Why Protestants and so many others deny the existence of Purgatory is beyond explanation considering they honor the dead and ask for prayers. If the departed is in Heaven, no prayers are necessary and if the departed is in hell, no prayers are possible. Therefore, it only makes sense that after death it would be useless to pray for any of the dearly departed if there was not some way those prayers could help. That is why both faith and reason point to a place of purification for in order to be admimitted into the presence of the perfect Beatific Vision one must be pure. Just as gold is purified by fire, so also is it necessary for souls to be purified in Purgatory. Makes perfect sense and it is left to the Church Militant to assist the Church Suffering through our prayers, and indulgences gained solely for the souls through Masses, devotions, penances, sacrifices and the ultimate unselfish sacrifice of the Act of Heroic Charity. Jesus says if one has not charity, all else is as tinkling cymbals. There is no greater love than to pray souls into Heaven.
Editor's Note: This series is an effort to return to basics since too often we all make the holy Faith complicated, whereas in reality the truths and traditions of the Catholic Faith are quite simple. God doesn't complicate things, man does. Realizing the fact that, for many generations indoctrinated by conciliar ambiguities, it all seems so confusing, we are introducing this series which is an adaptation of an earlier series titled "Appreciating the Precious Gift of the Faith" in utilizing a combination of the excellent compendium of the late Bishop Morrow's pre-Vatican II Manual of Religion My Catholic Faith and Dom Prosper Gueranger's incomparable The Liturgical Year as well as the out-of-print masterpieces The Catholic Church Alone The One True Church(1902) and the Cabinet of Catholic Information (1903). Through prayer and discussions, we've decided to employ this revised series to simplify the tenets of the Faith for those who continue to wallow in what they think is the 'Catholic Church' out of obedience to a man and his hierarchy who long ago betrayed Christ and His flocks. This then, is an affirmation of the basic truths the Spotless Bride of Christ has always taught and cannot change or evolve as "living documents" for truth is truth. As we say every day in the Act of Faith, "We believe these and all the truths which the holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived." If you have been deceived, and the vast majority have been, then realize what you've been indoctrinated with over the past 50 years cannot be from God but from His adversary. Our advice: flee the conciliar confines as well as other man-made religions which do not teach these truths without compromise. Seek out a traditional chapel nearest to you. There is a list of churches you can absolutely trust at Traditional Latin Masses
De Novissimis is the term that encompasses the final four things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and hell. We now turn to the one place where most of those ending up in Heaven must spend some time. How much time one spends in Purgatory depends on how one spent one's life on earth. It's as simple as that.
Those are punished for a time in Purgatory who die in the state of grace, but are guilty of venial sin, or have not fully satisfied for the temporal punishment due to their sins.
Purgatory is a middle state where souls destined for Heaven are detained and purified. Souls in Purgatory cannot help themselves, for their time for meriting is past. But they can be helped by the faithful on earth, by prayers and other good works. This is also why the Act of Heroic Charity can free souls as we shall cover shortly.
Both reason and faith tell us that there is a middle ground of expiation, where the soul is cleansed from all stain of sin before it can enter the glory of Heaven. "There shall not enter into it anything defiled" (Apocalypse 21:27). Christ said, "Amen, I say to thee, thou will not come out from it until thou hast paid the last penny" (St. Matthew 5:26). Even persons who deny the existence of Purgatory instinctively pray for their loved ones who have died. This would be great inconsistency if their reason did not tell them that their prayers would do the dead good. Prayers are useless for those in Heaven or hell.
In times past at eight o'clock at night, many church bells would sound to admonish the faithful to pray for the souls in Purgatory. This hour is in commemoration of Christ's prayer in the garden. We should then kneel and pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and the Requiem aeternam: "Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen."
Belief in the utility of praying for the dead automatically includes belief in the existence of Purgatory. If there were no Purgatory, it would be useless to pray for the dead, because saints in Heaven need no help, and those in hell are beyond aid.
We can be sure there will be no more Purgatory after the General Judgment; because the reason for its existence will have passed. Purgatory is a place of temporary punishment for those who have died in venial sin, or who have not fully satisfied God's justice for mortal sins already forgiven.
A boy with a stone deliberately breaks a window pane; this is a venial sin punishable in Purgatory. Some argue that God is a good God, and will not punish such slight sins with the pains of Purgatory. We must remember, nevertheless, that the judgments of God are different from those of men, as His holiness is far above human holiness.
"My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the Heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and My thoughts above your thoughts." Let us reverence God's holiness and justice, as we have loving confidence in His mercy.
Another example - a man commits a cruel murder. This is a mortal sin which, unrepented and unconfessed, will send him to hell.
