Skip to comments.Beginning Catholic: Catholic Purgatory: What Does It Mean? [Ecumenical]
Posted on 08/13/2008 9:02:31 AM PDT by Salvation
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":
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.
Don't think that Purgatory is anything like a "second chance" for those who have not won the reward of heaven!
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.
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 the holiness that's necessary to behold God "face to face" in heaven. (Catechism, 1030)
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)
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)
(It's worth reading the Catechism's brief section on Catholic Purgatory to see the straightforward teaching of Catholics about Purgatory.)
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.
Matt. 5:26,18:34; Luke 12:58-59 Jesus teaches us, Come to terms with your opponent or you will be handed over to the judge and thrown into prison. You will not get out until you have paid the last penny. The word opponent (antidiko) is likely a reference to the devil (see the same word for devil in 1 Pet. 5:8) who is an accuser against man (c.f. Job 1.6-12; Zech. 3.1; Rev. 12.10), and God is the judge. If we have not adequately dealt with satan and sin in this life, we will be held in a temporary state called a prison, and we wont get out until we have satisfied our entire debt to God. This prison is purgatory where we will not get out until the last penny is paid.
Matt. 5:48 - Jesus says, "be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect." We are only made perfect through purification, and in Catholic teaching, this purification, if not completed on earth, is continued in a transitional state we call purgatory.
Matt. 12:32 Jesus says, And anyone who says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but no one who speaks against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven either in this world or in the next. Jesus thus clearly provides that there is forgiveness after death. The phrase in the next (from the Greek en to mellonti) generally refers to the afterlife (see, for example, Mark 10.30; Luke 18.30; 20.34-35; Eph. 1.21 for similar language). Forgiveness is not necessary in heaven, and there is no forgiveness in hell. This proves that there is another state after death, and the Church for 2,000 years has called this state purgatory.
Luke 12:47-48 - when the Master comes (at the end of time), some will receive light or heavy beatings but will live. This state is not heaven or hell, because in heaven there are no beatings, and in hell we will no longer live with the Master.
Luke 16:19-31 - in this story, we see that the dead rich man is suffering but still feels compassion for his brothers and wants to warn them of his place of suffering. But there is no suffering in heaven or compassion in hell because compassion is a grace from God and those in hell are deprived from God's graces for all eternity. So where is the rich man? He is in purgatory.
1 Cor. 15:29-30 - Paul mentions people being baptized on behalf of the dead, in the context of atoning for their sins (people are baptized on the deads behalf so the dead can be raised). These people cannot be in heaven because they are still with sin, but they also cannot be in hell because their sins can no longer be atoned for. They are in purgatory. These verses directly correspond to 2 Macc. 12:44-45 which also shows specific prayers for the dead, so that they may be forgiven of their sin.
Phil. 2:10 - every knee bends to Jesus, in heaven, on earth, and "under the earth" which is the realm of the righteous dead, or purgatory.
2 Tim. 1:16-18 - Onesiphorus is dead but Paul asks for mercy on him on that day. Pauls use of that day demonstrates its eschatological usage (see, for example, Rom. 2.5,16; 1 Cor. 1.8; 3.13; 5.5; 2 Cor. 1.14; Phil. 1.6,10; 2.16; 1 Thess. 5.2,4,5,8; 2 Thess. 2.2,3; 2 Tim. 4.8). Of course, there is no need for mercy in heaven, and there is no mercy given in hell. Where is Onesiphorus? He is in purgatory.
Heb. 12:14 - without holiness no one will see the Lord. We need final sanctification to attain true holiness before God, and this process occurs during our lives and, if not completed during our lives, in the transitional state of purgatory.
Heb. 12:23 - the spirits of just men who died in godliness are "made" perfect. They do not necessarily arrive perfect. They are made perfect after their death. But those in heaven are already perfect, and those in hell can no longer be made perfect. These spirits are in purgatory.
1 Peter 3:19; 4:6 - Jesus preached to the spirits in the "prison." These are the righteous souls being purified for the beatific vision.
Rev. 21:4 - God shall wipe away their tears, and there will be no mourning or pain, but only after the coming of the new heaven and the passing away of the current heaven and earth. Note the elimination of tears and pain only occurs at the end of time. But there is no morning or pain in heaven, and God will not wipe away their tears in hell. These are the souls experiencing purgatory.
Rev. 21:27 - nothing unclean shall enter heaven. The word unclean comes from the Greek word koinon which refers to a spiritual corruption. Even the propensity to sin is spiritually corrupt, or considered unclean, and must be purified before entering heaven. It is amazing how many Protestants do not want to believe in purgatory. Purgatory exists because of the mercy of God. If there were no purgatory, this would also likely mean no salvation for most people. God is merciful indeed.
