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Reflections: Catholic Basics Section (Purgatory)

Angels Visiting the Souls in Purgatory (the poor souls are engulfed in the purgatorial fire)

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Also See: Purgatory (Topic Page)

"But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. 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. 12:40-46) [Note: Since those in hell can't be helped by prayers and those in heaven don't need them, such souls must be in Purgatory.]

"And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." (Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mt. 12:32) [Note: This passage implies that some sins may be forgiven in the age to come (although speaking against the Holy Spirit is not a sin that will be forgiven in either age).]

"If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny." (Our Lord Jesus Christ, Lk. 12:58-59)

"According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. 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. Paul, 1 Cor. 3:10-15)

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil." (St. Paul, 2 Cor. 5:10) [Note: Departed souls not deserving of hell, and also not yet worthy of heaven, would clearly require interim destination.]  

"I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb. The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and to it the kings of the earth will bring their treasure. During the day its gates will never be shut, and there will be no night there. The treasure and wealth of the nations will be brought there, but nothing unclean will enter it, nor any (one) who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." (Rv. 21:22-27) [Note: Since nothing unclean can enter, it is necessary that those who die in a state of impurity (e.g. non deadly sin) be purified before entrance.]

"The punishment of purgatory has been called a scourging."

"[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, early 20th century)

"The pains of Purgatory are more grievous than all the pains of this world" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Day and night I am pursued by the same thought: One does not pray enough for the dead. Eighty thousand people die in this nation every day." (Bl. Eugenie Smet) 

"The Church's prayer particularly embraces those who, on their journey to God, are undergoing the purifying suffering - the souls in purgatory." (Pope John Paul II)

"One of the holiest works, one of the best exercises of piety that we can practice in this world is to offer sacrifices, alms, and prayer for the dead." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church)

"Christian families, which possess a spirit of lively faith, make it their duty, according to their rank and means, to have a large number of Masses celebrated for the dead." (Fr. Schouppe)

"Indulgences can be applied also to the souls in Purgatory, when he who grants them says that they may be so applied." (Catechism of Pope St. Pius X)

"A penance is imposed because, after sacramental absolution which remits sin and its eternal punishment, there generally remains a temporal punishment to be undergone, either in this world or in Purgatory." (Catechism of Pope St. Pius X)

"[T]he souls in Purgatory can be relieved by our prayers, alms-deeds, all our other good works, and by indulgences, but above all by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass." (Catechism of Pope St. Pius X)

"The faithful on earth, through the communion of saints, can relieve the sufferings the souls in purgatory by prayer, fasting, and other good works, by indulgences, and by having Masses offered for them." (Baltimore Catechism)

"Those are punished for a time in purgatory who die in the state of grace but are guilty of venial sin, or have not fully satisfied for the temporal punishment due to their sins." (Baltimore Catechism)

"[O]ne who has confessed and received absolution will be less punished in Purgatory than one who has gone no further than contrition." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Christians who wish to escape the rigors of Purgatory must love the mortification of their Divine Master, and beware of being delicate members under a Head crowned with thorns." (Fr. Schouppe)

"The punishment of purgatory is not intended chiefly to torment but to cleanse: wherefore it should be inflicted by fire alone which is above all possessed of cleansing power." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"[St.] Augustine says in a sermon (Sermone 41 de Sanctis): 'This fire of Purgatory will be more severe than any pain that can be felt, seen or conceived in this world.'" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Suffrages for the dead are more agreeable to God than suffrages for the living; because the former stand in more need thereof, not being able to assist themselves, as are the living." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"[P]ain suffered in this life voluntarily cleanses much more than pain inflicted after death... the pain of martyrdom is of short duration in comparison with the pain endured in purgatory." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"The suffrages of the Church for the dead are as so many satisfactions of the living in lieu of the dead: and accordingly they free the dead from the punishment which the latter have not paid." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Let us also remember to be charitable to our neighbors who are dead. We should endeavor to help them either by having Masses said for giving alms, or at least by praying and applying indulgences (on) their behalf." (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church)

"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)

"'He shall be saved, but as if by fire.' And because it is said that he shall be saved, little is thought of that fire. Yet plainly, though we be saved by fire, that fire will be more severe than anything a man can suffer in this life." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 5th century A.D.)

