Catholic Purgatory: What Does It Mean?
For the Catholic Purgatory is a period of purification after death.
When we die, our souls are judged immediately by Christ in what’s called the “Particular Judgment”:
MY NOTES: This was written by a well intended Catholic Convert. And while not wrong; neither is it “fully-correct.
” This is certainly true for Catholics; BUT additionally it applies in Divine Justice to all of humanity. Certainly the more ones know, the more critical the Judgment will be. Gods Justice MUST include NOT only on what we know, or what we choose to accept; BUT the totality of what God makes available for us to know. What we ought to know. Catholic or not.
Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven — through a purification or immediately, — or immediate and everlasting damnation. (Catechism, 1022)
Purgatory is this period of purification before heaven.
It’s not always well understood by today’s Catholics but Purgatory is still very much a part of Catholic doctrine.
WHY is that?
Well, it has to do with the “Perfect Nature of God;” which we have discussed; and God’s expatiations; or what we might term THE TOTAL PRICE of admission into heaven . Like Mary, we to MUST BE perfected in-order to access heaven.
Rev. 21: 27 “But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
1 Cor. 3: 13-14 “each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, [Purgatory] though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. “
Matt.5: 48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
It is not a “second chance”
Don’t think that Purgatory is anything like a “second chance” for those who have not won the reward of heaven!
There is “no second chance” AFTER death. That is why God created us with a mind, intellect, freewill, and soul. So that We, you and me, could freely choose where WE decide to spend Eternity. God ratifies our own decision, and imposes HIS JUST Judgment.
During our human life, we either accept or reject God’s offer of divine grace. Once we die, our choice is definitive. We cannot change our mind after death. (Catechism, 1021)
Heaven and hell are real. They’re part of a viewpoint that’s fully Catholic and Purgatory is simply a transitional state for those who have merited heaven but still have aspects of their souls that are not yet fully purified. Purgatory is where that purification happens after death.
Purgatory is where that purification happens after death.
See my explanation below. It might make it more clear?
The souls in Purgatory are assured of salvation. They’ve died in God’s grace and friendship, and will end up in heaven. But they’re not yet in a full state of holiness —[PERFECTION] the holiness that’s necessary to behold God “face to face” in heaven. (Catechism, 1030)
Basis in Scripture and Tradition
The Catholic Church is often accused of inventing the concept of Purgatory out of thin air. Not so!
You don’t hear about it from many who aren’t Catholic but Purgatory does have deep roots in Sacred Scripture as well as Catholic Tradition — the full, living faith of the Apostles as received from Christ.
First, it’s based on the ancient Jewish practice of prayer for the dead, as mentioned in Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” (2 Macc 12:46) [about 300 years before the Birth of Jesus]
2 Mac. 12: 39 –45 “On the next day, as by that time it had become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kinsmen in the sepulchres of their fathers. Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”
The early Christians continued this practice: “From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.” (Catechism, 1032)
Inscriptions on the walls and tombs of the Catacombs testify to the belief of many early Catholics in Purgatory.
The words of the Apostles in the New Testament also clearly tell us about being “tested by fire” (1 Pet 1:7). St. Paul warns us that if someone builds on the true foundation of Christ but doesn’t take care to build well, “the person will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15).
Finally, the Catechism quotes St. Gregory the Great:
As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. (Catechism, 1031)
FROM OUR CATHOLIC CATECHISM:
III. THE FINAL PURIFICATION, OR PURGATORY
1030 All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607
As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.608
1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:
Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them
Purgatory: part of the Good News
Part of the faith of Catholics is that Purgatory is a good thing!
Purgatory reveals the depth of God’s mercy: even those who are not yet perfect can attain the fullness of heaven.
For Catholics Purgatory helps us hope in perfection even when we can’t completely achieve it in this life.
Once again I point out that this IS NOT limited to just Catholics. God’s Judgment MUST be uniformly applied to everyone.
Allow me to share with you a class I taught some years ago to a group of High school juniors and seniors:
We began as always with prayer:
After our prayer, without explanation I passed out 2’x 2”x 8” pieces of new board. Then I passed out some hammers and nails.
We got a lot of questions but I said we’d explain later.
On the back of back board we wrote in large letters “S.B.”
Then we paired up the class and told them to go ahead and pound some nails into there boards: BUT First make sure your board is in “perfect condition” before you start, AND know that your going to have to remove the nails; so don’t go through the boards into the floor and use common sense. [We had checked the boards carefully before handing them out.]
MORE QUESTIONS: Later I said.
