Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Purgatory. Wednesday 6th January, 2013. Feast of St. Marcellus I, PM



There is a Purgatory, and the existence of this intermediate state is accepted by Catholics no less than the existence of Heaven and Hell.

Dogmatic Teaching of the Catholic Church

"The Catholic Church", says the Council of Trent, "instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, from the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, taught in sacred councils, and recently in the Ecumenical Synod, that there is a Purgatory, and that souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar."  ( Sess. 25)

Biblical Proof for Purgatory

Many Protestants, on the other hand deny its existence, claiming there is no mention of it in the Bible - yet there is ample proof, even if you ignore the fact that the Protestant Bible is missing seven books, because Martin Luther, the first Protestant, removed them when he split from the Catholic Church.

These books, including the Books of Machabees, were removed from the Protestant Bible because they contain  things which Catholicism teaches and Protestantism rejects.  In the Second Book of Machabees, we read that ' It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.'(2 Macc.12:46)  As we are in communion with the Saints in heaven by honoring them and praying to them, and by their praying for us, so too, we are in communion with the souls in Purgatory by helping them with our prayers and good works, as this verse teaches.

This verse clearly teaches Purgatory - that there is a place after death where some of the faithful who will be saved are detained, and can be aided by our prayers - which is why this book was removed from the Bible by those who wanted to invent a new version of Christianity - one that is not conformable to Tradition or the teaching of the Bible.

In the New Testament Holy Scripture declares that God will render to every man according to his works; that nothing defiled shall enter heaven; and that some will be saved, ' yet as by fire.' Matt. 16:27; Apoc. 21; 1. Cor. 3;15

Purgatory is not for those who die in mortal sin or outside the true faith ( the Catholic Church), but only for those who die in the state of grace, which is also known as the state of justification.  It is for those who die in grace, but haven't satisfied for the temporal punishment due to their forgiven mortal or venial sins, which were committed after baptism.

As we see, from Holy Scripture, nothing impure shall enter heaven, and if satisfaction for the remaining punishment due to forgiven sins is not done on Earth, it must be done in Purgatory - assuming the person dies in the state of grace (justification)

Because the teachings of the doctors and theologians and revelations of the saints on the subject of Purgatory are not articles of faith, we may piously believe or reject them without ceasing to be a Catholic.

There are several doctrinal questions which the Church has not decided, which we are about to consider, and these relate to (1) the location of Purgatory; (2) the nature of the sufferings; (3) the certainty they have of their beatitude;(4) the duration of their sufferings; (6) the intervention of the living on their behalf, and the application of the suffrages of the Church.

Location of Purgatory
 - Revelations of the Saints

Although faith tells us nothing definite regarding the location of Purgatory, the most common opinion, that which most accords with the language of Scripture, and which is the most generally received among theologians, places it in the bowels of the earth, not far from the Hell of the reprobates.

St. Teresa had great charity towards the souls in Purgatory, and assisted them as much as lay in her power  by her prayers and good works.  In recompense, God frequently showed her the souls she had delivered; she saw them at the moment of their release from suffering and of their entrance into Heaven.  Now, they generally came forth from the bosum of the earth.

  "I received tidings," she writes, "of the death of a Religious who had formerly been provincial of the province, and afterwards of another.  I was acquainted with him, and he had rendered me great service.  Although this man was commendable for many virtues, I was apprehensive for the salvation of his soul, because he had been Superior for the space of twenty years, and I always fear much for those who are charged with the care of souls.   Much grieved, I went to an oratory; there I conjured our Divine Lord to apply to this Religious the little good I had done during my life, and to supply the rest by His infinite merits, in order that this soul might be freed from Purgatory.

  "Whilst I besought this grace with all the fervour of which I was capable, I saw on my right side this soul come forth from the depths of the earth and ascend into Heaven in transports of joy.   Although this priest was advanced in years, he appeared to me with the features of a man who had not yet attained the age of thirty, and he was resplendent with light...."

  "A religious of my community, a great servant of God, had been dead not quite two days.   We were saying the Office for the Dead for her in choir, a sister was reading the lesson, and I was standing to say the versicle.   When half of the lesson had been said, I saw the soul of this religious come forth from the depths of the earth, like the one which I have just spoken, and go to Heaven..."

The Pains of Purgatory

There is in Purgatory, as in Hell, a double pain - the pain of loss and the pain of sense.

The pain of loss consists in being deprived for a time of the sight of God, who is the Supreme Good, the beatific end for which our souls are made, as our eyes are for the light.   It is a moral thirst which torments the soul.  The pain of sense, or sensible suffering, is the same as that which we experience in our flesh. Its nature is not defined by faith, but it is the common opinion of the Doctors that it consists in fire and other species of suffering.