"Oh! If it were but known how great is the power of the good souls in Purgatory with the Heart of God, and if we know all the graces we can obtain through their intercession, they would not be so much forgotten. We must, therefore, pray much for them, that they may pray much for us." (St. John Vianney)

"Someone says: 'It is nothing to me to know how long I stay in purgatory, so long as I go on finally to eternal life. Let no one say that, beloved brethren, because that purgatorial fire itself will be more difficult than any punishments that can be seen or imagined or felt in this life." (St. Caesarius of Arles)

"The unquenchable fire is the punishment of eternal damnation, either because it never totally destroys or consumes those it has once seized on, but torments them eternally, or to distinguish it from purgatorial fire which is kindled for a time and again extinguished." [Remigius (as quoted by St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church)]

"But of those who suffer temporary punishments after death, all are not doomed to those everlasting pains which are to follow that judgment; for to some, as we have already said, what is not remitted in this world is remitted in the next, that is, they are not punished with the eternal punishment of the world to come." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 5th century A.D.)

"When he has quitted his body and the difference between virtue and vice is known he cannot approach God till the purging fire shall have cleansed the stains with which his soul was infested. That same fire in others will cancel the corruption of matter, and the propensity to evil." (St. Gregory of Nyssa, 4th century A.D.)

"If anyone shall say that after the reception of the grace of justification, to every penitent sinner the guilt is so remitted and the penalty of eternal punishment so blotted out that no penalty of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in the world to come in purgatory before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened: let him be anathema." (Council of Trent)

"The punishment of purgatory is intended to supplement the satisfaction which was not fully completed in the body. Consequently, since... the works of one person can avail for another's satisfaction, whether the latter be living or dead, the suffrages of the living, without any doubt, profit those who are in purgatory." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"It is impossible for evil to be pure and without the admixture of good, just as the supreme good is without any admixture of evil. Consequently those who are to be conveyed to beatitude which is a supreme good must be cleansed of all evil. Wherefore there must needs be a place where such persons are cleansed if they go hence without being perfectly clean." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"[A]s regards those who sin in such a way as not to deserve to be entirely cut off from the fellowship of the saints, such as those who sin venially, their punishment will be so much the shorter or longer according as they are more or less fit to be cleansed, through sin clinging to them more or less: this is observed in the punishments of this world and of purgatory according to Divine justice." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Furthermore, if [souls] have departed this life repenting of their sins and with love of God, but before they have by fruits worthy of penance made satisfaction for things they have done or omitted, then after death their souls are purified by the punishments of purgatory; also that for their relief from such punishments, the suffrages of the faithful still living avail, namely the sacrifice of the Mass, prayers and almsdeeds and other offices of piety" (Council of Florence)

"[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 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) 

"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)

"I believe that no happiness can be compared with that of a soul in purgatory, except that of the saints in paradise. And this happiness increases in proportion as the rust of sin is consumed away by the fire, enabling the soul to reflect, more and more clearly, the rays of the true sun, which is God. The suffering, however, does not diminish. On the contrary, it is love kept back from its object which causes the pain; and consequently the suffering is greater according as God made the soul capable of a greater perfection of love." (St. Catharine of Genoa)

"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)

"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) 

"Gold which as been purified to a certain point ceases to suffer any diminution from the action of the fire, however great it be; for the fire does not destroy gold, but only the dross that it may chance to have. In like manner, the divine fire acts on souls: God holds them in the furnace until every defect has been burnt away and He has brought them each in his own degree to a certain standard of perfection. Thus purified, they shall rest in God without any alloy of self, they become impassible because there is nothing left to be consumed." (St. Catherine of Genoa)

"It has likewise defined, that, if those truly penitent have departed in the love of God, before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for sins of commission and omission, the souls of these are cleansed after death by purgatorial punishments; and so that they may be released from punishments of this kind, the suffrages of the living faithful are of advantage to them, namely, the sacrifices of Masses, prayers, and almsgiving, and other works of piety, which are customarily performed by the faithful for other faithful according to the institutions of the Church." (Council of Basel)

