

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.611″

As this quote indicates, the doctrine of Purgatory is based on scripture and was officially formulated by two councils, the Council of Florence and the Council of Trent.

Why does Purgatory exist?

The Catechism explains it beautifully. Basically, if a person dies in the state of grace, but is not completely purified, he or she “goes to  Purgatory” to be completely “cleansed” before going to Heaven. Of course, Purgatory, Heaven, and Hell, are not “places” but states of being.

Here is the thing. God is utterly perfect, loving, and beauty itself. Nothing that is impure can be in His presence. Humans, even those of us who live faithful lives dedicated to Christ, have souls that are easily blemished my sin. Purgatory is the state of being that cleanses the soul from those blemishes of sin.

Our Pastor at church explained it this way (paraphrased): “Suppose a person hammers a nail into a piece of wood. Then he regrets that decision and takes the nail out. Well, the nail may be gone but there is still a hole where the nail was. Thus, when a person sins and then goes to confession, the guilt of the sin is taken away; however, the effect of the sin is still there and needs to be cleansed. So, purgatory, in a way, is like sanding down and getting rid of the whole left by the nail.”

And that is why Purgatory exists. It gives us the opportunity to be truly ready to be in the presence of God.

Jesus

Yes, Jesus has suffered, died and rose for our sins. One drop of His blood is enough to save the world. Purgatory does not take away or lessen the value of Jesus’ work of salvation. It is because of Jesus that we have the gift of Purgatory.

Every person on earth whether they call themselves born-again Christians or not must make the daily decision to choose Jesus and to live according to His ways. Sadly, although our hearts may be in the right place, all of us fail. Many times we choose anger, judgement, impurity, and all other sins above God. Through confession we receive forgiveness and absolution. Through penance we make reparation and make the effort to change our hearts and be rid of the effects of our sins. If we do not do so during our life we have the opportunity to do so “in” Purgatory.*

I hope my feeble attempts at explaining Purgatory helps. I also hope it spurs you on to pray for the souls in purgatory and offer sacrifice for them. They cannot help themselves but we can help them! The month of November is a great time to pray for the souls in purgatory because the Church designates November for them. And know, when we help them and they get to heaven, they will pray for us.

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*Of course, God prefers we purify our hearts and souls during our life so that we can go straight to heaven and I will write about that in a future post!

What is All Souls Day?

What is All Souls Day?

Image by Pezibear (2014) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

November 2 is the day the Church sets aside for All Souls Day but what does this mean? Basically, it is the commemoration of all the faithful departed who may be detained in purgatory. Of course, it is a good and holy thing to pray for the souls in Purgatory every day, especially Mondays, which is traditionally devoted to praying for those souls. Still, just like with All Saints, the Church gives us this particular day to remind us the importantance of praying for these holy souls who are saved but must complete their purification before entering heaven.

Although today is not a holy day of obligation, going to mass for All Souls Day is the most efficacious way to pray for them. Another beautiful way to pray for them is the Chaplet for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. In addition, the Pieta Prayer Book suggests praying 5 Apostle Creeds, 1 Hail Holy Queen, 1 Our Father, 1 Requiem and the Prayer of St. Gertrude the Great.

In case you don’t know the Requiem and Prayer of St. Gertrude, here they are:

The Requiem

“Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord and let your perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.”

Prayer of Saint Gertrude

“Ethernal Father, I offer thee the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with all the Masses said throughout the world today, for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.”

That one is the version I was taught. Now, there is a second version that many people use:

“Eternal Father, I offer thee the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with all the Masses said throughout the world today, for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.”

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Our Catholic Traditions: Weekly and Monthly Devotions

In order to help us grow in our faith, the Church encourages many different types of devotions and dedications. Our Mother Church also encourages us to use these devotions to delve deeper into our faith. One way She does this is by encouraging weekly and monthly devotions dedicated to a particular saint or article of faith.

Our Catholic Devotions: Weekly & Monthly Devotions

I first learned of many of these devotions when I was discerning a religious vocation with the Little Sisters of the Poor. They had (and I assume still do) special prayers and practices for each day of the week or month of the year. After leaving that religious congregation, I discovered that it was universally practiced in the Catholic Church and not just their order.

Here are the weekly devotions:

Sunday: The Holy Trinity

Monday: The Souls in Purgatory

Tuesday: Our Guardian Angels

Wednesday: Saint Joseph

Thursday: The Eucharist

Friday: The Passion of Jesus (Divine Mercy) and/or The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Saturday: The Immaculate Heart of Mary

And the Monthly Devotions:

January: The Holy Childhood of Jesus

February: The Holy Family

March: Saint Joseph

April: The Blessed Sacrament

May: Our Lady

June: Sacred Heart of Jesus

July: The Precious Blood of Jesus

August: The Immaculate Heart of Mary (the Assumption of Mary)

September: The Seven Sorrows of Mary

October: The Holy Angels and the Holy Rosary

November: The Poor Souls in Purgatory

December: The Immaculate Conception

Over the coming weeks and months, I will do my best to expound a little on the history and particulars of each devotion. In the meantime, in case you missed it, here’s a little primer on Why Honoring the Lord’s Day is Important and Ten Ways to Honor the Lord’s Day.

One more thing: for those of you who may want to know (or can’t ever remember) what days each of the Rosary Mysteries are prayed here they are:

Sunday: The Glorious Mysteries

Monday: The Joyful Mysteries

Tuesday: The Sorrowful Mysteries

Wednesday: The Glorious Mysteries

Thursday: The Luminous or Joyful Mysteries

Friday: The Sorrowful Mysteries

Saturday: The Joyful Mysteries (or Glorious Mysteries after 3pm)

A suggestion: This isn’t traditional, but over the years I have developed a habit of focusing on one Mystery over the seasons. For example: During Advent and Christmas I prayed the Joyful Mysteries every day. During Lent I pray the Sorrowful Mysteries everyday. During the Easter season I pray the Glorious Mysteries every day. And during Ordinary time I rotate the Mysteries as listed above.

Doing this has helped me enter deeper into the season and mystery that is being celebrated. You may want to give it a try to see if it helps you. 🙂

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