The fire of  Purgatory, say the Fathers, is that of Hell, of which the rich glutton speaks, Quia crucior in hac flamma,  "I suffer," he says, "cruelly in these flames."

As regards the severity of these pains, since they are inflicted by Infinite Justice, they are proportioned to the nature, gravity, and number of sins committed.  Each one receives according to his works, each one must acquit himself of the debts with he sees himself charged before God.   Now these debts differ greatly in quality.  Some which have accumulated during a long life, have reached the ten thousand talents of the Gospel, that is to say, millions and tens of millions; whilst others are reduced to a few farthings, the trifling remainder of that which has not been expiated on earth.

It follows from this that the souls undergo various kinds of sufferings, that there are innumerable degrees of expiation in Purgatory, and that some are more severe than others.  However, speaking in general, the doctors agree in saying that the pains are most excruciating.

The same fire, says St. Gregory, torments the damned and purifies the elect.

It must be held as certain, says Bellarmine, that there is no proportion between the sufferings of this life and those of Purgatory.   St. Augustine declares precisely the same in his commentary on Psalm 31:  Lord, he says, chastise me not in Thy wrath, and reject me not with those to whom Thou hast said, Go into eternal fire; but chastise me not in Thine anger; purify me rather in such manner in this life that I need not to be purified by fire in the next.

The Pain of Loss

St. Teresa, in the "Castle of the Soul," speaking of the pain of loss, expresses herself thus: - "The pain of loss, or the privation of the sight of God, exceeds all the most excruciating sufferings we can imagine, because the souls urged on towards God as to the centre of their aspiration, are continually repulsed by His Justice.  Picture to yourself a shipwrecked mariner who, after having long battled with the waves, comes at last within reach of the shore, only to find himself constantly thrust back by an invisible hand.   What torturing agonies!  Yet those of the souls in Purgatory are a thousand times greater."

Father Nieremberg, of the Company of Jesus, who died in the odour of sanctity at Madrid in 1658, relates a fact that occurred at Treves.

On the Feast of All Saints, a young girl of rare piety saw appear before her a lady of her acquaintance who had died some time previous.  The apparition was clad in white, with a veil of the same color on her head, and holding in her hand a long rosary, a token of the tender devotion she had always professed towards the Queen of Heaven.  She implored the charity of her pious friend, saying that she had made a vow to have three Masses celebrated at the altar of the Blessed Virgin, and that, not having been able to accomplish her vow, this debt added to her sufferings.  She then begged her to pay it in her place.

The young person willingly granted the alms asked of her, and when the three Masses had been celebrated, the deceased again appeared, expressing her joy and gratitude.   She ever continued to appear each month of November, and always in the Church.  Her friend saw her there in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, overwhelmed with an awe of which nothing can give an idea; not yet being able to see God face to face, she seemed to indemnify herself by contemplating Him at least under the Eucharistic species.

During the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, at the moment of the elevation, her face became so radiant that she might have been taken for a seraph descended from Heaven.   The young girl, filled with admiration, declared that she had never seen anything so beautiful.

Meanwhile time passed, and, notwithstanding the Masses and prayers offered for her, that holy soul remained in her exile, far from the Eternal Tabernacles.   On December 3, Feast of St. Francis Xavier, her protectress going to receive Communion at the Church of the Jesuits, the apparition accompanied her to the Holy Table, and then remained at her side during the whole time of thanksgiving, as though to participate in the happiness of Holy Communion and enjoy the presence of Jesus Christ.

On December 8, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, she again returned, but so brilliant that her friend could not look at her.  She visibly approached the term of her expiation.   Finally, on December 10, during Holy Mass, she appeared in a still more wonderful state.   After making a profound genuflection before the altar, she thanked the pious girl for her prayers, and rose to heaven in company with her guardian angel.

Some time previous, this holy soul had made known that she suffered nothing more than the pain of loss, or the privation of God; but she added that that privation caused her intolerable torture.

This revelation justifies the words of St. Chrysostom in his 47th Homily:  "Imagine," he says, "all the torments of the world, you will not find one equal to the privation of the beatific vision of God."

The Torment of Fire and Torment of Cold

If the pain of loss makes but a feeble impression upon us, it is far different with the pain of sense;  the torments of fire, the torture of sharp and intense cold, affrights our sensibility.   This is why Divine mercy, wishing to excite a holy fear in our souls, speaks but little of the pain of loss, but we are continually shown the fire, the cold, and other torments, which constitute the pain of sense.

God is pleased to manifest to His servants from time to time the mysteries of the other life

One such revelation, in order to excite the living to fear the death of the soul, God permitted a man, after having slept the sleep of death, should return to life and reveal what he had seen in the other world.