"I see that as far as God is concerned, paradise has no gates, but he who will may enter. For God is all mercy, and his open arms are ever extended to receive us into his glory. But I see that the divine essence is so pure - purer than the imagination can conceive - that the soul, finding in itself the slightest imperfection, would rather cast itself into a thousand hells than appear, so stained, in the presence of the divine majesty. Knowing then, that purgatory was intended for her cleaning, she throws herself therein, and finds there that great mercy, the removal of her stains." (St. Catherine of Genoa)

"Yet the soul faints not; lifting up her eyes to the mountains, she feels that she can rely upon her Lord, and that she is abandoned neither by heaven, which is expecting her arrival, nor by her mother the Church on earth. Although purgatory, where justice and peace meet and embrace, is so near the region of endless weeping, it is still accessible to the angels. These august messengers comfort the soul with divine communications: while the blessed in heaven and the just on earth assist her with their prayers and suffrages. She is well assured that sin, the only real evil, can never touch her." (Liturgical Year)

"...those who after baptism slip into sin must not be rebaptized, but by true penance attain forgiveness of their sins. Because if they die truly repentant in charity before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for (sins) committed and omitted, their souls are cleansed after death by purgatorical or purifying punishments... And to relieve punishments of this kind, the offerings of the living faithful are of advantage to these, namely, the sacrifices of Masses, prayers, alms, and other duties of piety, which have customarily been performed by the faithful for the other faithful according to the regulations of the Church." (Council of Lyons II, 1274 A.D.)

"Those who are in Purgatory though they are above us on account of their impeccability, yet they are below us as to the pains which they suffer: and in this respect they are not in a condition to pray [for themselves], but rather in a condition that requires us to pray for them." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church") [Note: St. Thomas Aquinas does hold that the holy souls in Purgatory cannot pray for us: "Those who are in this world or in Purgatory, do not yet enjoy the vision of the Word, so as to be able to know what we think or say. Wherefore we do not seek their assistance by praying to them" (St. Thomas Aquinas)]

"For if on the foundation of Christ you have built not only gold and silver and precious stones [1 Cor. 3:12] but also wood and hay and stubble, what do you expect when the soul shall be separated from the body? Would you enter into heaven with your wood and hay and stubble and thus defile the kingdom of God...? It remains then that you be committed to the fire which will burn the light materials... But his fire consumes not the creature, but what the creature has himself built... It is manifest that the fire destroys the wood of our transgressions, and then returns the reward of our good works." [Origen ("the greatest scholar of Christian antiquity" - although he would eventually be excommunicated and be regarded as a heretic), 3rd century A.D.]

"Thus sometimes venial sin, though needing first of all to be cleansed, is an obstacle to the receiving of the reward; the result being that the reward is delayed. And since a place is assigned to souls in keeping with their reward or punishment, as soon as the soul is set free from the body it is either plunged into hell or soars to heaven, unless it be held back by some debt, for which its flight must needs be delayed until the soul is first of all cleansed. This truth is attested by the manifest authority of the canonical Scriptures and the doctrine of the holy Fathers; wherefore the contrary must be judged heretical as stated in Dialogorum iv,25, and in De Ecclesiasticis Dogmatibus xlvi." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"The soul in purgatory, separated from the body which weighted her down and distracted her by a thousand vain preoccupations, is now entirely absorbed by the one desire of becoming at length perfectly pleasing to God. Towards this end her whole energy is directed; and so too is the force of the torments for whose violence she is so grateful. 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) 

