Not as often as it should, my mind turns to purgatory. Purgatory is the home of the Church Suffering. Catholic's believe there is a purgatory and non-Catholics do not. It is a Dogma of the Church so it must be believed by Catholics. I know that there are a lot of my readers who are not Catholic, and that some of my readers are but really do not have an idea about purgatory. As a result Funeral Masses are said for the dead in white vestments instead of in black, and only a few masses are offered thereafter. True story, A true story of penance I witnessed this is how it should be.
We as Catholics know that the sense of the faith operates within the Church so that which the Church teaches is true. This is not a grey area. Pugatory exists.
So what is this Purgatory?
Purgatory is that state where in the soul passes in which the last stain of self- love is removed in preparation for the Beatific Vision. Whoa!
As I tell my Catechism students... "Sin cannot exist in the presence of the Creator, because God is all good and sin is the absence of God". Notice I say that sin is the absence of God and not take the easy way out and say sin is just bad. As darkness is not black but the absence of light so too is sin the absence of God. Where God is, sin is not." (That is why it is overimportant to be properly disposed to receive The Eucharist.)
Ok, now that I established I think logically that God and sin can not co-exist, I have to say something about death. As the song says, ..."death will come soon to hush us along..." we all die. What happens then? These are called the last 4 things, Death, Judgment, Heaven or Hell. We will each have a particular judgement, "It is appointed to men to die once, and after that comes the judgment". Hebrews 9:27 Douay-Rhiems and "Each one will receive his pay, according to his works" 1 Cor 3:8 Douay-Rhiems
At this judgement there are only 3 results: We are sinless and have no faults, we are accepted into Heaven, to praise and worship God in His presence. It is a perfect Love, with no distractions, we will bask in his glory forever. We will be in the Beatific Vision. God will look us in the face. There is no need for anything else.
The second result, Hell. Banishment from the sight of God forever. A place of eternal Hate. The souls in hell hate themselves, hate you, hate me, hate those who are in Heaven, but especially they hate those who are dragged into hell with them, (there is no love lost in hell) because they hate those in hell with them who had the opportunity in life to go to Heaven but failed and now are in hell with them. If it doesn't make sense it's OK, that is why it is called hell. Do not expect pity.
The last place is Purgatory. Purgatory the word is not mentioned in the Bible by that name, but then again neither is "Trinity" or even the word Bible! We can find it referred in the Bible. In one book it is especially visiable Maccabees(the book was removed out of the Canon by Protestants*.) Purgatory is a place where those last vestiges of sin remain and are "purged" hence Purgatory. The first place we see a mention of purgatory is in 2 Macc 12:39-46, ..."On the following day, since the task had now become urgent( to bury the dead, probably they were beginning to smell), Judas and his men went to gather up the bodies of the slain and bury them with their kinsmen in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin..." 2 Macc 12: 39-46 NAB Thus we see several things. #1 They died as sinners, #2. They died in the service of God, #3 An expiatory sacrifice was to be made, and #4 "Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin..." If sin could not be forgiven in the next world why make an expiatory sacrifice? Sin could be forgiven in the next world, "...And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come..." Matthew 12:32 Sin cannot be forgiven in hell because it is the final destination of sinners. Sin is not forgiven in heaven because there is no need to because...(Test Question)"Where God is, sin is not."
So we see that Purgatory is a state of cleansing. "...but nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who does abominable things or tells lies." Apocalypse of St John 21:27 The "it" is Heaven.
It is a poor explaination. But I have an analogy, because I work in a prison I deal with this every day. A man kills another man, he is caught and tried. Before he is sentenced he asks for and receives forgivness from the family. he recieves their forgivness. He is not released, he is condemned to pay the price of his sin. This is similar to God's judgement. We are forgiven but we still have a "price to pay" ..."Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny..." Matt 5:26 Purgatory is where we pay that price.
The good news? The Good News is that those in Purgatory are going to their final destination, Heaven. They cannot go to Hell. They are in Hope of the Beatific Vision.