After a bit, I said now it’s time to remove the nails. [The guy’s helped the girls].
Then I made a big deal and collected all of the nails. We wrapped them in tin-foil and had the basketball players take a “shot” at getting them into a tall trash can. Finally one of them made it, and I had him take the trash can with the nails in it and put it into the closet, completely out of sight.
We then called the class to order and shared the following with them.
TONIGHT’S CLASS IS ON Sin and the Sacrament of Confession
Everyone checked there boards before putting nails in them; correct? YES!
Can anyone guess what the “S.B” stands for? [Soul Board]
So friends this is how sin works. And we explained the two categories of sin:
1John.5 Verses 16 to 17: “If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.”
Every human person is either a sinner or a Liar!
1 John. 1 Verses 8 to 10: “ If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
After a discussion of what makes a sin “lesser and greater” [Venial or Mortal”], we shared that ONLY IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH are the Seven Sacraments practiced FULLY, VALIDLY, and LICITLY. In other words, only in the CC does one receive the GRACE God intended the sacraments to provide. [Baptism and Marriage] are valid in many Christian churches that believe God is a TRINITY].
We went on to explain that the Sacrament of Confession is Biblical and Instituted by Jesus Himself. And that it is the primary way God forgives our sins [all of them], BUT not the only way.
Receiving Catholic Holy Communion worthily at Mass, removes all Venial sins.
Baptism removes NOT ONLY all sins; Mortal and Venial committed; BUT ALSO the “lingering Effects of all of our sins.” [Which I’ll explain here shortly].
The result is that if one were to die after being Baptized without having committed and further sis; BEING PERFECTED, they would go straight to heaven.
Baptism can only be received VALIDLY ONE TIME
And the effects of Baptism on sin applies ONLY to those sins committed before being Baptized.
In an absolute sense the Sacrament of Confession is [the norm] and required for the forgiveness of sins. We’ll discuss the sacraments separately.
And it is GOD, not the priest who actually forgives our sins. Father used the words: “I AVSOLVE you from your sins; in the name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit.”
It is the role of the priest to in a real sense give God permission to forgive us our sins, AFTER he has determined sincere sorrow, and a desire to work at not sinning again [with Gods help of course].
John.20 Verses 19 to 23: “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” [Pentecost] When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Now let’s talk a bit further about the consequences of sin:
Let’s say for example that you steal $100.00. You go to Confession, and guess what? Father is going to tell you that it MUST BE PAYED BACK in order to be forgiven. You agree to do it. [In this instance the effects of the sacrament would not take effect until you have made restitution; in other words your not forgiven by God until you make amends.]
But even after you do that, the “lingering effects of our sin continue to exist.” WHY? Because in a sense all sins are public, in that they have the potential to effect others, besides the one [in this case from whom the money was taken from]. Perhaps it took food off his table? Perhaps your discovered and you gave scandal? Perhaps it effects your reputation?
Now let’s get back to our “Soul Boards” and see if we can make it clearer?
1. The Soul Board represents the sate of your soul immediately after valid Baptism. It’s “perfect” and suitable for immediate access to heaven.
2. The nails represent our sins.
3. Removal of the nails represents a Valid Confession of our sins. And the nails were put “out of sight” because after a Valid Confession God places our sins “as far as the East is from the West” away from Him.
4. Now your sins have been Confessed and forgiven; BUT look at your Soul Board. Is it in the same condition as right after Baptism? NO! The nail holes, representing the lingering effects of our sins remain.
5. The result is that these “lingering effects” too must be “paid for/ repaired” before we too are Perfected, and qualify for heaven. THAT IS THE FUNCTION AND PURPOSE FOR PURGATORY.
6. So how do we do that? God and His Church give as multiple ways to make amends. Here is a partial list:
Acts of charity
Supporting the church either with money and or your God Given talents and time
Good works [like praying for others]
Adoration and Devine Worship
Indulgences [which is a separate topic]
And if all of these fail to make us Perfect while still on earth; then there is Purgatory; a place of GREAT suffering; and GREAT HOPE, knowing that once we have been perfected; we too will access heaven and meet God “Face to Face.”
The Problem [except for Plenary Indulgences, OR THE SACRAMENT of the “Last Rites” properly received, and having the same effect as Baptism, grants access to heaven] is that we don’t actually know we are perfected before we die, unless one of these two exceptions apply.
Purgatory ONLY applies to those of us who die without Unconfessed and unforgiving Mortal sins on our souls.
Pat… Let me know if you have additional questions?