The Sobering Reality of Purgatory and Sin
David Martin | The Daily Knight
Perhaps the greatest curse plaguing modern man is the loss of the awareness of our accountability for sin. With all the pacifist indoctrination that permeates today’s culture, we seem to have forgotten that we will be evaluated for every thought, word, and action of our life when we stand before God in judgment, so that if there remain any sins or faults that have not been completely expiated we will have to pay our dues in the next life.
The Church infallibly teaches that there exists in the next life an infernal realm of banishment and suffering for those who did not properly cleanse themselves upon earth. This infernal prison is what we call Purgatory, signifying a purging place where souls are cleansed of imperfections by means of fire and bleak longing before they can enter into their eternal reward. St. Augustine says, “This fire of Purgatory will be more severe than any pain that can be felt, seen, or conceived in this world." (xli, De Sanctis on Purgatory)
Purgatory is a middle place in the next world where souls undergo the temporal punishment due to sins committed. Every sin we commit on earth must be properly atoned for, and if we don’t do it in this life through penance and confession, we most certainly will have to do it in the next life. As Christ said, “Thou shalt not go out from thence, until thou pay the very last mite.” (Luke 12:59)
It is for reason that the people of God even from the Old Testament have always prayed for their dead, in keeping with Holy Scripture: “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” (2 Machabees 12:46) The Book of Ecclesiasticus says, “A gift has grace in the sight of all the living, and restrain not grace from the dead.” (Ecc. 7:37) That is, do not withhold from them the grace of your prayers and sacrifices.
That there exists a place in the next world where the guilt and temporal punishment for sin can be remitted is evident in Christ’s discourse on the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. “He that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.” (Matthew 12:32) St. Gregory the Great explains this verse: “In this sentence it is given to understand that many sins can be remitted in this world, but also many in the world to come.” (Dialogue IV, 39)
In speaking of Christ after his Crucifixion, the Apostle Peter says that “He preached to those spirits that were in prison: which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe.” (1 Peter 3: 19,20) Here we see proof of a middle place for souls in the next world, which certainly isn’t Heaven since Heaven is no prison, and it’s not Hell since Christ did not go to preach to the dammed, and it’s not Limbo because the souls in Limbo were just, not incredulous. The Apostle is speaking of this middle place where the incredulous had to be detained in confinement. He is speaking of Purgatory.
"Those who deny Purgatory speak against the justice of God"
— St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
The Council of Trent affirms "that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls detained there are aided by the suffrages of the faithful." (Session XXV) That souls must stone for their sins is seen in Christ's preaching that we "Do penance" (paenitentiam agite, Matthew 4:17), which not only signifies contrition, but the punishing of past sins by fasting and penitential exercises in order to satisfy for them.
The Bible says, “Be not without fear about sin forgiven, and add not sin upon sin.” (Ecclesiasticus 5:5) This is an admonition against the sin of presumption where we casually assume we are saved because we have made some basic amendment or confession in life. St. John Vianney tells us, “How dearly we shall pay for all those faults that we look upon as nothing at all, like those little lies that we tell to amuse ourselves, those little scandals, the despising of the graces which God gives us at every moment.” (Sermon on Purgatory, St. John Vianney)
Unless You Become as Little Children…
Loss of innocence indeed will bar us from the Kingdom. As Jesus told the people, “Unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) This applies even if one is baptized and professes the Faith. Unless a man keeps his innocence and maintains a childlike candor and docility before God he will never see the Kingdom of God because nothing haughty or defiled can enter the Kingdom where only purity reigns. And even if he dies in grace with a degree of love for God in his heart, any sinful tainting contracted through immodesty or impure influence will have to be burned off his soul before he can enter the Kingdom.
In his sermon on Purgatory, St. John Vianney tells us that St. Peter Damien’s sister remained several years in Purgatory because she had listened to an evil song with some little pleasure. If St. Damien’s sister spent years in Purgatory for listening to a dirty song with a “little pleasure” what is in store for those who engross their ears all day long in satanic chant recordings with their filthy four-letter blasphemies and hellish sexual verbiage? Will some of these souls even make it to Purgatory?
The Holy Souls Depend On Us
The souls that do make it to Purgatory are always grateful for any prayers offered for them, regardless of how bad they may have treated us in life. There is no such thing as an ungrateful soul in Purgatory. Now they humbly acknowledge their error and are always on our side so we should recognize these holy souls for what they are – our suffering friends who need us.