There was in Northumberland a man named Drithelm, who, with his family, led a most Christian life.   He fell sick, and his malady increasing day by day, he was soon reduced to extremity and died, to the great desolation and grief of his wife and children.  The latter passed the night in tears by the remains, but the following day, before his internment, they saw him suddenly return to life... At this sight they were seized with fright and they took to flight except the wife, who trembling remained with her husband.

He reassured her immediately; "Fear not," he said, "it is God who restores me to my life; He wishes to show in my person a man raised from the dead.   I have yet a long time to live upon earth, but my new life will be different from the one I led heretofore."

Then he arose full of health, went straight to the chapel or church of the place, and there remained a long in prayer.  He returned home only to take leave of those who had been dear to him upon earth, to whom he declared that he would live only to prepare himself for death, and advised them to do likewise.   Then having divided his property into three parts, he gave one to his children, another to his wife, and the third part to give in alms.  When he had distributed to the poor, and had reduced himself to extreme indigence, he went and knocked at the door of a monastery, and begged the Abbot to receive him as a penitent Religious, who would be a servant to all the others.

The Abbot gave him a retired cell, which he occupied for the rest of his life.  Three exercises divided his time - prayer, the hardest labour, and extraordinary penances.   The most rigorous fasts he counted as nothing.  In winter he was seen to plunge himself into frozen water, and remain there for hours and hours in prayer, whilst he recited the whole Psalter of David.

He kept a perpetual silence, but on being pressed to relate, for the edification of others, what God had manifested to him after his death, he thus described his vision:-

   "On leaving my body, I was received by a benevolent person, who took me under his guidance.   His face was brilliant, and he appeared surrounded with light.  He arrived at a large deep valley of immense extent, all fire on one side, all ice and snow on the other; on the one hand braziers and caldrons of flame, on the other the most intense cold and the blast of a glacial wind.

  "This mysterious valley was filled with innumerable souls, which, tossed as by a furious tempest, threw themselves from one side to the other.   When they could no longer endure the violence of the fire, they sought relief amidst the ice and snow;  but finding only a new torture, they cast themselves again into the midst of the flames.

  "I contemplated in a stupor these continual vicissitudes of horrible torments, and as far as my sight could extend, I saw nothing but but a multitude of souls which suffered without ever having repose.  Their very aspect inspired me with fear. 

  I thought at first that I saw Hell;  but my guide, who walked before me, turned to me and said, 'No; this is not, as you think, the Hell of the reprobate.  Do you know, he continued, 'what place this is?'   'No, I answered.   'Know,' he resumed, 'that this valley, where you see so much fire and so much ice, is the place where the souls of those are punished who, during life, have neglected to confess their sins, and who have deferred their conversion to the end.

Thanks to a special mercy of God, they have had the happiness of sincerely repenting before death, of confessing and detesting their sins.   This is why they are not damned, and on the great day of judgement will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.    Several of them will obtain their deliverance before that time, by the merits of prayers, alms, and fasts, offered in their favour by the living, and especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered for their relief.

When asked why he so rudely treated his body, why he plunged himself into frozen water, he replied that he had seen other torments, and cold of another kind.   To the day when it pleased God to call him to Himself, he ceased not to inflict his body, and although broken down with age, he would accept no alleviation.

This event produced such a sensation in England, a great number of sinners became sincerely converted.

As Bellarmine adds this well-known event is conformable to the words of Holy Scripture, 'Let him pass from the snow waters to excessive heat',  Job, 24:19

Duration of Purgatory

Faith does not teach us the precise duration of the pains of Purgatory, but we know in general that they are measured by Divine Justice, and that for each one they are proportioned to the number and gravity of the faults which have not yet been expiated.   God may, however abridge these sufferings by augmenting their intensity; the Church Militant also may obtain their remission by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and other suffrages offered or the departed.

Bellarmine says, "There is no doubt that the pains of Purgatory are not limited to ten or twenty years, and that they may last entire centuries.

St.Vincent Ferrer, the celebrated wonder-worker of the Order of St. Dominic, who preached with so much eloquence on the Judgement of God, had a sister who remained unmoved either by the words or example of her saintly brother.  She was full of the spirit of the world, intoxicated with its pleasures, and walked with rapid strides towards her eternal ruin..

Meanwhile, the saint prayed for her conversion, and his prayer was finally answered.   The unfortunate sinner fell mortally sick; and at the moment of death, entering into herself, made her confession with sincere repentance.

  Some days after her death, whilst her brother was celebrating the Holy Sacrifice, she appeared to him in the midst of flames and a prey to the most intolerable torments.

"Alas! my dear brother," said she, "I am condemned to undergo these torments until the last judgement.

Nevertheless, you can assist me.  The efficacy of the Holy Sacrifice is so great:  offer for me about thirty Masses, and I may hope the happiest result."  The saint hastened to accede to her request.  He celebrated the thirty Masses, and on the thirtieth day his sister again appeared to him surrounded by angels and soaring to Heaven.