Luke 23:43 many Protestants argue that, because Jesus sent the good thief right to heaven, there can be no purgatory. There are several rebuttals. First, when Jesus uses the word "paradise, He did not mean heaven. Paradise, from the Hebrew "sheol," meant the realm of the righteous dead. This was the place of the dead who were destined for heaven, but who were captive until the Lord's resurrection. Second, since there was no punctuation in the original manuscript, Jesus statement I say to you today you will be with me in paradise does not mean there was a comma after the first word you. This means Jesus could have said, I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise (meaning, Jesus could have emphasized with exclamation his statement was today or now, and that some time in the future the good thief would go to heaven). Third, even if the thief went straight to heaven, this does not prove there is no purgatory (those who are fully sanctified in this life perhaps by a bloody and repentant death could be ready for admission in to heaven).
Gen. 50:10; Num. 20:29; Deut. 34:8 - here are some examples of ritual prayer and penitent mourning for the dead for specific periods of time. The Jewish understanding of these practices was that the prayers freed the souls from their painful state of purification, and expedited their journey to God.
Baruch 3:4 - Baruch asks the Lord to hear the prayers of the dead of Israel. Prayers for the dead are unnecessary in heaven and unnecessary in hell. These dead are in purgatory.
Zech. 9:11 - God, through the blood of His covenant, will set those free from the waterless pit, a spiritual abode of suffering which the Church calls purgatory.
2 Macc. 12:43-45 - the prayers for the dead help free them from sin and help them to the reward of heaven. Those in heaven have no sin, and those in hell can no longer be freed from sin. They are in purgatory. Luther was particularly troubled with these verses because he rejected the age-old teaching of purgatory. As a result, he removed Maccabees from the canon of the Bible.
Heb. 12:29 - God is a consuming fire (of love in heaven, of purgation in purgatory, or of suffering and damnation in hell).
1 Cor. 3:10-15 - works are judged after death and tested by fire. Some works are lost, but the person is still saved. Paul is referring to the state of purgation called purgatory. The venial sins (bad works) that were committed are burned up after death, but the person is still brought to salvation. This state after death cannot be heaven (no one with venial sins is present) or hell (there is no forgiveness and salvation).
1 Cor. 3:15 if any mans work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. The phrase for "suffer loss" in the Greek is "zemiothesetai." The root word is "zemioo" which also refers to punishment. The construction zemiothesetai is used in Ex. 21:22 and Prov. 19:19 which refers to punishment (from the Hebrew anash meaning punish or penalty). Hence, this verse proves that there is an expiation of temporal punishment after our death, but the person is still saved. This cannot mean heaven (there is no punishment in heaven) and this cannot mean hell (the possibility of expiation no longer exists and the person is not saved).
1 Cor. 3:15 further, Paul writes he himself will be saved, "but only" (or yet so) as through fire. He will be saved in the Greek is sothesetai (which means eternal salvation). The phrase "but only" (or yet so) in the Greek is "houtos" which means "in the same manner." This means that man is both eternally rewarded and eternally saved in the same manner by fire.
1 Cor. 3:13 - when Paul writes about God revealing the quality of each man's work by fire and purifying him, this purification relates to his sins (not just his good works). Protestants, in attempting to disprove the reality of purgatory, argue that Paul was only writing about rewarding good works, and not punishing sins (because punishing and purifying a man from sins would be admitting that there is a purgatory).
1 Cor. 3:17 - but this verse proves that the purgation after death deals with punishing sin. That is, destroying God's temple is a bad work, which is a mortal sin, which leads to death. 1 Cor. 3:14,15,17 - purgatory thus reveals the state of righteousness (v.14), state of venial sin (v.15) and the state of mortal sin (v.17), all of which are judged after death.
1 Peter 1:6-7 - Peter refers to this purgatorial fire to test the fruits of our faith.
Jude 1:23 - the people who are saved are being snatched out of the fire. People are already saved if they are in heaven, and there is no possibility of salvation if they are in hell. These people are being led to heaven from purgatory.
Rev. 3:18-19 - Jesus refers to this fire as what refines into gold those He loves if they repent of their sins. This is in the context of after death because Jesus, speaking from heaven, awards the white garment of salvation after the purgation of fire (both after death).
Dan 12:10 - Daniel refers to this refining by saying many shall purify themselves, make themselves white and be refined.
Wis. 3:5-6 - the dead are disciplined and tested by fire to receive their heavenly reward. This is the fire of purgatory.
Sirach 2:5 - for gold is tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.
Zech. 13:8-9 - God says 2/3 shall perish, and 1/3 shall be left alive, put into the fire, and refined like silver and tested like gold. The ones that perish go to hell, and there is no need for refinement in heaven, so those being refined are in purgatory.
Mal. 3:2-3 - also refers to God's purification of the righteous at their death.
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LOL! You beat to the ping!
Thanks for posting (and your pings). Interesting. Educational.
One thing we can do for souls in Purgatory is pray for them, especially the most abandoned souls. This is very important.
From the Apostles Creed
“on the third day, He arose again from the dead.”
Was Jesus in Purgatory?
I find I Cor 3:15 the strongest scriptural support for purgatory, and interestingly it also shows the importance of a persons works.
