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Catholic Activities: Purgatory Release Proj.

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Catholic Activities: Purgatory Release Project


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What is the Purgatory Release Project?

The Purgatory Release Project (PRP) is an ongoing effort by users of this site to assist the pour souls in Purgatory. The goal is to help release as many souls as possible from Purgatory. 

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Why do the poor souls need my help? 

While it is true that the souls in Purgatory are assured of heaven, they are presently suffering dreadful torments. They are unable to assist themselves and they are unable to ask you for assistance directly. 

Frequently, there is also an unfortunate "instant canonization" of relatives and friends that may leave the poor souls without relief from those remaining on earth. Those who assume their loved ones are in heaven may leave them unassisted in their torments. Remember that even the holiest persons may suffer terribly in Purgatory for so-called 'slight' faults. 

Remember also that you have a duty of charity not just towards the living, but towards your brothers and sisters who have departed this earth. Just as you would aid someone on earth who was suffering, so should you assist those in Purgatory who suffer terribly and who may have no one else to assist them.

"That purgatorial fire itself will be more difficult than any punishments that can be seen or imagined or felt in this life." (St. Caesar of Arles, c. 540 A.D.)

"[T]he pain of Purgatory, both of loss and of sense, surpasses all the pains of this life." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church") 

"Purgatory is a crucible where the dross of sin is burnt away, until every debt is cancelled. When its flames have effaced every stain and every wrinkle that marred the soul's beauty, then she flees away to her Spouse, truly a blessed one and sure of offering no obstacle to the complacent love of her Lord. Yet to what a sad length her exile is prolonged! True, she is united by charity to the inhabitants of heaven: but the fire which torments her is of the same nature as that of hell" (Liturgical Year) 

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Which souls are in Purgatory? 

Although we do not know which specific souls are in Purgatory, it is very possible that some of your friends and relatives are among the poor souls. Even persons who passed away long ago may still remain in Purgatory. It has been said seven years of penance is due for each mortal sin committed during one's life. It is good to assume that any particular loved one - no matter how good they appeared to you in life - may be in Purgatory.

"[S]he will be in Purgatory until the end of the world." (Our Lady of Fatima to Sister Lucy, in response to whether or not Lucy's young friend was in heaven)

"[I]f you assign, on the average, as St. Frances of Rome says, seven years for the expiation of one mortal sin, remitted as to the guilt, who does not see that we arrive at an appalling duration [in Purgatory] and that the expiation may especially be prolonged for many years, and even for centuries? Years and centuries of torments! Oh! if we only thought of it, with what care should we not avoid the least faults! with what fervor should we not practice penance to make satisfaction in this world!" (Fr. Schouppe)

"According to the holy Doctors, for every mortal sin a man is obliged by God to seven years of penance in this world, or the equivalent in purgatory; the reason being that every mortal sin is an offense against the seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost." (St. Vincent Ferrer)

"There is no doubt that the pains of Purgatory are not limited to ten and twenty years, and that they last in some cases entire centuries. But allowing to be true that their duration did not exceed ten or twenty years, can we account it as nothing to have to endure for ten or twenty years the most excruciating sufferings without the least alleviation? If a man was assured that he should suffer some violent pain in his feet, or his head, or teeth for the space of twenty years, and that without ever sleeping or taking the least repose, would he not a thousand times rather die than live in such a state? And if the choice were given to him between a life thus miserable and the loss of all his temporal goods, would he hesitate to make the sacrifice of his fortune to be delivered from such a torment? Shall we then find any difficulty in embracing labor and penance to free ourselves from the sufferings of Purgatory? Shall we fear to practice the most painful exercises: vigils, fasts, almsgiving, long prayers, and especially contrition, accompanied with signs and tears?" (St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church)

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Must I believe in Purgatory? 

Yes, you must believe in Purgatory. Purgatory has been divinely revealed and has always been a dogma of the faith. 

Note: For more information on Purgatory, try the Catholic Basics section of this site.

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Why do the poor souls suffer? 

