Living in the Two Hearts

My Spiritual Insights and Musings

Continuing on Purgatory…

Posted by Anne Elizabeth on May 1, 2009

Those who die in the state of grace, that is in the friendship of Christ, are the ones who have called out to God for His mercy but realize that they are not yet ready for heaven. They desire a more perfect state, a more holy state.  Can’t enter a home with white carpet wearing muddy shoes…

And even though the previously mentioned allegory uses a nice soothing hot shower to cleanse the soul, Sacred Scripture AND Sacred Tradition tell us that Purgatory is not that nice.  Why?  Because those who are there know the state of their souls and how much purification they require, but they also know there is not a whole lot they can do about it other than to work it out in a very long, and often painful (when you’re really embarrassed about something, is it painful?) acknowledgment of one’s sins and the just punishment for those sins.

If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. ~ 1Cor 3:15

While attending an RCIA class, as I was a stand-by sponsor, when we came to the subject of Purgatory and the speaker read an account from a book written by a 19th century saint who would often receive visits from those in Purgatory pleading for her prayers.  She related the experience of one such soul:

A man lay dying in a hospital bed, and while he was there he cried out to God for mercy because the pain of his illness was too great for him to bear.  God heard his cry and sent St. Michael to him to offer him a choice.  St. Michael said, ‘I have permission to relieve your suffering on earth and take you now to Purgatory, or you can suffer one more year and return immediately home, to heaven.’  The man thought about it for a moment, keenly aware of the physical pain he was in, and decided he’d ask a special favor.

‘Sir, I was wondering if you might give me a moment’s opportunity to visit Purgatory for just a little while so that I might make an good decision.’  St. Michael waited and then responded, ‘I can leave you there for one hour, but that is all the time I am allowed.’  The man agreed, believing that nothing could be worse than the current pain he was in.

A short while later, St. Michael decided to return to the man to see how he was doing.  Upon seeing the heavenly visitor, the man cried out in great agony, ‘I thought you were only going to leave me for one hour?!  How could you leave me here so long?’  St. Michael responded, ‘I have only been away from you for a short time.’  The man’s face contorted with spiritual discomfort at the realization of the gift he had received and pleaded with St. Michael to let him return immediately to the hospital room where he would suffer with great joy and gladness for the next year; for the suffering he endured in Purgatory could not be compared with the small amount of suffering he had on earth.

He was returned immediately and held true to his word.  The man suffered keenly for another year, but always with great joy and love of God, for he knew, without a doubt, that his final destination was indeed heaven.

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
~ Job 23:10

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