Thanks to the virtue of the Divine Sacrifice, an expiation of several centuries was reduced to thirty days.

This example shows us at once the duration of the pains which a soul may incur, and the potential effect of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, when God is pleased to apply it to a soul.  But this application, like all other suffrages, does not always take place, at least not always in the same plenitude.

The Intervention of the living on the behalf of the Holy Souls and the suffrages of the Church

If God consoles the souls with so much goodness, through his angels and the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mercy shines forth still more clearly in the power which He gives to His Church to shorten the duration of their sufferings.    Desiring to execute with clemency the severe sentence of His Justice, He accords abatement and mitigation of the pain; but he does so in an indirect manner through the intervention of the living.

To us He gives all power to succour our afflicted brethren by way of suffrages, that is by our prayers and good works - alms, fasts, penances of any kind, indulgences, and above all the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.   All the works performed in the state of grace Jesus Christ allows us to offer to the Divine Majesty for the relief of our brethren in Purgatory, and God applies them to those souls according to His Justice and Mercy.

St. Gertrude
  We read in the Revelation of St. Gertrude that a humble Religious of her community, having crowned an exemplary life with a very pious death, God deigned to show the saint the state of the deceased in the other life.   Gertrude saw her soul adorned with ineffable beauty, and dear to Jesus, who regarded her with love.   Nevertheless, on account of some slight negligence not yet atoned for, she could not enter Heaven, but was obliged to descend into the dismal abode of suffering.    Scarcely had she disappeared into its depths, when the saint saw her come forth and rise  towards Heaven, transported thither by the suffrages of the Church.

Relief of the Holy Souls

There is one act which we can most effectively assist the poor souls, an act which comprises all works and means; it is the heroic vow, or, as others call it, the Heroic act of Charity towards the souls in Purgatory.

The act consists in ceding to them all our works of satisfaction, that is to say, the satisfactory value of all the works of our life and of all suffrages which shall be given us after our death, without reserving anything wherewith to discharge our own debts.   We deposit them in the hands of the Blessed Virgin, that she may distribute them, according to her good pleasure, to those souls which she desires to deliver from Purgatory.

It must be well understood that the matter of this holy donation is the satisfactory value of our works, and in no way the merit which has a corresponding degree of glory in Heaven; for merit is strictly personal, and cannot be transferred to another.

  Formula of the Heroic Act:   "O Holy and Adorable Trinity, desiring to co-operate in the deliverance of the souls in Purgatory, and to testify my devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I cede and renounce in behalf of those holy souls all the satisfactory part of my works, and all the suffrages which may be given to me after my death, consigning them entirely into the hands of the most Blessed Virgin, that she may apply them according to her good pleasure to those souls of the faithful departed whom she desires to deliver from their sufferings.   Deign, O my God, to accept and bless this offering which I make to Thee at this moment.   Amen."

The Sovereign Pontiffs, Benedict XIII, Pius VI., and Pius IX. have approved this heroic act, and have enriched it with indulgences and privileges, of which the principal are the following:- 1. To priests who have made this act the indult of a privileged altar every day in the year.   2. The simple faithful can gain a plenary indulgence, applicable to the souls in purgatory only, each time they communicate, provided they visit a church or public oratory, and there pray for the intentions of His Holiness.   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 at which shall be granted in the future.

This act leaves us perfect liberty to pray for those souls whom we are most interested; the application of these prayers is subject to the disposition of the adorable will of God.  It does not oblige under pain of mortal sin, and can at any time be revoked.  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 confidence on the mercy of God in our regard, as is shown by the example of St. Gertrude.

Venerable Denis, the Carthusian, relates that the Virgin, St. Gertrude, had made a complete donation of all her works of satisfaction in favour of the faithful departed, without reserving anything wherewith to discharge the debts which she herself might have contracted in the sight of God.

Being at the point of death, and, like all the saints, considering with much sorrow the great number of her sins on the one hand, and, on the other, remembering that she had employed all her works of satisfaction for the expiation of the sins of others, she was afflicted, lest, having given all to others and reserved nothing for herself, her soul, on its departure from this world, should be condemned to horrible suffering.   In the midst of her fears Our Lord appeared to her and consoled her saying:  "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 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."

Our Lord dictated the following prayer to St. Gertrude the Great to release 1,000 souls from Purgatory each time it is said.

Prayer of St. Gertrude the Great
   Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family.  Amen.

Prayers for Departed Parents

 St. Catherine of Sienna had an ardent zeal for the salvation of souls, writes Blessed Raymond of Capua.  "I will first speak of that which she did for her father, Jacomo.  This excellent man had remarked the sanctity of his daughter, and was filled with respectful tenderness towards her; he advised every one in his house never to oppose her in anything, but to leave her perfect liberty in the practice of her good works.  Thus the affection which united father and daughter increased day by day.