"[T]he comparison of the Apostle...denotes the differences of venial sins by wood, hay, and stubble. Now it is clear that wood remains longer in the fire than hay and stubble. Therefore one venial sin is punished longer in Purgatory than another... Some venial sins cling more persistently than others, according as the affections are more inclined to them, and more firmly fixed in them. And since that which clings more persistently is more slowly cleansed, it follows that some are tormented in Purgatory longer than others, for as much as their affections were steeped in venial sins... Severity of punishment corresponds properly speaking to the amount of guilt: whereas the length corresponds to the firmness with which sin has taken root in its subject. Hence it may happen that one may be delayed longer who is tormented less, and vice versa." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"It is said (2 Maccabees 12:45): 'It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.' Now there is no need to pray for the dead who are in heaven, for they are in no need; nor again for those who are in hell, because they cannot be loosed from sins. Therefore after this life, there are some not yet loosed from sins, who can be loosed therefrom; and the like have charity, without which sins cannot be loosed, for 'charity covereth all sins' (Proverbs 10:12). Hence they will not be consigned to everlasting death, since 'he that liveth and believeth in Me, shall not die for ever' (John 11:26): nor will they obtain glory without being cleansed, because nothing unclean shall obtain it, as stated in the last chapter of the Apocalypse (Apocalypse 22:14). Therefore some kind of cleansing remains after this life." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"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) 

"It is to be believed that before the [last] judgement therefore there is a purgatorial fire for certain minor sins. For the Truth says that if anyone blasphemes against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this world or in the next. From which we learn that certain sins may be forgiven in this world and certain in the next...the apostle (1 Cor. 3:12) holds out the possibility of being saved by fire, not to him who builds on the foundation iron, brass, or lead, that is, the greater and harder sins that are no longer remissible in purgatory, but to the builder of wood, hay, and stubble, that is, the least and slightest sins, which the fire easily consumes. We must know, however, that a man will not be cleansed in purgatory of even the least sins, unless during his lifetime he deserved by his good works to receive such favor." (Pope St. Gregory I the Great, Doctor of the Church, 6th century A.D.)

"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) 

"[I]t is sufficiently clear that there is a Purgatory after this life. For if the debt of punishment is not paid in full after the stain of sin has been washed away by contrition, nor again are venial sins always removed when mortal sins are remitted, and if justice demands that sin be set in order by due punishment, it follows that one who after contrition for his fault and after being absolved, dies before making due satisfaction, is punished after this life. Wherefore those who deny Purgatory speak against the justice of God: for which reason such a statement is erroneous and contrary to faith. Hence Gregory of Nyssa, after the words quoted above ['If one who loves and believes in Christ,' has failed to wash away his sins in this life, 'he is set free after death by the fire of Purgatory.'], adds: 'This we preach, holding to the teaching of truth, and this is our belief; this the universal Church holds, by praying for the dead that they may be loosed from sins.' This cannot be understood except as referring to Purgatory: and whosoever resists the authority of the Church, incurs the note of heresy." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"In Purgatory there will be a twofold pain; one will be the pain of loss, namely the delay of the divine vision, and the pain of sense, namely punishment by corporeal fire. With regard to both the least pain of Purgatory surpasses the greatest pain of this life. For the more a thing is desired the more painful is its absence. And since after this life the holy souls desire the Sovereign Good with the most intense longing - both because their longing is not held back by the weight of the body, and because, had there been no obstacle, they would already have gained the goal of enjoying the Sovereign Good - it follows that they grieve exceedingly for their delay. Again, since pain is not hurt, but the sense of hurt, the more sensitive a thing is, the greater the pain caused by that which hurts it: wherefore hurts inflicted on the more sensible parts cause the greatest pain. And, because all bodily sensation is from the soul, it follows of necessity that the soul feels the greatest pain when a hurt is inflicted on the soul itself. That the soul suffers pain from the bodily fire is at present taken for granted... Therefore it follows that the 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") 