Since "nothing unclean can enter heaven" (cf. Rev. 21:27), the souls of the elect must be purified before they can enjoy the Beatific Vision. Divine justice also requires expiation for sins, since "no sin goes unpunished" (cf. Sirach 7:8).

"For justice is undying." (Wisdom 1:15)

"... you will not be released until you have paid the last penny." (Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mt. 5:26, Lk.12:59)

"If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire (itself) will test the quality of each one's work. If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage. But if someone's work is burned up, that one will suffer loss; the person will be saved, but only as through fire." (St. Peter, 1 Cor. 3:12-15, emphasis added)

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Doesn't penance eliminate all Purgatory time?

The slight penances now given by priests during Confession are generally believed not to remit all purgatory time. During the ages of great faith, the Church used to give much more difficult penances to sinners. As a result of weakened faith, the Church has curtailed the use of more difficult penances in order not to discourage penitent sinners. The duty of expiating one's sins, however, still remains. Remember that there is a difference between receiving forgiveness of sins - which one does receive by the priest's absolution in Confession - and satisfying Divine Justice for sins committed. To put it in earthly terms, if someone vandalized your property, you may forgive the person yet still require the vandal to pay for the damage. Similarly, although God forgives an absolved sin, Divine Justice must still be satisfied.

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What if none of my loved ones are in Purgatory?

If you are somehow fortunate enough to only associate with and be born into a long line of saints, perhaps you have no loved ones in Purgatory. If that is not the case, however, at least some of your loved ones are likely to be in Purgatory. In any event, you have a Christian obligation - to the best of your ability - to assist all your brothers and sisters, even if you are not related to them by blood.

"To assist the souls in Purgatory is to perform the most excellent of the works of mercy, or rather it is to practice in a sublime manner all the works of mercy together: it is to visit the sick; it is to give drink to those who thirst for the vision of God; it is to feed the hungry, to ransom prisoners, to clothe the naked, to procure for poor exiles the hospitality of the Heavenly Jerusalem; it is to comfort the afflicted, to instruct the ignorant - in fine, to practice all works of mercy in one." (St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church)

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How do my prayers help?

When you pray for the poor souls, God applies the merits of your prayers towards those in Purgatory. The relief from prayers to the poor souls has been compared to the pouring of water on someone on fire. While prayers and partial indulgences may provide a measure of relief to the poor souls, a Plenary Indulgence makes it possible for a soul to be released immediately from Purgatory and enter heaven. The poor souls will always be grateful for your efforts on their behalf and will become your faithful friends for all eternity. Note: Click here for information on indulgences.

"In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin." (2 Macc. 12:43-46) 

"Now, one of the easiest, yet one of the most powerful, means to procure relief for the souls in Purgatory is to say the beads [the Holy Rosary] for them with fervor. To say the Rosary for the souls in Purgatory is to offer up to God for their relief all the labors, fatigues, prayers, tears, contempt, sufferings, blood, and death - all the merits of the life of our dear Savior. Next to Mass, no more efficacious offering can be made to God then this for the relief of the souls in Purgatory." (Muller)

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How else can I assist the poor souls?

In addition to prayers and indulgences, you may apply the merits of your good works and almsgiving to the poor souls, as well as offering up your sufferings on their behalf. Best of all, you may have Masses offered for those in Purgatory. Remember that nothing can be better than the application of Holy Masses to the souls in Purgatory.

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Why should I join the PRP effort?

While you can pray and offer other assistance to the poor souls on your own, you are encouraged to also join the PRP effort of this site for various reasons, including:

* Participation in the PRP may encourage you to offer even more assistance to the poor souls.

* Using the PRP form may help you remember your commitment to pray for the poor souls.

* Your efforts may be united with those of others participating in the PRP.

* Your participation can help ensure the success of the PRP project, and - since you can report your efforts to us each year - your works may help encourage others to join in the PRP effort.

See below for participation instructions.

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How can I participate in the PRP?

To participate in the Purgatory Release Project:

1.  Click here and print the Purgatory Release Project (PRP) Worksheet. (Note: set margins to .25", all directions.)

2.  Complete the worksheet according to the instructions. Note that this form may serve as a reminder of your goal and may (optionally) be used to notify us of your participation so that we may add your efforts to our tally.