Catherine constantly prayed for her father's salvation; Jacomo took a holy delight in the virtues of his daughter, hoping through her merits to obtain favour before God.

The life of Jacomo finally approached its end, and he was confined to bed by a dangerous illness.  Seeing his condition, his daughter, as was her custom, took herself to prayer, beseeching her Heavenly Spouse to cure him whom she loved so tenderly.  He answered that Jacomo was at the point of death and that to live longer would not be profitable to him.

Catherine then went to her father, and found him so perfectly resigned to leave this world, and without any regret, that she thanked God with all her heart.

 "But her filial love was not content; she returned to prayer in order to obtain from God, the Source of all grace, to grant her father not only the pardon of all his faults, but also that at the hour of his death he might be admitted into Heaven, without so much as passing through the flames of Purgatory. She was answered that Justice could not sacrifice its rights; that the soul must be perfectly pure to enter the glory of Paradise.   'Your father,' said Our Lord, 'has led a good life in the married state, and has done much that was pleasing in My sight; above all, his conduct towards you has been most agreeable to Me; but My Justice demands that his soul should pass through the fire, in order to purify it from stains which it contracted n the world,'

'O my loving Saviour,' replied Catherine, 'how can I bear the thought of seeing him who has nourished me, who has brought me up with such tender care, who has been so good to me during his whole life, tormented in these cruel flames?  I beseech your Infinite Goodness not to permit his soul to leave his body until in some way or another it shall have been so perfectly cleansed that it shall have no need to pass through the fires of Purgatory.'"

Admirable condescension!  God yielded to the prayer and desire of his creature.  The strength of Jacomo was exhausted, but his soul could not depart as long as the conflict lasted between Our Lord, who alleged His Justice, and Catherine, who implored His mercy.    Finally, Catherine resumed:  "If I cannot obtain this grace without satisfying Thy Justice, let, then, that Justice be exercised upon me;  I am ready to suffer for my father all that Thy Goodness may be pleased to send me."  Our Lord consented.   "I will accept thy proposal," He said, "on account of thy love for Me.   I exempt thy father's soul from all expiation, but thou shalt suffer as long as thou livest the pain that was destined for him."

Full of joy, Catherine cried out ,  "Thanks for Thy word , O Lord, and may Thy will be done!"

The saint immediately returned to her father, who had just entered upon his agony.   She filled him with courage and joy by giving him, on the part of God, the assurance of his eternal salvation, and she left him not until he had breathed forth his soul.

St. Catherine of Sienna
At the same moment that soul of her father was separated from the body, Catherine was seized with most violent pains, which remained until her death, without allowing her one moment of repose.  "She herself," adds Blesed Raymond, "often assured me of this, and indeed it was evident to all who saw her.   But her patience was greater than her malady. All I have related I learned from Catherine, when, touched at the sight of her sufferings, I asked her the cause thereof.

At the moment her father expired she was heard to cry out, her face beaming with joy and a smile upon her lips, 'May God be praised!   My dear father, how I wish I were like you.'   During the celebration of the funeral obsequies, when all were in tears, Catherine seemed transported with delight.   She consoled her mother and everyone as though unaffected by her father's death.

 It was because she had seen that beloved soul come forth triumphant from the prison of the body and pass without any hindrance into eternal beatitude..   This sight had inundated her with consolation, because a short time previous she herself had tasted the joys of eternal light.

  "Let us here admire the wisdom of providence.  The soul of Jacomo could surely have been purified in another manner, and have been immediately admitted into Heaven, like the good thief who confessed Our Saviour on the cross.  But God willed that his purification should be effected through the sufferings of Catherine, as she herself had requested, and this was not to try her, but to increase her merits and her crown.

  "It is fitting that this holy maid, who so ardently loved the soul of her father, should receive some recompense for her filial affection; and since she had preferred the salvation of his soul to that of her own body, her bodily sufferings contributed to the happiness of her soul.    Thus she always spoke of her sweet, her dear sufferings.   And she was right, for these afflictions augmented the sweetness of the grace in this life and the delights of glory in the next.

She confided to me that long after his death her father Jacomo continually came to thank her for the happiness she had procured for him.   He revealed many hidden things to her, warned her of the snares of the demon, and preserved her from all danger."

Means to Avoid Purgatory

Besides great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which she has promised to assist and shorten their Purgatory, those souls who wear her holy scapular, and charity and works of mercy of every kind, use of the Sacraments, particularly the reception of the last Sacrament on the approach of death, we should not forget to mention Confidence in His mercy and Holy Acceptance of Death.