"I answer that, The suffrages of the living profit the dead in so far as the latter are united to the living in charity, and in so far as the intention of the living is directed to the dead. Consequently those whose works are by nature best adapted to assist the dead, which pertain chiefly to the communication of charity, or to the directing of one's intention to another person. Now the sacrament of the Eucharist belongs chiefly to charity, since it is the sacrament of ecclesiastical unity, inasmuch as it contains Him in Whom the whole Church is united and incorporated, namely Christ: wherefore the Eucharist is as it were the origin and bond of charity. Again, chief among the effects of charity is the work of almsgiving: wherefore on the part of charity these two, namely the sacrifice of the Church and almsgiving are the chief suffrages for the dead. But on the part of the intention directed to the dead the chief suffrage is prayer, because prayer by its very nature implies relation not only to the person who prays, even as other works do, but more directly still to that which we pray for. Hence these three are reckoned the principal means of succoring the dead, although we must allow that any other goods whatsoever that are done out of charity for the dead are profitable to them." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"Finally, since Truth in the Gospel asserts that 'if anyone shall utter blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, neither in this life nor in the future will it be forgiven him' [cf. Matt. 12:32], by this it is granted that certain sins of the present be understood which, however, are forgiven in the future life, and since the Apostle says that 'fire will test the work of each one, of what kind it is,' and ' if any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire' [1 Cor 3:13,15], and since these same Greeks truly and undoubtedly are said to believe and to affirm that the souls of those who after a penance has been received yet not performed, or who, without mortal sin yet die with venial and slight sin, can be cleansed after death and can be helped by the suffrages of the Church, we, since they say a place of purgation of this kind has not been indicated to them with a certain and proper name by their teachers, we indeed, calling it purgatory according to the traditions and authority of the Holy Fathers, wish that in the future it be called by that name in their area. For in that transitory fire certain sins, though not criminal or capital, which before have not been remitted through penance but were small and minor sins, are cleansed, and these weigh heavily even after death, if they have been forgiven in this life." (Pope Innocent IV, 1254 A.D.)

"No one asks to be freed from a punishment that he suffers willingly. Now those who are in Purgatory ask to be set free, as appears from many incidents related in the Dialogorum of Gregory (Dialogorum iv,40,65). Therefore they will not undergo that punishment voluntarily. I answer that, A thing is said to be voluntary in two ways. First, by an absolute act of the will; and thus no punishment is voluntary, because the very notion of punishment is that it be contrary to the will. Secondly, a thing is said to be voluntary by a conditional act of the will: thus cautery is voluntary for the sake of regaining health. Hence a punishment may be voluntary in two ways. First, because by being punished we obtain some good, and thus the will itself undertakes a punishment, as instanced in satisfaction, or when a man accepts a punishment gladly, and would not have it not to be, as in the case of martyrdom. Secondly, when, although we gain no good by the punishment, we cannot obtain a good without being punished, as in the case of natural death: and then the will does not undertake the punishment, and would be delivered from it; but it submits to it, and in this respect the punishment is said to be voluntary. In this latter sense the punishment of Purgatory is said to be voluntary. Some, however, say that it is not voluntary in any way, because the souls in Purgatory are so replete with suffering, that they know not that they are being cleansed by their pains, and deem themselves damned. But this is false, for did they not know that they will be set free, they would not ask for prayers, as they often do." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

"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. The Church, however, albeit she no longer has any jurisdiction over these poor souls, still feels towards them all a mother's tenderness; nor has she lost her credit with the Spouse. She makes their prayer her own. Opening the treasure she has inherited from the plentiful redemption of the Lord, she makes an offering from her dowry to Him who gave it to her, begging in return the deliverance of the captives, or at least and alleviation of their sufferings. Thus, all rights being duly respected, abundant mercy penetrates into the kingdom of inexorable justice." (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) 

"Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, from the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, taught, in sacred councils, and very recently in this oecumenical Synod, that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar; the holy Synod enjoins on bishops that they diligently endeavor that the sound doctrine concerning Purgatory, transmitted by the holy Fathers and sacred councils, be believed, maintained, taught, and everywhere proclaimed by the faithful of Christ. But let the more difficult and subtle questions, and which tend not to edification, and from which for the most part there is no increase of piety, be excluded from popular discourses before the uneducated multitude. In like manner, such things as are uncertain, or which labor under an appearance of error, let them not allow to be made public and treated of. While those things which tend to a certain kind of curiosity or superstition, or which savour of filthy lucre, let them prohibit as scandals and stumbling-blocks of the faithful. But let the bishops take care, that the suffrages of the faithful who are living, to wit the sacrifices of masses, prayers, alms, and other works of piety, which have been wont to be performed by the faithful for the other faithful departed, be piously and devoutly performed, in accordance with the institutes of the church; and that whatsoever is due on their behalf, from the endowments of testators, or in other way, be discharged, not in a perfunctory manner, but diligently and accurately, by the priests and ministers of the church, and others who are bound to render this (service)." (Council of Trent)

