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Bill McCarthy wrote:

Dear Folks,

From my understanding of Purgatory, souls go here to be purged of their vanity and
self-centeredness, in addition to paying off their temporal debts. It seems to me that Purgatory is a type of boot camp where one is perfected before entering into the glories of Heaven.

  • If this is correct, then why do Catholics go to such extremes to try to get out of Purgatory?
  • Why are their different types of indulgences and prayers that can be applied to the Poor Souls in Purgatory to get out of this blessed cleansing?

If anything, I would think a person would welcome his time in Purgatory and even want his time there extended as far as possible so that even the slightest dregs of imperfection would be cleared out.

  • What kind of a poor Marine would you have if his boot camp were shortened because he found it to be uncomfortable, or if someone else offered to do it for him?

Logically speaking, either Purgatory is a wonderful place where one can become a man, a rite of passage, as it were, and a place that should not be shirked as Catholic tradition encourages, or there is something wrong with the concept from the start.

Please enlighten me.

Thanks,

Bill McCarthy

  { Why do Catholics go to such extremes to try to get out of Purgatory? }

Mary Ann replied:

Hi Bill,

Because charity covers a multitude of sins, as Scripture says. (1 Peter 4:8) Almsgiving and love purify us and pay our debts so much more quickly and easily than Purgatory, and to our everlasting credit because they are done by our own free will.

Purgatory is done without our cooperation. Marine boot camp is now — this is our training ground when we can cooperate and put forth our best effort. Afterward, it is purification as if by fire". (1 Corinthians 3:15)

One is easy, and does others good. One is harder and only brings us up to snuff.

Mary Ann

John replied:

Hi Bill,

Actually Bill, your boot camp analogy is an interesting one. I usually compare Purgatory to a hospital where we, the suffering souls, face a healing pain.

Either way, Purgatory is the final step for many souls in which God by His Grace completes the work of sanctification in the heart of man.

The notion of time in Purgatory is really not dogmatic. Rather, as temporal beings, we relate to everything in terms of time so it's a reference point.

In terms of prayers for those Purgatory, that's pretty simple too. We are not saved in a vacuum.
When by grace we are saved (See Ephesians 2) we become part of the Mystical Body of Christ.

St, Paul put it this way:

19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand,
"I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."

1 Corinthians 12:19-21

Hence all being on in Christ we are connected. When part of the body suffers the other responds.

When a toxin enters a body and attacks a particular organ, it is the brain which gives the command to the liver to detoxify the blood. It also gives the command to white blood cells and to the antibodies.

So, too, in the Body of Christ, when a brother in the Lord is made ill by his sin, Christ, the
Head of the Body, commands us to pray, offer acts of Charity or take what ever measure to assist the weakened brother. This may seem odd to you because the Protestant view of salvation doesn't really incorporate the ramification of being included in to the Body of Christ.

It's sort of a juridical model that focuses on the individual and pronouncement of not guilty which is attained by faith. While at the most elemental level that description is true, (Christ did indeed suffer, die, and rise from the dead to pay for our sins), it is incomplete.

We, as His Body, to a degree participate in the same process. It's part of the Mystery of the incarnation. Again St. Paul puts it this way:

17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight: 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. 24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.

Colossians 1:17-26


Pay attention to verse 24. Note Paul talks about his suffering for the sake of the body and even references what is lacking in the suffering of Christ.

Paul is not saying the Calvary was insufficient but he was saying that we are members of His Body and that we participate in the process of our own and each others salvation.

John

Eric replied:

Hi John,

You said:
When a toxin enters a body and attacks a particular organ, it is the brain which gives the command to the liver to detoxify the blood. It also gives the command to white blood cells and to the antibodies.

I actually don't think this is scientifically true. White blood cells act strictly on their own in finding toxins and invaders; like policemen, they don't receive a message from the Chief of Police to go after someone they see committing a crime, they just go after them. They have no way of communicating with the brain. This is what antibodies are all about. I'm not sure how the liver works.

Eric

John replied:

Hi Eric,

You're probably right, however, I think you get the point. In addition, the white blood cells only survive because the brain is constantly giving a command to the lungs to breath.

White blood cells, as part of the body, are empowered to act as free agents as we are, as members of the Body of Christ but the power we have, by our baptismal priesthood, is contingent on Christ who is the Head of the Church.

  • Does that work better?

John

Mike replied:

Hi Bill,

Thanks for the question.