St. Francis de Sales avowed that if he considered his misery only, he deserved Hell; but full of humble confidence in the mercy of God and in the merits of Jesus Christ, he firmly hoped to share the happiness of the elect.

We read in the Life of St. Philip Neri, that having gone one day to the Convent of St. Martha in Rome, one of the Religious, named Scholastica, desired to speak to him in private.   This lady had been tormented for a long time with a thought of despair, which she had not dared to make known to anyone; but, full of confidence in the saint, she resolved to open her heart to him.  

When she went to him, before she had time to say a word, the man of God said to her with a smile, "You are very wrong, my daughter, to believe that you are destined for eternal flames: Paradise belongs to you!   "I cannot believe it, Father," she replied with a deep sigh.   "You do not believe it?"   That is folly on your part, you will see.   Tell me, Scholastica, for whom did Jesus die?"   "He died for sinners."   "And now tell me you are a saint?"   "Alas!" replied she weeping, "I am a great sinner."   "Therefore Jesus died for you, and most assuredly it was to open Heaven for you.   It is thus clear that Heaven is yours.  For as to your sins, you detest them I have no doubt."   

The good Religious was touched by these words.   Light entered her soul, the temptation vanished, and from that moment those sweet words, Paradise is yours, filled her with confidence and joy.

Holy Acceptance of Death as a means of avoiding Purgatory

The humble and submissive acceptance of death in expiation of our sins is a generous act, by which we make a sacrifice of our life to God, in union with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross.

We read in the Life of Venerable Mother Francis of the Blessed Sacrament, a Religious of Pampeluna, that a soul was condemned to a long Purgatory for not having had a true submission to the Divine will upon her deathbed.  She was otherwise a very pious young person, but when the icy hand of death came to touch her in the flower of her youth, nature recoiled, and she had not the courage to resign herself into the ever-loving hands of her Heavenly Father- she would not die yet.   She expired, nevertheless, and the Venerable Mother Francis, who received frequent visits from the souls of the departed, learned that this soul had to expiate by long sufferings her want of submission to the decrees of her Creator.

Sister Mary of St. Joseph, one of the four first Carmelites who embraced the reforms of St. Terersa, was a Religious of great virtue.   The end of her career approached, and Our Lord, wishing that His spouse should be received into Heaven in triumph on breathing her last sigh, purified and adorned her soul by the sufferings which marked the end of her life.

 During the four last days which she passed upon earth, she lost her speech and the use of her senses; she was a prey to frightful agony, and the Religious were heart-broken to see her in that state.   Mother Isabella of St. Dominc, Prioress of the convent, approached the sick Religious, and suggested to her to make acts of resignation, and total abandonment of herself into the hands of God.

Sister Mary of St. Joseph heard her , and made these acts interiorly, but without being able to give any exterior sign thereof.

  She died in these holy dispositions, and, on the very day of her death, whilst Mother Isabella was hearing Mass and praying for the repose of her soul, Our Lord showed her the soul of His faithful spouse crowned in glory, and said, "She is of the number of those who follow the Lamb."

[ Taken from Fr. F.X. Shouppe's book "Purgatory - Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints," and Most Holy Family Monastery ]

St. Therese of Lisieux

St. Therese of Lisieux on Purgatory

"One does not need to go to Purgatory"

Little Therese's theology is a theology that springs from life, a theology of experience.
She received a fervent Catholic upbringing at home, in her parish community, as well as at the school of the Benedictine nuns in Lisieux, and thus, she was familiar with the teaching of Purgatory. 

The common teaching within the Church is that Purgatory can hardly be avoided.   While still only a novice, the saint commented about this with one of the sisters, Sr. Maria Philomena, who believed in the near impossibility of going to Heaven without passing through Purgatory.

   You do not have enough trust.  You have too much fear before the good God.  I can assure you that He is grieved over this.  You should not fear Purgatory because of the suffering there, but should instead ask that you not deserve to go there in order to please God, who so reluctantly imposes this punishment.  As soon as you try to please Him in everything and have an unshakeable trust He purifies you every moment in His love and He lets no sin remain.  And then you can be sure that you will not have to go to Purgatory.

She  even said that we would offend God if we didn't trust enough that we would get to Heaven right after dying. 
 When she found out that her novices talked occasionally that they would probably have to expect to be in Purgatory, she corrected them saying,: "Oh! How you grieve me!  You do a great injury to God in believing you're going to Purgatory.  When we love, we can't go there."

 Now, this is a new doctrine, but only for those who don't know God, who are not childlike, who don't trust.  It is so correct to see things this way. It is true that God  will judge us at one point, but He is always and first our Father Who ... suffers when He has to punish His child and sees its suffering...

If St. Therese is correct that one does not need to be in Purgatory because God Himself does not want this and would love to help us, the thought that Purgatory can be avoided is suddenly not so far-fetched anymore.