As we understand it, the souls in Purgatory are completely helpless in that they cannot pray for themselves or plead their own cause in any way. The only satisfaction they can make is to endure this slow burn and undergo the fierce torment and longing in the fires of Purgatory, which could last twenty, fifty, a hundred years, or even longer. St. Catherine of Siena says, “They endure pain so intense, that no tongue is able to describe it. Nor is any mind capable of comprehending the smallest spark of that consuming fire, unless God should show it to him by a special grace.”
But as the Church reminds us, the prayers of the faithful have great power to alleviate their sufferings, to shorten their stay in Purgatory, and to even rescue them from this place of banishment so that they can finally enter into their eternal rest. St. Bridget in her revelations declared that she heard a voice from the depths of the purgatorial flames pronouncing these words: “May those be blessed, may those be rewarded, who relieve us in these pains!” Again she heard: “Blessed be upon earth those who, by their prayers and good works, come to the assistance of the poor suffering souls!” (From Purgatory Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints by Fr. F.X. Schouppe, S.J.)
Offering Masses for the dead is by far the most powerful means of relieving the souls in Purgatory, but even a kind thought or a short prayer offered for a departed soul will bring the balm to ease their pain and cool their burning. They feel it instantly. St. Teresa of Avila received a vision of Purgatory while saying the Rosary, and saw that at each Hail Mary, the departed souls received a spray of cool water that relieved them in their burning torments. Hence the souls in Purgatory constantly beg and plead for our prayers and understanding.
Visions of St. Magdalene de Pazzi
Before her death in 1607, St. Magdalene de Pazzi, while in the convent garden one evening with several other Religious, was ravished in ecstasy, and saw Purgatory open before her. At the time, a voice invited her to visit all the prisons of Divine Justice in order to teach her how truly worthy of compassion are the souls detained there. She consented and began to cry aloud in lamentation, saying, “Mercy, my God, mercy! Descend, O Precious Blood, and deliver these souls from their prison. Poor Souls!”
She went on to describe one of the prisons: “Oh! how horrible is this place; it is full of hideous demons and incredible torments! Who, O my God, are the victims of these cruel tortures? Alas! they are being pierced by sharp swords, they are being cut into pieces.” It was made known to her that these were the souls of those whose lives had been tainted with hypocrisy.
Further on she saw a great multitude of souls that were bruised, as it were, and crushed under a press; and she understood that they were those souls which had been addicted to impatience and disobedience during life. As she contemplated them, her looks, her sighs, and her whole attitude was that of compassion and terror.
After this, the dungeon of lies was laid open before her. After having attentively considered it, she cried aloud, “Liars are confined in a place in the vicinity of Hell, and their sufferings are exceedingly great. Molten lead is poured into their mouths; I see them burn, and at the same time tremble with cold.”
She then went to the prison of those souls which had sinned through weakness, and she was heard to exclaim, “Alas! I had thought to find you among those who have sinned through ignorance, but I am mistaken; you burn with a more intense fire.” This shouldn’t surprise us when we consider that weakness is a form of surrender which displeases God, and one that would be conquered if we would but ask God’s help (2 Cor. 12: 9).
Further on, she perceived souls which had been too much attached to the goods of this world, and had sinned by avarice. “What blindness,” said she, “thus eagerly to seek a perishable fortune! Those whom formerly riches could not sufficiently satiate, are here gorged with torments. They are smelted like metal in the furnace.”
She then was shown the souls that were imprisoned because of their former sins of impurity (fornication, immodest dress). She saw them in so filthy and pestilent a dungeon that the sight produced nausea. She turned away quickly from that loathsome spectacle. Seeing these proud peacocks of ambition, she said, “Behold those who wished to shine before men; now they are condemned to live in this frightful obscurity.”
Then she was shown the souls which had been guilty of ingratitude towards God. They were prey to unutterable torments, and, drowned as it were in a lake of molten lead, for having by their ingratitude dried up the source of piety.
Finally, in a last prison, she was shown souls that had not been given to any particular vice, but which, through the lack of proper vigilance over themselves, had committed all kinds of trivial faults. She remarked that these souls had share in the chastisements of all vices, but in moderate degree, since those faults committed only from time to time rendered them less guilty than those committed through habit.