Written by St. Alphonsus Liguori this novena has prayers for each day which are followed by the Prayer to Our Suffering Savior for the Holy Souls in Purgatory
Jesus, my Savior I have so often deserved to be cast into hell how great would be my suffering if I were now cast away and obliged to think that I myself had caused my damnation. I thank Thee for the patience with which Thou hast endured me. My God, I love Thee above all things and I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee because Thou art infinite goodness. I will rather die than offend Thee again. Grant me the grace of perseverance. Have pity on me and at the same time on those blessed souls suffering in Purgatory. Mary, Mother of God, come to their assistance with thy powerful intercession.
Woe to me, unhappy being, so many years have I already spent on earth and have earned naught but hell! I give Thee thanks, O Lord, for granting me time even now to atone for my sins. My good God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. Send me Thy assistance, that I may apply the time yet remaining to me for Thy love and service; have compassion on me, and, at the same time, on the holy souls suffering in Purgatory. O Mary, Mother of God, come to their assistance with thy powerful intercession.
My God! because Thou art infinite goodness, I love Thee above all things, and repent with my whole heart of my offenses against Thee. Grant me the grace of holy perseverance. Have compassion on me, and, at the same, on the holy souls suffering in Purgatory. And thou, Mary, Mother of God, come to their assistance with thy powerful intercession.
My God! because Thou art infinite goodness, I am sorry with my whole heart for having offended Thee. I promise to die rather than ever offend Thee more. Give me holy perseverance; have pity on me, and have pity on those holy souls that burn in the cleansing fire and love Thee with all their hearts. O Mary, Mother of God, assist them by thy powerful prayers.
Woe to me, unhappy being, if Thou, O Lord, hadst cast me into hell; for from that dungeon of eternal pain there is no deliverance. I love Thee above all things, O infinite God and I am sincerely sorry for having offended Thee again. Grant me the grace of holy perseverance. Have compassion on me, and, at the same time, on the holy souls suffering in Purgatory. O Mary, Mother of God, come to their assistance with thy powerful intercession.
My Divine Redeemer, Thou didst die for me on the Cross, and hast so often united Thyself with me in Holy Communion, and I have repaid Thee only with ingratitude. Now, however, I love Thee above all things, O supreme God; and I am more grieved at my offences against Thee than at any other evil. I will rather die than offend Thee again. Grant me the grace of holy perseverance. Have compassion on me, and, at the same time, on the holy souls suffering in Purgatory. Mary, Mother of God, come to their aid with thy powerful intercession.
God, Father of Mercy, satisfy this their ardent desire! Send them Thy holy Angel to announce to them that Thou, their Father, are now reconciled with them through the suffering and death of Jesus, and that the moment of their deliverance has arrived.
Oh my God! I also am one of these ungrateful beings, having received so much grace, and yet despised Thy love and deserved to be cast by Thee into hell. But Thy infinite goodness has spared me until now. Therefore, I now love Thee above all things, and I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. I will rather die than ever offend Thee. Grant me the grace of holy perseverance. Have compassion on me and, at the same time, on the holy souls suffering in Purgatory. Mary, Mother of God, come to their aid with thy powerful intercession.
My God! How was it possible that I, for so many years, have borne tranquilly the separation from Thee and Thy holy grace! O infinite Goodness, how long-suffering hast Thou shown Thyself to me! Henceforth, I shall love Thee above all things. I am deeply sorry for having offended Thee; I promise rather to die than to again offend Thee. Grant me the grace of holy perseverance, and do not permit that I should ever again fall into sin. Have compassion on the holy souls in Purgatory. I pray Thee, moderate their sufferings; shorten the time of their misery; call them soon unto Thee in heaven, that they may behold Thee face to face, and forever love Thee. Mary, Mother of Mercy, come to their aid with thy powerful intercession, and pray for us also who are still in danger of eternal damnation.
Say one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and the Prayer to Our Suffering Savior for the Holy Souls in Purgatory .
We don’t know for sure — maybe someone has a better answer than me.
I would say that the Bible quote Christ to the Good Thief: Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”
So where was Paradise at that time?
As far as sin is concerned — I would say that Jesus only descended into hell (Purgatory at that time) to free the captive souls.
Anyone have more substantial info on this?
Actually, Jesus descended into “the Bosom of Abraham,” or the “Limbo of the Fathers,” where the righeous dead were waiting for the coming of the Messiah.
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Thanks for that. I have heard those phrases before. Now I will retain them.
I have a book about St. Joseph compiled by French Benedictines that beautifully described the tradition that when St. Joseph died, he went there to announce the good news that their wait was coming to an end, and that when Our Lord arrived to preach the Gospel to them and bring them to Heaven, St. Joseph was the first one to “make the jump.”
I believe he “descended into hell” which, prior to His arrival, contained all the dead since they had no means of entry into Heaven, having died before Christ opened the gates to Heaven via His sacrificial death.
Those who embraced Christ’s message were released.
Those who rejected His message remained.
After His resurrection, God’s saving grace was and remains available.
Only those who obey him perfectly in this life can enter Heaven directly.
Those who are free from serious, unrepented sin must undergo temporary purification in purgatory.
Those who refuse His grace and die obstinate in their sins go to hell.