I think a lot of the confusion you are having can be resolved by keeping in mind that though we are human by nature, through the Sacraments we become part of a divine family, and partake in divine nature, especially when we receive the Eucharist.

Whether someone is religious or not, no man or woman enjoys pain and suffering. The key to valuing pain and suffering is seeing the redemptive value of it in the Body of Christ.

Our whole life is a struggle between the voices and temptations of our human [nature|weaknesses] versus those of the divine nature we partake in through the Eucharist.

Though none of the faithful are bound to believe in private revelation, saints have had private revelations of the souls in Purgatory who share that while the burning fires of Purgatory are painful (Hebrews 12:29, Exodus 3:1-6) at the same time they had an internal burning joy because they knew their final destiny would be total union with God.

The most important thing to remember about Purgatory is that it has nothing at all with anyone's salvation.

It has to do with ones own personal holiness. Those in Purgatory are saved just as much those in Heaven.

Hope this helps,

Mike

Bill replied:

Thanks for your comments,

I realize this is probably a heck of a topic for non-technical folks but the inconsistencies about Purgatory still bother me.

  • Again, if I propose that Purgatory has a very salubrious effect on one's soul, by burning away all the dross, then why is there this rush by many fervent Catholics to partake of plenary indulgences?

I was frankly shocked when an acquaintance more or less said that after achieving the indulgence, he would not have to undergo Purgatory for his previous sins.

  • How would he be perfected if he wouldn't have his dross burned away?

His attitude seems similar to Protestants who claim they will get into Heaven because they are covered by the blood of Christ, and God the Father, doesn't see their sins, but sees only Christ, even thought they are still dung heaps as Luther believed.

  • How are we perfected in Purgatory if a plenary indulgence let's us cop out of this experience?
  • Or does the indulgence only remove the temporal debt, but not the more important dross burning?

By the way, from what I have read, you are all volunteers. Thanks for all your efforts and your thoughts on this issue.

Bill

Mary Ann replied:

Hi Bill,

We are not trying to shun Purgatory. We are trying to get it done early.

We are trying, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (charity) to bust our egos and add love to the world, all by the grace of God. It is Christ who works in us now, with our consent and cooperation, and all merit, whether shared or passed around or earned is His.

The smart Catholic knows that we all need to be made holy, if not completely in this life, then in the next life but our love here on earth changes our souls easily, while in Purgatory, God's love has to work on us from the outside.

If the purpose of life is to bring our wills in union with God, and we have free will to choose until the moment of death, it is easy to decide to do God's will here. Our spirit is changed by our decisions.

Somehow, in Purgatory, we are changed from the outside — and that is always more uncomfortable. I would rather love and pray and fast here on earth than be in debtor's prison to the last penny, as Jesus mentioned. (Matthew 5:21-26, Luke 12:57-59)

Mary Ann Parks

John replied:

Bill,

We welcome technical questions, some of us a have degrees in theology, others like myself are former Protestant ministers.

We try to give examples that lay people can easily understand.

Purgatory is a condition as much as it is a place. It is in the hereafter hence it is in the eternal now as God is in the internal now. The Church uses time as reference point to explain a mystery.

At the heart of all Mysteries is the mystery of the Incarnation. God became man and, in so doing, chose a plan of salvation which includes man. So when a Christian offers prayers for a soul in Purgatory, they assist the perfection of that soul. It's like an extension of preaching the Gospel. The person interceding is also becoming more Christ-like because they are responding to grace as they act in charity.

No one enters the presence of God until they are purified so no one is looking for a Get Out Of Jail Free card.

If you are looking for Scriptural support you'll find it in the Second book of Maccabees among other places.

2 Samuel 12:13-14
David, though forgiven, is still punished for sin.
2 Maccabees 12:39-45
"Next day, they came to find Judas (since the necessity was by now urgent) to have the bodies of the fallen taken up and laid to rest among their relatives in their ancestral tombs. But when they found on each of the dead men, under their tunics, objects dedicated to the idols of Jamnia, which the Law prohibits to Jews, it became clear to everyone that this was why these men had lost their lives. All then blessed the ways of the Lord, the upright judge who brings hidden things to light, and gave themselves to prayer, begging that the sin committed might be completely forgiven. Next, the valiant Judas urged the soldiers to keep themselves free from all sin, having seen with their own eyes the effects of the sin of those who had fallen; after this he took a collection from them individually, amounting to nearly two thousand drachmas, and sent it to Jerusalem to have a sacrifice for sin offered, an action altogether fine and noble, prompted by his belief in the resurrection. For had he not expected the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead, whereas if he had in view the splendid recompense reserved for those who make a pious end, the thought was holy and devout. Hence, he had this expiatory sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin."