There was a time when we were taught that the time Purgatory was calculated in days, weeks and years. That is what I was taught too. It was easier for the young children to learn that this time had a length. A beginning and an end. During the Middle Ages and Renaisance it was taught that Indugences could be gained which would alleviate or expiate our time in purgatory or the time in Purgatory being served by our family members. All indulgences assume the sin is already forgiven. Wouldn't it be great if you could pay your way out of Purgatory? The church turned a blind eye in the selling of indulgences during the period of the building of the great cathedrals. It was an abuse. People like Luther decried against it. Others just said there was "no such a thing as Purgatory". ..."Nothing impurified can enter Heaven, but yet a careless word can defile the soul"... Matt 12:36, if there is no place of purification NO one is going to Heaven. If there is no Hope for Heaven then why bother? Indugences can still be gained, the easist is participation in the sacrifice of Mass. The recitation of the Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, devotion to the Saints all will aleviate the suffering of the souls in Purgatory.
(Everyone in Heaven is a Saint incidently, so prayers intended for that reason create Saints. One Mass before death is more efficatious that all the Masses ever said for you after death.)
About here a commentor will use this biblical quotation,..."for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,..." Romans 3:23 NIV. Huh? Everyone includes a lot of people, like Christ. Are they saying that Christ sinned? Mary? (actually I have heard a minister say that Christ doubted in the garden and his request to have this cup pass... indicates a lack of trst in god and tehrefore sin. ...but that is a different topic)
In the book Purgatory Explained by Fr. F. X. Schouppe, S.J....Part I, Chapter XXV we see why itis imprtant to have your mind fixed on the objective at all times.
A series of apparitions occurred during the course of the year 1859. The American press took up the matter, and treated those grave questions with its usual levity. In order to put a stop to scandal, the Abbot Wimmer, superior of the house, addressed the following letter to the newspapers.
"The following is a true statement of the case: In our Abbey of St. Vincent, near Latrobe, on September 10, 1859, a novice saw an apparition of a Benedictine in full choir dress. This apparition was repeated every day from September 18 until November 19, either at eleven o'clock, at noon, or at two o'clock in the morning. It was only on the 19th November that the novice interrogated the spirit, in resence of another member of the community, and asked the motive of these apparitions. He replied that he had suffered for seventy-seven years for having neglected to celebrate seven Masses of obligation; that he had already appeared at different times to seven other Benedictines, but that he had not been heard, and that he would be obliged to appear again after eleven years if the novice did not come to his assistance. Finally, the spirit asked that these seven Masses might be celebrated for him; moreover, the novice must remain in retreat for seven days, keep strict silence, and during thirty days recite three times a day the psalm "Miserere", his feet bare, and his arms extended in the form of a cross. All the conditions were fulfilled between November 20 and December 25, and on that day, after the celebration of the last Mass, the apparition disappeared. "During that period the spirit showed itself several times, exhorting the novice in the most urgent manner to pray for the souls in Purgatory; for, said he, they suffer frightfully, and are extremely grateful to those who co-operate in their deliverance. He added, sad to relate, that of the five priests who had died in our Abbey, not one had yet entered Heaven, all were suffering in Purgatory. I do not draw any conclusion, but this is correct."
This account, signed by the hand of the Abbot, is an incontestable
Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.
Let Your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication.
If You, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand?
But with You is forgiveness, that You may be revered.
I trust in the Lord; my soul trusts in His word.
My soul waits for the Lord more than sentinels wait for the dawn.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the Lord,
For with the Lord is kindness and with Him is plenteous redemption;
And He will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.
* OTC (Other than Catholic) Faith groups claim that it was never intended to be part of the Bible, or that it is in Greek, or that they are historical bocks and not for salvation. Usually Protestants call them the Apocrypha, which is about like saying "interesting but about as much to do with salvation as an Archie comic." Catholics call the the Deuterocanonical texts. These maybe the reasons or perhaps it gave the clearest view of what the Jews believed before Christ and didn't lock into what the "reformers" hypothesised.
**The general judgment at the end of time simply solemnly confirms the particular judgments of each one, with the difference that then the body as well as the soul will receive what is due it. And all God's judgments will be revealed as most just.
Thanks once again to Robert Banaugh a some time contributer who provided the exerpt from Purgatory Explained,