The man repents, confesses, and obtains absolution for his sin; the guilt therefore is removed. But justice requires that he make up for the evil he has done; this atonement takes place in Purgatory, unless he makes full satisfaction before death.
The doctrine of Purgatory is eminently consoling to the human heart. It consoles us when our loved ones die. Purgatory is a bond of union making us realize that death is not an eternal separation for the just, but only a loss of their bodily presence.
Purgatory gives us an assurance that we are still in touch with our beloved dead. We are consoled by the knowledge that we can still help them with prayer, as in life we so helped them.
The doctrine of the existence of Purgatory is not only reasonable, but its negation is eminently contrary to reason; it is taught in Holy Scripture, and has been taught by the Church from the very beginning.
The doctrine of a middle state of purgation is taught in the Old Testament, and was firmly believed in by the Hebrews. After a battle, Judas Machabeus ordered prayers and sacrifices offered up for his slain comrades. "And making a gathering, he sent twelve drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection. For, if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness had great grace laid for them It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins" (2 Maccabees 12: 43-46).
When Our Lord came on earth, He purified the Jewish Church of all those human changes that with the years had crept into its usages and beliefs. But He never reproved anyone for belief in a middle state of purgation, or prayers for the dead. On the contrary, Christ more than once implied the existence of purgatory. He said: "And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this world, or in the world to come" (St. Matthew 12:32). When Our Lord said that a sin will not be forgiven in the next life, He left us to conclude that some sins will be thus forgiven. But in the next life, sins cannot be forgiven in Heaven: "There shall not enter into it anything defiled" (Apocalypse 21:27). Neither can sins be forgiven in hell, for out of hell there is no redemption. They must therefore be forgiven in a middle state, Purgatory.
Belief in the existence of Purgatory is a continuous and solemn teaching of the Church. From Saint Paul, the early Fathers, the Doctors of the Church, on through the ages, the Church has taught the existence of Purgatory, and the correlated doctrine of the usefulness of praying for the dead.
From the beginning Christians prayed for the dead at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The oldest books used at Mass contain prayers for the dead. The doctrine of Purgatory was given solemn definition by the Council of Trent as follows: "There is a Purgatory, and the souls there detained are assisted by the suffrages of the faithful, but especially by the most acceptable sacrifice of the altar."
This dogmatic definition contains three points of faith that all Catholics are compelled to believe;
Reason demands belief in the existence of Purgatory. If a man dies with some slight sin on his soul, a sin of impatience, or an idle word, is he fit to enter Heaven? God's sanctity forbids it: "There shall not enter into it anything defileld" (Apocalypse 21:27). But must such a soul be consigned to hell? God's mercy and justice forbid it.
Therefore reason concludes the existence of a middle and temporary state of expiation, where the soul is cleansed from all stain of sin before it can be admitted into the perfect holiness and bliss of Heaven. "Amen, I say to thee, thou wilt not come out from it until thou hast paid the last penny" (St. Matthew 5:26).
Among nearly all peoples there has persisted a belief that souls must undergo some sort of purification after death. This would point to the doctrine of Purgatory. Not only is this what Catholics believe, but the Greek story of Prometheus implies a place of purgation. The Egyptians and others believed in the transmigration of souls. Legends and myths of all nations, as well as burial customs, indicate belief in the possibility of helping the dead.
We should be generous in helping the poor souls in Purgatory, who long for God. The best thing we can do for them is to have Masses offered for them. The Church puts no limit to the time during which we may pray or offer Masses for the suffering souls in Purgatory. If we cannot have a Mass said, we should at least assist at Masses for our dear departed. If God so willed, a single Mass could release all the souls in Purgatory. We should offer Masses especially on All Souls' Day and on the anniversaries of death of our relatives and friends.
The souls in Purgatory suffer from a great longing to be united to God, and from other great pains. Their chief pain is the deprivation of the Beatific Vision, the vision of God in the glory of Heaven. This temporary deprivation is a most severe punishment, because the poor souls already have a full knowledge of what they are missing.
"As the hind longs for the running waters, so my soul longs for You, O God. Athirst is my soul for God, the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God?" (Psalm 41:2,3).
The general tradition of the Church is that they also suffer acutely in other ways. Saint Augustine believes that the sufferings of the poor souls are greater than the sufferings of all the martyrs. Saint Thomas believes the least pain there is greater than the greatest on earth.
The greatness and the duration of a soul's sufferings in Purgatory vary according to the gravity of the sins committed. One who has lived a long life of sin, but is saved from hell only by a deathbed repentance, will stay in the purging fires of Purgatory longer, and suffer there more intensely than a child, who has committed only the venial sins of an ordinary child.
