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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

Previous Post: An Introduction

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Purgatory, an Introduction…

Posted by Anne Elizabeth on April 29, 2009

As I indicated in a previous post, the next few posts will focus on purification from the perspective of Purgatory.  Rest assured, I’ve spoken already on the topic of purification when one prays the Rosary, so this is just an expansion of words already relayed.

My primary sources are: The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, ©2000; The Holy Bible, Catholic Version, RSV (unless otherwise noted); and stories related in different situations between the years 2000 – 2005 – exact names and resources are unknown at this present time.

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To begin: a definition

Purgatory:

A state of final purification after death and before entrance into heaven for those who died in God’s friendship, but were only imperfectly purified; a final cleansing of human imperfection before one is able to enter the joy of heaven. ~ CCC Glossary

This purification happens mostly at the moment of passing from this life into the next and only if the deceased accept the Mercy of God and embrace His love – which can and does frequently happen.  But there is another purification that we can go through while we are on this earth.  It is commonly referred to as Purgatory on Earth, by those of us who have asked for it.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states,

…every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin. (CCC§1472)

The understanding is, of course, that we desire to be with our God as soon as possible. The only way that will be possible is to not just free ourselves from sin, but also to have ourselves purified from the consequences of that sin. This is why the Solemnity of Divine Mercy Sunday is so important.  By “passing through the gate of [His] Mercy”, we are obtaining from Him the total forgiveness of our sins and from the punishment that accompanies those sins. The Catechism continues,

To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin (cf CCC§1854-55, 62-63; 1458) deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the “eternal punishment” of sin… These two punishments (Venial and Grave) must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.” (CCC§1472)

We sin because of our fallen state – this is known as the Original Sin when the first creatures disobeyed the Creator.  We can’t help but sin, it is embedded in our very nature, but we can choose not to follow through with sin:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ~ 1Peter 6-7

In other words, we can turn to Christ at every temptation and have Him take on our burdens.  What did Jesus say to us?

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” ~ Mt 11: 28-30

At the hour of death, burdens are very heavy.  The dying person knows that they are leaving this world and entering another – even if they did not previously believe in a heaven or hell – just ask anyone who has had a near death experience.  They will tell you that they understood all things that had happened in their life – both the good and the bad – and they knew they where about to answer for them.Many also have related that they felt they weren’t ready yet.  If only they had some more time, they would make many changes and improve their lives.

Those who believe in God and in His Church – Sacraments and Traditions alike – also know that it is their souls that are not ready, not just their emotional self – at least I’d hope so…

I once heard the following on a Christian radio station, and even though the pastor relating the allegory was not Catholic, his understanding for the need for purification before entering heaven was right on!

Click here.

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