"The truth concerning the dead not only proves admirably the union between God's justice and His goodness; it also inspires a charitable pity which the hardest heart cannot resist, and at the same time offers to the mourners the sweetest consolation. If faith teaches us the existence of a purgatory where our loved ones may be detained by unexpiated sin, it is also of faith that we are able to assist them; and theology assures us that their more or less speedy deliverance lies in our power. Let us call to mind a few principles which throw light on this doctrine. Every sin causes a twofold injury to the sinner: it stains his soul, and renders him liable to punishment. Venial sin, which displeases God, requires a temporal expiation. Mortal sin deforms the soul, and makes the guilty man an abomination to God: its punishment cannot be anything less than eternal banishment, unless the sinner, in this life, prevent the final and irrevocable sentence. But even then the remission of the guilt, though it revokes the sentence of damnation, does not cancel the whole debt. Although an extraordinary overflow of grace upon the prodigal may sometimes, as is always the case with regard to Baptism and martyrdom, bury every remnant and vestige of sin in the abyss of divine oblivion; yet is it the ordinary rule that for every fault satisfaction must be made to God's justice, either in this world or in the next. On the other hand, every supernatural act of virtue brings a double profit to the just man: it merits for his soul a fresh degree of grace; and it makes satisfaction for his past faults, in exact proportion to the value, in God's sight, of that labor, privation, or trial accepted, or that voluntary suffering endured, by one of the members of His beloved Son. Now, whereas merit is a personal acquisition and cannot be transferred to others, satisfaction may be vicarious; God is willing to accept it in payment of another's debt, whether the recipient of the boon be in this world or in the next, provided only that he be united by grace to the mystical Body of our Lord, which is one in charity. This is a consequence of the mystery of the communion of saints" (Liturgical Year)

"Nothing is clearly stated in Scripture about the situation of Purgatory, nor is it possible to offer convincing arguments on this question. It is probable, however, and more in keeping with the statements of holy men and the revelations made to many, that there is a twofold place of Purgatory. One, according to the common law; and thus the place of Purgatory is situated below and in proximity to hell, so that it is the same fire which torments the damned in hell and cleanses the just in Purgatory; although the damned being lower in merit, are to be consigned to a lower place. Another place of Purgatory is according to dispensation: and thus sometimes, as we read, some are punished in various places, either that the living may learn, or that the dead may be succored, seeing that their punishment being made known to the living may be mitigated through the prayers of the Church. Some say, however, that according to the common law the place of Purgatory is where man sins. This does not seem probable, since a man may be punished at the same time for sins committed in various places. And others say that according to the common law they are punished above us, because they are between us and God, as regards their state. But this is of no account, for they are not punished for being above us, but for that which is lowest in them, namely sin... The fire of Purgatory is eternal in its substance, but temporary in its cleansing effect... The punishment of hell is for the purpose of affliction, wherefore it is called by the names of things that are wont to afflict us here. But the chief purpose of the punishment of Purgatory is to cleanse us from the remains of sin; and consequently the pain of fire only is ascribed to Purgatory, because fire cleanses and consumes." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and "greatest theologian in the history of the Church")

Also See: Sin | Indulgences | Indulgences (Prayers & Devotions Section) | Treasury of the Church | Purgatory Release Project (Catholic Activities Section) | Communion of Saints | The Rosary & The Souls in Purgatory (Rosary Reflections) | Sacraments Section ReflectionsSuffering & Death | Judgment | Heaven | Do All 'Good People' Go To Heaven? / No Salvation Outside the Church | Purgatory (Topical Scripture) 

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