If God is so merciful, then why did He create purgatory? Precisely because God is so merciful, He created purgatory. Purgatory comes from the Latin word purgatorium, which means a place of cleansing. It is not a place of punishment but of needed purification so souls are able to enter heaven worthily by being completely clean.

God’s merciful heart is not black and white, meaning our options after death aren’t just the two extremes of heaven and hell. Only souls completely cleansed of their sins can enter heaven but God foresaw our weakness and gives us an opportunity to atone in purgatory.

“Those 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 to achieve the holiness needed to enter the joy of heaven.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030)

Each soul undergoes the particular judgement (CCC, 1022) before Christ after death, which reveals how they have lived their life. This determines whether they will enter heaven, hell, or purification in purgatory.

Purgatory is not a soul’s absolute destiny. Instead, it can be seen as a temporary stay, a stop over or somewhere we pass through in transit. Souls in purgatory are already guaranteed salvation. In purgatory, souls are enlightened with the full gravity of their sins. Even though they are suffering, they can see the suffering as meaningful and worthwhile. They receive the sensitivity to understand how they have hurt Christ and others. Just like God, they have the wisdom to understand that purgatory is something they must go through.

Purification beyond death is mentioned in the second book of Maccabees: “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 honourably, 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.” (12:43-45)

In the same way we rely on the intercession of the communion of saints to help in us in our day-to-day life, the souls in purgatory rely on our prayers and penances to get to heaven. November is a month especially dedicated to praying for the holy souls in purgatory but every day is an opportunity to help get each one to heaven.

“I saw my guardian angel, who ordered me to follow him. In a moment I was in a misty place full of fire in which there was a great crowd of suffering souls. They were praying fervently, but to no avail, for themselves; only we can come to their aid. The flames, which were burning them, did not touch me at all. My guardian angel did not leave me for an instant. I asked these souls what their greatest suffering was. They answered me in one voice that their greatest torment was longing for God.” – St. Maria Faustina Kowalska

Leave a Reply