After this last station the saint left the garden, begging God never again to make her a witness of so heartrending a spectacle: she felt that she had not strength to endure it. Her ecstasy still continued, and, conversing with Jesus, she said to Him, “Tell me, Lord, what was your design in discovering to me those terrible prisons, of which I knew so little, and comprehended still less? Ah! I now see; you wished to give me the knowledge of your infinite sanctity, and to make me detest more and more the least stain of sin, which is so abominable in your eyes.” (From Purgatory Explained by Fr. Schouppe, edited slightly)
No Flaws Allowed
The moral of the story is that we conceive a horror of sin and not take lightly any point of our conduct, remembering that we are being watched and evaluated at every instance of our life. The most common mistake mortals make is that they waste their precious time on earth, giving little consideration to their afterlife, while gathering all the joys and pleasures of this world and attending diligently to things that are of little or no value. We are so careful about our health and beauty, going to great pains to eliminate any tumors or blemishes while the soul is full of blemishes and blotches!
But when we die, the only thing God looks at is our soul, not our money, rank, acclaim, health, popularity, intelligence, academic skills, degrees, honors, or otherwise. When we stand before God we will be stripped of all these so that our soul is laid bare before him, placed under the divine X-ray as it were, so that if there remain any stigma of sin, any envy, anger, pride, ingratitude, self-admiration, stubbornness, coldness, untruthfulness, unkindness, self-love, indecent aspirations, or love of the flesh, these blotches will need to be rubbed out and burned off in the furnace of Purgatory. And whereas many who bear these stains will have been decent Catholics who went to Church, respected Christ, and practiced a degree of charity among their fellow man, they will have also surrendered from time to time to these vices, and because they weren’t properly made up for in life the taint of sin remains as fuel for the purgatorial fire.
Purgatory is for the Redeemed
Purgatory then is for the members of Christ who die in a state of grace, not for those who are dammed through mortal sin. Christ rose from the dead that we too might rise from our earthly sepulcher and walk with Him in the path of holiness, but when we walk according to the world and allow the image of sin to leave its imprint on our souls this distorts the image of Christ in us and renders us unacceptable in His eyes so that we cannot abide with Him in the next world until we are first cleansed by fire.
Saved by Fire
St. Paul explains more clearly in 1 Corinthians where he says that the fire of God will try every man’s work. “Every man’s work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide [in Christ], which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself *shall be saved, yet so as by fire.” (1 Cor. 3:13-15)
By fire we will be saved, says St. Paul. The fires of Purgatory will consume and burn these unprofitable works from our being in a very painful process, like warts, so that we indeed will suffer the loss of them, having been attached thereto. But in the same process we will be separated from them and set at liberty so that we can finally enter into eternal life.
Purgatory then is an act of mercy on the part of God, for without it scarcely anyone could enter Heaven. Even the slightest spot or imperfection on our soul after death will keep us from entering into the company of God (Apoc. 21:27). Origen says, “If a man departs this life with lighter faults, he is condemned to fire which burns away the lighter materials, and prepares the soul for the kingdom of God, where nothing defiled may enter.” (Patres Groeci, XIII, col. 445, 448).
Jesus told St. Bridget of Sweden, "No one shall enter Heaven, but the one who has been purged like gold in the fire of Purgatory or who has proved himself over a long duration of time in good deeds on earth so that there is no stain in him left to be purged away."
According to the saints, alms giving is a sure means of purging away sins. "Alms deliver from death, and the same is that which purges away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting." (Tobias 12:9) The Apostle Peter tells us that "Charity covers a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8) In a certain sense, works of charity are like a short-cut for avoiding Purgatory. "Alms shall be a great confidence before the Most High God, to all them that give it." (Tobias 4:12)
We learn from the saints that the souls in Purgatory, if given a second chance, would gladly endure a lifetime of torment upon earth before spending one moment there. St. Cyril of Alexandria said, “It would be preferable to suffer all the possible torments of earth until Judgment Day than to pass one day in Purgatory.” Another great saint says: “Our fire, in comparison with the fire of Purgatory, is as a refreshing breeze.”
