Thoughts on Purgatory

In the winter of my life, each November is more poignant as I reflect on so many dear friends and family who no longer share my life. For some time now, my departed friends have vastly outnumbered those who remain. The very concept of Purgatory, an affront to the sensibilities of modern Catholics, is a comforting concept to those of us who have held fast to our pre-conciliar upbringing. Like the dogma of the sacrificial nature of the Mass, Purgatory is a reminder of the loving justice of God.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Help of Poor Souls in Purgatory
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Help of Poor Souls in Purgatory

A favorite book on Purgatory is Father Schouppe’s classic, “Purgatory explained by the lives and legends of the Saints”,  from TAN. Fr. Schouppe has many good stories from the lives of the saints to illustrate various aspects of Purgatory, but the following struck a chord with me and so I’ll share with you, if you’d like.

From the Revelations of St. Gertrude, Father tells us that a young religious in St. Gertrude’s convent was much admired because of her great piety. After her death, St. Gertrude was fervently praying for the soul of the young nun when she was rapt in ecstasy and had a vision of the deceased sister standing before the throne of God, eyes downcast, she seemed to be ashamed. St. Gertrude then beseeched Our Lord, “Most Sweet Jesus, why does not Your infinite goodness invite Your spouse to approach You and enter into the joy of her Lord?”

At this, Our Lord smiled with tender love and beckoned to the reluctant soul to draw near Him, but she, troubled and trembling withdrew from Him. St. Gertrude then addressed her dear sister, “Do you retire when our Lord calls you? You that have desired Jesus during your whole life, withdraw now that He opens His arms to you?”  “Ah, my dear Mother, I am not worthy to appear before the Immaculate Lamb. I still have some stains which I contracted upon earth. To approach the Sun of Justice, one must be as pure as a ray of light. I have not yet that degree of purity which He requires of His saints. Know that, if the door of Heaven were to be opened to me, I should not dare to cross the threshold before being entirely purified from all stain.”

Father Schouppe follows this with a bit from St. Catherine of Genoa’s Treatise on Purgatory, which reinforces the concept. “The Lord is all merciful. He stands before us, His arms extended in order to receive us into His glory. But I see also that the Divine Essence is of such purity that the soul, unless she be absolutely immaculate, cannot bear the sight. If she finds in herself the least atom of imperfection, rather than dwell with a stain in the presence of the Divine Majesty, she would plunge herself into the depths of Hell. Finding in Purgatory a means to blot out her stains, she casts herself into it. She esteems herself happy that, by the effects of a great mercy, a place is given her where she can free herself from the obstacles to supreme happiness.”

And so we see that even in His justice, Our Lord Jesus Christ is a most merciful God! When we pray for these Holy Souls, we are fulfilling Our Dear Lord’s request that we love one another. “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15, 12) Every day we must offer our prayers and some sacrifice for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. The De Profundis, which is part of the Little Office, is a good prayer, as are the Sorrowful Mysteries. One practice is to pray the Indulgenced Prayer Before  a Crucifix after you have received Holy Communion. When you have complied with the usual requirements you gain a plenary indulgence which you can ask Our Lord to apply to the Poor Souls.  The requirements are to be in a state of grace, receive Confession, Holy Communion and pray for the intentions of the Pope.

Now, sometimes I hear people complain about praying for the intentions of the Pope, especially lately. But all that is necessary is to pray, and be assured that Our Lord will never allow harm to come on account of honest prayers! I always tell Our Lord, “I’m praying out of obedience and I trust that You will help our Pope to be obedient, too!”

Another plenary indulgence you can easily earn for the Poor Souls is the one from St. Pius X for adoring Our Lord at the elevation of the Host and of the Chalice at Mass. Don’t look away or close your eyes, but look and adore! That is what the elevation is for! Pray with all your heart, “My Lord and My God” and you will gain a plenary indulgence. In November especially, we do this for Poor Souls, but also for those at the hour of their death, especially since so many Catholics do not understand the extent of their insult to God’s justice until their private judgment and then, of course, it is already too late. How horribly overwhelmed they must be! But we trust all to the infinite mercy of God, who will bless those who need it most.

Above all, though, offering Masses for the Poor Souls is the very best benefit you can give them. So don’t forget to have Masses said for their relief.

I didn’t realize it was this late–the day here began gloomy and overcast and now suddenly after an entire day of feeling like it was evening, it really is. That may be an allegory for our life! We become so accustomed to  attending the funerals of others, praying for them. And so our thoughts on death become ingrained that it happens to others. Now is the time to make friends for ourselves with the souls of Purgatory who have learned what we must learn and will be with us when we face our own judgment. They will remember our kindness to them. We do not know how soon we may need them!

And so I’ll hush. Please pray the Rosary daily and encourage others to do so.

 

~ posted by evensong ~