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Purgatory: What is the Belief of Purgatory & How Can We Offer Their Souls Relief?

Fr. Samuel Waters The Daily Knight |Sermon I of III on Purgatory

Purgatory is a belief of the Apostles and the Church


The Catholic Church teaches that Purgatory is a place of temporal punishment for departed souls who are destined for heaven but are not completely purified from sin. Through this purifying process, spiritual contamination is removed and the soul is made completely pleasing to God so that it can live with Him forever.


The Church refers to these souls as 1) Poor Souls in Purgatory; 2) Suffering Souls; 3) Holy Souls.


Purgatory is demanded by God’s Justice. When we sin, we incur before God the liability of guilt and the liability of punishment. God forgives the guilt of sin through His mercy but punishes at death the sinner by His justice. If God’s justice demands that sin be punished, it follows that one who dies with contrition for his sins but before satisfying the full punishment for them, man will suffer the remaining punishment in the afterlife.


Protestants often point out that the word “Purgatory” is not in the Bible. On this basis, they conclude that Purgatory is a false doctrine. This approach exhibits the common fallacy among Protestants that something must be in the Bible for it to be true. The Bible never teaches such a thing. Scripture commands us to follow both the written and unwritten Traditions that Christ and the Apostles handed onto us through the Church. Not only is the Dogma of Purgatory part of the unwritten Apostolic Tradition but it is taught also in Scripture.


Therefore, to believe in the Bible means we must also believe in Purgatory. Protestants also reject Purgatory on the premise that Christ has made complete satisfaction for our sins. It is true that the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ was more than sufficient to atone for all punishment (temporal and eternal) due to sin. The Passion of Christ was a work of satisfaction for the sins of the entire world. Christ gave the Father more than was necessary to compensate for our sins. Christ has made satisfaction for the eternal punish for sin. Temporal punishment refers to the personal, social, and ecclesial effects that our sins caused, which must be remedied by virtue of God’s Divine Justice. We participate with Christ by enduring the trials and sufferings of this life, as well as through acts penance.


What does The Catholic Church say about Purgatory:


Purgatory is a place of temporary punishment for those who die in the State of Grace (who have no Mortal Sin on their soul) but are guilty of venial sins or who have not made full satisfaction for the temporal punishment due to their sins.


Purgatory is where souls are detained and purified. Souls in Purgatory can not help themselves because they are not able to gain merit (merit is obtained by choosing the good and avoiding evil. Souls in Purgatory have no chance at gaining merit). They can be helped by the faithful on earth by prayers and other good works. Belief in praying for the dead includes belief in the existence of Purgatory. (Those in heaven do not need our help and the those in hell cannot benefit because they will never leave).


Council of Florence 1439:

Purgatory is defined as that place where those truly penitent have departed in the love of God, before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for sins of commission and omission and are purified/cleansed after death.


Council of Trent 1563:

“Since the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost in conformity with the Sacred Writings and Ancient Traditions, in the Fathers of the Church, in the Sacred Councils, have taught that there is a Purgatory and that the souls detained there are assisted by the prayers of the faithful and especially by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Bishops of the Church are to insist that the sound Doctrine of Purgatory be believed by all the faithful of Christ, be maintained, taught and everywhere preached.” “If anyone says that after the reception of the Grace of Justification to every penitent sinner the guilt is so remitted that the penalty of eternal punishment is so blotted out that no penalty of temporal punishment remains to be discharged, let him be Anathema/ Condemned.


Heaven Bound:

Again, Purgatory is for those souls who die in the State of Grace (no mortal sins on their soul). Mortal Sins involves grave matter, the sinner’s knowledge and full consent. These sins are called mortal because they remove grace from the soul, preventing the soul from obtaining union with God, the source of all life. All wrong doing is sin, but not all sin is mortal (I John 5: 16-17). Those who die with their mortal sins being forgiven or having only venial sins on their soul at the time of death, are assured of their place in heaven (although they may need to spend time in Purgatory for final purification). Purgatory is not for those souls who die with unforgiven mortal sins on their soul. Those souls knowingly chose sin over God during their lives and failed to repent of their sins before death. These are the souls of the Reprobate who will be tormented, day and night forever (Apocalypse 20:10).


Purification and Satisfaction:

These souls, even though they have repented of their sins, still owe God for the damage/ harm that their sins have caused to themselves or to others. Purgatory removes the temporal punishment due to the sins through the fire of God’s Divine Justice and Love (We experience God’s mercy through the Sacrament of Penance while on earth. When we die, we are judged immediately and the time for mercy has passed once we die. While we are on earth, we should make apart of our spiritual life the pursuit of Indulgences through prayers and other devotions. There are two types of Indulgences, Plenary and Partial. A Plenary Indulgence has the ability to remove all the temporal punishment due to sin up to and including the moment we are doing the prayers/devotions. A Partial Indulgence removes a part of the temporal punishment due to sin up to the moment we are doing the prayers/ devotion. An example of a plenary indulgence for a deceased soul would be, you praying the Stations of the Cross for a family member (who may be in purgatory- and they are but you do not know it). You pray the Stations of the Cross for them. If they are in Purgatory and you pray the Stations for them, you just helped them leave Purgatory because there is a Plenary Indulgence attached to the Stations of the Cross. An example of a Partial Indulgence is you pray for a particular soul that happens to be in Purgatory. They receive the shortening of their time in Purgatory because of your prayer or devotion.


Relief from Suffrages:

Catholic belief about Purgatory is that the souls there can have their sufferings lessened and even be delivered from the torments completely by suffrages/prayers of the faithful on earth. Suffrages are acts of penance performed by the faithful, such as prayers, fasting, almsgiving, etc. This is because we are all members of the Mystical body of Christ and can assist one another. In the Creed the words “Communion of Saints” means we are all connected to one another. Although God requires from the members of the Mystical Body of Christ, satisfaction for their sins, He does necessarily require it from the member who owes it (example is when you pay for some of the groceries of another person because they do not have enough money). God accepts satisfaction for sin from any member He chooses.


How Painful:

There are two types of pain in Purgatory. There is: 1) Pain of Loss and 2) Pain of Sense.

The Pain of Loss consists of being detained from beholding the Face of God, the very end for which God created the soul. When the soul was in the body, it struggled between satisfying the desires of the spirit and the desires of the flesh. The Book of Wisdom says: “a perishable body weights down the soul” (Wisdom 9:15). St. Paul refers to the tension between the “flesh and the spirit.” When the soul is free of the body, it seeks God alone. The deprived soul in Purgatory experiences tremendous torments from which it will not be released until it has “paid the last penny,” (Matthew 5:26). The Pain of Sense consists of sensible suffering like what we would experience in the body. God allows the soul in Purgatory to experience bodily pain because the sins for which it must make satisfaction for were committed in the body, (II Corinthians 5:10).


To be continued in Sermon II...


The materials I used for this sermon are coming from two sources. The first and primary source continues to be from the book; “The Biblical Basis for Purgatory” by John Salza. The secondary source is the book: “On Purgatory, the Members of the Church Suffering” by St. Robert Bellarmine (Doctor of the Church and Cardinal).





In Christ Crucified and the Most Victorious Heart of Jesus.




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