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Chapter 55

Purgatory

 

I don’t believe it would be possible
to find any joy comparable
to that of a soul in purgatory,
except the joy of the blessed in paradise.
For it is a joy that goes on increasing day by day
as God more and more flows in upon the soul,
which He does abundantly
in proportion as every hindrance
to His entrance is consumed away.
—St. Catherine of Genoa

 

 

It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.  That is why he offered the atoning sacrifice.” (2 Maccabees 12:45/46)  To pray and offer, sacrifice and suffer for the spiritual good of others on earth or in Purgatory is a spiritual work of mercy and of charity.  It is true that the holy souls in Purgatory will all go to Heaven—eventually, but they cannot get there any sooner or faster on their own.  The time for meriting is over for them.  The trajectory (the upward incline, not the velocity) of their path through Purgatory and future resting place in glory was set for all eternity at the moment of their death, according to their life on earth and state of soul.  All the good they did, like payment forward, will be rewarded in Purgatory and, most especially, in Heaven.  They died in a state of grace, not perfection.  Consequently, they suffer from a sharp and painful longing for complete union with God until their soul is wholly purified and all the reparation is over, and yet, amid all this suffering, they have a growing peace and joy and interior satisfaction.  The Holy Spirit, the Flame of Love, is their Friend.  The same Flame of Love who heals, frees, purifies and perfects holy souls here on earth, does so with the holy souls in Purgatory “for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:29)  They glow brighter and brighter, become lighter and lighter, as the remnants and results of sin are removed, until their souls are white hot fire in pure and perfect love.  Then, when at last they are loosed from the past, they fly like doves to Heaven.  Their longing and love for God is so great, that their greatest pain is that they have to wait to be with Him as one forever.  With the help of others here on earth who pray for them, they can pass faster through Purgatory, by God’s mercy, and come to join the saints in glory sooner rather than later.  When they finally become one with the Son of God in Love, they will take up their place according to grace at the right hand of the Father among the nine choirs of angels, united in Love with all those above, superabundantly satisfied and unspeakably happy for all eternity.

That is why we offer “the atoning sacrifice” of the Mass not only for those who are alive, but also for those who have died— “that they may be loosed from sins” and arrive at  perfect charity as soon as possible.  Here, we also see why euthanasia (“mercy killing”) and assisted suicide are not merciful, but rather, a grave injustice and evil.  By these atrocious practices, a person’s time in Purgatory may be unnecessarily prolonged.  Even worse, almost unthinkable, an unconverted person may be robbed of a “deathbed conversion” and of Heaven, thereby sending their soul to Hell for all eternity.  To relieve pain and suffering is good and merciful, but not when the intention is to cause or abet a premature death.  On the other hand, to artificially prolong human life by all means possible, even the most extraordinary, may also be “playing God.”

Within the “communion of saints” (all those united to God and to one another by the grace of the Holy Spirit, whether on earth, in purgatory, or in glory) there is a spiritual sharing of divine gifts and graces, a communication of divine love.  Like the lifeblood that flows throughout the body, the greater the grace each member has in the Mystical Body of Christ, the more the whole Church will grow up in God, grow and expand, and come to full maturity, to perfect charity, in the kingdom of heaven.  “Yet to each of us grace is given according to the measure of the giving of Christ, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of service, for building up the body of Christ.” (Eph. 4:7,12)  May the most merciful Jesus, our loving Lord and Savior, bring all souls of good will to the kingdom of heaven in glory.

 

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