That some souls stay long in Purgatory is implied by the fact that the Church puts no limit to the offering of Masses for the dead; some foundations have been going on for centuries, offered for the repose of certain souls. St. Augustine believes that those stay longest in Purgatory who have loved the goods of earth more. Some saints have held that certain holy souls in purgatory suffer no pain except their exclusion from the vision of God. Practiallly all are agreed that in Purgatory the souls suffer most in those things in which they sinned most; as the "Imitation of Christ" says: "In what things a man hath most sinned, in those things shall he be most grievously tormented."
The poor souls, however, have much to console them. They are certain of salvation and the love of God. They are free from temptation; they cannot commit the slightest sin, even of impatience.
They have no worry, anxiety, or distress of mind, for they are sure of deliverance. They are comforted by the prayers of the angels and saints, and of the people on earth.
All the souls in Purgatory will go to Heaven some day; they will stay in Purgatory only as long as they have not atoned for all their sins.
The poor souls cannot help themselves, for their time for meriting was ended at their death. They cannot therefore merit anything to satisfy for their sins.
This is why we who can still merit by our good works should give some of them as suffrage for the poor souls, so that they may soon be delivered from their prison. We have the special obligation of helping with our prayers and sacrifices the souls of our dead relatives, friends, and benefactors.
Although they cannot merit anything for themselves, the poor souls intercede for us with their prayers to God.
Thus if we help them they repay us by their intercession. No one who has a devotion to the holy souls in Purgatory has ever asked for their intercession in vain.
How can we then help the holy souls suffering the temporary torments of Purgatory during their cleansing process?
We can help the poor souls in Purgatory by having Masses said, by prayers, and by other good works.
The holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the greatest help we can offer, because its effect depends on itself, and not on the piety of the priest who offers it. Whenever possible, Gregorian Masses should be offered. These consist of thirty Masses celebrated on consecutive days for some deceased person.
As mentioned earlier, for emphasis it is important to remember that if we cannot have a Mass said, we should at least assist at Mass for our dearly departed. A Mass has infinite merit, for it is the sacrifice of Our Lord Himself. It will surely avail our dead to offer for them God the Son Himself in Holy Mass.
We should pray with devotion for the poor souls. At Holy Mass at the Memento etiam following the consecration we pray silently with the priest the Prayers for the Dead, remembering in our prayers those we've been asked to pray for and those dearly beloved dear to us. God does not regard the length of the prayer or the words so much as the love in the heart of the one who prays.
There are special prayers enriched with indulgences, applicable to the souls in Purgatory. We should also receive the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist for the poor souls. "Know ye that the Lord will hear your prayers if you continue in perseverance" (Judith 4:11).
No pompous funeral or profusion of flowers is of any avail for the poor souls in Purgatory. As St. John Chrysostom says, "Not by weeping, but by prayer and almsgiving are the dead relieved."
It is better to give to charity the money spent on idle and worldly show, which cannot help the poor souls. Instead of sending costly wreaths to the family of a dead friend, it is an excellent custom instead to have Masses offered for his soul.
The Heroic Act of Charity
As alluded to above, there is also the unselfish practice of the Heroic Act of Charity where a person surrenders, in behalf of the souls in Purgatory, all the satisfaction made to God by his good works, including whatever satisfaction may be offered for him by others during his life and after. This is something St. Therese of the Child Jesus practiced.
It is important to understand that in this Heroic Act we surrender the satisfactory value of our works, but not the corresponding merits which have a corresponding degree of glory in Heaven. The satisfactory value we are free to keep or surrender for the Holy Souls, but the merit is strictly personal, thereby our own in God's sight.
To those who might, at this point, be a bit squeamish about such a Heroic Act of Charity, fearing that one will arrive in Eternal Life with nothing to offer God, there are several consoling points to be made. One is taken from the life of Saint Gertrude the Great. She had made a complete donation of all her works of satisfaction in favor of the faithful departed, without reserving anything for herself. Being at the point of death, she saw on the one hand the number of her sins, and on the other hand, she remembered that she had fully donated all her works of satisfaction for the expiation of the sins of others. This sorely afflicted her, for the devil tempted her to consider that she would now, upon entering eternity, suffer the more.
It was then that Our Lord appeared to her and said: "Be assured, My daughter, your charity towards the departed will be no detriment to you. Know that the generous donation you have made of all your works to the holy souls has been singularly pleasing to Me; and to give you a proof thereof, I declare to you that all the pains you would have had to endure in the other life are now remitted; moreover, in recompense for your generous charity, I will so enhance the value of the merits of your works as to give you a great increase of glory in Heaven." These were Jesus' Own words to be one of His saints. Why, then, should we be afraid?