The reason for this severity is because the fire of Purgatory was created by the justice of God to punish and purify souls, as opposed to the fire of earth which was created by the goodness of God for our comfort and well-being. In his superlative book on Purgatory, Read Me or Rue It, Fr. Paul O’Sullivan explains that “our fire, at most, burns this gross body of ours, made of clay, whereas the fire of Purgatory acts on the spiritual soul, which is unspeakably more sensitive to pain. The more intense our fire is the more speedily it destroys its victim who, therefore, ceases to suffer, whereas the fire of Purgatory inflicts the keenest, most violent pain but never kills the soul nor lessens its sensibility.”
St. Theresa the Little Flower says: “If the Poor Souls in Purgatory had known on earth what to expect in eternity, Purgatory would have remained empty.” St. Thomas Aquinas says that the fire that sears the souls in Purgatory is of equal intensity to the fire of Hell and that the slightest contact with it is more dreadful than all the possible sufferings of this world. We might see Purgatory as a temporary Hell.
Purgatory Comprises Part of Hell
Theologically, there are three distinct realms that comprise Hell, the Abode of the Dammed, The Abode of the Just (Limbo), and The Abode of the Penitents (Purgatory), the last of which is temporary and reserved for the redeemed. The Apostles Creed refers to Christ who “Was crucified, died, and was buried; He descended into Hell.” This passage denotes Christ’s descent into the belly of the earth for the three days following his Crucifixion when he went to deliver the souls of the just that had been waiting in Limbo, and also the souls of the penitents that had been detained in Purgatory (Matthew 12:40).
But the Abode of the Penitents is fast filling up again, especially in these latter times when shameful immodesty and merry-making have become a way of life. It’s gotten to the point today that if it doesn’t have sex attached to it nobody wants it, so perverse have become the affections of men. We were placed on earth to work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12) and to keep ourselves “unspotted from this world” (James 1:27), but now we even see the church swinging with the world, only because the shepherds are now misled by this polluted influence. The dogmatic teaching on Purgatory has been cast aside by priests who pollute the sanctuary with their pacifist indoctrination of ‘automatic forgiveness’ and their defiled “pop liturgy” procedures, which in turn has infected the sheep with this spiritual cancer that will eventually have to be burned off with divine radiation treatment if they are not counseled now to cleanse themselves and do penance.
Because as St. Paul says, the fire of God is waiting to try each of us when we pass over the veil and if we provide any fuel for that fire to burn—any combustibles—then they most certainly will burn, and we will burn with them because we allowed these things to have part with us — our faults and our defects that we never really got rid of on earth.
Irreverence in Church
Poor behavior in Church will certainly stand against us in the day of Judgment. St. Padre Pio once observed a young monk who appeared to be dusting the candelabra near the altar. Upon asking who he was, the monk answered: “I am a brother of yours that made the novitiate here. I was ordered to clean the altar during the year of the novitiate. Unfortunately, I didn’t reverence Jesus while passing in front of the altar (didn’t genuflect), thus causing the Holy Sacrament that was preserved in the tabernacle to be disrespected. For this serious carelessness, I am still in Purgatory.”
If this was the verdict for a simple monk who wasn’t quite perfect, what can we expect for a church today that has been turned into a socialist merry-go-round with the use of churches for concerts, plays, meetings, rehearsals, heresy talks, kiddie Masses, LGBT Masses, “charismatic” escapades, and all manner of sham religious activity that has overrun the sanctuary and made the Holy Place a shambles?! And what about the bishops and priests who allow this shameful abuse?
Few Escape Purgatory
According to the revelations of the saints, most souls go to Purgatory. St. Teresa of Avila was made to understand through her mystical experiences that very few souls escape Purgatory. St. John of the Cross says, “Only a small number of souls achieve perfect love.” That is, only a small number of souls go straight to Heaven because they renounce all things with a perfect heart and love only God. St. John Vianney says, “It is definite that only a few are able to avoid Purgatory, and the suffering there that one must endure, exceeds our imagination.”
Given this heads-up from the saints and the impending doom now looming over our godless world, how should we be spending our time on earth today? The Blessed Virgin through her various appearances throughout the 20th century sums it up thus: “Penance, sacrifice, and prayer.”
*Some misconstrue this Biblical verse to mean that all baptized members of Christ are automatically guaranteed eternal life after having been purged “by fire” but they are forgetting that mortal sin eternally banishes one from God if he doesn’t repent of this before his death. Those who fall from grace through the breaking of the Ten Commandments must be absolved by a priest in confession before they can be eligible for purging and eternal life. (John 20:23) Without this absolution their sins “are retained” and they are sentenced to eternal Hell.