3.  Use the worksheet to help you meet your goals.

Note that if you want to be included in the Purgatory Release Project annual tally, submit your form each year no later than 11/7 according to the instructions provided (see form for instructions).

Thank you for your participation!

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace. Amen. (Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.) [Latin/English]

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I participated in the PRP last year. Where can I get a new PRP Worksheet form for this year?

Click here to print a new Purgatory Release Project (PRP) Worksheet. (Note: set margins to .25", all directions.)

Thank you for your continued participation!

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"Oh! What a cruelty. A sick man weeps on his bed and his friend consoles him; a baby cries in his cradle, and his mother at once caresses him; a beggar knocks at the door for an alms, and receives it; a malefactor laments in his prison, and comfort is given him; even a dog that whines the door is taken in; but these poor, helpless souls cry day and night from the depths of the fire in Purgatory: 'Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, at least you, my friends, because the hand of the Lord hath smitten me' - and there is no one to listen!" (Muller)

"Now, Indulgences under every form are continually coming in our way. Let us make use of our treasures, and exercise mercy towards the poor suffering souls. Is any condition more pitiable than theirs? So great is their anguish, that no distress on earth can approach to it... All heaven cannot help them, for there is no merit to be gained there. God Himself, though most merciful, owes it to His justice not to deliver them until they have paid the whole debt that they carried with them beyond the world of trial. The debt was contracted perhaps through our fault, and in our company; and it is to us they turn for help, to us who are still dreaming of nothing but pleasure, while they are burning, and we could so easily shorten their torments! 'Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you my friends, because the hand of the Lord hath touched me.' (Job xix. 21)" (Liturgical Year) 

"Christian usage has appropriated Psalm 129 and the peculiar prayer for the dead; it is a cry of anguish mingled with hope. The destitute condition of the holy souls is well calculated to touch our hearts. Though not yet in heaven, they no longer belong to earth, and have consequently lost those privileges whereby God compensates us for the dangers which surround us in our passage through this world of trial. Their perfect acts of love, of hope, of faith, and of resignation, have no merit. Such unspeakable sufferings, accepted with their dispositions, would earn for us a reward equal to that of a thousand martyrs; yet to these souls they profit nothing, for all eternity, beyond the mere payment of the penalty exacted by the just Judge. Beside their inability to merit, they can no longer satisfy God's justice by offering Him an equivalent such as He can accept. Their powerlessness to help themselves is more absolute than that of the paralytic of the pool of Bethsaida (Jn. v): the saving waters are left behind on earth, together with the holy Sacrifice, the Sacraments, and the use of the all-powerful keys entrusted to the Church." (Liturgical Year)

"How soon their friends persuade themselves that the souls departed are in perfect peace! How little they do for their relief when their bodies are buried. There is a lavish expense for the funeral. A hundred dollars are spent where the means of the family hardly justify the half of it. Where there is more wealth, sometimes five hundred or a thousand and even more dollars are expended on the poor dead body. But what is done for the poor living soul? Perhaps it is suffering the most frightful tortures in Purgatory, whilst the lifeless body is laid out in a state and borne pompously to the graveyard. It is right and fitting to show all due respect even to the body of a deceased friend, for that body was once the dwelling place of his soul. But, after all, what joy has the departed, and perhaps suffering, soul in the fine music of the choir, even thought he choir be composed of the best singers in the country? What consolation does it feel in the superb coffin, in the splendid funeral? What pleasure in the costly marble monument, in all the honors that are so freely lavished on the body? All this may satisfy, or at least seem to satisfy, the living, but it is of no avail whatever to the dead. Poor, unhappy souls! how the diminution of true Catholic faith is visited upon them. Those that loved them in life might help them, and do not, for want of knowledge of faith! Poor, unhappy souls! Your friends go to their business, to their eating and drinking, with the foolish assurance that the cause cannot be hard with one they know to be so good! Oh! How much and how long this false charity of your friends causes you to suffer." (Muller)

  


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