But first there is the problem of the aforementioned opinion which says that only few will avoid Purgatory.  This is confirmed by great saints and mystics like St. John of the Cross who says : "Only a small number of souls achieve perfect love" ( perfect love is necessary to go straight to Heaven).  St. Teresa of Avila also had the experience that only few will be able to avoid Purgatory.

One has also to take into consideration that even practicing Christians are convinced that even the good and faithful and those consecrated to God will have to be exposed to purification in Purgatory for a certain amount of time..   the reason is always the same:  "It is not easy to avoid Purgatory.  No one is a saint and I will certainly have to spend some time there myself."

Therefore, it is even more amazing what St. Therese has to say.   Once she encouraged her novice, Sr. Marie de la Trinire to have faith that it was possible even for her to get to heaven  right away.  She wondered "If I fail even in the smallest things, "may I still hope to get straight to Heaven?"   St. Therese, who knew well the weakness of her novice, replied:  "Yes!  God is so good.  He will know how He can come and get you.   But despite this, try to be faithful, so that He does not wait in vain for your love."

Once St. Therese had a confrontation regarding this topic with Sr. Marie Febronia, who not only was sixty seven years old but also was sub-prioress.  She had heard that St. Therese encouraged the novices to believe that they could go straight to heaven.  She did not like this as she considered this kind of confidence presumptuous, and thus she reproached St. Therese.

St. Therese tried lovingly and calmly to explain to Sr. Febronia her point of view but with no success as Sr. Febronia clung to her belief.   For St. Therese, God was more Father than Judge, and she took the liberty of finally responding, "My sister, if you look for the justice of God you will get it.  The soul will receive from God exactly what she desires."

The year had not passed when, in January, 1892, Sr. M. Febronia together with other sisters fell prey to the flu and died.    Three months later Sr. Therese had a dream which she related to her Mother Prioress and which was then documented:  "O my Mother, my Sr. M. Febronia came to me last night and asked that we should pray for her.  She is in Purgatory, surely because she had trusted too little in the Mercyy of the good Lord.  Through her imploring behavior and her profound looks, it seemed she wanted to say,  "You were right.  I am now delivered up to the full justice of God but it is my fault.  If I had listened to you I would not be here now."

St. Therese's "doctrine" in 7 key words

1. Purgatory became a rule rather than the exception

    An infinite number of souls who suffer in Purgatory and for whom the Church prays daily after consecration did not need to go there.  If we think in human terms, God does not wish us to need Purgatory.   God does not put us here on earth, where we are tested and are suffering after the fall, only to let us suffer again - and much worse - in Purgatory.  Everyone receives enough graces in order to go straight to God after passing the trials on earth.   However, Purgatory is an emergency entry to Heaven for those who have wasted their time.   However, what God considered the exception became the rule, and the rule - to go straight to heaven - became the exception.

2.  To cope with the "inevitable" is a grave error.

     Since God does not really want Purgatory, He does not want it for me either!   But then I also have not to want it!   Nobody would expose themselves to the danger of Purgatory by living a mediocre and - as is the case so often today - a sinful life.   If they only thought of the intense sufferings in Purgatory.  In this regard, the mystics unanimously say that the least suffering in Purgatory is much greater than the greatest suffering here on earth"  The reason for this is that once in Purgatory, one does not go through the time of God's Mercy but of God's Justice.   Here the Lord's word applies:  "I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the very last copper"(Lk. 12:59).

The many who carelessly say, " I will probably spend some time there," are gravely wrong.. Nobody just spends some time there, one has to suffer there like one has never suffered nor could have suffered while on earth.  One often even suffers a long time there also.    If the poor souls in Purgatory had known on earth what to expect in eternity, Purgatory would have remained empty.

3Purgatory is a waste of time

       This is what St. Therese says,  "I know that of myself I would not merit even to enter that place of expiation since only holy souls can have entrance there.  But I also know that the Fire of Love is more sanctifying than is the fire of Purgatory.   I know that Jesus cannot desire useless sufferings for us, and that He would not inspire the longings I feel unless He wanted to grant them." 

It is true that Purgatory is a wonderful grace, for if needed, without the purification in Purgatory we would not go to Heaven, and the work of art which God intended and created us to be would not be completed.  But St. Therese is right: at the moment of our death we already have our place in Heaven.  Afterwards, there is no growing in grace anymore.   Whoever does not go through Purgatory does not miss anything.