Note: Though this book was rejected by the Protestant reformers and therefore is not in Protestant Bibles, one can not ignore the historical reality of this event and the reality of the words which were said.

Matthew 5:25-26
"You will be thrown into prison and not be released until you have paid the last penny."
Matthew 5:48
Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. (Perfection is to be strived for on earth.)
Matthew 12:32
Sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, in this age, or the next.
Matthew 12:36
You will have to account for every idle word on judgment day.
1 Corinthians 3:10-16
"If someone's work is burned ... the person will be saved, but only as through fire."
1 Corinthians 15:29-30
Paul mentions people baptizing for the dead.
2 Timothy 1:16-18
St. Paul prays - asks that God have mercy on his dead friend, Onesiphorus.
Hebrews 12:14
Strive for that holiness without which one cannot see God.
Hebrews 12:29
For our God is a consuming fire.
James 1:14-15
When sin reaches maturity it reaches death.
James 3:2
We all fall short in many respects.
1 Peter 3:18-20 to 1 Peter 4:6
Jesus preached to the spirits in prison.
1 John 5:16-17
Distinction made between deadly sins and one that are not deadly.
Revelation 21:27
Nothing unclean will be allowed to enter into Heaven.
See also:
Leviticus 26:41-43, Isaiah 4:4, Isaiah 6:5-7, Isaiah 33:11-14, Micah 7:8-9, Zechariah 9:11, Malachi 3:2-4, Matthew 18:34ff, Luke 12:58ff, Luke 16:19-31, 2 Corinthians 5:10,
2 Corinthians 7:1, Ephesians 4:8-10, Philippians 2:10-11, 1 Peter 4:6, Revelation 5:3, 13

Interested in what the very first Christians thought, taught, and died for?
Check out what they said on this topic.
Also prayer for the Faithful Departed is an ancient Jewish Tradition which is still carried out to this day.

John DiMascio

Mike replied:

Hi, Bill, —

You said:
I was frankly shocked when an acquaintance more or less said that after achieving the indulgence, he would not have to undergo Purgatory for his previous sins.

  • How would he be perfected if he wouldn't have his dross burned away?

His attitude seems similar to Protestants who claim they will get into Heaven because they are covered by the blood of Christ, and God the Father, doesn't see their sins, but sees only Christ, even thought they are still dung heaps as Luther believed.

That's because your acquaintance is either an uncatechized Catholic or a Protestant.

The Catholic view, unlike the mainline Protestant view of justification, is that justification is a dynamic process, not a static one. Any indulgence he gained would not apply to future sins he committed, only previous ones.

You said:

  • How are we perfected in Purgatory if a plenary indulgence let's us cop out of this experience?

As John said, any indulgenced act is not a Get Out Of Jail Free card but an application of God's Mercy, through the Church, of the remission of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.

Any indulgenced act can be offered up for oneself or for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. CCC 1471

That said, in the same way God is not bound to the sacraments, he is not bound to indulgences and can apply it to whoever He wishes.

You said:

  • Or does the indulgence only remove the temporal debt, but not the more important dross burning?

There is a difference between:

  • the temporal debt or punishment for our sins, and
  • the dross that has to be burned away from our souls.

An indulgenced act ensures that the debt is removed, if it is done correctly. A requirement for any indulgenced act is that one be completely detached from all sin. This can be difficult.

Even though all our temporal debt can be removed we can still have remaining small imperfections that have to be burnt away — the dross.

How long it takes for the dross of our soul to be purified, the Church leaves that answer to the Mercy of God.

Finally, although you didn't mention it, the penance the priest gives us after receiving the sacrament of Confession is just a part of satisfaction we have to make for confessed sins.

Purgatory involves a purification where we are cleaned from the inside out. The Holy Souls in Purgatory are learning how to love God again. Because they make up part of the Body of Christ, they are living the Passion of Christ.

If you or any of your friends have a devotion to praying for the Holy Souls, check out my other web site:

Helpers of the Holy Souls

We are trying to start Purgatory Prayer Programs across the United States and can send you a free starter-kit at:

http://www.HelpersOfTheHolySouls.com/FreeKit

Hope this helps,

Mike

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