As mentioned above, St. Therese did the same thing, granting her satisfactory value to the souls in Purgatory. In this time of the Great Apostasy and the formation of a New World Order we need to do all that we can to be prepared. Each sacrifice strengthens us in our faith, and moves us forward in our abandonment to the Will of God. We must nevere forget that every Holy Soul whom we assist toward the Beatific Vision will spend their eternity interceding for us, working tirelessly for us that we, too, will be with them forever in Heaven in giving praise and adoration to the Triune Divinity.
Those who make the Act may gain a plenary indulgence applicable only to the dead:
For making the Heroic Act of Charity, the following prayer is suggested:
This Heroic Act of Charity has been approved by Popes Benedict XIII, Pius VI and Pius XI. It includes the following indulgences and privileges:
2. The simple faithful can gain a plenary indulgence, applicable to the souls in Purgatory only, each time they receive Holy Communion, provided they visit a church or chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is present, and there pray for the intention of the Holy Father.
3. They may apply to the holy souls all those indulgences which are not otherwise applicable by virtue of concession, and which have been granted up to the present time, or which shall be granted in the future. (Pius IX, Papal Decree, 30 September 1852).
We should not, however, rely too much on the prayers and sacrifices that our relatives may offer for us after our death. Even granting that they will remember us often and fervently in prayers, it is nevertheless true that works offered in suffrage for souls avail them only to a limited extent.
We are perfectly free to pray for those souls in whom we are most interested; the application of prayers for the Holy Souls in Purgatory is subject to the disposition of the adorable Will of God. This Heroic Act of Charity does not oblige under pain of mortal sin and can at any time be revoked. It may be made without using any particular formula; it suffices to have the intention and to make it from the heart.
In summation, the Heroic Act does not subject us to the direful consequences of having to undergo a long Purgatory ourselves; on the contrary, it allows us to rely with more assured confidence on the Mercy of God in our regard. We are rewarded for our cooperation in the Mystical Body of Christ by doing our part to help it function as God wills.
We might also consider that we, too, when we are called before God, might find ourselves escorted to Purgatory, knowing that unless we are remembered on earth by the Church Militant, our sufferings are without relief for the period consigned to us by the Almighty. And would we not, in that moment, desire with all of our soul, that someone would make this Heroic Act of Charity on our behalf that we might, as members of the Church Suffering, be freed from suffering and enter into Eternal Bliss? What we do for the least of our brothers, God shall do for us.
God gives more value to a little voluntary penance done here on earth than to disciplines offered for that soul after death. As a Saint aptly said, "One Mass devoutly heard during life is worth more than a great sum left for the celebration of a hundred Masses after death."
Very few of us have had a vision of Purgatory. Yet, through prayer, we can learn something of the sufferings of these Holy Souls in this place of expiation. We can learn that their sufferings are more intense than we can comprehend or imagine, and this suffering is of the spirit, of the soul, and is likened to a burning fire which might scorch and annihilate our human body. Unlike our human flesh, which, when burned, will shrivel and die, there is no relief, nor end to the pain of suffering.
This fire-like suffering comes from the knowledge the Holy Souls have of God, of having experienced for a fleeting second, as it were, that incredible Love which is God, and then being separated from that All-Consuming Love. If we recall when we were most homesick or lonesome and magnify it a million times, we would then arrive at some understanding of the suffering of these Holy Souls in Purgatory.
We can never outdo God in generosity. Let us, then, resolve to amend our own lives and become generous benefactors for our departed brothers and sisters, fully confident that at the moment of our death, this very Heroic Act of Charity will gain for us a speedy entry into Eternal Joy where we can finally unite with the Church Triumphant. This is the true "communion" of the Communion of Saints which is the very backbone of the Church and something we should be ever mindful as we prepare during Advent and this upcoming final year of the second millennium...as we prepare for His Coming, not just at Christmas but every second of our lives.
After all it will be the ultimate Advent for the word comes from the Latin ad meaning "to" and veni which means "come." Yes, many things are yet to come but none more important as the reason for our very existence - Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God. It is time for all of us to take our roles seriously as "soldiers of Christ" as members of the Church Militant and, as soldiers begin to attempt to do heroic acts for others beginning with the Heroic Act of Charity as we practice the Catholic code of doing unto others as we would have done unto us.
Like any good soldier, we're going to fall often; but there is no shame in falling, only in failing to bounce back up. For the sake of the souls in Purgatory we all need to bounce back up, to pray and prepare Our Lady is preparing us in her boot camp of motherly love by reminding us of her Divine Son and of the realization that we are coming to the end of an era and that Christ is to come soon after God has recleansed the earth as He did during the time of Noah, 2000 years before sending His Only-begotten Son to redeem mankind. Now it is our turn to help redeem the Holy Souls in Purgatory. They won't forget you when they get to Heaven.
Previously: Step Seventeen: Judgment Day
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