4.  We need a more postive image of God

        We already know that St. Therese told her novices that they offended God when they thought they would go to Purgatory.   That is a very shocking statement:  for if this is correct millions of Christians are offending God or at least hurt Him.  And yet this is the case.   They have focussed only on themselves, thinking - not without reason - that they deserve Purgatory.  They do not notice God Who is by their side and would love to help so much.   The fact that we fear Purgatory so much also has to do with a rather negative image that we have of God.  We, Christians of the 20th century, were like so many, raised with the image of a strict God, anxious to punish us as often as we deserve.   This thinking goes back to heresies like Jansenism, Quietism or Calvanism.

5.  Love banishes fear

      The question of whether Heaven will follow right after death is a question of trust.  God does not need our merits in order to take us straight to Him but He needs all of our trust.   Or the other way round - it is not - our sins that can prevent God from giving us this grace but rather our lack of trust.  Therefore, we must draw the conclusion that everything depends solely on trust.   There is no trust without perfect love.  And vice versa, there is no love without trust.

      And this is exactly what the Apostle John writes in his first letter,  "In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as He is so are we in this world.   There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.   For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love."  (1 Jn. 4:17-18).

This text enlightens our topic very much.  Judgement Day is the day of our death.  Whoever achieves perfect love at the moment of their death sees God as so merciful and generous that they cannot believe in punishment in Purgatory.  We are dealing with the same kind of grace in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.  St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us that this Sacrament has as its real fruit the wiping out of punishment due to our sins.   After those who have received the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, others present often notice that the sick enter a period of growing peace and trust, together with a great surrender to the Will of God, and even serenity and desire for Heaven.   This also applies to those who up to that point did not believe or even lived  in mortal sin.   Even these people, as the great theologians of the scholastics say - for example - St. Albert the Great or St. Bonaventure - go straight to Heaven without having to go through Purgatory first.  

This shows the wonderful grace coming from the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

6.  The last will be the first

       While many Christians do receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, experience tells us that they do not go straight to Heaven.  The mystics often relate that many priests and religious suffer a long time and have to wait for their release.   However, all of them or almost all of them have received the Sacrament of the Anointing.  What is the reason for this?  The answer is certainly they did not receive the Sacrament with necessary penance or surrender to the Will of God, or they did not want to change their flaws and vices a long time before their death.

St. Therese of Lisieux tells us that she heard that sometimes great saints with many merits come before the Judgement of God, but have to go to Purgatory because our justice before God is often unclean.  That is why she recommends to give away all merits of our good deeds, and that it is better to appear before God empty- handed.   She recommends to her oldest sister and godmother Marie, to be given Heaven free of charge by God.

While on the one hand the first ones don't always get to Heaven first, on the other hand there are enough examples that the last ones become the first ones.  Therese refers in her writings to the Lord's mercy towards the good thief, and wishes that the story from the "desert fathers," about how a great sinner called Paesie died out of love and is being taken straight to Heaven, should be added to her autobiography, "Souls will understand immediately, for it is a striking example of what I'm trying to say."

When our great hour comes, as St. Therese writes to Abbe Roulland, missionary in China, if only we trust, the Blessed Virgin will obtain "the grace of making an act of perfect love" should we have "some trace of human weakness" and so will we reach Heaven immediately after death.

7.  St. Therese's teaching, a great message for the third millennium

    One can rightfully say that Therese is turning all common opinions on Purgatory upside down.    She wants to appear before God empty-handed and explains why it can be easier for sinners who have nothing to rely upon, to reach Heaven than the great saints with all their merits.   She emphasizes that trust alone is enough, that merits are no guarantee but often an obstacle for the straight way to Heaven, and that sins do not need to be an obstacle.   After a 'messed-up' life, God can still take one straight to Heaven if the dying person only has trust.   And how easy it can be to trust if there are no merits but only one's misery!     Through trust she shows the shorter way to Heaven to the small and humble, and so many can and will go that way.   She writes about this to her sister Marie: " ... what pleases Him ( God) is that he sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy ...  that is my only treasure, dear Godmother, why should this treasure not be yours?..."

As has been said, she has made sanctity available for everyone through her little way, and this is also true for the straight way to Heaven ...  This will no longer be an exception.  Once those who are smart enough to gather from the treasures of our little flower St. Therese will walk this way easily, especially those who want to be part of the legion of little souls which St. Therese asked God for at the end of her manuscript B,  "I beg You to cast Your Divine Glance upon a great number of little souls.  I beg You to choose a legion of little Victims worthy of Your LOVE!"

Yes, by listening to her wonderful message there will be many, many souls ... and with that, Purgatory stops being the unavoidable detour to Heaven!

St. Therese is a true gift to the Church - God gave her to us as leader and comforter for the apocalyptic days in which we live.   Her message concerning Purgatory is a true grace of God's merciful love for the moment of our death.  One can apply the urgent exhortation of Our Lord:  "He who has ears to hear, let him hear"  (Lk.8.8)

[Taken from The Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux on Purgatory by Father Dr. Hubert van Dijk, ORC]

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